Understanding the components that make up a phrase in Japanese will help you create limitless sentences. To get started, learning the phrase structure referred to as x wa y desu is a great place to begin.

1. BEGINNER GRAMMAR TIPS

What Are Particles? (Wa, は)

Particles are used to mark words within a phrase to describe their role and connection between other words. Wa (は) is often used to mark the main subject within a sentence to equal a word that follows it. Such as in the example,

kore wa kōhī desu. (this = coffee)

As you can see kore the main subject is marked with wa followed by kōhī. Therefore, this sentence can be translated to, kore = kōhī (this = coffee). As you continue to learn Japanese you will encounter many particles in the Japanese language, all with different uses.

What Are Sentence Enders? (Desu, です)

Sentence enders are words used to end a sentence that describes whether or not it is positive, negative, past tense, present tense, a question, and so on. Another key use of sentence enders is to show the formality of a statement. I recommend you memorize formal sentence enders, rather than the casual!

Desu (です) is used to end a phrase politely in the positive, present tense. As in this IS coffee, right NOW! In the next lesson, you will learn how to modify desu to change its meaning.

to learn more, see the ultimate guide to desu.


2. BUILDING A SENTENCE

See below to review how to build a sentence using x wa y desu. “This is coffee”

X (noun 1)wa, (=)Y (noun 2)desu
korewakōhīdesu
これコーヒーです
  1. X – the main subject in the form of a noun that Y will equal.
  2. Wa – particle used to mark the main subject.
  3. – what x is equal to, X (this) = Y (coffee).
  4. Desu – polite present tense sentence ender to end a statement.
  5. In conclusion, the above example translates to This is Coffee.

Additional Examples

RomajiKanaEnglish
kore wa tamago desuこれは卵ですthis is an egg
watashi wa kanada jin desu私はカナダ人ですI am a Canadian

ACTION STEPS – HOW TO PRACTICE

To make the next lesson easier, before moving on aim to complete the following goals.

  1. Practice the phrases from this article & video until it feels easy.
  2. Get used to using the wa particle and desu sentence ender.
  3. Note down daily triggers to practice using x wa y desu throughout everyday life. To make this step easier I suggest using the Jappon practice sheet.
  4. BONUS – See the ultimate guide to desu to learn more.
  5. BONUS – Use x wa y desu to build custom phrases to practice.

COMING UP NEXT

Expand upon this basic example while learning to use variations of the desu sentence ender. (See lesson 3)