Is the Japanese “o” necessary?

Q: Hey, Richard. I love the site! Your songs are just too cute and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the games. But I’m confused about something. In the book that I’m learning Japanese from, it says that O ALWAYS goes after the object or activity that you want/do. For example: “Sandoitchi o kudasai” or “Terebi o mimasu”. Is the O really necessary, or is it just added for politeness? Arigato :) – Ellie

A: Good question!  This is another example of textbooks being based on what people write – or what they *should* say – rather than what they actually do say!  So yes you should have the を “o” – or sometimes “wo” – there, but in reality quite a  lot, but not all,  of the time you just leave it off and say things like “pan taberu?” (eat bread?) “itsu terebi miru?” (when TV watch?)

You would definitely have to mention it is if it really changed the sentence and someone asked e.g. “Dare ga nani o?”  Who did what?

But usually people leave it out, more from laziness and fluency than anything.

Again it’s one of those things you naturally pick up from listening.  Whilst I’ve been typing this in Starbucks I haven’t anyone use “を” how it’s * supposed * to be used yet!

Of course when you are writing you have to stick to the rules more.

Don’t get it confused with the other “お” o though.   Water is often called お水 – o mizu – to be more respectful, but it’s different to the を o we’ve been talking about above!

P.S.  I’m still waiting for someone to use the を properly, and this is a pretty packed Starbucks!

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