Japanese Sentence Endings – Na 「な」
Na, or 「な」 as it is written in Hiragana, is a sentence final particle in Japanese that helps you express the strength of your opinion or elicit a response from a conversation partner. It is added to the end of sentences following verbs, copula, or other sentence final particles such as ka か and is akin to an English phrase that evokes a response such as the sentence final right? or you know?
Who Can Use Na 「な」?
Usually, men are the main group of people who use na as a sentence-final particle. In formal situations, ne 「ね」 is preferred, as it sounds more dignified and decidedly softer in tone. Depending on how you say it, ne can also come off as a bit feminine, which isn’t necessarily taboo if you’re a male.
However, when among friends and when trying to make an impression, na is the tag particle of choice for men. Like most other particles in Japanese reserved for a certain gender, na is also used by women on occasion to sound more assertive or to impress a masculine tone on listeners.
Examples of How to Use Na 「な」
Consider the following examples:
- Man, wouldn’t that be nice.
- Aah, this perfect weather feels so good, huh?
- Where should I go now?
1. Though there is no explicit tag question in the English translation, an elongated opinion like Weeeeiirrrd… still evokes a response from listeners. The na is a more concrete way to express the expectation of a reply.
2. In this case, na is similar to turning a question into a negative question in English. English speakers use questions like these all the time to extort agreement from conversation partners. Think about when you say things like “Aren’t you cold?” or “Isn’t this crazy?”
3. This is a basic way to seek agreement from another party. In this sentence, the first party wants the second to agree that the weather feels nice, so he or she adds the tag na. There is also a nuance of inner reflection.
4. The particle cluster ka-na 「かな」 is indicative of an outward expression of inner thoughts. It’s something like the English I wonder. You can even use it similarly to the way it’s used in English to make requests such as I wonder if you could read this Ladybeard article to me?.
Use the sentence final na 「な」 any time you want to show reflection or add a tag to your question for others to give a response, especially if you are a male Japanese speaker.
Less Common Uses of the Sentence Final Na 「な」
There are two more uses for na in modern Japanese:
- A strong, negative command
- A slightly archaic positive command
Strong, negative command
Take this example:
俺のハチミツを食べる「な」！ Don’t eat my honey!
You can add na to the end of a plain form verb to create a rather rude version of a negative command. Use this na when you want to assert that there will be serious consequences if the negative command is not obeyed.
Archaic positive command
Consider this example:
サーモンを買いに行き「な」。 Go buy some salmon.
You can add na to the end of a verb stem to create a colloquial but still semi-formal sounding command. It also has a touch of archaic sound and is mainly used by older folks to give commands in a familiar way.
Breakdown of Na 「な」 Uses
This can all become rather confusing, so to make things a bit simpler, think about na in 3 separate and distinct ways:
- Negative Command
- Familiar Command
You’ll hear them all used and learn to distinguish them simply by tone the more you speak and learn Japanese. In reading, it may be more difficult to distinguish, but just remember that context is your friend and you should use it to master the nuances of language in every medium.