So you don't know any Japanese, but you like listening to the original Japanese dialogue more than English when watching anime. Even without knowing the language, if you listen to the last syllable of a sentence, you can often get a very good feel for the character's personality and tone.

Japanese has these things called sentence-final particles. They aren't words, and many of them don't have any real grammatical purpose. They're single syllables that are tacked on to the end of sentences to set the tone and show personality. There is no equivalent in English, and they are impossible to translate. Translators simply drop them when changing the sentence to English, and you lose all the information that comes with them.

So here are the major ones. Even if you think you know one, (everyone thinks they know "ne"), read it anyway. You might be suprised.

Basic Particles:

The first particle anyone ever learns in Japanese class. "Who are you?" (Dare desu ka?) Ka is a question mark. It's that simple. In polite textbook Japanese you use it like that.

However, in informal Japanese, ka is often dropped. The "who" in the above implies a question. There's no need for ka, so it's natural to drop it. In informal speech, therefore, keeping ka anyway is a statement that you're being purposely direct. "I'm not dancing around, I'm asking you directly." This feeling of directness makes it mildly masculine.

There is also kai, which is a very very strong, very male, yes/no version of ka.


Yo is an exclamation point. Also simple. There is however one major difference between the English exclamation point and the Japanese yo.

In English, you can say "Good morning!" or "No!" with an explanation point. In Japanese, yo can only be used if you're making a sentence and conveying information. "I am not a crook!" "I like little girls!" "Your mom's a cow!" can all use yo, but you can't use it like "konnichiwa yo!" to mean "Good afternoon!" in Japanese.


Argh, the most widely misused particle ever, especially among the American anime fan crowd. Ne is a tag question, similar to sticking "...right?" or "...isn't it?" at the end of a sentence in English. Just like English, it can be used both as a question ("It is, isn't it?") and a statement ("It is, isn't it.") In polite textbook Japanese, which is what's taught in Japanese classes, there's no problem with this.

Here's the problem. Ne is a sentence softener, like adding Snugglesoft dryer sheets to what you're trying to say. In informal Japanese, softening your sentence is the same as feminizing it. Men and women speak very differently in informal Japanese. Constantly tacking "ne?" to the end of your sentences as a guy, unless you're speaking in polite classroom Japanese, is going to make people start to think you swing "that way." If you ever hear a guy saying ne informally, because they don't want to sound too male, it's going to be da ne, which is a way of conveying informal male directness counterbalanced with the softening effect of ne.

Why do American anime fans overuse this? Because almost every cute little girl in anime (and there's always one) drops ne every other sentence in a bubbly display of hyper feminine cuteness, and Americans don't realize men and women speak informal Japanese differently. So now we have an entire continent of swishy-sounding anime fans. It's really pretty embarassing.


Na is the male ne. It is mildly male and seldom used by women unless they're trying to sound a little gruff. You use it exactly the same way as ne. You can tack it to the end of a sentence as a question ("...isn't it?") or as a statement ("...isn't it.") You can even use it alone. Sometimes you'll hear Japanese guys talking, and after they say something, it'll be "Na?" "Na!" (Right? Right!)

You can drag it out to really convey additional emotion. "Daaamn that girl's cute, isn't she..." (aitsu sugge- bijin da naaa...)


Advanced Particles:


No is also a sentence softener. It's not really a sentence final particle, but explaining the grammar behind it would take too long. For now, realize that it's just a way of softening a sentence or question, and therefore it has strong feminine undertones. Women will often end question sentences with no. Men who want to use it to soften a question without sounding too swishy will counterbalance it, "no ka?" similar to the counterbalancing effect of "da ne?"

You can either use it as a question particle, or a statement particle, similar to ne.


Finally, something for women. Wa is the ultimate sentence softener - the ultimate feminine particle, like the female counterpart to zo, (which is coming next.) Guys, stay the hell away from this particle, because there is no way to use it without sounding like a spectacular flamer.

(Sort of. In Osaka dialect, men and women both use wa, but this is rare to hear in anime outside of the token comic relief character from Osaka. Sometimes they won't use it anyway, because it just sounds too feminine to the rest of the country.)


Sa is the hardest particle to explain. Because of this, it's practically impossible to find any website or book that really explains it well. But here goes anyway.

The best way to explain sa is with an example from English. What does it mean to start a sentence with "Well..." in English? The word "well" itself has no real meaning, so you can't define it. What's the difference between "I'll be going now" and "Well, I'll be going now?"

In English, "well" indicates that you have given a situation some thought, and the sentence that follows is some kind of conclusion that you've come to. The "well" in "Well, I should be going" means you've thought about what's going on, you've realized it's late, and you gotta get up early tomorrow, and your conclusion is you need to go.

Sa in Japanese has this same meaning. The person has thought about the situation, and has come to some sort of conclusion. Of course sa comes at the end of a sentence, not the beginning, so it's in the opposite place from "well." In the final bit of wackyness, you can also tack on no and make no sa? which now carries the "I thought about it" meaning of sa but puts it in a question. The closest English equivalent would be "So I guess ....... ?" or what have you. You can also use sa alone as an answer to a question, which is a completely noncommittal response. "What should we do now?" "Saaa..." "So do you think she's over 18?" "Saaa..." both come across sounding like "I dunno," "Who cares?"

It typically takes people quite awhile to wrap their brains around how sa works, and beginners to the language are better off not trying to use it.


Zo is harsh. Very harsh. There is no other particle more strongly male and abrasive. It is used exactly the same as yo, except only when you want to say something in the strongest possible terms, like right before you kick someone in the face, or smash them to tiny pieces with a giant robot.

Women, stay far, far away from this particle unless you want to sound like a major tomboy.

Guys who use zo constantly are trying to sound extremely tough. So much, that you will rarely hear it used all that much outside of manga or anime.


Ze is a little harder to explain. It's weaker than zo in terms of sheer abrasiveness, and is almost like a combination of zo and ne. It is strongly male, so stay away from it ladies, but it's not as rude as zo.

Anime example. Super dangerous mission, hero dude likely won't come back alive. Someone asks "Who will do it?" "Ore yaru ze." ("I'll do it.") It's stronger, more male, and cooler sounding than yo, but if you said "Ore yaru zo!" you'd probably get peoples' eyebrows climbing up through their foreheads. ("Well, you don't have to be that eager...")

Ze used to be all the rage in Japan, but it was overused and has recently started to fall out of popularity. Still used constantly in manga and anime though.

Q: Then what's with the way you sometimes hear more than one of these things at the end of a sentence?

A: You can mix and match.

Women will often stick wa before other particles, like wa ne to make an even more feminine version of ne, or wa yo (see left picture) to emphasize something but still sound girly.

You'll hear yo ne a lot, which is basically ne with an explanation point. "...isn't it!" Again, men will usually counterbalance the softness of this with da yo ne or just use yo na instead.

ka yo is a question, with an explanation point. This isn't the equivalent of "?!?!" like you would expect. Instead, it makes a rhetorical question, or a really snide sarcastic question.

ka na is used so often it's almost it's own grammar construct. It's a question, but with the "...isn't it?" feeling of na. The best way to translate it is "I wonder if..." Note that women use it too. For some obscure reason, you can't say ka ne, so in this instance women will use ka na too.

Q: So what the hell is up with Naruto's wierd habit of ending sentences with " ttebayo " ?

A: This is a new one. The author simply made it up. However, almost all new words like this come from manga, end up being used by kids who read it, and then it becomes a standard word a few years later. We'll see what happens with 'ttebayo

In normal Japanese, 'tte is an informal way of marking a quote, almost like a verbal version of "" . 'tteba is used when you're emphasizing something you've previously said:

"Want some cookies?"
"No thanks."
"Are you sure?"
"(I said) No thanks!" <- This would have 'tteba at the end of it

Naruto then adds yo to it, to make it even more emphasized. He's not quoting something he previously said, but he's using the 'ttebayo construct anyway to super over-emphasize all of his sentences, even ones that don't need emphasis.

Q: What about "degozaru" then? Kenshin uses it, and I hear it a lot.

A: degozaru isn't a sentence final particle really, as much as it is old Japanese. These days people use "desu," "da," or "de gozaimasu," but years and years ago samurai used degozaru. It's not translatable, because it basically only means "is," but you could express the same meaning by having the character speak with "doth" and "thou" etc. If a character is using degozaru, they're likely using sessha to refer to themselves and onushi to refer to others.