第26課: The Particle の I 

    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.

The Case Particle の

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. 

 Examples

Notice how in all the examples below, の helps qualify the noun that follows.  

1. 高台(      たかだい)建物(たてもの)
     A building on high ground

2. 氷(       こおり)の上を(すべ)る。
     To slide on top of ice.

3. ニューヨークの冬はとても寒いですね。 
    New York winters are really cold, isn't it?

4. ハワイの海岸(かいがん)はきれいです。
    The Hawaiian coast is pretty.

5. 季節      きせつうつわりは面白おもしろい。
    The changing of the seasons is interesting.

6. 指(の)先を火傷やけどする。
    To burn the tip of one's fingers.

7. 吹雪          ふぶきの中を捜索そうさくする。
    To search through the blizzard.

8. 大型          おおがた(の)クラゲが出現しゅつげんした。
     A big jelly fish appeared.

9.私宛わたしあてのメッセージはありますか。
    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.

10. 私はクラスの委員(いいん)(つと)めました。 
       I served on the class committee.

11. 世界(の)平和(へいわ)をもたらす。  
      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.

12. その赤ちゃんの顔は日焼けしている。
   The baby's face is sunburned.  

13. (私は)彼の時計の時刻じこくなおしました。
        I fixed the time on his watch.

14. 秘書(      ひしょ)上司(じょうし) 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. 

15. 神への道
      Road to God/the gods

16. 母からの手紙
      A letter from my mother

17.しばらくの間
      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.  

  1. Shows the nature of something
    • It may mark possession. Ex. 私の時計(とけい) = my watch.
    • It may mark location or time. Ex. 夏のテキサス = Texas in summer.
    • It may mark a characteristic. Ex. 木の(はし) = wooden bridge. 
    • It may mark quantity. Ex. 3つの大学 = three colleges.
    • It may indicate position. Ex.  社長(しゃちょう)正木(まさき)= Masaki the company president.
  2. Shows the standard for a relative relationship
    • It may show a part related to a whole. Ex. ペンの(さき) = tip of pen.
    • It may show a relative placement. This placement may be physical, temporal, etc. Ex. の(あと) means "after". It is also how you show the location of something.
  3. Shows the characteristics of affairs
    • It can show solid information about a matter. Ex. 事故(じこ)報告(ほうこく) = accident report.
    • It may show purpose. Ex. 出張(しゅっちょう)準備(じゅんび) = business trip preparations.
    • It may show the object of action. Ex. 日本語の勉強をする = to study Japanese. 

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.

18. 平等の権利を与える。
      To give equal rights.

19. 平等な{扱い・世界・社会・問題・ルール}
      Fair {treatment/world/society/problem/rule} 

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. 

20. 殴(         なぐ)()るの暴力(ぼうりょく)()ける。
      To receive violence of punches and kicks. 

Set Phrase Note()()うの(てい) is a set phrase composed of the verb ()う (to crawl) doubled with a sound change from はう to ほう, followed by の, and then ending with noun (てい), 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()げる (to run away in a fluster). 

A+の+れんたいけい+の

   In this pattern it moreover limits something in noting a condition about what is expressed by the noun. It's like にかんして, which means "in regard to".

コーヒーのめたの
Cold in regards to coffee 

コーヒーにかんしてはつめたい。
It's cold in relation to coffee.  

オレンジの小振こぶりなの
A comparatively small orange

Note: The word 小振り is normally only used in reference to things like fruits, fish, etc. However, its usage may be expanded some in speaking. Nevertheless, something like 小振りなテレビ is very weird. You should use 小型こがたのテレビ instead.  

Key

Practice

1. コンピュータ(ー)の一部()()す。
2. 彼女()社長()秘書()です。
3. きれいな()()
4. 銀行員(ぎんこういん)高村()
5. これは日本語()教科書()だ。
6. ()北海道
7. 子供()三人()いる。
8. 彼女の(いえ)()しい。

Note: Sometimes, trick question are needed to see if you can learn the content at hand and know whether or not it is the most natural grammar point to use in a given situation.