How to modify a noun in Japanese

「僕と、となりにいるパンダとどっちがかわいい?」

= 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”..in Japanese.
However the word order is very different.

★ Basic patterns:

Subject + particle + verb plain form + modified noun

Subject + particle + object + particle + verbmodified 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.

:u:

マギーおにぎりを作った

= 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,

マギー作ったおにぎり

= 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.

******

、学校に通っていた。

= Chichi wa, gakkou ni kayottteita.

= My father used to go to school.

describe the school

通っていた学校

= Chichi ga kayotteita gakkou

= The school that my father used to attend.

or

通っていた学校

= 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

マギー読んだ本

= Maggie ga yonda hon.

or

マギー読んだ本

= 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

佐藤さんその曲を歌った。

= Satou san ga sono kyoku wo utatta.

describe the song

佐藤さん/歌った曲

= 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.

彼女今日、着ているドレスは、素敵です/だ。

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

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

彼女明日、着るドレスは素敵、です/だ。

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

the dress that she was wearing yesterday was nice.

彼女昨日、着ていたドレスは、素敵でした/だった。

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

*****

Talking about something happening now.

  :u: 

Ex. 今、みゆきさんと一緒にいる男の人は誰?

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

= Who is the man who is with Miyuki now?

Talking about the past event

  :u: 

 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もパンダも両方かわいいよ。

= Sniff mo Panda mo ryouhou kawaii yo.

= I think both of you and Panda are cute.

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33 Comments

  1. Sorry for bothering, But I still don’t get it.

    In a sentence like:

    彼女のために命を犠牲にする覚悟もある。
    (I am ready even to sacrifice my life for her sake)

    How can you refer to the part 彼女のために (for her sake) in a claus.

    For example:
    What if I ruin the girl who you would secrifice your life for.

    ????

    Could you help me, because I’ve been wandering on the net for while now looking for an answer but I couldn’t find any.

    Again, my question is how to refer to any part of a sentence in a clause.

    If you answered my question than I could smile and say ‘yes, my life has become perfect’

    Thanks in advance

    1. @Robert

      I am not sure if I can make your smile yet because I don’t get your question well but…

      “彼女のために命を犠牲にする覚悟” もある。

      So The main structure is
      (私には)〜覚悟もある
      = I am even ready
      You just have to know what modifies 覚悟 (In this case the whole sentence before 覚悟)

      1) First you see this pattern

      * someoneのために + verb
      = to do something for someone/for someone’s sake

      In this case 犠牲にする ( = to sacrifice) is a verb

      彼女のために(命を)犠牲にする = to sacrifice (my life) for her

      2) the next step.
      The sentence 1) modifies a noun, 覚悟 (being mentally ready for something big)

      “彼女のために命を犠牲にする”覚悟”
      being ready to sacrifice my life for her.

      ****
      Q: I ruin the girl who you would sacrifice life for.

      (私は)あなたが命を犠牲にしてもいいと思っている女の子をだめにする

      If you meant “I ruin the girl who I would sacrifice for”?

      (私は)命を犠牲にしてもいいと思っている女の子をだめにする。

        1. ??? What do you mean I removed 覚悟もある. Maybe you didn’t see that line… I will move it to the beginning of the comment then.

          Anyway,
          The main structure : 私には〜覚悟がある I am even ready for ~ / I even made up my mind ~
          The rest modifies 覚悟 (resolution)

          1. I meant in the sentence あなたが命を犠牲にしてもいいと思っている女の子をだめにする.

            You don’t use 覚悟 but てもいいと思っている

          2. I see. But your original sentence doesn’t have a word for “make up one’s mind / to be prepared”.

            Q: I ruin the girl who you would sacrifice life for.

            “would sacrifice one’s life” is 命を犠牲にしてもいいと思う
            If you want to use 覚悟

            私はあなたが命を犠牲にする覚悟がある女の子をだめにする

            Either way, “ruin girl” sounds a bit strange.

    2. Hello, Maggie.

      I would like to thank you for all the time that you spent bothering answering my questions. They’ve really helped me. Thanks a lot.

      ;D

  2. Maggie先生! Please teach me how to use relative clauses in japanese with い and な adjectives.

    I tried to wrote some pharses.
    どのおまちゃが新しいですか 新しいのはこのおまちゃです

    どのスーポツをやりたいですか やりたいのはサーカスです

  3. Hi, maggie.

    My question is if there is any way to make sure what you want to refer to when modifying a noun.

    Because as long as I know a noun like this:

    書いているペン

    might mean: “the pen I’m writing with” or it might mean: ” the pen I’m painting”.

    Ok, I know that there aren’t many people who paint a pen, but the imagination and the creativity of an artist know no bounds. ;)

    So I am interested if there is any method to make sure wich one is the correct meaning.

    1. @Robert-again

      Hi Robert,

      First if you write something you use kanji 書く and if you draw something you use the kanji 描く

      You can usually tell the meaning by the context.
      Let’s see..

      Ex. 1) これは私が描いているペンです。
      = This is a pen that I am drawing with./ I have been drawing with.
      Ex. 2) これは私が描いているペンです。
      = This is a pen that I have been drawing.

      You may hear 1) but it is not clear even for native speakers.
      So you may change the verb 使っている and say
      これは私が使っているペンです

      今、使っているペン

      When you are talking about the finished picture.
      Ex.3) これは私が描いたペンです。
      = this is the pen I draw a picture with.
      = this is a pen that I drew.

      If you are talking about a pen, you need a word picture

      Ex. これは私がこの絵を描いたペンです。
      = This is a pen that I drew this picture with.

  4. Hi Maggie,

    I’m sorry for disturbing you again, but I have a question.

    How can I say that: ‘I find the wall I am standing in front of beautiful’

    Am I right to think, that it is:
    ぼくは前に立っている壁が美しいと思う

  5. 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?

      私が書いた”pinecake”は、私がこの間まで住んでいた祖母の家のです。
      Or if your gradma used to make “pinecake” then,

      私が書いた”pinecake”は、私がこの間まで住んでいた祖母の家で作っていたものです。

      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.

  6. Maggie sensei おはようございます!

    いつもの通り、役に立つレッスンでありがとうございました!

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

    午前8時から営業しているはずの銀行に行ってきます。
    I’m going to the bank it’s supposed to be open from 8 AM.

    そちらの使わないで見ているだけのパソコンは妹のです。
    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

      こんにちは、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

      同じ教室で勉強するだけの関係
      払ったはずの請求書(せいきゅうしょ)が来た。
      後から会う予定の

      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)

  7. 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”
      ずっと座っていた椅子から立ち上がる

      ****
      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” “

  8. ”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?
    での代わりにとを使えますか?

    1. @Luke Yarabe

      はい、「家族と〜」ということもできます。

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

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