How to Speak Japanese

How to make quotations using the particle “と” in Japanese


How to make quotations using the particle “と” in Japanese

Last time we took a look at how to express on-going actions or lasting effects in Japanese using “~ている”. In this lesson, ou will learn how to use the particle “と” together with verbs like “言う” and “思う” to make quotations in Japanese. That way, you can express what other people told you or what you are thinking.

Table of Contents
[About “と”]
[5 example sentences]

[About “と”]

The basics of how to use the particle “と” for quotations are really easy to understand, but there are a few things to keep an eye out to use it correctly. So let’s take a closer look at the particle “と” in this article and video!

[5 example sentences]

To get all the tiny details right, let’s take a look at 5 sentences using the particle “と” to quote what somebody has said or is thinking. Take a good look at these sentences and try to figure out whether they are correct. Also try to think of why they seem correct or incorrect to you.

1. 日本語にほんごむずかしいだとおもいます。
2. これは、あやこさんのバッグとおもいます。
3. けんたくんは、あそこのスーパーはいだといました。
4. 友達ともだち東京とうきょう電車でんしゃおおくて便利べんりっていました。
5. 先生せんせい出身しゅっしんは、山形やまがたきました。

What is your conclusion? Which of these sentences look correct to you?

The answer is that all of them are wrong. And this is because of how quotations work in Japanese. If you want to quote something, you will have to recite that sentence before adding the adequate ending with “と” and a verb, e.g. “~と思う” or “~と言う”.
When citing that other sentence, it must be a normal sentence, in its “普通形” which means the verb/adjective/noun used can be changed, but it must not be using the “マス形” or polite form. Let’s take apart each example to see how we can change it to its correct form!

1. x 日本語にほんごむずかしいだとおもいます。
Let’s focus on the word “難しい”. “難しい” is an adjective. There are three types of adjectives in Japanese. Can you guess which one “難しい” is? Yes, it’s an i-adjective! So if you were to create a normal sentence using “難しい”, not using any polite or masu-form, what would that look like?

Japanese is difficult.

As per the rule with i-adjectives, you can simply end the sentence with the adjective itself and do not need to add anything. That is important! Because this sentence is the one you will use for the quotation, adding “と” plus the adequate verb, e.g. “~と思う” or “~と言う”.

So the corrected quotation looks like this:

I think Japanese is difficult.

2. x これは、あやこさんのバッグとおもいます。
For this sentence, let’s focus on the word “バッグ” (bag). “バッグ” is a noun, so what would this sentence look like as a normal sentence, not using the masu-form and without the quotation ending?

This is Ayako’s bag.

Because it’s a noun, you have to add the verb “だ” at the end of the sentence in it’s normal, none-polite form. And that’s the point! Now all you need to do is add “~と思う” or “~と言う” to make a correct quotation:

I think this is Ayako’s bag.

3. x けんたくんは、あそこのスーパーはいだといました。
For this sentence we have to focus on the word “安い”. “安い” is an i-adjective. So it’s the same pattern as the first sentence and a normal sentence would look like this:

That supermarket is cheap.

Now, conveying what Kenta said, the correct quotation looks like this:

Kenta said that supermarket was cheap.


4. x 友達ともだち東京とうきょう電車でんしゃおおくて便利べんりっていました。
To get this right we have to look at “便利”. “便利” is a na-adjective, so different from an i-adjective, you do actually have to add “だ” when creating a normal sentence using a na-adjective. So the friend could have said:

Tokyo is convenient because it has many trains.

It’s just like sentence pattern 2 using a noun. Now, the correct quotation would look like this:

My friend was saying that Tokyo is convenient because it has many trains.

5. x 先生せんせい出身しゅっしんは、山形やまがたきました。
First of all, let’s focus on the verb “聞く” (to hear)/“聞きました” (I heard) here. This is not a direct quotation, but rather conveying a rumour or hearsay someone has picked up and is telling another person. It’s different from the “引用” (quotation) we are studying today, but since it can be used exactly the same way with “と” we are mentioning it here.
So, let’s focus on the word “山形”. Yamagata is a city as well as prefecture in Japan – therefore it is a noun! Now, when creating a normal sentence with a noun… right, we need to add “だ”! So, what the person conveying the hearsay actually heard must be something along the lines of:

The teacher’s birthplace is Yamagata.

So in conveying what this person heard from person A to person B, the correct form is:

I heard that teacher’s birthplace is Yamagata.

Whether you put the “だ” in front of “~思う”, “言う”, or for rumours/hearsay “~聞く” may seem like a small thing to you, but if you want to speak clear and correct Japanese, you have to figure out whether you need it or not first.
But as long as you can create the proper normal sentence first, you should have no problem deducting the correct grammar!

Getting it right in conversation may require a lot of practice, so don’t worry about making mistakes, but be aware of them and try to fix them where possible!

As always, don’t forget to check out the video on this class and tune in to our livestream every wednesday at 6pm (JST) for the real deal!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
引用いんよう Reason
理由りゆう Progress
正解せいかい Correct answer
確認かくにんする To check, to confirm
ただしい Correct
なお To correct, to cure, to fix
注目ちゅうもくする To focus, to pay attention

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