The "Wa" topic marker (2023)

This is the first of two lessons that focus on several specific grammar topics critical to your early understanding. Both that andDie „Desu“-Kopulaassumes that you are familiar with the more general concepts discussedThe structure of a Japanese sentence..

japanese is aexcellent technical language🇧🇷 This means that the typical sentence has an athe,the focus of prayer and aCommentAbout the topic. The interesting thing about this structure is that the subject is not necessarily the same as the grammatical subject. Let's see how this works.

themes and themes

Similar atopic marker GeorgiaIt is inobject marker Ö, the subject is indicated by the particle は "wa" (written with hiragana "ha" for historical reasons). The subject can replace the subject or the object, or be in addition to both. Here is an example where the subject is also the subject.

UEKendôit does.
WatashiwaKendou osuru
I THEMEkendo OBJit does.

Note: Kendo is a Japanese martial art similar to fencing.

if you want to translateagainLiterally, the closest equivalent in English is "as for...", so we can translate the above sentence as "As for me, (I) do kendo". The implied subject of this sentence isWatashi"I" (remember that ahimis an entity given a role by the verb), but since it is also the subject, it does not need to be repeated. Indeed you willNeversee an explicit subject and subject when they refer to the same entity.

There is one important condition if an entity can be a topic: it must beestablished in the speech🇧🇷 In other words, the listener needs to know who or what the entity in question refers to.

This is the same requirement for the determiner "the" in English. For example, if you were talking to someone while shopping and out of the blue you said something like "The thief broke into the store yesterday", they will ask you "What thief?". or they just give you a weird look because they have no idea who "the thief" is or even that it exists.

(Video) Subject Marker GA vs WA | Japanese From Zero! Video 14

But what if the topic is not established in the discourse? In that case just keep itGeorgia.Then, as soon as you or someone else mentioned it, use itagainwhen from this point

With English we do more or less the same thinga/a🇧🇷 To continue the previous example, it would be nice to say "AThief broke into a store out of nowhere (as long as it's not too different from what you've already talked about), and after that you can continue about "aThief.” So, what English does with “a” and “the”, Japanese does with “ga” and “wa”.

Of course with somePronounFocusedWatashi(I/me), the listener will always know whom you mean and therefore these pronouns can always be used as subjects.

Wa, Ga o Nada

There's another important instance where you go ahead: when answering a question. For example "WatashiGeorgiakendou o suru" is an answer to the question "WerDo Kendo?" This is where you present the topic itself as new information (rather than comment on the topic), so it's not a topic and you can't adopt itagain.

(read more about itQuestions)

Similarly, in all other cases where the topic isn't a topic (which you won't find out until a bit later), just keepGeorgia🇧🇷 The difference betweenagainmiGeorgiait's usually subtle and will be discussed in more detail in a future article.

Simply "Kendou o suru" with no subject/subject would also be a valid sentence and is actually used rather than the full sentence "Watashi wa kendou o suru".

(Video) Learn Japanese: The Topic Marker は in Japanese

Suppose you answer the question "What do you do (as a hobby)?" Since the subject of the reply (you) is clearly known to the listener, it can and should be omitted. Indeed by doing itnoStatement on a given topic, the topic can usually be omitted; It should only be left if you want to emphasize the subject.


  1. The first time a topic is introduced, you mustGeorgia.
  2. The next time someone uses it, it's an issue and it's neededagain.
  3. After that, drop the subject (unless you want to emphasize it).
  4. If you change the theme, useagainthe first time and then release it.

Here's another perspective, including answers to the questions.

What to do with a Japanese theme?
Whenever you want…You do this...
Introduce a new topic in the speech.Said Como theme
Leave a comment on a new topic.make the topic
Make a comment on a given topicpublication
Answer a topic questionSaid Como theme
Answer a question without a subjectpublication

On the half way

Stop at this point and take a minute to make sure you understand everything so far. The remainder of this section deals with more complicated uses ofalso,and they aren't strictly necessary until you have some practice with the most basic usage. Feel free to jumpDie „Desu“-Kopulaand come back later to finish this section.

When the topic is not the topic

Beginners are sometimes confused by phrases like this famous one:

UEit is an eel
Watashiwaunagi desu.

Here's a hint: it doesnomeans "I am an eel". Let's look at the partial translation:

What concerns me is (the) eel.

(Video) The Ultimate Guide To: は vs が (The ONLY lesson you need!)

This "it" does not have to be the same as the subject. If you said it in a restaurant (which you might do), the "it" would be "my order", so the true meaning of the phrase is "my order is eel".

This raises an important point: while the topic is usually the topic, it doesn't have to be the topic at all. Now let's look at some other cases where the subject differs from the subject.

Object as Subject: Topicization

Now we can create another version of our jumbled sentenceearlier: "Terebi o kodomo ga mita".Terebi ocomterebi wa, We have:

The TV isSohnvio
terebi wakodomo gamita.
THEME TELEVISIONsecondary childOutlook.

Now the "TV" objectthemed: "What (a) television, (a) child looked (a) at." In contrast to the more common use ofagainIt is that the subject has replaced the object instead of the subject.

Sounds like a strange statement? Maybe, but explicit themes are relatively rare in English, so understanding the nuances of Japanese is difficult. In situations like this, English speakers are more likely to use thatpassive construction: "A child watched TV." Passives also exist in Japanese, but they tend to be used in other places.

Separate subject and topic.

The last case I want to refer to is one where this is the caseBothan explicit subject and subject, which is a very common construction in Japanese. This phrase is another classic:

ElephantI am sorryGrosse.
Zou wahana gaNagai.
TOP ElephantSUB-Nasebelong.

The literal translation of the phrase is “As for elephants, (their) noses are long.” In English we would normally say something like “Elephantsto havelong noses" or "elephant nosesare long" that showgroupinstead of topic and comment.

(Video) The Review of the Wa (は) particle and the Ga (が) particle - The Topic Marker and the Subject Marker

But in Japanese, this pattern is the norm when trying to describe the qualities of someone or something. Here is another example:

Herr YamadaSegaAlt.
Yamada-*san wawith theReis
Yamada UPSUB heightbe tall

* "San" is gender neutralname suffix.

do you get the pattern "As for Yamada, (his) greatness is great." Or, fully translated, "Yamada is great."

(read more about itadjectives)

Beyond the topic marker

It is worth noting that a particleagainhas another related use: to show contrast. I won't go into thatkontrastierende wahere, but just for the record if you come across the situation where there are twoagainIt's in the same sentence, that's what the other is.

What's next?

Die „Desu“-Kopula

Difficulty understanding something? Something I missed? Please send your comments about theContactform and help me to improve this site. All questions, comments and corrections are welcome.

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