(1) Xは = The theme of the sentence is X
- We Usually use は to describe things. So <AはB> is often translated as <A is B>.
- が is used to emphasize the subject. <AがB> can also be translated as <B is A>.
- When we answer the questions like "who is...?" or "what is...?", it is natural to use が.
- が has an exclusive meaning. If we say Aが, it implies that not B, C, or D, but A.
(2) が describes objectively what has happened
- In this case, you are just a spectator who describes the situation objectively.
- If you use は to describe happenings, then it focuses on "what someone/something did".
- When we talk about the actions of the first and the second person, tip(1) applies.
(3) When the subject changes in one sentence, we should use が
- が can implies the subject of the sentence would be changed.
- On the contrary, は can't imply omitted subject.
(4) Can't we repeat は in one sentence?
(5) Some Japanese verbs take が to mark the direct object
(6) は can be attached to another particles
* (1) ～ (3) are the posts from lang-8
(4) Can't we repeat は in one sentence?Those tip(1) to tip(3) were the revised posts from what I wrote on lang-8. I got wonderful comments there, and decided to write some additional posts on my blog. Here tip(4) is originally based on a question that I received there. (Thank you 火火!!)
As I mentioned in tip(1) to tip(3), the particle は is used to show its theme or topic of the sentence. Sometimes <AはB> can simply be translated into <A is B> in English because は shows "what it is" or "what it's like", but sometimes it seems more complicated. Here's an example:
Hey, this sentence has both は and が!! Yes, you're right. But this sentence structure is quite natural in Japanese. Where's the subject of this sentence? 象(an elephant), or 鼻(a nose)? It's been a controversial sentence among linguists. So you may found many explanations about it when you googled this sentence.
I'm not going to use linguistic technical terms, because I'm not a specialist. I'm going to write about my opinion as a Japanese native speaker. I hope it will somehow help you learn Japanese.
First of all, we usually use が when we talk about a specific body parts. You may wonder why it's not は in this case. Well, frankly, I'm not sure... But I think, the feature of が is the key.
Please take a look at one of the sentences in tip(1).
You can emphasize 彼女 by using が. It specifies and highlights the subject. So, you would have a specific, concrete image of 彼女 if you use が. Right?
So, I think, when it comes to a specific body part, unless we're not talking about general common sense, you must have a specific image of it. That's why we prefer to use が in this case.
It sounds differently if you use は to point a body part. Let's see the difference through the example conversation below:
What's wrong? You look pale.
My stomach hurts a bit.
Have you caught a cold? Any other symptoms? Do you have a headache?
Well, I don't have a headache but I have a sore throat.
Let me show you more example before its detailed explanation.
Speaking of a headache, I don't have it, but I have a sore throat.
Speaking of her figure, it's good. But her face isn't my type.
Speaking of fever, I don't have it. But my face is red.
You see? In this case, we dare to use は instead of が to imply the limited range. If one said 手はかゆい(My hands are itchy) instead of 手がかゆい, then we'd think the speaker has something more to say.
Okay, let's get back to the first example!
象は 鼻が 長いです。
Now you understood why you put が after 鼻(nose), huh? ：） 鼻が長い means "its nose(trunk) is long".
You are talking about 象(an elephant), so the theme of the sentence is 象. When we talk about the theme/feature of things, we use は ― tip(1). It can be translated as "Speaking of an elephant, its nose is long".
My friend told me that his Japanese teacher said 象は鼻は長い is wrong because we can't use は repeatedly in one sentence. Again, I'm not a Japanese teacher nor specialist, but I think we sometimes use は twice in a sentence. I don't know it's grammatically wrong or not, but we actually do.
For example, you're comparing the length of an elephant's trunk with its tail. You found its trunk is long but its tail is not. Then you'd conclude 象は鼻は長い. Haha
Yes, it just implies the limited range.
Though she has a good figure...
Here this sentence also has two は. It sounds like an incomplete sentence. The speaker is comparing her figure and something else.
Let's look at more examples:
It is a well-paid job.
Again, both は and が appeared!It literally means "Speaking of my job, its salary is good". Though 給料(salary) isn't a body part, we should use が in this case.
My brother has a bad school record. (Speaking of my brother, his school record is bad.)
To put it simply, は shows the topic of the sentence and が specifies its subject. So it sounds strange if you said この仕事が給料は良い (×). は always has a wider range than が. The topic of the sentence usually comes first.
It is a well-paid job. (But...)
Maybe he wants to complain something else.
This job is the one which is well-paid.
The first が has an exclusive meaning, which emphasize この仕事 compared to other 仕事.
I can guess what the speaker wanted to say, but this sentence is very unnatural.
- は and が can be used in one sentence, but usually は comes before が. <AはBがC>
- は shows the topic of the sentence and が specifies its subject.
- It sounds incomplete if you change the latter が into は. It implies you have something more to say, or you compare it(B) with something else. <AはBはC>
The previous post's <QUIZ> answer
The subject of 怒っている(be angry) is YOU, not 夫(your husband). So, you should use が to show that the subject will change. Got it? ：）
You're talking with a friend about a girl whom you like. Your friend asked you what made you attracted to her. Which following sentence is more appropriate in this case?
It's a bit difficult, isn't it! Thank you for reading my blog. I always welcome your comments or questions. ：）