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Japanese Prepositions in a Nutshell

Japanese Prepositions in a Nutshell

Today’s topic is a uniquely challenging one: prepositions in Japanese.

We’re going to have to get familiar with flipping concepts around from how we generally understand them in English.

I won’t lie: It’s a huge challenge at first, but after a handful of practice, without even noticing it, this new way of engaging with language will become second nature.

 

Japanese prepositions

Japanese prepositions function similarly to English prepositions, but are in fact postpositions and are placed after the noun they are informing.

 

Differences from English

I’m going to start by confusing you right off the bat. Just a heads up!

So, prepositions are actually just one half of a grammatical concept known as adposition.

The other half are known as postpositions. See? Pre and post. One comes before, the other comes after.

English almost exclusively uses prepositions. Japanese, on the other hand, uses postpositions.

That said, despite the difference in location, they operate pretty much the same way, so I’ll be referring to the whole concept as prepositions from here on out.

 

What are prepositions?

Prepositions are sort of like “helper” words. They help us add information, specifically by showing the relationship of nouns to the rest of a sentence.

In English, we put the preposition before a noun to add information. These are words like “to, at, in, on, through, with,” etc.

Let’s work with an example: “I’m eating under the table.” Here, the noun we’re adding to is “the table” and the preposition is “under.”

In Japanese this would look at little different (okay, a lot different). Let’s compare.

First, we’ll need a few words:

I’m = 私は

eating = 食べてる

under = の下に

the table = テーブル

How this actually looks in Japanese is this:

私はテーブルの下に食べてる。
Watashi wa teburu-no-shita ni tabeteru.

 

Some more details on Japanese prepositions

So far we’ve learned that, unlike English, prepositions in Japanese come after the noun.

Furthermore, what we normally call prepositions in English are actually spread out a bit across grammatical parts in Japanese.

There are adverbs, particles, and more that end up taking on the role of preposition/postposition in Japanese.

 

Talking about prepositions in Japanese

The Japanese word for preposition is 前置詞 (zenchishi). This word is made up of the characters meaning “before,” “placement,” and “part of speech,” respectively.

The Japanese word for postposition is 後置詞 (kochishi). This word is almost the same as the previous one, except the first character is now the one which means “after.”

With regards to postpositional words, we should also cover the word for particles, 助詞 (joshi), since many particles are in fact postpositions.

This word is also similar to the preceding ones, except it is only two characters long. The last character is the same, and the first character means “help, assist.”

Finally, if we want to talk about adposition (remember, that’s the word for both prepositions and postpositions), we need to know 接置詞 (secchi-shi).

Ah, yes, another familiar one. In this case, again only the first character has changed. Now we’re looking at the character for “touch, adjoin, piece together.”

 

List of Japanese Prepositions

Prep. in JapaneseRomajiiPrep. in English
noof
toand; plus
nito; at
heto
からkarafrom
までmadeuntil
よりyorithan
上にUe-niover
下にShita-nibeneath
の上へNo-ue-eup
の下へNo-shita-edown
より上方にYori-kamigata-niabove
の下方にNo-kahou-nibelow
の真上にNo-maue-niover
の真下にNo-mashita-niunder
の内側でNo-uchigawa-deinside
の外側でNo-sotogawa-deoutside
後ろにUshiro-nibehind
の後にNo-ato-niafter
前にMae-nibefore
の中でNo-naka-dein; inside; into
の間にNo-aida-niamong; during
なしでNashi-dewithout
に対してNi-taishiteagainst
代わりにKawari-niinstead of
としてtoshiteas
yakuabout
のためにNo-tame-nifor
を貫いてO-turanuitethrough
についてNi-tsuiteabout
と共にTo-tomo-nitogether with
横切ってyokogitteacross
横にYoko-nicrosswise; sideways
越えてkoetebeyond
によってniyotteby
除いてnozoideexcept; save
内部でNaibu-deinside
近くにChikaku-ninear
次のTsugi-nonext to
ごとにgotoniper
周りにMawari-niaround
に向かってNi-mukattetoward
とは違ってTowa-chigatteunlike
経由してkeiyushitegoing via
によるとNi-yorutoaccording to
隣にTonari-nonext to
限りkiribounds; limits
だけでなくDake-de-nakunot only ... (but also)
に加えてNi-kaeteplus
に沿ってNi-sottealong; parallel to; in accordance with
にも関わらずNimo-kakawarazudespite
の方へNo-kata-hetoward
無くnakuwithout
を通してO-tooshitethrough
を通ってO-tottevia
通り過ぎてToori-sugirupast
に乗ってNi-notteaboard
を横切ってO-yokokitteacross
と並んでTo-narandealongside
にそってnisottealong
のそばにNo-soba-nibeside
の他にもNo-hoka-nimobesides
を超えてO-koetebeyond
を減らしたO-herashitaminus
を引いたO-hiitaless
から離れてKara-hanareteoff
に接してNi-sesshiteon
からずっとKara-zuttocontinuously since…
に関してNi-kanshiteconcerning
のようにNo-yonilike
と一緒にTo-isho-niwith

 

How Japanese prepositions are used: examples

上に

買い物袋をどすんとテーブルの上に置いた。

Kaimono-bukuro o dosun to teburu-no-ue ni oita.

I put the shopping bags on the table with a thud.

後ろに
彼は私の後ろに立った。
Kare wa watashi-no-ushiro ni tatta.
He stood behind me.

前に
祖父は3年前に亡くなりました。
Sofu wa san-nen mae-ni nakunarimashita.
My grandfather passed away three years ago.

の間に
川と山の間に村がある。
Kawa to yama no-aida-ni mura ga aru.
There’s a village between the river and mountain.

内側で
戸は内側でかんぬきがかかる。
To wa naigawa-de kanuki ga kakaru.
The door bolts from the inside.

の中で
雨の日は部屋の中でボール遊びをしています。
Ame-no-hi wa heya-no-naka-de boru asobi o shiteimasu.
On rainy days we play ball inside.

のために
足はなんのためにあるの?
Ashi wa nan-no-tame-ni aru no?
What do you have feet for?

と共に
心はあなたと共にいます。
Kokoro wa anata to-tomo-ni imasu.
I’ll be with you in spirit.

横に
母親は赤ん坊をベッドに横にした。
Hahaoya wa akanb o beddo ni yoko-ni shita.
The mother laid he baby on the bed.

次の
彼女は次の駅で降りた。
Kanojo wa tsugi-no-eki de orita.
She got off at the next station.

近くに
川の近くにテントを張った。
Kawa-no-chikaku-ni tento o hatta.
We set up a tent near the river.

周りに
周りには誰もいなかった。
Mawarini wa daremo inakatta.
There was no one around.

に向って
多くのファンがその女優に向かって走ってきた。
Ooku-no-fan ga sono-joyu ni-mukatte hashitte-kita.
Many fans came running towards the actress.

と並んで
ケンは私と並んで走った。
Ken wa watashi to-narande hashitta.
Ken was running beside me.

を超えて
彼は80キロを超えている
kare wa hachi-ju-kiro o-koete iru.
He’s over 80 kilos.


俺はニューヨクで生まれました。
Ore wa nyuyoku de umaremashita.
I was born in New York.

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