Japanese word endings change depending on the situation or person to whom they are used, and they often express an attitude toward the listener. These are called「終助詞」”ending particles” because they are used at the end of sentences. Let’s take a look at three commonly used ending particles:「よ」, 「ね」, and 「か」.
In this article, the casual expressions are written in blue and the formal ones in orange.
Table of Contents
Verb: dictionary form/polite form + よ
Noun/”い”Adj./”だ”Adj.(/Adv.) : + だよ
「よ」is used when giving information that is new to the listener or when giving advice/warnings.
*It is used when the speaker knows the information already and assumes that the listener does not know or has forgotten it.
This is an ending particle used to inform information (especially one that the listener does not know yet or one that the listener thinks differently from the speaker [when the listener has incorrect information]). Since the speaker gives information to the listener, it also includes the nuance that the speaker has more knowledge and is superior to the listener. You can use it when talking to a close senior or boss, but be careful when talking to someone of considerably higher age or position.
*「～みたいですよ」”It looks like … .” is a euphemism. It is a good expression for casual conversation with someone older or higher in position than you.
“It’s going to be sunny today.”
“It seems like it’s going to be sunny today.”
“This is juice, not an alcoholic beverage.”
“They say this is juice.”
*To avoid disagreeing with the listener’s thoughts and words, the “お酒じゃなくて” part is taken out.
This is an ending particle used to warn the listener of danger or to advise him/her of something.
“It’s dangerous to sit there.”
“You should confess your feelings to him.”
Verb: dictionary form/polite form + ね
Noun/”い”Adj./”だ”Adj.(/Adv.) : + だね
「ね」is used to confirm a known fact or information known to the listener or to ask for an agreement based on the information.
It’s used to indicate agreement with something someone has said. It can also be used to ask the listener for agreement by raising the pitch of the end of a word, like in a question.
“Sounds good. Let’s have Chinese for dinner!”
“This is very salty, isn’t it?”
It is used when you want to confirm with the listener the truth or details of a known fact or information known to the listener.
“So this haircut is in style?”
If you use「ね」to confirm a listener’s actions or words, it little sounds like blaming him/her. If you want to ask in a gentle tone, use「よね」as introduced in the next section.
“You locked the doors, right?”
*戸締りする（とじまりする）: to lock all the doors and windows before you leave the house
Verb: dictionary form/polite form + よね
Noun/”い”Adj./”だ”Adj.(/Adv.) : + だよね
（In male language and some dialects,「よな」is sometimes used instead of「よね」.）
It is an ending particle used to agree with the listener based on information already known by the speaker or to confirm with the listener seeking agreement or a positive response.
(「よ」indicates that the information is already known by the speaker, and「ね」implies that the speaker is expecting agreement.）
“We (I/you) locked the doors, didn’t we (I/you)?”
The left one,「戸締りしたね？」, gives the nuance that the speaker is confirming information that he/she does not know with the listener. Therefore, I get the impression that the listener is the last person to leave the house and the speaker is checking if the listener has locked all the doors properly.
On the other hand,「戸締りしたよね？」contains「よ」, so it gives the impression that the speaker knows the information, but his/her memory is not clear, so he/she is confirming the information with the listener. I get the impression that the speaker and listener left the house together, so one of them probably locked the door, but the speaker is not sure if they did it properly, so he/she is confirming with the listener.
Verb: dictionary form/polite form + か
Noun/”い”Adj./”だ”Adj.(/Adv.) : + か (ですか)
「か」 is used to ask the listener questions about information the speaker does not know. It is also used when talking to oneself and accepting one’s feelings.
Adding「か」after a sentence makes it a question that can be answered with a Yes/No answer. Formal writing rules state that a question mark is not to be used, but in casual messages, a question mark is often placed after a question. Even in business emails, a question mark is sometimes used at the end.
“It is raining today.”
“Is it raining today?”
In daily conversation, we often make question sentences by raising the pitch of the end without using「か」.
「食べる？」(“Want a bite?”)
「そう思います？」(“You think so?”)
*When the end of the sentence is「でしょう」and you want to make it a Yes/No question, always add「か」. If you end a sentence with「でしょう？」 by raising the pitch, that would be a question that requires agreement or confirmation of what you have said.
“This book should be interesting.”
“Is this book interesting?”
“This book is interesting, isn’t it?”
This is an ending particle used to tell yourself to do something that you have decided to do.
“Well, let’s start studying.”
It is also an ending particle used when you are accepting a feeling of surprise.
“(Huh?) Is it already cherry blossom season?”
“Oh, boy… it was a dream.”
「外は雨です」”It’s raining outside.”
“It’s raining outside.” The speaker returning from outside the office tells the weather to her colleague who has been in the office the whole day.
“It’s raining outside.” The speaker is looking out the window with her colleague, talking about information they both have in common (the weather outside).
“It’s raining outside, right?” The speaker knows through the weather forecast that it is going to rain at this time of day and is checking the weather outside with her colleague who has come into the office from outside. (The speaker assumes an answer, “Yes, it’s raining.”)
“Is it raining outside?” The speaker has been inside the office the whole day and has no idea what the weather is like outside, but when she sees a co-worker coming into the office from outside dripping wet, she asks her what the weather is like outside.
「外は雨か…」“It’s raining outside…” The speaker is looking out the window and talking to herself. (Or so she thinks in her mind.)
The girl on the left
“This manga is really good.”
(She uses 「よ」 because she thinks he doesn’t know this information yet.)
The boy on the right
“(I know!) It’s really good!”
(The use of「よ」implies that he already knows this information, and「ね」expresses agreement.)
The girl on the left
“What? Have you read it already?”
(She’s asking this question because she wants to make sure he really has already read the comic that just came out.)
Shout-out for Heikoさん
Actually, I got the idea for this article from reading Heikoさん’s (@HD7915) Japanese word endings in the Translation Challenge.
Heikoさん learned ending particles by listening to podcasts of various genres, by various people, and with various levels of politeness (and casualness). Even if there are words and phrases you don’t understand, if you memorize many patterns of endings, you will acquire natural endings.