time; hour; o’clock
- Words like ‘koura’ (cola), borrowed from other languages, are called ‘gai-rai-go’ (外来語, lit. outside-coming-language). With few exceptions, gai-rai-go words are written in katakana and don’t have kanjis. An example of an exception is ‘ei’ (Britain) whose kanji is 英.
- It is correct if we use the kanjis in red, but usually the word is written in kana.
When are you eating? I’ll eat later.
itsu tabe-masu ka? ato de tabe-masu.
いつ たべますか。あとで たべます。
itsu taberu? ato de.
いつ たべる？ あとで。
The following comments explain some of the grammar in more detail.
no – の
In English, we can say that something belongs to someone in two ways: “the car of Mr. Mori” and “Mr. Mori’s car”; Japanese uses only the second form, with the particle ‘no’ (の) playing the role of the apostrophe: “mori san no kuruma”. However, ‘no’ means more like ‘belonging’ than just possession. For example, it might indicate where someone works at (the company that you ‘belong’ to), or a place of origin (where something was produced):
My car. (” I‘s ” car)
Ms. Tanaka‘s car.
Ms. Tanaka, from SONY (SONY‘s Mr. Tanaka)
American car (America‘s car)
The car of Mr. Tanaka from SONY
The American car of Mr. Tanaka from SONY
watashi no kuruma
tanaka san no kuruma
SONY no tanaka san
america no kuruma
SONY no tanaka san no kuruma
SONY no tanaka san no amerika no kuruma
mo – も
‘mo’ (も) means ‘also’, in both positive and negative contexts.
We can translate it as ‘as well’ or ‘too’ in a positive context:
I am going to drink a cola.
koura wo nomi-masu.
and translate it as ‘neither’ in a negative context:
I am not going to drink a cola.
koura wo nomi-masen.
de – で
‘de’ (で) is ‘at’ when we refer to time:
ato de nomi-masu
at a later moment (afterwards, later)
I’ll drink at a later moment (I’ll drink later)
or ‘at’ a location where an action takes place.
resutoran de nomi-masu
at the restaurant (something will happen)
I’ll drink at the restaurant
wo – を
‘wo’ (を) marks the direct object of a verb, i.e., the object on which the verb acts. In spite that it is written as ‘wo’, it is often pronounced ‘o’.
I drink cola
I eat sushi
koura wo nomi-masu
sushi wo tabe-masu
When we answer a question, we can replace the ‘question word’ marked with ‘wo’ with our answer. However, when the answer is ‘nanika’, we omit the ‘wo’:
What will you eat?
I will eat sushi.
I will eat something.
nani wo tabe-masu ka?
sushi wo tabe-masu.
nani-ka tabe-masu. (no ‘wo’)
In the example above, ‘nani wo’ is replaced by ‘sushi wo’, because ‘sushi’ is a specific object, but it is replaced by ‘nani-ka’ (‘something’), without the ‘wo’, because ‘nani-ka’ is not a specific object, i.e., there is no ‘object’ for ‘wo’ to mark.
Not every object of a verb is a direct object. For example, ‘sushi’ is the direct object of ‘I eat sushi’, but ‘chopsticks’ is not a direct object in ‘I eat with chopsticks’ (we are not eating the chopsticks), nor ‘resutoran’ is a the direct object of ‘I eat at the restaurant’ (we are not eating the restaurant), so in these cases the verb does not mark the objects with ‘wo’; if we mark them with ‘wo’ we get some strange meanings:
I eat sushi
I eat with chopsticks
I eat chopsticks (I find wood tasty)
I eat at the restaurant
I eat the restaurant (I am Godzilla)
sushi wo tabemasu
hashi de tabemasu
hashi wo tabemasu
resutoran de tabemasu
resutoran wo tabemasu
‘wo’ (を) is rarely used to write anything other than the direct object marker. From time to time it appears in an actual word, though. For example, Kawori Miyazono, the character of ‘My lie in April’, spells her name – Kaori (‘scent’), as かをり, instead of using the normal spelling かおり; still, both お and を are pronounced ‘o’, both spellings sound ‘kaori’:
A common expression where を shows up is きをつけて (‘ki-wo-tsukete’, ‘take care of yourself’). Here き is ‘sprit’ and を is working as a direct object marker of the verb ‘tsukeru’ (‘to attach’), so ‘ki-wo-tsukete’ is a gentle order to ‘attach care to your spirit’, i.e., to ‘take care of yourself’.