2.5 Particle を (o)

This module introduces the particle を (o), which serves as a direct object marker in Japanese sentences. This particle is essential for identifying the object that receives the action of a verb, clarifying who or what is being acted upon.

Introduction to the particle を (o)

The particle を, pronounced ‘o’, is placed directly after a noun or a noun phrase. It serves as a ‘direct object marker’, indicating the direct object in a sentence. In simpler terms, it clarifies upon what or whom the action is being carried out.

For example, in the phrase 本(ほん)を読(よ)みます (hon o yomi masu), the translation is ‘I read books’, with を marking 本 (books) as the item being read.


hon o yomi masu

I read books.


We will explore Japanese verbs like 読みます (yomi masu: to read) in Module 6.2. However, for now, it’s important to understand that the typical Japanese sentence order is Topic + は (wa) + Object + を (o) + Verb. This structure contrasts with English, where the typical sentence order is Subject + Verb + Object:

Japanese: Topic + は (wa) + Object + を (o)  + Verb

English: Subject + Verb + Object

Usage in sentences

In this module, we will introduce two sentence patterns where you can effectively use the particle を: Noun + をお願いします (Noun + o negai shimasu: Noun, please) and Noun + をください (Noun + o kudasai: Noun, please). These are everyday expressions used to make simple requests politely. However, there are slight differences in what each is used to ask for. Let’s explore these distinctions.


1. Noun + を お願(ねが)いします

The structure for making requests in Japanese often follows the pattern: Noun + を + お願いします (onegai shimasu), which is very useful.

This chapter has introduced the phrase both as a standalone expression used to convey greetings, gratitude or confirmation, and as a phrase that pairs with the particle を to clearly indicate the object or action being requested.

Originating from the word 願(ねが)い (negai), which means ‘wish’ or ‘hope’, the use of お願いします represents a polite way to ask someone for a favour. It transitions from merely expressing a desire to issuing a more direct request or instruction. By stating (noun) をお願いします, you’re effectively saying ‘I would like …’ or ‘please …’.

For example, the English request ‘Please introduce yourself’ differs from the Japanese format, which would be ‘自己紹介(じこしょうかい)をお願いします’ (jiko shoukai o onegai shimasu), translating to ‘Please introduce yourself’. This emphasises the action being requested:


Jiko shoukai o onegai shimasu.

Please introduce yourself.

Keep in mind that the particle を is used exclusively with nouns or noun phrases. Therefore, in sentences where actions are involved, it’s more logical to use the noun form of the action.

As demonstrated above, rather than the verb phrase ‘to introduce yourself’, the noun ‘self-introduction’ is used in conjunction with the particle を, because を does not accompany verbs.

2. Noun + を ください

X をください (X o kudasai) means ‘Please give me X’. Similar to をお願いします, you place a noun in the X position. This common phrase, which incorporates the particle を, is introduced in Module 4.0. Given its frequent use in conversations, let’s examine it here.

Now, here’s a simple example:


Mizu o kudasai

Please give me some water.

The verb ください is derived from the more formal and honorific verb くださる, which translates to ‘give me’. It is used to express a humble request, similar in function to くれる, which also means to give but is used in a less formal context.

ください is used when requesting something from another person or party. In English, it’s akin to saying ‘Please give me …’. Thus, the verb articulates the action of the ‘requester’.

So, what distinguishes … をお願いします from … をください?

The usage of ください is typically more direct and is often used for requests involving concrete and tangible items. Conversely, for non-tangible requests such as understanding, explanations or other abstract concepts, お願いします is preferred.

For example to request a further explanation, you would say: 説明(せつめい)をお願いします (Setsumei o onegai shimasu: I would like further explanation). This is because ‘explanation’, or 説明, is an intangible concept.


Exercise 1




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Japanese Introductory 1 Copyright © 2024 by Iori Hamada is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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