Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Japanese Grammar Tips ~The Particles~ (1)

*This article is what I wrote on lang-8.
I'm going to post these articles and some additions here.

(1) Xは = The theme of the sentence is X
(2) が describes objectively what has happened
(3) When the subject changes in one sentence, we should use が
(4) Can't we repeat は in one sentence? 
(5) Some Japanese verbs used が to mark the direct object
(6) は can be attached to another particles
* (1) ~ (3) are the posts from lang-8

I've thought about the difference between and (Japanese particles) for the first time in my life since I corrected my friends' journals more often than before. Come to think of it, it is really hard to explain the difference between them though I use it everyday. So I googled and got some tips about the usage of は and が.

I'm going to write about those tips to share with you guys but I'm not a specialist, so I'm not sure if it's linguistically correct or not. I welcome your comments and suggestions. I mean, I'm also waiting for comments from Japanese people! :)

(1) Xは = The theme of the sentence is X
If we say "Xは", it shows that we're going to talk about X.
In other words, X is a subject of the sentence.

>彼女 クラスでいちばん可愛い。
She is the cutest girl in our class.
>あの女の人 私の母です。
That woman is my mother.
>父 いつも朝早く起きて犬の散歩に行く。
My father takes our dog for a walk every early morning.
>昨日の夕飯 カレーだった。
Our last supper was curry and rice.

Let's see what does it sound like if these changes into .

>彼女 クラスでいちばん可愛い。
She is the one who is the cutest girl in our class.
>あの女の人 が 私の母です。
That woman is the one who is my mother.
>父 が いつも朝早く起きて犬の散歩に行く。
My father is the one who takes our dog every early morning.
>昨日の夕飯 が カレーだった。
It was last supper when we ate curry and rice.

As you see, it sounds a bit different. We use to emphasize "whom" or "what" we are talking about. So the theme of the sentence is placed at the latter part of the sentence.

So you can read these sentences as:

Let's have a look at the difference between them with some examples.
Taro: あの女の人は誰ですか? (Who's that woman?)
Akiko: 彼女は英語の先生です。(She's our English teacher.)
Taro: じゃあ、誰が数学の先生ですか? (Then, who's your math teacher?)
Akiko: あの男の人が数学の先生です。(That man is our math teacher.)

Akiko use when she answered Taro's question (WHO IS...?). This is the simplest tip. If you were asked 何が(what is)~? or 誰が(who is)~? you should use が.

Taro: 英語の授業は難しいですか?(Is your English class hard for you?)
Akiko: いいえ。数学が難しいです。(No. The math class is difficult.)
She said the math class IS difficult, not the English class or any other classes. This が is used to emphasize the word before it, and it has an exclusive meaning.

Let me explain more about its "exclusive meaning".
Both can be translated as "A is Japanese". But if we use in this sentence, it implies that it's not B, C, D, nor E, but A IS Japanese. So it excludes others.

Let's recap!
-We Usually use to describe things. So <AB> is often translated as <A is B>
-is used to emphasize the subject. <AB> can also be translated as <B is A>.
-When we answer the questions like "who is...?" or "what is...?", it is natural to use .
-has an exclusive meaning. If we say A, it implies that not B, C, or D, but A.

What's the difference between these sentences below?

Please feel free to leave your comment. :)


  1. Very nice topic to write a post about. Thanks.
    About the quiz, I guess
    >これは良い Talking about THIS, this is good.
    >これが良い Talking about BEING GOOD, this is good.
    I don't know if I'm right or wrong but I can think about an example: being at a restaurant with my friend, while looking at the menu, saying:
    これは良い: about this food, I know it, this is good. Other items on the menu may be also good or not. I have no idea.
    これが良い: about what is the good thing on the menu, I think this is the good one. Lets choose this and forget the rest.
    Is the example right?
    And I've a question about が. Does it always imply exclusive meaning or just sometimes? And is it always 100% exclusive? Like in 父 が 朝早く起きて犬の散歩に行く. (I deleted itsumo on purpose), can we still use this sentence if most of the times my father takes the dog for a walk but well, there are a few times that he is busy and my mother does it? Or it must be 100% exclusive?

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, arman!

      Exactly!! Your example is to the point. XD I'll write about its detailed explanation on the next post. Please wait for a few days.

      And about your question:
      Not really. We also use が when we describe what happened. In this case, it doesn't have an exclusive meaning. I'm writing about it for the next post, though! ;)
      If you want to say "My father takes our dog for a walk (most of the time)", then you should add 大抵 or ほとんど. if I said 大抵父が犬の散歩に行く, its が doesn't have an exclusive meaning. But without it, it doesn't imply sometimes other person does.


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