It seems の doesn't always express possession as in 私の本.

What does it mean in such phrases as この役立たず and お兄ちゃんのばか?

And, what does の do in "埃だらけのテレビをちゃんと拭いてくれない?"?

  • Not sure exactly about the first, but I believe the second would be best interpreted as, "My brother, the idiot." (Context-dependent.) You can see this usage in this article under "Another use of the particle の".
    – Cat
    Mar 20 '15 at 4:12

の in 私の本 is different from one in この役立たず/お兄ちゃんのばか, but it is the same as one in "埃だらけのテレビをちゃんと拭いてくれない?"

Most typical usage of の is like "(description) の (noun)", which the description describe the noun, like "私の本" which means "a book(本) that belongs to me(私)".

In case of の in この役立たず, "この" is one Japanese word and の is not an independent word like "私の本". この means "this" or "such a". And 役立たず means a useless thing/person, so it means "such a useless thing/person". You also can say just 役立たず, but put "この" together can emphasize on 役立たず. And it more sounds like the speaker is frustrated of the thing/person because it is too useless.

お兄ちゃんのバカ is a Japanese slang usually used by young girls. To understand the meaning, simply replace "の" with "は". The usage is like this: (a person) の (negative word) A one of most famous example of this slang is from "My Neighbor Totoro" by Studio Ghibli: メイのバカ。 (Mei, you are so stupid!)

Note that the usage of this slang is only to tell bad words in person, you don't use this behind him/her.

の in "埃だらけのテレビをちゃんと拭いてくれない?" works the same as 私の本. Because 埃だらけ describes テレビ. 埃だらけのテレビ: テレビ that is 埃だらけ = a TV that is covered with dust 私の本: 本 that belongs to 私 = a book that belongs to me


Generally speaking you can think of の as a relation between sets, that can translate to possession(of, 's), preposition(that, which) or more...

埃だらけのテレビ = the tv which is full of dust

お兄ちゃんのばか = the idiot that is my brother

  • 1
    That confuses me. Is it really 'the idiot that is my brother'?
    – crocket
    Mar 28 '15 at 7:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.