Particles are essential for beginners to understand Japanese grammar although their use can sometimes be a bit difficult. One of the easier ones is the particle を.  

What are we verbing? を as a direct topic marker

The を-particle is mostly used to indicate a direct object in Japanese. Therefore, it’s also called the object particle. It comes after the object or thing that is used by the verb. You can often find the direct object by turning the sentence around and putting it in a question. The answer to this question is the direct object. Below is a short example in English

John is eating bread

So what is John eating? The answer is bread of course so the direct object is bread. In Japanese, it works the same but this time this object is followed by a を. The を-particle uses the ‘wo’-hiragana but is pronounced more like ‘o’. Here is its use in some standard sentences.

おちゃ を のみます
I drink tea

おちゃ = Tea
のみます = To drink

テレビ を みます
I watch television

テレビ = Television
みます = To look at, to watch

As you can see, when you eat, drink or watch something, that something is followed by an を-particle. The general rule is: when something is affected or done by a verb, it is followed by the を-particle. 

A lot of verbs combine naturally with the を-particle, like  たべる (To eat), きく (to listen), のむ (to drink), よむ (to read), みる (to look at) and べんきょうする (to study). Here are some examples. 

まいにち すし を たべます
I eat sushi everyday

まいにち = Everyday
すし = Sushi
たべます = To eat

BTS の おんがく を ききます
I listen to music from BTS

おんがく = Music
ききます = To listen

Strong Zero を のみました
I drank Strong Zero

Strong Zero = A popular sugary cocktail
のみました = Past tense of のむ (to drink)

Tolstoy の ほん を よみます
I read a book from Tolstoy

ほん = Book
よみます = To read

きょう は にほんご を べんきょう します
I study Japanese today

きょう = Today
にほんご = Japanese language
べんきょうします = To study

を to indicate where someone is moving

The を-particle is also used to indicate where someone is moving when it is combined with a verb that indicates motion.

So when somebody is swimming in the ocean, climbing a mountain or flying through the air, you use を. Other examples are crossing a street, climbing stairs or running in the park. 

あの ひと は みち を わたります
That person over there crosses the road

あの ひと = That person over there
みち = Road
わたります = To cross over

その ぶた は そら を とびます
That pig flies through the sky

ぶた = Pig
そら = Sky
とびます = To fly

I run in the park

こうえん = Park
はしります = To run


を for the point of departure

を is also used to specify the point of departure. For example this is used when you get off a train or bus.


バス = Bus
おります = to get off (train, bus



So to summarize, the を-particle

  • has the hiragana for ‘wo’, but is pronounced ‘o’
  • is used as a direct object marker (what is the verb influencing?)
  • is used to specify where motion takes place
  • is used to indicate where someone departs