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Most particles seem to be postpositions but I'm sure I've seen say a noun followed by a location particle followed by "wa" or "ga" or possibly "wo" but when I've tried to use it I've only confused my Japanese friends.

Under what circumstances can multiple particles end up next to each other and what's the most that could end up in sequence?

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Do you count 'よ', 'ね' and such as particles here? Because if so, they can sometimes follow other particles (or even follow each other in casual speech). –  Dave Jun 27 '11 at 4:44
    
@Dave: I will include those even though I know they act on the entire sentence rather than on a noun, basically because at my level I don't know any constructions where the two types can occur side by side. –  hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 4:50

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Japanese has many particles (助詞), and they behave in many varying and different ways, so it's helpful to categorize them before we can see how they can be combined. The semi-traditional classification you'd find in Japanese dictionary usually goes along these lines (note that many particles can fall into more than one of these categories as they have different uses, e.g. から can be used to indicate direction, but also as a conjunction indicating reason):

  • 格助詞 Grammatical role particles
    These particles usually follow a noun phrase, and indicate its grammatical role in the sentence or in relation to other phrases. This category include particles such as が (subject marker), を (direct object marker), の (both the nominalizer and the genitive relation marker) and markers of location/direction/time such as で、に、へ、から (in the meaning of from) and まで. It also includes と in the meaning of "with" or when used as a quotative particle.

  • 並立助詞 Connective particles
    These particles usually connect two noun phrases. This obviously includes と (when used as an "and") and や, but also か in the meaning of "or".

  • 係助詞 Linking particles (I prefer the name Information structure particles)
    These particles are perhaps the hardest to describe. They indicate some link to contextual information, and usually put different kinds of emphasis on whatever they mark. The best way to describe them, in my opinion, is using information structure theory, but it's too complex and irrelevant to include here. This category includes は, も、さえ and こそ.

  • 終助詞 Sentence-final particles
    These are the hard-to-translate particles we all know and love. They may come only in the end of the sentence, and they usually indicate pragmatic attitudes (such as "This is a question" or "I'm asserting this") or emotions. This category include the question marker か、よ、ね、ぞ、かな, etc. Note that さ、よ and ね are also part of the next category:

  • 間投助詞 Interjectional particles
    These particles are very similar to the sentence-final particles, but they may also appear in the middle of the sentence, usually in the end of a complete phrase. ね、さ、よ (when used as a vocative) are included here: 「私は、…」「私って、…」「わが友よ、行け!」 (the last one is quite archaic and probably jocular :)).

  • 副助詞 Adverbial particles
    These particles are usually defined as "particles that act on the whatever they follow as if you've put an adverb describing it". I think this definition kinda sucks, and this category ends up being quite a mixed bag, usually including such particles as: だけ、くらい、など、ばかり and ほど.

  • 接続助詞 Conjunctive particles
    These particles are equivalent to conjunctions in English: they connect whatever they follow (which is usually a full clause ending with a verb) to the main sentence. This category includes particles such as から、けど、ので、のに、as well as が when it's used in the meaning of "but".

This classification system of particles is probably far from being perfect, and you can make many variations of it or even reform it completely - but it goes to show you that Japanese particles are extremely varied and perform many different jobs, so laying out how they may be combined is extremely complex.

Using this categorization system, you can say that linking particles may generally follow grammatical role particle when they indicate a role in a sentence (this doesn't include the genitive の), but が and を has a strange property: when you add most linking particles to them, they disappear and are replaced entirely by は、も or whatever linking particle you've added, and you can no longer differentiate between subjects and direct objects. The only exception to this rule I can think of right now is こそ, which actually comes before the grammatical role particle and not after it.

Sentence-final particles obviously can't follow grammatical role particles or linking particles, since particles of these classes only come after the parts of the sentence that appear before the verb, while sentence particles only follow verbs. They usually intermingle only with other sentence-final particles (or with interjection particles that double as sentence-final such as さ and ね).

Connective particles also don't mix very well, since they usually come in the middle of a list of nouns, where no other article (even an interjection particle) can be placed. They also don't tend to mix with each other.

Other classes of particles don't tell us a lot. The interjection particle ね can generally follow almost any other particle, and really is very flexible, while the vocative よ usually follows only nouns or names. I think さ is somewhere in the middle.

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Excellent! Very thorough. I'm interested in the sentence-final particles intermingling with each other. Do you have some examples of that happening? –  hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 13:24
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@hippietrail: オバケじゃないわよね –  repecmps Jun 27 '11 at 14:19
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@hippietrail: including the interjection particles ね and さ? If we put ね aside... Well you do have わよ, and の is commonly used before the particles with a meaning of question or uncertainty: か、かな and かしら. And かな itself is essentially a combination of two sentence-final particles: か and な. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 27 '11 at 19:53
    
@BoazYaniv You can definitely use よ after a grammatical role particle. It makes the sentence seem angry and rude, and usually you would end the whole sentence with (ん)だよ as well. 俺はよ、お前とよ、映画を見に行きたいんだよ! –  dainichi Jan 29 '12 at 14:44
    
@BoazYaniv Out of curiosity, how would you classify 誰もが? It seems to be exceptional since it's the only もが combination I can think of. Maybe 誰も should be regarded as one noun by itself. Still, it's acting strangely, since e.g. 誰もを does not exist. –  dainichi Jan 29 '12 at 14:52

Although it's sometimes hard to tell whether these are single particles put together or a different syntactic element made of two kana, I think it can happen:

は will very easily follow a に or a で. For example:

  • 日本には美しい都市が多い。

  • には彼女の言うことが分かった。

  • 英日の翻訳と日英の翻訳では、英日の翻訳を希望する人のほうが多いようです。

(and many cases where it might be hard to decide whether では is really two particles or one, such as ではない etc.)

Intuitively, I wouldn't expect が to follow another particle, but I might be wrong.

Finally, not sure if they are the kind of syntactic markers you were interested in, but "particles" such as 'よ' and 'ね' can and will follow all sorts of other particles.

As long as your sentence ends with another particle, it should be possible to tack a 'ね' or a 'よ' at the end (though I can't think of many cases where it'd make sense with よ):

  • 7時にね。
  • 僕はね。

(of course, these aren't very full-formed sentences, since having a particle at the end often requires eliding the verb), but they are valid examples nonetheless.

As for 'よ' + 'ね', counter-intuitive as it is (since you are often taught they represent the two near-opposite feelings of 'assertion' vs. 'question'), it is very common to hear them together (possibly more in female-speech):

  • 今の日本は自滅へのみちを突き進んでいますよね。

  • 落ち目って言うけど、まだイケるよね。

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Probably worth noting the primarily male colloquial 「か」+「よ」 as well. –  rintaun Jun 27 '11 at 5:34

There are many instances where one particle immediately follows another. Examples:

  • アメリカでは何語が話されていますか。
  • には一人分の空きがあった。
  • ごめん、僕にも責任があるんだ。
  • どんな子供でもそのくらい答えられる。*
  • 雹が降るのを見たことがありますか。
  • 彼は走るのが速くないわけではない。

Although it is very difficult to exhaustively explain all of the possibilities, one thing in particular stands out to me as a rule:

Because the nominalizing particle 「の」 turns what it follows into a noun, it can generally be followed by anything which can follow a noun (see final two examples with を and が above).

* Although でも is often considered one "word", it is actually the particles で and も stuck together.

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So, you can have three or four particles together! Samples from the net: "どんな人でもの英語・英訳 - 英和辞典・和英辞典 Weblio辞書" (で+も+の) "誰にでもはできないバーチャルオフィスで都市銀行に法人口座開設 · 会社設立. さて会社を作ったからには法人の銀行口座を作らないといけません。"(に+で+も+は) –  Axioplase Jun 29 '11 at 5:22
    
の in your examples are not particles. They are nominals by themselves. –  sawa Oct 4 '11 at 4:57

I'd like to supplement Boaz's excellent answer with some concrete examples, for those members who learn better by example.

Using this categorization system, you can say that linking particles may generally follow grammatical role particle when they indicate a role in a sentence...

難しすぎるよ。It is too difficult for me.

  • には難しすぎるよ。[Others may find it easy, but] it is too difficult for me.
  • にも難しすぎるよ。It is too difficult for me as well.
  • にさえ難しすぎるよ。It is too difficult even for me.

...が and を has a strange property: when you add most linking particles to them, they disappear and are replaced entirely by は、も or whatever linking particle you've added, and you can no longer differentiate between subjects and direct objects.

噛んだ。The cat bit the dog.

  • x 猫もがをさえ噛んだ。
  • 噛んだ。The cat bit the dog too [after the dog was bitten by something else].
  • さえ噛んだ。The cat bit even the dog.
  • しか噛まない。The cat bites nothing but dogs.

Sentence-final particles obviously can't follow grammatical role particles or linking particles, since particles of these classes only come after the parts of the sentence that appear before the verb, while sentence particles only follow verbs.

その本渡せ。Hand that book over to me.

  • x その本をぞ渡せ。
  • x その本にな渡せ。

They usually intermingle only with other sentence-final particles (or with interjection particles that double as sentence-final such as さ and ね).

それは嘘です。That's a lie.

  • それは嘘ですよね[I'm pretty sure] that's a lie [but I'm asking to make sure].
  • それは嘘かよThat can't be lie! [asserting disbelief]

Connective particles also don't mix very well, since they usually come in the middle of a list of nouns, where no other article (even an interjection particle) can be placed. They also don't tend to mix with each other.

サツキメイは姉妹です。Satsuki and Mei are sisters.

  • x サツキとだけメイは姉妹です。(It makes no sense to qualify the と because it applies equally to both)

The interjection particle ね can generally follow almost any other particle, and really is very flexible, while the vocative よ usually follows only nouns or names. I think さ is somewhere in the middle.

映画を見にいった。I went to see a movie with my sister.

  • はね、とね、映画を見にいった。I, um! Went to see a movie! With my sister! (five-year-old boy)
  • はさ、とさ、映画を見にいった。I like, went to see a movie with, like, my sister. (thirteen-year-old boy)

I would add that adverbial particles can link up with grammatical role particles and linking particles.

だけが分かる。 Only I understand.
それほどは悲しくないぞ。 I'm not that sad.
リスなどもいる。[In addition to other things,] there are squirrels and other creatures like that.

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Adding examples really helps out. A couple things though: (1) I had trouble linking the second set of examples with the description paragraph because I was trying to figure out how linking particles caused the other particles to disappear. Maybe an invalid example would help. (2) I originally didn't think that the third set of examples matched the description because I was so focused on 俺に ("that's not a sentence-ending particle!") I completely missed the ぞ and な. A good example might help for contrast. (3) Finally, could you add a よ example to the second-to-last set (about the movie)? –  Troyen Jun 28 '11 at 5:50
    
@Troyen (1) Done. (2) I'm not sure what kind of example could make that clearer. Think of that section as "grammatical role particles (and how sentence-final particles can't follow them)." (3) I've racked my brains, but I can't think a time when that よ would follow another particle. As Boaz said, it's usually only used after names to call out to someone, like 太郎よ!来い! –  Amanda S Jun 28 '11 at 16:24

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