An example would be: "watashi wa cake o(お) tabetai". What does the お do? I tried on google translate and it seems it gives pertenence to that thing..like it belongs either to you or me..but I still need actual clarification.

  • I think what you mean is the so called direct object particle を (wo), which is pronounced like お.
    – RadonBust
    Jul 15 '14 at 18:03

There are three particles in Japanese which are typically spelled differently than they're pronounced:

  1. は (pronounced wa rather than ha)
  2. を (pronounced o rather than wo)
  3. へ (pronounced e rather than he)

Although you're hearing it correctly, in this case it is actually the particle を, marking a direct object:

(わたしは)ケーキを たべたい

This particle comes directly after the word or phrase it marks, like particles usually do in Japanese.

We have direct objects in English, too. But in English, we don't have a particle like を. Instead, we mark direct objects with word order:

I want to eat the cake.

Here, we can tell I is the subject, and the cake is the direct object. Why? Because of their location. If we switch them, the meaning changes completely:

The cake wants to eat me.

Japanese word order is much more free than in English, because the Japanese language has little words like を and doesn't have to rely on word order all the time.

  • 2
    We do mark pronouns as accusative (as actually comes up in your example ^_^) - 'I' translates to 私が or 私は, 'me' translates to 私を (and sometimes just 私).
    – Sjiveru
    Jul 16 '14 at 8:20
  • 2
    @Sjiveru That's true! I deliberately avoided talking about the last remnants of the English case system, though, because I was trying to keep the answer simple, and because I think word order is a much stronger marker. "Me and him are going to the store later." "It was I who killed the man." And of course, the accusative-nominative contrast exists only for pronouns, so it doesn't help for our example of "the cake".
    – user1478
    Jul 16 '14 at 8:27
  • Reasonable reasons for leaving it out!
    – Sjiveru
    Jul 16 '14 at 19:54

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