Nihongo - Let's Learn Grammar

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  • 公開済み: 21 8 2013
  • アップデートされたもの: 14 7 2015
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This movella teaches you straightforward the grammar of Japanese. From 助詞 to 動詞, you will be able to get a complete and organised movella that includes all major particles and essential grammatical usages to make cool Japanese sentences! 行きましょうね!


14. が • Subject Particle; Tell Me What You Want

The particle が is extremely intimidating for a lot of learners of Japanese. And believe it or not, Japanese natives sometimes fall victim to が's treacherous fight over who's greater.  い、行きましょう?



This particle is, believe it or not, a lot more flexible than its buddy, は. How? The reason is because が identifies the subject of the sentence. Wait! Give me a chance to explain. I know I've said in は's note that a subject and a topic basically mean the same in English. And admittedly, は is a topic marker ("discussion marker" just sounded cooler).


Now, before we start screaming at the confusion, let's clarify some stuff. In English, who or what does the verb that we give in a sentence? The subject, right? We don't give a verb to the topic because, like I said, the topic is only what is being talked about (the discussion marker). I can't give a clear example because は has no real translation. In fact, not one particle means anything if not used in a sentence.


Just like "Is" means nothing in English if it's just there.


Tom: Is.

Derek: 'Is' what?

Tom: Is it?

Derek: Is what it?

Tom: It is.

Derek: You're weird.

Tom: Are.

Derek: (no audible dialogue)


In fact, let's try this same dialogue in Japanese.


Tom: です。

Derek: なに?

Tom: ですね?

Derek: なにが?

Tom: でしょうね。

Derek: おかしいよ。

Tom: よ。

Derek: (声なし)


Did you spot the が?


"Derek: なにが?" This particular concept is simple. You need to use が after an interrogative pronoun because pronouns are nothing if it has nothing to substitute.



です Does Not Modify Anything But は

が is used to pinpoint what the topic is describing about something. This does not make what が marked anything to do with です. I bet you were taught that です is just a polite way to end your sentences. But do you really know what です is doing?


In this sentence:


• 犬が好きです。= I like dogs.

What's missing? Looking at the English translation, the "I" is missing from the Japanese sentence. But we all know that a ~が好きです pattern is pretty simple and doesn't need 私は.


However, let's really figure this out.


You are not describing dogs. You are not describing yourself. You are describing the liking that exists about you, and the 犬が simply attaches itself to whatever comes after が.


The です is about you, not about how you like dogs. The 好き is about the dogs ONLY. 好き has nothing to do with you. The が simply marked "Dog" so that 好き can apprehend it.


私です is the actual sentence. 私は makes you a part of the sentence. 犬が makes a subject about dogs. 好き modifies what dogs are: a liking. です wraps around to you to bind everything together.


Think of the structure like this:

は is a piece of paper.

が is the glitter and confetti and colours you paint on the piece of paper.

です is the glue you spread all around so that the stuff you put on the paper can stick to it.


Now that you know the actual structure of a Japanese sentence that has は and が, let's try some examples.


• どんな和食の食べ物が好きですか。= What kind of Japanese-style food do you like?

This now has four particles going on: the topic particle は, the subject marker が, the noun phrase particle の, and the interrogative particle か.


どんな is an interrogative pronoun that attaches to 和食 (Japanese-style food). However, because the の is in between 和食 and 食べ物 (food), どんな is attached to both of these nouns. が now follows, creating the subject about whatever came before it (and essentially after は): どんな和食の食べ物. Finally, we have what が is being described as, 好き. We complete the sentence with the verb, です.


Let's go into a very complex sentence, wherein we use a topic, a subject, an object and a subordinate clause.


場所 【ば・しょ】= Place

昨日 【き・のう】= Yesterday

兄 【あに】= Brother

買う 【か・う】= To buy

時 【とき】= (Setting a time for a noun or verb)

財布 【さい・ふ】= Wallet

盗む 【ぬす・む】= To steal

店 【みせ】= Store


• この場所は昨日兄にプレゼントを買いたかった時財布が盗まれた店です。

"This place is the store where I got my wallet stolen when I was planning to buy a present for my brother yesterday."


This is quite long. But don't worry. if you know the structure and particles, there shouldn't be any problem understanding the grammar.


1. この is the contraction of これ and の. 場所 (Place) is being modified by この to create "This place."

2. は marks この場所. This is because この場所 is what the entire sentence is describing about the topic.

3. 昨日 (Yesterday) is a general time expression. There is no need to modify this with a particle.

4. 兄 (Brother) precedes に, the target particle. An action is happening to or for him. Watch for it.

5. プレゼント is marked with を. We all know を has only one function: mark the direct object.

6. 買いたかった (Wanted to buy) is the verb that apprehends the に with the を.

7. 時 marks the entire subordinate clause of whatever preceded it. This is a time expression.

8. 財布 (Wallet) is marked with が, the subject of an action. What about the wallet?

9. 盗まれた (Has been stolen) is the verb apprehending the thing that marked.

10. 店 is the subordinate clause of the clause, "Wallet has been stolen."

11. The entire sentence closes with the verb,です, wrapping up the sentence with the verb that makes the entire sentence lead back to the topic.


Rule of Thumbs

You only need to use は when the topic is either not you or you are picking a particular topic about something. Be careful, though, often times if a は is used about an obvious thing, you will create a constrastive context about what you marked は with.

You will use が whenever a subject is taking on an action. Often times を will be there, but remember that を connects back to the topic. If you already have a verb that the topic is doing, you will need to use が.

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