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Particles は VS が

If you’ve been reading our example sentences in our previous grammar lessons, you’ve probably noticed several single hiragana characters like は, が, も, に, へ, and で but not fully understood their purpose. These are particles that connect subjects, verbs, and objects in Japanese and are what makes a sentence complete. Today we are going to focus on the two most difficult to grasp, yet essential, particles; は and が.


 

 

The best particle to start off this lesson with is the particle は which is pronounced wa. I know what you are thinking, shouldn’t は be pronounced as ha? Well that would be true in any other circumstance, but when the single hiragana follows the subject of the sentence it will be read as wa. Why? I don’t know, but that’s just how it is so deal with it.

As we said, the は will follow the subject of the sentence to indicate what the sentence is talking about.

あの犬は私のペットです.
That dog is my pet.

私は明日東京に行きます。
I will go to Tokyo tomorrow.

あなたのお母さんはどこですか?
Where is your mother?

If the remainder of the question can be inferred, then you can cut the question off at the は.

Brother: “ただいま。”
Sister: “お帰り。”
Brother looks around the house but doesn’t see his mom.
Brother: “母さんは?”

Brother: “I’m home.”
Sister: “Welcome back.”
Brother: “Where’s mom?”


 

 

In a lot of ways the が particle will translate much like the は and at times it can be difficult to know which to use. That being said, one clear way to use が is to use it with question words like 何, だれ, いつ, どれ, or どこ.

何が好き?
What do you like?

誰が先生ですか?
Who is the teacher?

いつがいいですか?
When will be good?

どれがほしいの?
Which do you want?

In these questions, the が particle is used with unknown subjects, but it can also be used as a way to identify something specifically.

So with the question, “何が好き?” you could say “これがすきだ.”

だれが先生ですか?
かれが先生です。
He is the teacher.

The difference between は and が here is that は can be used as a broad marker where as が points to a very specific subject.

Still confused? Yeah me too. These two particles are the source of frustration for many Japanese learners, but with time I hear it gets easier…

For now here are three Japanese verbs that are always paired up with が.

います、あります、and 来ます

If you want to use any of these three, definitely use が before you place your verb.

りんごなら三つがあります。
I’ve got 3 apples.
クリスがいますか?
Is Chris here?
います!
He’s here!

クリスが来ますか?
Will Chris come?

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