Japanese sentences word order question



How flexible is the arrangement of words in sentences?

(subject) wa (location) de (object) wo (verb).
(subject) wa (time) ni (location) de (object) wo (verb).

Can this arrangement work?

(subject) wa (object) wo (location) de (verb).

Do other arrangements work/sound more natural?


Since the particles define the function a word plays in a sentence, then the sentence can be rearranged however you like, so long as the verb stays at the end, and the particles stay with their corresponding words. In casual speech, the verb doesn’t even have to go at the end.

That said, if you jumble things up too much, listeners may lose track of what it was you were talking about by the time you reach the verb.


Belthazar is correct. Also, FYI:

This chart doesn’t cover stuff like 水を飲む男は…, but is close enough.


Those would be noun-modifying clauses, which basically can be included as a part of any of the blue boxes in the diagram.


But I think the parts closest to the verb are considered more important / are emphasized more.

So「私はプールでアイスクリームを食べます」and「私はアイスクリームをプールで食べます」would both be correct. But I think the former emphasizes that the ice cream is being eaten, whereas the latter emphasizes that the location the eating is being done is the pool.


thank you for the chart! quick question just to clarify, in terms of natural speech, the blue boxes can go anywhere in the sentence as long as it’s before ‘other information’ and ‘verb’?


I recommend you read this blog post.


Why is it impossible for people to write articles like that without including needless bullshit like this:

One of the biggest reasons for this is that the usual way of learning Japanese involves remembering random phrases and sentence patterns in isolation, without actually being taught why those sentences work the way they do.

Even though that’s like chapter 2 of Genki. And the article goes on to say:

Particles are like markers that tell us the role each word plays in a sentence.

Which is of course fine for beginners, but yet another simplification for the sake of learning. And the kinda thing the above is complaining about.


thank you so much for that link! it was a very helpful read. I especially enjoyed the part explaining noun phrases in Japanese


The blue boxes (except for ‘topic’) are the ‘other information’, and it’s saying time can appear before the topic or as part of the other information (between the topic and the verb).