In Japanese, word order is less important than it is in languages like English thanks to the existence of particles. As I talked about in my guide to Japanese sentence structure, particles, not word order, are what determines how each part of a sentence relates to the verb:
(If you haven’t read my article on Japanese sentence structure, I recommend doing so.)
As a starting point, most basic sentences can be formed using the following pattern:
The pieces of ‘other information’ can generally be expressed in any order without affecting the fundamental meaning of the sentence, as long as they are accompanied by the appropriate particles.
However, for any given sentence, there is usually a particular word order that sounds more natural than others. This is because word order affects where the emphasis in a sentence lies.
In this article, I will show you the thinking behind natural Japanese word order, and give you some basic rules that you can easily apply. I’ll also give you some exercises you can do to help you think like a Japanese speaker so that forming natural-sounding sentences becomes automatic.
Let’s get started.