The Sentence Ending Particles “Ne” and “Yo”

There are two other sentence ending particles that work much the same way as the question marker ka.

Recommended Background:

Questions and Negation

Asking and Telling

The particle ね “ne”, variously translated as “right?”, “huh?”, or “isn’t it?”, can be put at the end of a sentence to create sort of question.

ざっしです。 Zasshi desu. It’s a magazine.
ざっしですか。 Zasshi desu ka? Is it a magazine?
ざっしですね。 Zasshi desu ne. It’s a magazine, isn’t it?

If you listen to a native speaker, you’ll notice that the intonation isn’t quite the same as an actual question, but does rise at the end.

Essentially, ne asks for agreement or confirmation. This sentence ender is used frequently when making observations, as in “Ii o-tenki desu ne?” which you learned earlier. In such situations, the speaker is trying to promote a smooth conversation by giving the other person an easy way to agree with them.

It’s also used when the speaker fully expects the listener’s agreement, for example:

おそいですね。 Osoi desu ne. He must be late, huh?

The final sentence ending particle, よ “yo”, is essentially the opposite of ne, it asserts a fact that the listener may not know.

おいしいですね。 Oishii desu ne. This is delicious, isn’t it? (Listener has also tasted it)
おいしいですよ。 Oishii desu yo. It’s good, you know. (Listener hasn’t tried it yet)

The particle is also translated as “I tell you”, but is often left out of the English translation.

In general, yo shows the speaker’s conviction towards whatever they are asserting. When used with commands, it makes the command more forceful. The particle is also sometimes used to answer questions using who/what/etc. as a means of emphasis. (Read more about question words)

In summary, ne asks for agreement, and yo tells how it is.

“Yo” and “Ne” Together

Somewhat paradoxically, Japanese people will often use both yo and ne at the end of a statement.

たのしいですよね。 Tanoshii desu yo ne. This is fun! (And I hope you agree)

Basically, the yo shows the speaker’s strong conviction for their opinion, but also expects the other person to agree with them. This highlights the softening effect of the particle ne. In an effort to avoid seeming overly assertive, Japanese people will often ask for the other person’s agreement, as well as a variety of other strategies to soften the message of the sentence.

A Few New Expressions

Now that you know all three sentence ending particles, you should be able to understand all the variations of a very common Japanese expression: sou desu.

はい、そうです。 Hai, sou desu. exp. “Yes, that right.” (Response to a question)
そうですか。 Sou desu ka? exp. “It that so?” (Receiving new information)
そうですね。 Sou desu ne. exp. “So it is, isn’t it?” (Agreement with a statement)
そうですよ。 Sou desu yo. exp. “Yes, I agree.” (Strong agreement with a statement)
そうですよね。 Sou desu yo ne. exp. “Yes, I agree.” (Strong agreement with softening)

“Sou desu” means something “that’s how it is” or “so it is”. Each of its variants has a different nuance.

  • The first version is a way to affirm a yes-no question without repeating the complete sentence.
  • “Sou desu ka?” is a general response to any new information, and doesn’t necessarily imply any doubt about what was just said.
  • The variants including yo and ne all express agreement with what the other person just said.

Note that the simple confirmation “sou desu” (or the informal “sou da” or “sou”) can be somewhat abrupt, and adding yo or ne (or both) is often more appropriate.

What Next?

Question Words

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