の (Dependent Pronoun) Japanese Grammar Lesson
Grammar Type: Pronoun
Essential Meaning: The X one / The one that
- い-Adjective informal nonpast + の
- E.g. 高いの [A big one]
- な-Adjective Stem + なの
- E.g. 丈夫なの [A durable one]
- Relative Clause + の
- E.g. 去年買ったの [The one I bought last year]
- の (Dependent pronoun) is a dependent pronoun that translates roughly to “The X one” or “The one that”. It is used in place of a noun when it is obvious from context what the speaker is referring to. の (Dependent pronoun) generally serves to make sentences more brief and colloquial. As an example, if Morpheus from The Matrix offers you a choice between the red pill and the blue pill, it would be natural to answer: 赤いのお願いします。[The red one, please!] It is obvious from context that pills are the topic of discussion, so you can use の (Dependent pronoun) rather than referring to the pills explicitly. Keep in mind that の (dependent pronoun) must follow either an adjective or a relative clause.
- E.g. Following an adjective: 私は大きいのを買った。[I bought the big one.] Presumably, the speaker chose among objects of varying sizes and decided to buy the big one.
- E.g. Following a relative clause: 私は去年買ったのを使った。[I used the one that I bought last year.] The speaker had multiple choices of items to use and decided to use the one that he or she bought last year.
- Nouns that are referred to by の (Dependent pronoun) are not necessarily tangible. They can be intangible things such as ideas, dreams, hopes, et cetera.
- E.g. 今まで聞いたアイデアの中では村田くんが言ったのが一番良さそうだ。[Among the ideas that I’ve heard thus far, the one that Murata-kun mentioned seems like the best one.] In this example, の (Dependent Pronoun) refers to an intangible idea.
- の (Dependent pronoun) closely resembles the omitted form of の (Genitive), so be careful not to mix them up. Notice the difference between between the following two examples:
- E.g. 私はトムの(ぺん)が欲しい。[I want Tom’s (pen).] If ペン is inserted after の, it creates a noun phrase (i.e. トムのペン) because の is preceded by a noun. This is therefore an example of the omitted form of の (Genitive).
- E.g. 私は黒いの(ぺん)が欲しい。[I want the black one (pen).] In this case, pen can NOT be inserted after の to create a noun phrase because 黒い is not a noun. In other words, either ペン or の can be used after 黒い, but not both. This is therefore an example of の (Dependent pronoun).
- There is also a subtle difference in meaning between の (Dependent pronoun) and の (Nominalizer). The difference is that の (Dependent pronoun) refers to a distinct noun antecedent, whereas の (Nominalizer) refers to an entire sentence.
- E.g. 高田さんが使っていたのを覚えていますか。[Do you remember the one that Takada was using? OR Do you remember the fact that Takada was using it?] It is ambiguous whether this の is a nominalizer that refers to the preceding sentence (i.e. “高田さんが使っていた”) or a dependent pronoun that refers to the thing that Takada was using. The connotation of the sentence depends on which version of the の particle is being used.
私は大きいのを買った。[I bought the big one.]
私は去年買ったのを使った。[I used the one that I bought last year.]
A: どんな車が欲しいですか。B: 小さいのが欲しいです。[A: What kind of car do you want? B: I want a small one.]
友達がワインを飲みたがったので昨日買ったのを出した。[Because my friend seemed like they wanted to drink wine, I served them the one that I bought yesterday.]
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