Japanese Grammar

Sentence Ending Particles: ね, よ, and よね

Sentence Ending Particle ね

Last time, you learned the usage of Japanese intransitive and transitive verbs like “ドアがく” and “ドアをける.” We hope that you have understood the differences between such verbs in English and Japanese. In this lesson, you will learn one of Japanese’s unique elements: sentence ending particles.

Explanation for How Sentence Ending Particles: ね, よ, and よね Work

Table of Contents
Sentence Ending Particle ね
Sentence Ending Particle よ
Sentence Ending Particle よね

First of all, let us emphasize: Try not to translate sentence ending particles between Japanese and English. Since there is no equivalent in English, it will not work out well. Only by getting accustomed to natural expressions will you be able to understand the concept. *Note, sentence ending particles are colloquial expressions. Please regard the following examples as ones used in conversation.

Sentence Ending Particle ね

There are two cases: whether you must use the sentence ending particle ね or not. Thus, we will explain each function with the labels [Must] and [Option] as below. One good piece of news here is that you’re not required to make conjugations. You can just attach ね (and other ones) at the end.

1. [Must] When You Seek the Listeners’ Agreement

美味おいしい(です)
[It] is delicious, isn’t it?
今日きょうあつい(です)
Today is hot, isn’t it?
きれい(だ / です)
[It] is beautiful, isn’t it?
どもげん(だ / です)
Children are lively, aren’t they?

The first function is to seek the listeners’ agreement. This is used on the assumption that speakers and listeners have the same opinions, feelings, and information in common. Here, ね works as roughly the same as a tag questions in English like “isn’t it?”

When You Reply to the Above
(うん / はい)、美味おいしい(です)
Yes, [it] is delicious.
(うん / はい)、あつい(です) 
Yes, [it] is hot.
(うん / はい)、きれい(だ / です)
Yes, [it] is beautiful.
(うん / はい)、げん(だ / です)
Yes, [they] are lively.

If you would like to express your agreement when you respond, you should also attach ね at the end. If you disagree, you cannot use ね, though other functions of ね and よ are suitable (*you will learn below). 

2. [Must] When You Seek the Listeners’ Confirmation

明日あしたり(だ / です)
Tomorrow is the deadline, right?
かい10じゅうから(だ / です)
The meeting is at 10:00, right?
学校がっこうには(る / ます)
[You] will come to school, right?
今日きょうは(む / みます)
As for today, [we] will drink, right?

The second function is to seek the listeners’ confirmation. This is used when you’re not sure about information or knowledge you have. Here, ね can be roughly translated as “right?” in English. When you respond to the above examples, you don’t have to add ね.

3. [Option] When You Express Something after Consideration

えーと、りは20日はつか(だ / です)
Let me see. The deadline is on the 20th.
*Said when you’re asked when the deadline is.
やっぱり結婚けっこんねん(だ / です)
As expected, [it] is our wedding anniversary.
*Said when you’re asked what the most important day is.

This usage appears when Japanese people think about something at a particular time or try to recall something. However, this doesn’t have a particular meaning. By using this, you can express your speech as native speakers do.

4. [Option] When You Express Your Denial

(ううん / いいえ)、美味おいしくない(です)
No, [it] is not delicious.
(ううん / いいえ)、あつくない(です)
No, [it] is not hot.
(ううん / いいえ)、きれいじゃない(です)
No, [it] is not beautiful.
(ううん / いいえ)、げんじゃない(です)
No, [they] are not lively.

The fourth function is to emphasize the speakers’ denial. This is mainly used when you respond to something. Be careful. This expression is a little strong and is rarely heard in practice, except in manga, drama, movie, etc.

5. [Option] As a Filler Word

明日あしたたのしみ(だ / です)。
Tomorrow is the one that [I] look forward to.
てらき(だ / です)。
As for temples, I like it, too.

Some people have a habit to put ね after particles. However, this doesn’t have a particular meaning. You can consider this as a filler word.

Sentence Ending Particle よ

Unlike the above uses, at no time will you have to use the sentence ending particle よ. On the other hand, Japanese people customarily add this in some situations. Thus, your Japanese will sound much more natural if you use this particle. Let’s go over the usages.

1. When You Make Listeners Become Aware

今日きょうあめ(だ / です)
It will rain today.
*Said to someone who will go out without an umbrella.
インドのカレーはからい(です)
Indian curry is spicy.
*Said to someone who doesn’t know how spicy it is.

The first function is to make someone become aware of something. This is used on the assumption that speakers know something that listeners don’t know.

2. When You Try to Change the Listeners’ Thoughts or Understanding

インドのカレーはからくない(です)
Indian curry is not spicy.
*Said to someone who believes that Indian curry is spicy.
りは明後日あさって(だ / です)
The deadline is the day after tomorrow.
*Said to someone who misunderstood the deadline.

The second function is to change the listeners’ thoughts or understanding. Be careful. This implies that you will try to persuade someone, which sometimes upsets people higher than you in status.

3. When You Express Your Acceptance or Permission

いい(です)
Okay.
*Said when something is requested of you like “Can I use your laptop?”

The third function is to express your acceptance or permission. Again, this can imply that you are the authorized person and so people higher than you in status may be displeased if you use this directly. For reference, you can express your acceptance by just saying “はい: yes.”

Sentence Ending Particle よね

You can use よ and ね together as the sentence ending particle よね. The concept is similar to ね. Let’ check how it works.

1. When You Seek the Listeners’ Agreement

美味おいしい(です)よね
[It] is delicious, isn’t it?
今日きょうあつい(です)よね
Today is hot, isn’t it?

2. When You Seek the Listeners’ Confirmation

明日あしたり(だ / です)よね
Tomorrow is the deadline, right?
かい10じゅうから(だ / です)よね
The meeting is at 10:00, right?

よね has two functions, which are actually the same as ね. As you may noticed, the above examples are used in the ね section, too. That is to say, ね and よね can be replaced. However, it depends on the context. When you use よね, you must be less sure about opinions, information, or knowledge you have than when you use ね. Here are the comparisons:

今日きょうあつい(です)よね
*Said when you and the listener feel hot like the temp. is 45°C (=113°F).
今日きょうあつい(です)よね
*Said when you feel hot, but the listener may not feel hot like 25°C (=77°F).

ね is more suitable when you seek agreement or confirmation for something obvious. よね is more suitable for something not obvious.

Advanced Topic: Casual Vs. Polite Speech

Casual speech often requires you to use sentence ending particles while polite speech doesn’t. For example, if you say “We will start the game” in Japanese, it will be like this:

Polite Speech: あいはじめます。

Formal Situation

Photo quoted from 朝日新聞デジタル

The sentence without the sentence ending particle sounds formal and is suitable for official situations like the one seen in the picture.

Speech with Sentence Ending Particle: あいを(はじめる / はじめます)よ。 

Informal Situation

Photo quoted from 週刊ベースボールONLINE

The sentence ending particle よ works to make the listeners aware of the moments when the game starts. Thus, regardless of its politeness, it’s suitable for unofficial situations, e.g. an umpire trying to gather players in a court. Then, 試合を始めます can somewhat function the same way as よ. Although it sounds formal, listeners will naturally understand your purpose.

Casual Speech: あいはじめる

No Image!

This is actually unnatural and sounds offensive. You need to use sentence ending particles depending on your purpose. If you haven’t gotten used to the concepts discussed so far, it may be better for you to speak Japanese politely, which sounds natural in almost any kind of situation.

Masculine Vs. Feminine Expressions

Plain 寿司すしだね / 寿司すしだよ / 寿司すしだよね
Feminine 寿司すしね / 寿司すしよ / 寿司すしよね

Both of the examples mean “[it] is Sushi” with the sentence ending particles. When だ appears, i.e. when you use nouns and na-adjectives as subject complements in a casual tone, there are feminine expressions. If you remove だ, it will sound feminine.

Summary

  1. The functions of ね are:
    • to seek the listeners’ agreement
    • to seek the listeners’ confirmation
    • to signify the speakers’ consideration
    • to emphasize the speakers’ denial
    • to be a filler word
  2. The functions of よ are:
    • to make someone become aware of something
    • to change the listeners’ thoughts or understanding
    • to express your acceptance or permission
  3. The function of よね are the same as ね, but your level of certainty is less than what it would be for ね
  4. Casual speech often requires you to use sentence ending particles
  5. Sentences without だ sound feminine

We will pick up the sentence ending particles with some sentence patterns again. For example, a sentence pattern for giving advice is very suitable for よ because advice always has an aspect to make someone become aware of something. By knowing such combinations, you will be able to understand the usage more properly.

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