The particle の is an essential particle. Although much can be said about it, this lesson will solely be about its most important usage, which is its role as an attribute marker. We attribute details to almost everything in our day to day life, and in Japanese, this particle is what makes the phrases we describe said attributes possible.
の's primary role is to indicate that Noun 1 is an attribute to Noun 2, but Noun 2 will always be the main noun of the phrase. Treating の as the Japanese equivalent of "of" may be tempting, but know that both "of" and の have usages the other does not.
Attributes should not be entirely unfamiliar. We have seen already how to use adjectives and verbs as attributes. All we do is use their 連体形, the base that is used to modify nouns. As with these attributes, attributes marked with の always go before what they modify. This hierarchy of ordering is never broken in Japanese.
Notice how in all the examples below, の helps qualify the noun that follows.
A building on high ground
To slide on top of ice.
New York winters are really cold, isn't it?
The Hawaiian coast is pretty.
The changing of the seasons is interesting.
To burn the tip of one's fingers.
To search through the blizzard.
A big jelly fish appeared.
Are there any messages for me?
Definition Note: 宛(て) is "for" as in directed to.
Word Note: 時刻 is used rather than 時間, which only refers to a period of time. Also note that 時計 is read as とけい.
I served on the class committee.
To achieve world peace.
Particle Note: At times の is dropped. This is common in long chains of Sino-Japanese words. Particles are dropped when the grammatical relation the particle marks is obvious in context. In this context, の's role is obvious. So, it may be dropped. Japanese has a lot of compound nouns, so those would be examples of の not being needed. When it doubt, use の. It's not a guarantee what you'll say is 100% natural, but it will guarantee that you're being grammatically correct.
The baby's face is sunburned.
I fixed the time on his watch.
14. 秘書の上司 VS 上司の秘書
The secretary's boss VS The boss's secretary.
Phrase Note: The difference between these phrases is simply the relationship you're trying to show. Switch the nouns and you'll switch the roles. The particle の doesn't change at all.
の can also follow other case particles--never が or に. It can also be after some adverbs. When this happens, it is best to treat the adverb as a nominal phrase.
Road to God/the gods
A letter from my mother
For a while
Practice (1): Translate the following. You may use a dictionary.
1. To fix part of a computer.
2. She is the secretary of the company president.
3. A person with pretty eyes.
4. Takamura the bank employee.
5. This is a Japanese textbook.
6. Hokkaido in the winter.
7. I have three children.
8. Her house is beautiful.
We can describe の in the following situations. Remember that these are just different situations of の qualifying a noun to describe what its attributes are. The grammar is the same.
Conflicts with Other Means of Making Attribute Expressions
Adjectives also make attributes. There are also words like 特別 in which な or の are OK to use it as an attribute. One form may be more common than the other, but there may also be meaning differences.
ばかな人 VS ばかの人
The first is "stupid person", but the second sounds like "the person of an idiot", which isn't something you'd necessarily say. Verbs can be used as attributes as well. So, we get some variation in phrases such as in どしゃ降りの雨 and どしゃ降る雨 being acceptable for "pouring rain", though the first is more proper. In similar expressions, both may be fine or be narrowed in usage.
To give equal rights.
Part of Speech Note: There are rare expressions with の after verbs to make an attribute phrase. Treat these instances as separate words. You don't have to bother yourself with this example, but it is grammatically intriguing.
To receive violence of punches and kicks.
Set Phrase Note: 這う這うの体 is a set phrase composed of the verb 這う (to crawl) doubled with a sound change from はう to ほう, followed by の, and then ending with noun 体, which is another word for appearance. Some speakers voice the doubling of 這う, but this is deemed to be a mistake. This phrase is seen in sentences like 這う這うの体で逃げる (to run away in a fluster).