Why Japanese doesn’t have strict sentence order?

Why Japanese doesn’t have strict sentence order?

13 July 2021

In Japanese, we have things called particles that come after almost every word in the sentence to identify exactly what role that word is playing. That means that no matter where the word is in the sentence, we’ll know whether it’s an object, topic, identifier, target, context, etc. The only reason sentence order is so strict in English is because without clear rules of ordering, we won’t have any idea which word is supposed to play which role.

In English, sentence order changes the meaning of the sentence.

  • Dog saw Tree.
  • Tree saw Dog.

In Japanese, because of particles, no matter how you move things around, the dog is still the topic and the tree is still the object.

  • Dog[topic particle] tree[object particle] saw. = Dog saw tree.
  • Tree[object particle] dog[topic particle] saw. = Dog saw tree.


In order to really understand Japanese sentence structure, you need to break things down into clauses. A clause is the smallest part of a sentence that expresses a complete thought. As mentioned previously, in order to express a complete thought, you must have a verb or a noun/adjective that is a state-of-being. Now, the only thing you have to remember is that everything that applies to that verb must come before it. And that each clause can have only one such verb.

The verb (or state-of-being) must come at the very end of the clause

  • 犬が木を見た。 – The dog saw tree.
  • 木を犬が見た。 – The dog saw tree.
  • 私は学生です。 – I am student.
  • \学生は私です。 – The student is me.

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