How to Express Possession and Ownership in Japanese 

 February 3, 2020

By  Paolo Palabrica

Contrary to the English equivalent of possession, the Japanese language does not add “ ’s ” to the noun. They use a certain particle, which has a lot of different uses as well.

In this article, you will be able to learn the usage of the particle no (の). No is not pronounced the same way as the English no, instead it is pronounced lightly, the same way the no of anonymous is pronounced.
Japanese Possession and Ownership

Using no (の)

When trying to convey the “ ‘s ”, you just add the particle next to the noun. 

Suzuki san        no             kasa                 wa            kore     desu  (スズキさんのかさはこれです)

(Mr. Suzuki)     (‘s) (umbrella)       (is/topic) (this) (.)

Watashi      no         hon           wa            akai     desu (わたしのほんはあかいです)

(I)   (‘s)      (book) (is/topic)     (red) (.)

Although there is no such thing as I’s, the rule stays the same. I’s can roughly be translated into “my”.

Modifying Demonstrative Pronouns

In the previous lesson, the words for this, that and that over there were introduced. For this article, we will be explaining how to modify kore (これ), sore(それ) and are (あれ) to make them even more specific.

  • Kono (この)

Kono kasa                  wa           watashi no      desu (このかさわたしのです)

(This umbrella)   (is/topic) (I’s / mine)         (.)

  • Sono (その)

Sono keitai wa Suzuki san no desu (そのけいていはスズキさんのです)
(That mobile phone) (is) (Mr. Suzuki’s) (.)

  • Ano (あの)

Ano kata            wa       yamada san     desu (あのかたはやまださんです)

(That person)   (is) (Mr. Yamada)       (.)

By attaching the no particle to kore, sore, and are, we get a more specific picture on what the speaker wants to convey. Also, when using kono, sono, and ano make sure you have a word that it describes. Saying kono on its own does not have any meaning. Be sure to remember that.

The question word dare (だれ)

This word directly translates to the English word “who”. Check out the sentences below to know how to use it.

Sono kata               wa            dare     desu ka (そのかたはだれですか?)

(That person)    (is/topic) (who)        (?)

If we translate this sentence directly, we’ll get the sentence, “That person is who?”. But the meaning should be understandable, “Who is that person?” In Japanese, the whole grammar pattern is reversed. It will probably take some time for an English native to get used to the pattern.

Kore    wa      dare                       no                              desu ka? (これはだれのですか?)

(This)   (is) (who)    (‘s / possession particle)              (?)

Although its direct translation is “This is whose?”, in English it should mean, “Whose is this?”. Every rule stays the same, when adding no(の) to the subject, it’s talking about ownership.


That’s it for this article. Be sure to use your newly learned grammar patterns and describe to your Japanese friends your possessions.

Ganbatte ne 頑張ってね!(Goodluck!)

Paolo Palabrica

Paolo is a software engineer in the Philippines whose hobby is learning languages. He has self-studied Japanese for over 3 years, and now speaks 3 languages and 3 Philippine dialects.

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