Wild Nihongo!
を Particle (Direct Object)

を Particle (Direct Object)

を (Direct Object) Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Particle

Essential Meaning: Direct object marker


  • Noun / Noun Phrase + を
    • E.g. ミルクを [~Milk]
    • E.g. ミルクとジュースを [~Juice and milk]


  • を (Direct object) is the accusative case marking particle. It marks the direct object that a transitive verb acts upon in a sentence. For example, in the sentence “Bob ate a bagel.“, “Bob” is the subject, “ate” is a transitive verb, and “bagel” is the direct object that the transitive verb acts upon. Thus, bagel would be marked by を in Japanese.
    • E.g. ボブがベーグルをべました。[Bob ate a bagel.]
  • Transitive verbs tend to express the subject’s agency or volition over some action, and the を particle brings attention to this fact. To put it another way, を (Direct Object) emphasizes the fact that some action does not simply occur; the subject MAKES it occur.
    • E.g. ボブがむしべました。[Bob ate a bug.] The implication of を (Direct object) in this case is that Bob purposefully ate the bug; it didn’t just fly into his mouth.
  • Note that there are certain verbs (such as かる [To understand]) that are transitive in English but intransitive in Japanese. Due to this intransitivity, かる does not take を (Direct object); instead, it follow the ~は~が structure.
    • E.g. わたし英語えいごかる。[I understand English.]
  • Typically, indirect objects co-occur with direct objects. It wouldn’t make sense to say “I gave to him.” We need to specify the direct object that is being given. However, there are certain transitive verbs of communication (e.g. はなす [To speak], 電話でんわする [To call], う [To meet]) that can break this rule and appear with an indirect object and WITHOUT a direct object. These sentences resemble English prepositional phrases.
    • E.g. ジムはビスに電話でんわした。[Jim called Beth (i.e. Jim called to Beth).]
    • E.g. ぼく昨日きのう田中たなかさんにった。 [I met Tanaka-san yesterday (I met with Tanaka-san yesterday.]
  • In certain constructions (e.g. ~たい, てある, られる / える), を (Direct object) is interchangeable with the subject marker .
    • E.g. ミルクを/が みたい。[I want to drink milk.]
    • E.g. 日本語にほんご を/が はなせる。[I can speak Japanese.]
    • E.g. まど を/が けてある。[The window is open.]
  • を cannot occur more than once in a clause, regardless of whether it is を (Direct object) or を (Space). Thus, in the causative construction, the causee must be marked by if another element in the same clause is marked by を.
    • E.g. ちちわたしさけませた。[My father made me drink sake.] さけ is marked by を, so わたし must be marked by .
    • E.g. 友達ともだちわたしきゅうさかをのぼらせた。[My friend made me climb a steep hill.] さか is marked by を, so わたし must be marked by .
  • If the direct object is presented as a topic or as a contrastive element, を is replaced by . In other words, takes precedent over を when both fit with a noun.
    • E.g. 日本語にほんごりません。[I don’t know Japanese.]
    • E.g. そのほんはもうみました。[I already read that book.]

Example Sentences:

わたし日本語にほんご勉強べんきょうしている。[I am studying Japanese.]

前田まえださんは昨日きのうくるまった。[Maeda-san bought a car yesterday.]

なにみますか。[What are you drinking?]

WILD Examples:

At 1:20, listen for this line: 月曜日げつようび月曜日げつようび、りんご一つひとつべました [On Monday, On Monday, He ate one apple] Similar sentences using the を particle appear repeatedly throughout this song.

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