Particles are one of the most distinctive features of the Japanese language. They are short words that are added to the end of phrases or other words to alter the meaning or to provide a grammatical function.
A common example is か, pronounced ‘ka’, which turns a normal statement into a question.
東京へ行きます - ‘You are going to Tokyo’
東京へいきますか - ‘Are you going to Tokyo?’
Some other particles aren’t so easy to translate into English. ね , pronounced ‘ne’, is a good example. It’s commonly used in conversation to show that the speaker expects the listener to agree or to sympathise with what he is saying. The most suitable English translation depends on the context, so most dictionaries give several different possibilities such as ‘isn’t it?’, ‘don’t you think?’ or ‘is it not?’.
すばらしい犬です - ‘It’s a wonderful dog’
すばらしい犬ですね - ‘It’s a wonderful dog, isn’t it?’ or ‘It’s a wonderful dog, am I right?’ or ‘This is a wonderful dog, please agree with me’
ね crops up a lot when Japanese people are bitching about the weather, which everyone here loves to do. This is because all Japanese people hate anything in the least bit meteorological. In fact, in any casual conversation it’s only polite to point out just how much you dislike the day’s weather at least three times.
I’ve provided an eavesdropped example from my own experience. I can guarantee that on any slightly warm day most Japanese people will have this exact conversation several times.
Hello. It’s hot today, is it not?
Yes you are right, are you not?
Yesterday I went to Tokyo. It was super hot, was it not?
I see. That’s too bad, is it not?
Yes it is, is it not. Well, it’s time for me to be going.
OK, I’m sorry am I not?
Goodbye, is it not?
Right. Any questions?