Japanese Sentences That End With the Particle を (wo)

When learning Japanese, and especially if you are living in Japan, you will likely encounter unfinished sentences that end in を. For example, they are often seen in advertisements. The unfinished nature of these types of sentences is not that common in English, so they can sometimes be difficult to understand without the missing part but bearing the following in mind will help you interpret them.

Sentences that end with the particle を are left unfinished as the verb which would logically follow を is either implied by the context or is left to the listener or reader’s interpretation. In many cases, these sentences are imperatives instructing the listener or reader to take a certain action.

These types of unfinished sentences ending inを are seen in places such as greetings, song lyrics and advertisements. For one, leaving the sentence unfinished makes it much shorter and easier to say or read quickly. To reduce verbosity, the context may already give sufficient information as to an obvious completion of the sentence so that it can be left unsaid or unwritten.

Especially in the case of advertisements, a shorter sentence is more impactful and emphatic than a longer one, making it easier to leave an impression on the listener/reader. And in cases when the rest of the sentence may not necessarily be obvious, it makes the listener or reader have to think about what it might be, or even prompt them to do further research into the advertisement to discover the meaning.  

Example sentences that end in を

1. 良いお年を
2. 良い一日を
3. 夢の世界を
4. 人生に、文学を
5. 起床の少し前から部屋を暖めて、気持ちのよいお目覚めを
6. 帰宅時間に合わせて部屋を暖め、快適な空間を

The sentences listed above come from a variety of sources: 1) and 2) are greetings, 3) is lyrics from a song, 4) is from an advertisement, 5) and 6) are from the user manual of home space heater. See References below.

In Japanese, these types of sentences ending in the particle を can be left unfinished and still make sense to the listener or reader. When translated to English however, it is a challenge to leave the sentence unfinished and have it remain just as natural sounding as it does in Japanese. Let’s try to make literal translations of the above unfinished sentences.

1. …a good year
2. …a good day
3. …dream world
4. …literature, into [your] life
5. Warm up the room a little in advance of your wake-up time, …a pleasant awakening!
6. Warm up the room to coincide with the time you arrive home, …a comfortable living space!

Perhaps you could say that sentences which are set greetings can still work in English unfinished. For example, 「よいお年を 」can be said to be equivalent to “Happy New Year”. When this is said or heard, native English speakers understand that there is a bit more meaning to it, such as “I hope that the new year will be a happy one for you”, or “I wish you much happiness in the year to come”.

「良い一日を」is a similar example, which can be said to be equivalent to “Have a nice day”. In this case there is not too much more meaning to it. Its an imperative in which you are expressing your wish that the person you are saying it to will have a nice day. Although, perhaps it could be more complete by saying “I hope that you will have a nice day today.”

Apart from set greetings, it can be odd to leave a sentence unfinished in English. For example, with 「夢の世界を」the 「夢の世界(ゆめのせかい)」part can be translated as “the world of dreams” or “dream world”, but the をis difficult to render. The “dream world”? What about it…?

It is interesting to note that in the case of translating unfinished sentences ending in the particle を, the を actually gets lost and the sentences make no sense. The reason is that を does not exist in English. But in Japanese, it’s the existence and meaning of the particle itself which allows the unfinished sentences to still make sense.

To better understand, lets look at some of the usages of を. A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar gives four usages.

  • a particle which marks a direct object
  • a particle which indicates a space in / on / across / through / along which someone or something moves
  • a particle that marks the location from which some movement begins
  • a particle that marks the cause of some human emotion

Next, let’s try to complete the unfinished sentences. Based on the usages of を, we’ll be able to see the role this particle is playing. And I think we’ll also find that the sentences make more sense when translated into English.

1. 良いお年を(お過ごしください)Please have a good year.
2. 良い一日を(お過ごしください)Please have a good day.
3. 夢の世界を (語り合おう)Lets talk together about our dream world.
4. 人生に、文学を(取り入れましょう)/ (取り入れてください)Lets/Please bring literature into our/your live(s).
5. 起床の少し前から部屋を暖めて、気持ちのよいお目覚めを(しましょう)/(してください)Lets/Please warm up the room a little in advance of our/your wake-up time(s), and enjoy a pleasant awakening!
6. 帰宅時間に合わせて部屋を暖め、快適な空間を (作りましょう)/(作ってください)Lets/Please warm up the room to coincide with the time we/you arrive home, and create a comfortable living space!

We can now see that these sentences are all imperatives, which, in a broad sense, request the listener or reader to do something.

Let’s now look at the usages of を. In sentences 1) and 2) a wish is being expressed. を is used to mark the space (time period) through which someone will pass through, e.g., a year or a day.

In 3), you would need the context to know what comes next after を. The preceding lyrics of the song are「さあ、語り合おうすばらしい僕らの夢の世界を」. Here を is used to as the direct object marker, the direct object being the dream world and talking about it together is the action being performed. In this case it might make more sense to rearrange the sentence such that it did not end in を, but it would probably ruin the flow of the lyrics… 「さあ、僕らのすばらしい夢の世界を語り合おう」.

In 4) we have the same thing, you would need to know the context to know what comes after を. 「人生に、文学を」was the heading of an advertisement. Below the heading was an explanation of all the positive things that happen for you when you read a lot. Here again, をis used to as the direct object marker, the direct object being literature and bringing it in (to your life) is the action being performed.

In 5) and 6), the unfinished sentences are left to the reader to interpret what follows after を. I suppose the person who wrote the sentences assumed the ending was obvious enough for people intending to use a space heater in cold weather. In both 5) and 6), を is again used as the direct object marker. In 5), the direct object is a pleasant awakening and doing (having) it is the action being performed. In 6) the direct object is the living space and creating it is the action being performed.

More Types of Unfinished Sentences in Japanese

Unfinished sentences in Japanese often end in particles or connectives, for example, を is a particle, which we looked at in this article. Two other common particles at the end of unfinished sentences are に (ni) and へ (he) which I have written about here. As for unfinished sentences ending with connectives, there is から (kara) which I have written about here. And the extremely common けど (kedo) and が (ga) which I have written about here.

As you study Japanese more, you will find that unfinished sentences are an important part of the Japanese culture itself, which I have written more about here.


Colten Dumonceau

My goal is to provide information that will help you learn Japanese as quickly and effectively as possible. I have spent more than ten years learning Japanese, mostly self-taught, from absolute beginner to an advanced level. I believe its possible to go much faster than I did. Please let me share with you the best learning strategies I have uncovered.

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