What Are Sentence Ending Particles?
If you’re learning Japanese, I’m sure you’re well aware of sentence-ending particles (終助詞). That’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll refer to them as suffix particles to make things easier.
A few examples of such suffixes are yo, zo, ze, ne, na よ、ぞ、ぜ、ね、な
For this lesson, we’ll be focusing on the suffix particle ‘wa’ わ.
The suffix ‘wa’ is NOT to be confused with the joshi (助詞) particle は which is pronounced the same way.
While Japanese suffixes don’t have an exact meaning, they are often used to emphasize, add hyperbole, add femininity or masculinity, and to strengthen what one says. This means learning to use them is more about hearing them firsthand, than studying them with a pen and paper.
The most common rule you hear about this suffix is that it is only used by females, but this isn’t actually true. Traditionally, the wa suffix can be used by both men and women – but you still need to be careful if you don’t want to sound like a girl!
‘Wa‘ わ Is For Women?
First, we’ll look at how the suffix should be used by females.
This is pretty much exactly the same as how you will have learnt it in books or from teachers. Here are a couple of example sentences.
やっぱり行くわ↑ I’ll go, after all!
すごい疲れたわ〜↑ I’m really tired!
As the arrow implies, females often use the wa suffix with a rising intonation (although in reality, it’s not always the case).
As you can see, there is no real translation to the wa suffix, except perhaps the exclamation mark that I added. Now, we’ll have a quick look at the male version.
‘Wa‘ For All, And All For ‘Wa’?
The masculine version of this suffix is mainly used from speakers of the Kansai dialect, which is probably why you don’t see this appear in textbooks very often. (Textbooks teach hyoujungo 標準語 – the standardized Tokyo dialect).
ちょっと外に出てくるわ。↓ I’m going to pop outside for a while.
そんなこと知らんわ。↓ I don’t know anything about that!
As you can see, the masculine version has descending intonation and is much stronger than the feminine version.
It’s probably advised for male learners of the language to avoid using the wa suffix until you’ve got a decent hold on the language (or hold off altogether since it’s part of a dialect).