Japanese

What Does no Mean in Japanese – The Hiragana no

Hey everyone, how many of you have ever been reading Japanese when you came across the particle  (no)? You may have typed in a Google search to figure it out, something like: what does no mean in Japanese? and gotten a quick answer that worked for a while, but then later you found  (no) at the end of a sentence instead of in the middle of one and your original understanding no longer make sense!

Well don’t worry, I’m here to explain it for you. Read on to find out!

 (no) The Possessive Particle


The most common use of the particle  (no) is to show possession of something. One way to think of it as a spoken apostrophe (). For example:no show's possesion

  • ニック
    nikku no inu
    Nicks dog.

Of course, in English we don’t always use an apostrophe (‘) to show possession. In Japanese however, you would always use  (no) to show that you owned something. For example:


  • watashi no inu
    My dog.

So remember that when  (no) is found between two nouns, the noun before  (no) owns the one after it.

Wait! There’s One More Thing!

Sometimes when (no) is found between two nouns it doesn’t indicate possession, but rather it provides more detailed information about one of the nouns. Let me show how and then I’ll explain it a little more.


  • momo no tane
    peach seed

A direct translation of this would be “peach’s seed” or said another way “seed of peach.” However, in English it is much more natural to interpret it as “peach seed.” You could say that in this case, the  (no) particle turned the first noun (peach) into an adjective describing the second noun (seed). “What kind of seed? A peach seed.”

Ok, but what about when  (no) is at the end of a sentence?


Now we get to the part that most people aren’t as familiar with. What does it mean when  (no) is the last, or next to last kana in a sentence? Well, again there are two different ways to interpret it.

The first way is simple:  (no) is the informal version of the particle  (ka) that turns a statement into a question.no at the end of a sentence

Are you ok?
大丈夫ですformal – (daijoubu desu ka)
大丈夫だ informal – (daijoubu da no)

Pretty simple, right? The other way that it can be used is to give the sentence it’s attached to a nuance of “you know” just like the ね (ne) ending particle.

  • 家へ帰る
    uchi e kaeru no

    I’m going home, you know?

But this particular nuanced use of  (no) is really only used by the women (♀) .

Does that help you out? Let me know in the comments below if you’re still not sure about  (no)  or if there’s something you like to add to my explanations.

8 Comments

  • Cathy

    I actually learned a lot of the third variation of ‘no’ from watching Japanese drama, especially in the scenes where two women are debating/arguing or small children talking to one another.

    Of course my Japanese teacher back then disapproved of me speaking like that because it sounded ‘too childish’, but it’s this kind of nuance that stayed with me until now and it’s how I continue to bond with my Japanese friends that way.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I see it a lot in TV shows too. Especially when they are talking to each other informally. I think it’s a great way to talk to your friends to let them know you feel close to them ^_^

  • Narcis

    Interesting how every language is unique in it’s grammar. I speak Romanian fluently and it is definitely interesting to see different aspects of different languages. I also took a Japanese anime class online recently and it gave me some insight to the Japanese culture. It would be exciting to learn how to read Japanese for sure! Good job on breaking it all down!

    • Nick

      Hey thanks man, I really appreciate that. That is very cool that you are multilingual with Romanian. I sure it’s the same for you, but when I study another language it helps me appreciate my native one that much more!

  • soraya

    Hello Nick,
    I love your site! I’m so excited to find it because my mum absolutely loves learning Japanese and your site is so inspiring i’m going to send her a link…. I’m interested in languages too so I’m going to browse through and digest the rest of your pages! But it’s very interesting to read about the Japanese ‘no’ in the sentence. Maybe I will start to study Japanese after I get fluent in Dutch.
    I find languages, and how they work absolutely intriguing.
    Thank you!
    Soraya

    • Nick

      Hey Soraya, thank you so much! I am glad that you like it and want to share it with your mom 🙂 . I think that learning any new language is a really cool thing (Dutch sounds very neat!). My dad for instance likes Spanish a lot. I do my best to help. Thanks!

  • Marley Dawkins

    Yep i definitely disregarded the particle の (no) in a few Japanese texts while learning early on, but your explaining of the fact that it simply means your possession of something, or just more detailed info about a noun.

    Thanks to your article, nobody will have to avoid the meaning of the particle の (no) in Japanese writings like i did lol.

    Really invaluable work here as always – keep up the great work, your website is an inspiration for anyone wanting to learn Japanese, thanks Nick!

    • Nick

      Hey thanks! I really appreciate the encouragement. It makes me feel like I’m working on something worthwhile and I’m glad I could help with の!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *