I just noticed a sort of black hole in my knowledge of Japanese. Obviously when you're using titles, such as with "Dr. Suzuki", you put the name and then the title, without any punctuation or particles: 鈴木先生.

However what if it's not just a simple title? What if it's not even necessarily a person? What if it is an arbitrary phrase leading up to a name that may or may not involve a person or people?

A few quick examples include:

  1. Step A [Think of a list of steps which must be executed in order, as in Steps A, B, C, and D.]
  2. Step 1 [My guess is this may be ステップ第一, but I'm not 100% sure, and I suspect the grammar is actually different from the first example.
  3. our friend Nozomi
  4. the snowiest city in the world, Aomori

Some guesses here would be:

  1. ステップ「A」
  2. ステップ第一
  3. 友達の望み
  4. 世界の一番雪の都市の青森

In general, I would think it uses the same grammar in most situations, as in the third and fourth examples above, but that it may be different in certain specific scenarios.

How do you say and punctuate these things?

1 Answer 1


The construction like "our friend Nozomi" is called apposition, or 同格 in Japanese.

In Japanese, there are several ways to achieve this:

  • : suitable in short phrases
    • 友達の希美
      my friend Nozomi (希美の友達 means "Nozomi's friend")
    • トナカイのルドルフ
      Rudolph the reindeer
  • である: suitable with long description
    • 日本からアメリカに留学中の私の友人である希美
      Nozomi, my friend from Japan who is studying in the United States
    • 世界で一番面積が大きな国であるロシア連邦
      the Russian Federation, the largest country in the world by area
  • (nothing): suitable for nicknames and catchphrases
    • 獅子心王リチャード
      Richard the Lionheart
    • 水の都ヴェネツィア
      Venice, the city of water
  • comma/colon/space: suitable for ads, titles and catchphrases
    • 水の都:ヴェネツィア
      Venice: The City of Water
    • 青森、世界で一番雪深い国
      Aomori—The Snowiest City in the World

"Step A" is a different problem ("A is Step" is not true). We just say ステップA, 3番目のステップ, 第5ステップ, etc.

  • What makes it possible that である can be used attributively? Does this mean だ could be used in its place as well? Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 13:59
  • @SevenOclock である is closer to an ordinary verb as far as conjugation is concerned, and a verb can modify the following noun as a relative clause. だ is not an ordinary verb (although な works like an attributive form of だ when used after a na-adjective).
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 16:08
  • Then, [日本からアメリカに留学中の私の友人である] is a verb phrase and not a noun phrase? Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 16:26
  • 1
    @SevenOclock Yes. More specifically, it's a relative clause.
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 16:29

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