How to modify a noun in Japanese


= Boku to tonari ni iru Panda to docchi ga kawaii?

= Who is cuter? Me or the Panda next to me?

Hi everyone!
Today’s guest teacher is my angel buddy, Sniff-Sensei from Greece.

Hi, I am Sniff! I volunteered to be a guest teacher here for my friend, Alexandra.

I am going to teach you  how to modify a noun in Japanese.
You can make more complicated sentences with them.

In English you need relative pronouns such as “where”, “when”, “which”, “who”, and “that” that refer to nouns mentioned previously.

noun + where / what / who / that / which + subject + verb

* the clause after where / what / who / that /  which modifies a noun.

Ex. a) The shoes that she was wearing.

Ex. b) The city where my boyfriend lives.

Ex. c) The book which my friend lent me

Ex. d) The girl who I was in love with.

Here is a good news for you! You don’t need to say “where / when / which / who / that” Japanese.
However the word order is very different.

 !shoshinsha! Basic patterns:

Subject + particle + verb plain form + modified noun

Subject + particle + object + particle +  modified noun

Ex. a) 彼女が (S)  履いていた (V)  靴  (N)

= Kanojo ga haite ita kutsu

Ex.  b) 彼が (S) 住んでいる  (V)   (N)

= Kare ga sunde iru machi.

Ex. c) 友達が  (S) 私に(O)  貸してくれた (V) (N)

 = Tomodachi ga watashi ni kashite kureta hon.

Ex. d) 僕が (S) 好きだった (V) 女の子 (N)

= Boku ga sukidatta onna no ko.

S = Subject

V = Verb

O = Object

N = Noun

Of course, it will get more complicated, but let’s see the basic patterns first.

* Maggie made a rice ball.



= Maggie wa onigiri  wo tsukutta

= Maggie made a rice ball.

When you describe a cookie, you have to switch the word order.

 :rrrr: Subject + main verb + noun

* マギー作ったおにぎり

= Maggie ga tsukutta onigiri

= the rice ball  that Maggie made

Note 1: As you know the main subject markers are  は ( = wa) and  ( = ga).

But you can’t use ( = wa) in relative clauses.

You don’t say

X マギーは作ったおにぎり

= Maggie wa tsukutta onigiri.

Note 2: You can use a particle ( = no) as a topic marker,


= Maggie no tsukutta onigiri.

This may confuse you because you have learned the particle ( = no) is a possession

marker or it means “of”.

But in relative clauses, you can also use ( = no) as a subject marker.

Note3: You can’t use polite form (ですます= desu / masu) in relative clauses.

X マギー/作りましたおにぎり

= Maggie ga/no tsukurimashita onigiri.

Let’s see how you use this relative clause.

Ex. マギー/作ったおにぎりはいつも美味しい。

= Maggie ga/no tsukutta onigiriwa itsumo oishii.

= The rice balls that Maggie makes are always delicious.



= Chichi wa, gakkou ni kayottteita.

= My father used to go to school.

describe the school


= Chichi ga kayotteita gakkou

= The school that my father used to attend.



= Chichi no kayotteita gakkou

= The school that my father used to attend.

Ex. 通っていた学校は、もうない。

= Chichi no kayotte ita gakkou wa, mou nai.

= The school where my father used to attend is gone now.


Maggie read the book

= マギーはその本を読んだ。

= Maggie wa sono hon wo yonda.

describe the book


= Maggie ga yonda hon.



= Maggie no yonda hon.

You can modify another noun using a particle ( = no)

S+ particle + verb + noun + ( = no) + noun

Ex. マギー読んだ本のリスト

= Maggie no yonda hon no risuto.

= The list of the books that Maggie read.

Note: You can also say マギー読んだ本のリスト ( = Maggie no yonda hon no risuto)

but we tend to avoid two ( = no) in the same sentence so

マギーが読んだ本のリスト ( = Maggie ga yonda hon no risuto) sounds/looks better.

Sato-san sang that song


= Satou san ga sono kyoku wo utatta.

describe the song


= Satou san ga/no utatta kyoku.

Ex. 昨日、佐藤さん歌った曲タイトルは何か知ってる?

= Kinou, Satou san ga utatta kyoku no taitoru wa nani ka shitteru?

= Do you know the title of the song which Sato-san sang yesterday?

Note: Again, since there is ( = no) in 曲のタイトル (= kyoku no taitoru),  it will look better to say 佐藤さん(= Satou san ga) instead of  佐藤さん ( = Satou san no)

She decided to get married to him.

= 彼女彼と結婚することにした。

= Kanojo wa kare to kekkon suru koto ni shita.

→The reason why she decided to get married to him.

As I mentioned above, you change the subject marker ( = wa) to ( = ga)

* 彼女、彼と結婚することにした理由

= Kanojo ga kare to kekkon surukoto ni shita riyuu

= the reason she decided to marry him

Ex. 彼女彼と結婚することにした理由を聞いて驚いた。

= Kanojo ga kare to kekkon surukoto ni shita riyuu wo kiite odoroita.

= I was surprised to hear the reason why she got married to him.

Let’s pay attention to the tense now.

the dress that she is wearing today is nice.


= Kanojo ga kyou, kite iru doresu suteki desu/da.

the dress that she is going to wear tomorrow is nice.


= Kanojo ga ashita, kiru doresu wa suteki, desu/da.

the dress that she was wearing yesterday was nice.


= Kanojo ga kinou, kiteita doresu, suteki desu/da.


Talking about something happening now.


Ex. みゆきさんと一緒にいる男の人は誰?

= Miyuki san to issho iru otoko no hito wa dare?

= Who is the man who is with Miyuki?

Talking about the past event


 Ex. 昨日、みゆきさんと一緒にいた男の人は誰?

= Kinou, Miyuki san to ita otoko no hito wa dare?

= Who is the man who was with Miyuki?

OK, I will show you more examples. Please pay attentions to the particles that I use.

Ex. 去年、家族で行ったホテル最高だった。

= Kyonen, kazoku de itta hoteru wa saikou datta.

= The hotel where I went with my family was the best.

Ex. 彼女に出したつもりのメール友達に送信してしまった。

= Kanojo ni dashita tsumori no meiru wo tomodachi ni soushishite shimatta.

= I sent  the message that I was going to send to my girlfriend to my friend by accident.

Ex. 昨日、話していた番組これだよ。

= Kinou, hanashiteita bangumi wa kore dayo.

= This is the TV program I was talking about yesterday.

Ex. 先週、飲み会で会った人忘れならない。

= Senshuu, nomikai de atta hito ga wasurerarenai.

= I can’t forget about the person I met at a drinking party last week.

Ex. ここ初めて彼女とデートをした公園だ。

= Koko wa hajimete kanojo to deeto wo shita kouen da.

= This is the park where I had a date with my girlfriend for the first time.

Ex. ずっと探していたポケモンやっと捕まえた。

= Zutto sagashite ita Pokemon wo yatta tsukamaeta.

= I finally caught the Pokemon that I had been searching for for so long.

Ex. お母さん、 子供の頃、作ってくれたお菓子(、また作ってよ。

= Okaasan, kodomono koro, tsukuatte kureta okashi (wo), mata tsukutte yo.

= Mom, please make the sweets that you made for me when I was child again.

Ex. 帰りが遅くなるとき電話して。

 = Kaeri ga osoku naru toki wa denwa shite.

= Call when you are going to be late getting home.

Ex. カラオケで歌いたい曲ない。

= Karaoke de utaitai kyoku ga nai.

= There are no Karaoke songs that I want to sing.

Ex. 友達に教えてもらった住所ネットで調べた住所が違う。

= Tomodachi ni oshiete moratta juusho to netto de shirabeta juusho ga chigau.

= The address that my friend gave me and the address that I check on the Internet are different.

Sometimes more than one verb modifies a noun.

Ex. あそこで携帯を見ている人田中さんです。

= Asokoni de keitai wo mite iru hito ga Tanaka san desu

= Mr. Tanaka is the person checking his cellphone.


You also modify the nominalizer, こと ( = koto)

Ex. マギー言っていることよくわかります。

= Maggie no itte iru koto wa yoku wakarimasu.

= I understand what you are talking about, Maggie. (If the speaker is talking to Maggie)

= I understand what Maggie is talking about.

Ex. 昨日、マギーが言ったこと、本当? (casual)

= Kinou, Maggie ga itta koto, hontou?

= Is it true what you were talking about, Maggie? (If the speaker is talking to Maggie)

= Is it true what Maggie was talking about?

Ex. いままで、みんなが私のためにやってくれたこと決して忘れません。

= imamade, minna ga watashi no tame ni yatte kureta koto wo kesshite wasuremasen.

= I will never forget what you all have done for me.

maggierainbow125マギー先生より = Maggie Sensei yori = From Maggie Sense

Sniff 先生、ありがとう!

= Sniff Sensei, arigatou!

= Thank you, Sniff Sensei.


= Sniff mo Panda mo ryouhou kawaii yo.

= I think both of you and Panda are cute.











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  1. Hello Maggie,

    How do you say in japanese a sentence like ‘The pinecake I have written about is at my grandma’s place where I’ve just come from’.

    Thanks in advance

    1. @orbert
      I am not sure what you meant “pinecake”. All this time I thought it was a Japanese English.
      “Pinecake” as in ”pineapple cake”? If so パインケーキ or パイナップルケーキ
      Or you meant “pancake” パンケーキ?
      And “just come from” means you used to live there but left there just recently?

      Or if your gradma used to make “pinecake” then,


      1. Yes, yes thanks. Sorry for not being exact, but I had been sure, that there existed such a word as pinecake. I’m not a native speaker so I can be wrong about the grammer and some words sometimes.

        Thanks, anyway.

  2. Maggie sensei おはようございます!


    I would like to ask you about some patterns that make a verb-ending modifier clause into a noun itself. For example:

    I’m going to the bank it’s supposed to be open from 8 AM.

    The PC I’m not using but I’m just looking that is over there is my syster’s PC.

    Are those sentences grammatically correct? (I don’t even dare to expect them to be “natural” for a native speaker). Is の correct after “noun-transforming” particle like はず、つもり、予定、だけ and so on? About べき、does it need の too if it modifies a noun?

    Thank you so much!

    1. @Daniele


      OK, right. I wouldn’t say your sentences are natural but grammatically OK.
      You can use
      verb + だけ・はず・つもり・予定+の+ noun


      As for べき, you don’t need の
      やるべきことが多すぎる (You don’t need の)

  3. How do you say in japanese a sentence like: “I will get up from the chair that I have been sitting on”

    So my question is; how can you make completely sure where the noun after the verb comes from, I mean where it would belong, if it was inside of a regular sentence, for example with the particle “de” you can indicate that something is utilised to do something, but when you put the noun wich has originally the particle “de” after the verb how can you let the one you’re speaking to know that the noun refers to the object you use?

    Thanks for any answer (because I’ve been looking for this for months) in advance

    1. @robert horvath

      I will get up from the chair that I have been sitting on” in Japanese is
      座っていた椅子から立ちあがる(= Suwatte ita isu kara tachiagaru)

      I have been sitting on the chair
      椅子に座っていた ( = isu ni suwatte ita)

      →modifies a chair
      座っていた椅子 (= suwatte ita isu )

      to get up from the chair
      椅子から立ち上がる= isu kara tachi agaru

      all together
      座っていた椅子から立ち上がる= Suwatte ita isu kara tachiagaru.

      If you want to add the length of time when you have been sitting, for example “for a while”

      You don’t use で when you sit on a chair
      椅子に座る= Isu ni suwaru
      But when you get up from the chair, you just use a particle “from=”から” “

  4. ”去年、家族と行ったホテルは最高だった”は同じ意味ですか?

    1. @Luke Yarabe


      家族と = to do something “with my family”
      家族で = to do something in a group of “family”

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