Some adjectives are used like this:

  • [次]{つぎ}の[世界]{せかい} "tsugi no sekai" (next world)
  • [黄色]{きいろ}の[車]{くるま} "kiiro no kuruma" (yellow car)

and others are used liked this: かわいい[車]{くるま} "kawaī kuruma".

Though kiiro can also be used thus: [黄色]{きいろ}い[車]{くるま}"kiiroi kuruma".

When can I use an adjective with "no"? Is it always or only in some special cases?


3 Answers 3


Grammatically, you can never use an adjective with の. You can only use の with nouns. Your confusion arose because the parts of speech do not always correspond between English and Japanese: 次 is a noun, but "next" is an adjective.

Similarly, all colors in English are adjectives, but all colors in Japanese are nouns (except for six that have adjective counterparts, namely 赤い, 青い, 白い, 黒い, 黄色い, and 茶色い). You can't say 灰色い because it only exists as a noun, not as an adjective (a fact you just have to memorize).

You can use nouns to modify other nouns in English, too (and this is probably true of most other languages). Health Department (or Department of Health) is an example in English: "health" modifies "department" and specifies the kind of department.

  • I guess I have to ask what's the definition of noun in japanese then? Next doesnt seem to fit any english definition of noun I know. May be we are calling "nouns" to some japanese words that arent exactly nouns? (since noun is an english word?)
    – Pablo
    Apr 9, 2017 at 17:59
  • 3
    Parts of speech do not always match across languages ("like" and 好き is another example). You're right that "next" isn't a noun in English, but that doesn't mean it can't be in Japanese. I believe 次 itself refers to an actual instance of something, which "next" only describes an object.
    – Blavius
    Apr 9, 2017 at 18:14
  • 2
    @Pablo: "Next" in English can indeed be a noun: "Give me the next", for instance. In terms of Japanese, 次【つぎ】 is derived as the noun form of verb つぐ・次ぐ・継ぐ・接ぐ ("to continue in sequence, to be connected to something in a series; to continue on in a series"). So 次【つぎ】 derivationally means something more specifically like "the continuation of a series, a connected item in a sequence". See also the Kotobank entry for the verb, specifically sense [1]②:「前にあるものの後に続く。接続する。」 Nov 12, 2021 at 22:28

In Japanese the specific grammatical classification of a word sometimes has more to do with how it is conjugated than with what semantic role it fulfills.

The two main types of adjectives are 形容詞 (i-adjectives) and 形容動詞 (na-adjectives). You can call both of those "adjectives" but that doesn't get you anywhere in terms of figuring out how to actually use them in a sentence, which turns out to be quite different.

Then there are no-adjectives like 黄色. I see these in Daijirin dictionary on Weblio marked as 名 ・形動, meaning "noun and/or adjective".

And there are a number of other types of adjectives as well, such as なる and たる adjectives, but those pop up pretty rarely.

So I would say the concept of "adjective" is not that useful in Japanese, because it's not specific enough and doesn't tell you how to use the word. Instead of asking "how should I use this adjective", I would suggest asking "is this an i-adjective, a na-adjective, or a no-adjective (or something else)?" and once you figure that out, you can use the relevant rules for that type of word.


While の role as a dependent indefinite pronoun is crucial, の also plays other pivotal roles in the Japanese language.

  • Possessive Particle: This is perhaps the most common use of の. It shows a relationship of possession or belonging between two nouns, equivalent to 's or "of" in English. For example, 彼の本 translates to "his book", where の signifies possession.
  • Attributive Particle: の is also used to modify a noun with another noun, acting like an attributive particle. For instance, in 日本の音楽, meaning "Japanese music", の links 日本 (Japan) and 音楽 (music), attributing the music to Japan. You can also think of this as a "limiting" particle. It limits the information: it isn't just any music, but "Japanese" music.
  • Sentence-Ending Particle: In informal speech, の can be used at the end of sentences to indicate a question or explanation, making the sentence sound more explanatory or inquisitive. For example, それは何なの means "What is that?"
  • Nominalizer: の can turn a verb or an adjective into a noun. For instance, in 走るのが好き, meaning "I like running", の nominalizes 走る (to run).



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