I have to translate the following for my intro Japanese class.


I think it means the following.

Last year, I bought a yard/garden including, 3 story, large window, easy to live in
house which is in a quiet place inside the City of Nagoya.

However, I feel like there are のs in weird places.

  1. First の - I can rationalize this as the interior of the City of Nagoya "owning" the place.
  2. Second の - Not really sure on this one. Maybe it's just part of the garden "attached" structure?
  3. Third and forth の - These I REALLY don't understand. How they work in conjunction with the 窓. I think it's the windows that are big. But maybe it's the house and the house just has regular windows? I just don't know.

Can someone explain to me what all these のs are doing? Thank you :)


4 Answers 4


I'll try to offer a little less technical explanation.

Don't think of these の particles as being possession. Think of them as one noun modifying another. We take the first and mix its flavor with the second one, if you will. So for example:


It seems a little fuzzy but this is essentially packing a whole bunch of descriptions of 家 into one sentence. It's awkwardly long and that's kind of the point, just like the English translation being a long list of characteristics is also long and unwieldy. Let's take another approach from the inside out looking at how these の are working.

At the core, we have 住みやすい家. No particle trickery here. A house that's 'easy to live in.' Adding on to that we have [窓の大きい]住みやすい家. This is referring to a livable house with big windows. If we mix the meanings together the meaning is clear. In this particular situation the の functions like the particle が. This is a slightly older pattern that still shows up in some places, like 髪の長い女の子, or a girl with long hair.

Moving out from the original nucleus of 住みやすい家 and adding on more and more of the ~の phrases adds on more of that style of modification. So next you'd add 三階建ての. This is what Darius is talking about with the である stuff. You would normally want to say 三階建てです, but you can't use だ/です to connect to another word. So we use である to allow the copula to connect to other things, and the の in this place has the same role as that である.

So from there we can continue adding extra characteristics. Lump all the previous ones together and let's just call it 家. So now we have just added the idea of 3 floors to it. Then to our new 家 language blob we add 庭付き to talk about its yard/garden in a fashion similar to the 三階建て.

Note that the 静かなところにある uses に and not の. This is because の does not refer to a location. If we were to say 静かな所のある then we would say that the house (or possibly the 庭, it's a little ambiguous) has a quiet place within it, as in the の/が pattern I mentioned above.

I would also suggest that 名古屋市内の静かな所 should be interpreted separately as its own unit. This livable house with big windows and three floors and a garden is in a quiet place in Nagoya. Perhaps you can call this a genitive の, or what you have been associating it with as the possessive の.

This is a very basic explanation and I am not striving for technical precision down to the most minute detail. Nevertheless, if you think of の as a general idea of noun modification rather than just possession it will start to make more sense.

  • I am not too familiar with grammatical terms, so this helped. Thanks :) Dec 13, 2013 at 5:43

Two things:

  1. The genitive marker is not just for possession.
  2. の is not just the genitive marker.

Here are all the のs (with their subjects pulled in closer):

  • [名古屋市内の]家: this is a descriptive genitive, like "children's clothes" -- more to describe than to show possession
  • [庭つきの]家: this is not a genitive at all (IMO), it is an adnominal form of the copula; (try replacing it with である)
  • [三階建ての]家: again, adnominal copula; (try replacing it with である)
  • [窓の大きい]家: this の is a が which has undergone GA-NO conversion which is possible due to it being a relative clause; (try replacing it with が)
  • Could you describe what the "adnominal copula" is? Dec 13, 2013 at 4:05
  • だ when it's modifying a noun instead of at the end of a sentence. Dec 13, 2013 at 4:06
  • But the だ changes to a の? Dec 13, 2013 at 4:10
  • 1
    @virmaior I would literally translate both as "house which is three stories tall". の was historically the adnominal form of the defective OJ copula に -- you can look this up, but here's a link: engl.polyu.edu.hk/research/nomz/pdf/WRONA_History_of_NO.pdf Dec 15, 2013 at 6:30
  • 1
    @virmaior The difference is that の can replace である synchronically with the same function, so it can be construed as a form of である (or else as a functional equivalent in certain circumstances, depending on how you'd like to look at it).
    – user1478
    Dec 16, 2013 at 23:49

See if this helps.

What the person bought was a house. And it's described with a lot of modifiers.

Original: 私は、去年、名古屋市内の静かな所にある庭つきの三階建ての窓の大きい住みやすい家を買いました。

chop out most of the modifiers:

私は、去年、住みやすい家を買いました。Last year I bought a comfortable house.(住みやすい is certainly 'easy to live in', but we don't usually say that in English. I prefer 'comfortable')

Here's the part I chopped out:


Let's add line-breaks

  1. 名古屋市内の静かな所にある
  2. 庭つきの
  3. 三階建ての
  4. 窓の大きい

If it helps to understand, add 'house to each of the modifiers.

  1. 名古屋市内の静かな所にある(家)...a house in a quiet area of Nagoya
  2. 庭つきの(家)...a house with a garden
  3. 三階建ての(家)...a three-story house
  4. 窓の大きい(家)...a house with big windows.

Of course since they all modify the same noun, we can just recompile them into one sentence. I prefer to put it in a natural English order than strict order of the Japanese sentence, so long as all the info is contained it shouldn't matter.

"Last year I bought a three-story house in a quiet area of Nagoya with big windows and a garden."


SSB has given you a comprehensive answer and you have some translations but I would like to add an alternative way to compare to English grammar.

Do you know the poem "This is the house that Jack built"? Its starts off with that simple sentence, and then modifies it umpteen times. The grammar you are looking at works in a similar way:

This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rat that ate the malt That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cat that killed the rat That ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

For the full story go to:



[This narrative technique] is a cumulative tale that does not tell the story of Jack's house, or even of Jack who built the house, but instead shows how the house is indirectly linked to other things and people, and through this method tells the story of "The man all tattered and torn", and the "Maiden all forlorn", as well as other smaller events, showing how these are interlinked.

  • This might be better suited as a comment to the question itself, as it doesn't really answer the question being asked.
    – V2Blast
    Dec 21, 2013 at 2:45

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