How did you learn to break with SVO?

I keep finding myself defaulting to SVO when trying to talk or write. Granted, my Japanese is very basic, but I was wondering if folks had any tips?

For anyone else who wants to google: I think they are talking about Subject-Verb-Object sentence order.

On topic: I try not to translate, but to think in Japanese.
-> I am not thinking: I want to say that and that and then translate that, I try to stay in Japanese.

Now thinking about it, I never really had any problem with putting the verb at the end, sure, I mess up the grammar, but not because I get the position of the verb wrong. I started with Genki (doing all exercises + the workbook) and a 3 weeks intensive course on Japanese way back in the beginning, so maybe that has something to do with it.


as for writing I don’t really know what to tell you. I mean you know the verb goes at the end. And when you write you have time to think about what you are doing…Sooo

As for speaking, it makes more sense that you can get mixed up because sometimes our brains and mouths get out of sync, or we get just say the first word that pops into our head and get messed up.
I have a couple of stratagies for getting better at this:

  1. listen to a lot of spoken japanese.
  2. read natural japanese sentences (sentences from your textbook whatever) out loud a lot of times. This will make the word order start to feel more natural.
  3. when reading, even if I have to gloss the sentences in my head (susbstitute english meanings) I try to never change the word order. Instead I try to “get used” to the japanese word order even if i have to gloss in english.

Also, i don’t know what your situation is (if you are in a class or whatever), but if your japanese is very basic, you might be better off focusing on inputing more (reading, shadowing, repeating sentences aloud, singing songs, etc) as opposed to outputting (quickly, ie trying to speak conversationally). Maybe focus your outputting on writing sentences. That way you can give yourself the time to make sure you are practising correct word order and grammar instead of stumbling through a conversation.


That’s a really good idea. I often try and “correct” it in my head. This probably would help.

1 Like

Speaking like Yoda you must. One or two months enough should be.


Try to form sentences from pieces of Japanese rather than starting with a full English sentence and then trying to translate it. It’s probably different for everyone, but one way that helps me is that whenever I want to say something in Japanese, I try not to think of it in English. Instead, I try to remember if I’ve heard something similar said in Japanese before, and use that to help me form a basis. I always feel more confident in my pitch accent and cadence when I’m saying something that I know I’ve heard before and I can imitate how it sounded.
I think listening to a lot of Japanese material is going to be the most useful for getting used to how it sounds and how they phrase things. I’d recommend being smarter than I was and going for more natural stuff rather than anime. I often have phrases pop into my head that are inappropriate to say because they’re too girly or too casual etc. I’m not sure what the average time is, but I’m pretty sure it takes a considerable amount of study and exposure to a language before you’ll start feeling less reliant on your native language, especially for people like me who are used to being monolingual.


At level 3 I started with grammar (Tae Kims Guide to Japanese). Until Level 8 I had completed the basic an the essential grammar (aka I made podcasts of the chapters of about 3 to 5 minutes).
While this I spoke to myself. All day long. In Japanese.

Because I a) had Tae Kims Guide, which (when necessary) translates as much context as possible and b) started very early with grammar, I had never problems with this typical SVO-problems.

As the guys above me already said: Don’t translate a English sentance to Japanese. Just think in Japanese.

~T :lion:

I would say start without using subjects for a while unless it’s just 2 parts of a sentence. Use sentences where it’s understood, like when you’re talking about yourself. This will also get you out of the nasty habit of saying ぼく or わたし constantly. Flipping two things around is much easier than rearranging everything.




It’s not easy at first. You’re literally reprogramming the way your brain works. I started small and kept on building until some stuff just comes to mind instantly.

Sometimes Japanese words will come to my mind before the English word does. It’s a trip when that happens in conversation with English speaking friends. Always interesting to stop in the middle of your sentence and say, “I can’t think of the English word, but in Japanese it’s XXXXXX.” lol


exactly this^^^^. When it comes to word order, there are not alot of times that you couldn’t understand the meaning of the sentence even with the words in the “japanese” order and with subjects dropped, etc.

In the long term, I have found the much harder part is getting a feel for the things for which there really isn’t an equivalent in english. By this i mean all of the modal verb endings, の / な / で, suffering passive, nested よう expressions, 4 kinds of “if”, … things like this.

1 Like

Start with simple sentences and build from there:

In the beginning,
And then try to reflect how you can create longer sentences integrating what you used.

I think taking the time to evaluate how you organized and communicated your point helps to regulate how create new utterances as well how you process them.

Well, uh, my native language is Urdu, a free-order language, but the most common order is SOV. So I was already kind of used to speaking in that order :sweat_smile:
Sorry I couldn’t be more help …

1 Like

Exactly! This is what I’m talking about. Is this just something that gets easier with more listening practice?

osmosis. the longer i’ve been here, the more i started to omit, till i ended up like a lazy oyaji, only saying what’s absolutely necessary for comprehension.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.