Trouble understanding simple, but common grammar patterns

So I’ve been starting up BunPro again after a while and I decided to start from scratch and reset to zero from N3. Overall it’s been fine but I keep getting tripped up on simple but common grammar patterns.

In sentences such as:

  • [理解出来る]…
  • 私の牛乳を[全部誰か]に飲まれた
  • [毎日サッカー]の練習に…
  • [あの人一年間]で漢字をいっぱい覚えただけじゃなくて…

I’m failing to understand what is happening between the bracketed [] words and how they connect. For example the 理解 + 出来る, 全部 + 誰か, 毎日 + サッカー, and あの人 + 一年間. Overall I understand the whole sentences’ meanings but don’t get the combinations. I know in the last sentence「いっぱい + 覚えた」the first part 「いっぱい 」is modifying 「考える」to change it from “remember” to “remember a lot”, but the other examples I don’t understand what’s happening.

Another issue I’ve had is with questions similar to this:

試験に合格した 分からなくて不安だね。

I know it’s translated as “I don’t know if I passed the exam, and I’m anxious”. When I see it translated it makes sense, but what is throwing me off is the か. Since at first I thought it was the grammar point for a question, but it’s not a grammar point I can click on so I wasn’t sure. Without it I thought it would mean something like “I passed the exam, but I’m anxious”, but since it’s there I don’t know what it’s doing.

Sorry if these are simple questions but I’d rather make sure I know what’s going on before going too far into grammar. I tend of over analyze everything and get myself confused, hence my confusion.

Edit: I also have like 80+ ghosts and seem to memorize the answers, which I think is bad. How do I overcome this, just keep reviewing the whole sentence until it feels natural?


I’m not really sure what you mean by combinations? They’re just words in a sentence.

As for: 試験に合格したか分からなくて不安だね。

The か is functioning as because

Because (か) I don’t know (わからなくて) if I passed (合格した) the exam (試験) I’m anxious (不安だ)


Looked it up to be sure. The か isn’t because it’s whether or not.

So it’s: I don’t know “whether or not” I passed the exam and it’s making me anxious


I completely understand this struggle, as I am sure a lot of learners do. Differentiating where one word ends and another word begins can be very difficult in Japanese! Especially considering particles are dropped so often in casual language, such as is the case with 理解出来る, which should be 理解が出来る in a perfect world.

Do not fret, this is something that you will get used to over time, as you are exposed to more words, and more regular patterns. Every language has things similar to this that seem absolutely insurmountable at first, but will feel second nature eventually.


What I mean by combinations is when two words are next to each other by don’t seems to be modifying or doing anything to the other. For example how Asher below answered that, 理解出来る would be 理解出来る in less casual language; which in my head makes the sentence make way more sense. Since without が I’m left wondering how “understanding/comprehending” + “able to do” combine as if it was an adjective modifying a noun.

I guess what I’m having issue with, is like if in English I wrote a sentence without any commas, I could understand the idea of the sentence but would look weird and unnatural.

In the sentence I gave before, “毎日サッカーの練習に…”, I originally was wondering if 毎日 and サッカー where somehow being combined into one descriptive word, like “everyday soccer” or “daily soccer” since they were next to each other without particles or separators. If it was something like “毎日、サッカーの練習に…” I could immediately tell that first we’re talking about the time in which the event occurs, then the event that took place. I guess the lack of particles in casual speech is throwing me off since I’ve had more practice in more formal forms.

Edit: It probably doesn’t help my brain thinks like a computer half the time where unless explicitly told something, I have a hard time inferring it. Like how in programming if you have a syntax error even if it’s something like a simple semicolon, the program won’t understand it. So even if one particle missing/inferred it throws me off since I might think a sentence might have an entirely different meaning.

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Yeah I guess it’s a pattern recognition problem, since at least according to Anki I know around 3k words I just don’t have much grammar/reading practice. At least I can get the general meaning of the sentences, I just want to understand the whole entire meaning of them; hence my pickiness on particles. I have noticed formal speech being much more comprehensible to me so casual speech could be my weak-link in that regards.

Very confusing typo I think. You mean it IS “whether or not”.

The か here is used like the one at the end of a sentence. Then when it’s used in the middle of a larger sentence, it functions a bit like と can: sort of like parenthesis. Only with か it’s like a question mark AND parenthesis.

So you could tanslate that sentence clunkily as:

I don’t know: “Did I pass the exam?”

Or more naturally:

I don’t know whether I passed the exam.

Hope that helps.

(I agree with everything that’s been said about your general question: as you get more exposure to sentence patterns they will become easier to recognise, even if they bend the rules by omitting particles and the like.)


At least for your example of 私の牛乳を全部誰かに飲まれた:

The 全部 and 誰か aren’t connected at all. Both are connected to 飲まれた。

「私の牛乳」を「飲まれた」: My milk was drank. By who? 「誰かに」How much?「全部」

Altogether: Someone drank all of my milk.

Personally I wouldn’t have organized the sentence in that order, but that’s just for my own understanding. I’m sure a Japanese person would have a different preference for sentence structure based on their experience. I tend to organize my sentences in Japanese similarly to English, mostly out of habit: 誰かに私の牛乳を全部飲まれた。


Yeah I guess it must be my English brain, since I would of organized my sentence the same way you did. I initially parsed it as: “My milk”, “all of someone”, “was drank” and was confused.

I think what confused me was the weird usage of the, “Subject, Object, Verb” order that I thought Japanese has. Since if the statement means “drank all of” I would of thought it was “全部飲まれた” like you said, where “all” would modify the verb. Or even rephrased the sentence as, “誰かに全部私の牛乳を飲まれた”, where “誰かに” is the subject, “全部私の牛乳” is the object, and “を飲まれた” is the verb. I know this isn’t probably right for the grammar point, but I digress.

However instead it’s written as, “全部誰か” which I thought was something like “everyone” or “all of anyone”, which is modifying the object. And it seems to be written in “Object, Subject, Verb” order in the original sentence, unless I’m looking at it wrong; which is very well possible.

I’m probably over thinking this since I do understand the idea, after I read the translation. I’m just curious about the structure of the sentence since this isn’t an isolated incident for me, and I’d like to know the right order sentences should be interpreted as and the rules that Japanese follow. Like how with 毎日 you don’t add に but for other time related cases you do, and etc.

Edit: Deleted double post

I often get confused by this kind of thing too. Something that I try to keep in mind is that Japanese doesn’t have the same rigid sentence structure as English. In the beginning it’s helpful for us to think in S O V terms vs the S V O structure of English, but in reality it’s closer to “anything + V”.

Just to be sure I asked a few native speakers about this sentence and they all agreed that as along as you end with 「飲まれた」you can move 「誰かに」「私の牛乳を」and「全部」anywhere you want in the sentence. However, putting 「全部」before 「私の牛乳を」sounds “strange” (but is understandable). I also want to note that the particles 「を」「に」must stay attached to their respective nouns.

So you can have…

  1. 私の牛乳を全部誰かに飲まれた
  2. 私の牛乳を誰かに全部飲まれた
  3. 誰かに私の牛乳を全部飲まれた

All of these sentences are correct and, at least to the people I asked, natural.
I also would like to point out that while “Someone drank all of my milk,” is the more natural sentence in English, the source is in the passive form; “All of my milk was drunk by someone.” Obviously this is wonky in English, but maybe that’s where you got tripped up with the O S V pattern.

Lastly I want to look at 「理解出来る」. In this case it’s not really the noun 理解 and the verb 出来る, but rather the verb 理解する. As you progress in vocabulary you’ll encounter a lot of these compounds. They are part of 漢語(かんご)which are Sino-Japanese words. In practice they’re fancier versions of verbs you already know, sometimes with added nuance. These words can be used as nouns or as verbs when attached to する. And it conjugates just like する. So the potential of 「理解する」is 「理解できる」. I think it’s more apparent when you don’t have「出来る」in kanji form, but it does crop up in more formal writing.

Hope that helps. Japanese takes a lot of time and a lot of practice, so don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. 頑張ってください!!!


I think my overthinking may have a part in it too, to be honest. Since I’ve seen long compound sentences like:


From: 「とびらサイト」完全リニューアル!| Tobira Site Completely Revamped! | お知らせ | 上級へのとびら (

Understood it, and even translate it as something: “We made improvements reported on the old site, made the user experience dramatically better, and changed the outward appearance to make it easier to see.”

I can understand and break down the first clause (I think that’s what it’s called): 「旧サイトで報告されていた問題点を改善し」 and see that:

  • 旧 modifying サイト to be “old website”
  • で telling me where the action is taking place (The old site)
  • 「報告されていた + 問題点」= Problems that people reported
    • 報告する → 報告される (Passive) | Was done by someone
    • 報告される → 報告させて (テ形) | Was announced/reported by someone/people
    • 報告させていた (Bringing up the report [made by some people])
    • 問題点 | Problems in question
  • を telling me that the “problems that people reported” is being action upon
  • 改善し
    • 改善 + し (連用形) | Improve + (continuation particle)

So oddly enough the complexity of the sentence makes it easier to understand. However as soon as I’m thrown a simpler sentence like:

I got a new futon, so it is comfortable.

I’m left wondering how this translates, since 「丈夫じょうぶにする」 makes sense for "making more durable, and 「 綺麗きれいにする」 for "making more clean. But translating 「あたらしくした」to “got a new” instead of “making more new” seems like a weird jump. I get they’re trying to say they got a new mattress, but it seems weird that they’re using にする as “getting”. But I guess this is one of those things that makes sense in Japanese that when literally translated into English doesn’t. Like “pick up the phone” in English implying that you will “answer the phone”.

As for 理解出来る, I’ve seen a lot of words with the する pattern but I guess I didn’t pick that up in this instance. Since I’ve seen lots like: 勉強する、掃除する、洗濯する, and so on; at least half of Irodori 1 & 2 was filled with these, similar with some in Tobira. I didn’t know there was a name for it however so thank you for that.

Vocabulary usually isn’t my weak point since (at least according to WkStats and Anki) I have a combined review count of 200k, and around 4k words; but none of those consisted of sentences. I started Japanese in college 3 years ago starting with Genki/Irodori and graduated a few chapters into Tobira; but was never great a grammar so I came here to BunPro for review. However it has been thoroughly kicking my butt in regards to conjugation and grammar readings/translations. I had some grammar particles in my decks but not many, some like 為に, を除いて, and so on. But having to output particles with the English translation is proving harder than picking the parts out of a sentence or something.

That being said, thank you for your explanation of the grammar in that example, any amount of explanation I appreciate since it helps me understand the language better.

Edit: Formatting
Edit 2: Maybe the simpler sentences are harder because the entire meaning I can misinterpret, while longer sentences I can parse and fix any confusion that I have and fill in the blanks.
Edit 3: Fixing spelling and formatting mistakes

I recently asked a question about the second sentence and got a great answer about how 全部—a word that I thought of as a noun—was actually being an adverb. It turns out 全部 has nothing to do with 誰か directly, and is just an adverb that is modifying the phrase “someone drank” by clarifying that “someone drank it entirely”:

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