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Thread: the は vs が confusion

  1. #1
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    Default the は vs が confusion

    the particles still bug me, and saying that は marks the topic and が marks the subject doesn't help.

    Could it be explained using vocal emphasis? So

    Intoducing yourself:
    私は先生です - "I am a teacher", with the emphasis on "a teacher".

    Maybe someone walks into a class and asks if you're the foreign exchange student.
    私が先生です - "I am a teacher", with the emphasis on "I", so maybe becoming "I'm the teacher".

    Does that work, or am I screwing up understanding even more?

    EDIT: edited for being so confused I got it backwards
    * And the Lord said unto John "Come forth and receive eternal life." But John came fifth and won a toaster. *

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    I was told by a couple of people (one being my Japanese teacher in these parts) that you shouldn't use "sensei" when referring to yourself. Kyoushi is supposed to be more appropriate. But anyway, I was actually reading this during a free period today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanes...81.8C_.28ga.29

    About 2/3 of the way down the page, under Particles, might be useful. Hope this helps!

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    Default Re: the は vs が confusion

    Quote Originally Posted by andreyla
    the particles still bug me, and saying that は marks the topic and が marks the subject doesn't help.

    Could it be explained using vocal emphasis? So

    Intoducing yourself:
    私は先生です - "I am a teacher", with the emphasis on "a teacher".

    Maybe someone walks into a class and asks if you're the foreign exchange student.
    私が先生です - "I am a teacher", with the emphasis on "I", so maybe becoming "I'm the teacher".

    Does that work, or am I screwing up understanding even more?

    EDIT: edited for being so confused I got it backwards
    Well sort of. You've got the basic idea that the best way to explain it is using emphasis. Think of it this way: は emphasizes the action of a sentence, whereas が emphasizes the subject itself. In your previous example, the particle は would be most appropriate in both cases, since the sentence's emphasis is on the verb, in this case the act of being a teacher. However, I love your translation of 私が教師です (watashi, kyoushi) - "I'm the teacher!" Imagine some little sannen smartass is acting up in your class and you want him to quiet down. "おい!静かにしろ!俺が教師だ!" "Hey, shut up! I'm the teacher!" or something similar. The sentence's emphasis has moved to the subject - you're not stressing the action that's being done, but rather who is doing it. Another good example would be ”あの人は野球選手です。” ”へぇ?誰が?” ("That person is a baseball player." "Wha? Who is?") In the first sentence the emphasis is on the act of being a baseball player, whereas in the second the emphasis moves to the person who's performing that act. Capisci?

    Of course, there's also the old topic/subject distinction. Look at "私は車があります。", "I have a car." In this case, the subject's topic, 私, is different than its grammatical subject, 車. This sentence translates most literally as "Talking about me, a car exists." See the difference between topic and subject? This only really applies to sentences where both particles are present. In a sentece with either one or the other, you're more likely dealing with the case above.

    Hope that helped!

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    は is also used more often in negative sentences, though I'm not sure of the exact rule. For example, 車を食べてもいいですか? いいえ、食べてはだめです。 (Is it okay to eat the car? No, it isn't)

  5. #5
    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Its not really that hard you need to just get used to it.

    Ga is used in negative sentences. Ga is also used like you say in emphasis. And it is used after interogative words like who, how, when。

    He is a teacher.
    Who is a teacher?
    HE is a teacher.
    She is not a teacher.

    彼は教師です。(かれはきょうしです)
    だれが教師ですか(だれがきょうしですか)
    彼が教師ですよ(かれがきょうしですよ)
    彼女が教師ではありません〔かねじょうがきょうしではありません)

    Its actually really easy once you get used to it. Just let it come to you and don:t stress. It just starts to SOUND wrong if you get it wrong after a while.
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    thanks for the help. I've focused almost entirely on coversational Japanese, and completely ignored studying grammar. So I can have 20min conversations, but I have to stick mostly to using simple sentences, lots of verbs and adjectives (and slang of course, あり得ないよ), and using English prepositions. Makes for interesting and confusing conversations.
    * And the Lord said unto John "Come forth and receive eternal life." But John came fifth and won a toaster. *

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    One thing that helps is to remember that in its simplest sense, GA hangs out in the same realm as WO. GA tells you what's doin/feelin the verb and WO tells you what cops the brunt of the verb. There are other particles in this dimension but they won't be mentioned here :x

    WA lives in another dimension. It can highlight any object, subject, place, time or anything you wanna focus on. I'm sure you've seen NIWA, TOWA and DEWA particles before. That's WA flying in from its magical dimension to do its job and remind the speaker of what you're talking about. The thing is, when it steps up to remind you of who's doing/feelin the verb or whats copping the brunt of the verb, you don't say GAWA or WOWA. You just say WA.

    It's useful for students to remember that GA and WO both get replaced by WA quite regularly. Not just GA. If you can understand why, then you'll be better at seeing just how unique WA is and when u use it.

    Aside: My friend tells me this helped him.

    neko HA hashirimasu
    can be thought of as meaning the same as
    neko HA neko GA hashirimasu.
    (As for that cat I told you about before, yeah, that cat's running)

    except, you would never say the 'neko GA' part coz you can already assume that its the thing doing the verb. The japanese are masters at omitting anything that is readily understood and you would never say something ludicrous like 'GAWA'.

    There. Now you're even more confused than before, which is good because at least now you're probably thinking about just how different WA, GA (and WO) were from what you might have been guessing at...
    :smt009

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    今日はきれいです。

    I think this is a good example to use. Above I just said "you look pretty today". But when I used は I am actually implying "as for today, you look pretty" meaning that today you look pretty but on other days you may not be pretty. Don't say this to the ladies.

    今日がきれいです。

    Now I am also saying you look pretty today. But I do not have the added implications for other days. I'm just talking about today and only today.

    Am I making any sense?
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    Senior Member Mindflux's Avatar
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    This is kind of like when do you attach "the" or "a" to things.

    Without some sort of intimate knowledge of grammar it's tough to explain exactly when or how to use them, but it's not difficult, you just get used to it.

  10. #10
    Pandilex
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    you mostly get used to what feels right to use

    the most confusing isnt the general は and が but when you use both like

    わたし は ビール が 飲みます

    or

    ともだち は あし が いたい です

  11. #11
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    I find speaking English eliminates all confusion on the matter.

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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pandilex
    わたし は ビール が 飲みます
    That sounds like you're saying beer drinks you.

  13. #13
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    I think he was making a profound statement on binge drinking culture

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