The difference between WA and GA (は and が) 2017-08-21T21:36:47+00:00
The difference between WA and GA (は and が)

Learn Japanese Grammar – The Japanese Particles WA and GA

Learning the differences between WA and GA ( and ) can be challenging, but this lesson will break it down into simple parts.

は (WA) can be used to identify a topic.

Think of this as a cloud that surrounds everything we are discussing in a sentence.  In English, we could start off the sentence with “speaking of..” or “as for..” to achieve the same effect.

これはにほんビールです
Kore wa Nihon no biiru desu.
This is Japanese beer.
(or: As for this, it’s Japanese beer.)
Kore wa Nihon no biiru desu


As always, the topic can be completely dropped if it is already understood through context.  “Nihon no biru desu” is fine!

が (GA) can be used to identify a subject.

 

The subject, marked with , has a grammatical relationship to the verb.  Rather than the cloud-like coverage of our topic, the subject is more like an anchor with something else bound to it.  This is why we call it a subject rather than a topic, because it is being subjected to an action or state of existence.

  わたしはほんがあります。
watashi wa hon ga arimasu.
(I have a book.)
watashi wa hon ga arimasu

The topic and subject have no problem existing together in same sentence.  In the example above, watashi is the topic, so we mark it with a は (wa).  The book is being subjected to ownership, so we marked the subject with a .

 

 

は (WA) can be used for a noun that is unchanged.

 

When you describe a noun that has not changed from its usual state, you can use Japanese particle は (wa) to mark the noun.

 


ゆき
しろいです。
yuki wa shiroi desu.
(Snow is white.)

yuki wa shiroi desu


The color of snow has always been white.  We are not discussing something that has been changed from its regular state.

が (GA) can be used when we are observing a noun that has changed.


When you you want to describe a noun that has changed, you can use the Japanese particle が (ga).  Imagine looking out the window of an airplane to admire a sunset behind Mount Fuji.  You could say,

 


くもが
あかいです。
kumo ga
akai desu!
(The clouds are red!).

kumo ga akai desu

The noun has changed from it’s regular color.  After all, that is why we are making the statement.  We want to tell others so they don’t miss it.  Look!  Beautiful, isn’t it?
Now that we have acknowledged the change, we can now mark any further discussion of clouds with は (wa).  This is because the subject becomes “regular” once we have observed it:
 


くもは
まだあかいです!
kumo wa mada akai desu!
(The clouds are still red!)

kumo wa mada akai desu

Nothing has changed since we first marked our subject with が (ga),  so we will mark kumo with は (wa) until the sun goes down!

 

 

 

When a “KSAD” word comes after the topic, we can use the particle は (WA).

 
 

  ぎんこうどこですか。
Ginkou wa doko desu ka?
(Where is the bank?)
Ginkou wa doko desu ka  


You should have chosen wa by default anyways, since we are marking a general topic. 
(as for the bank, where is it?).  You may think this was a bit redundant since we covered this in one of our first lessons, but that’s because we want to emphasize the next point regarding our other particle…


When a “KSAD” word is at the beginning, we can use the particle が (GA).
 
 

 


そちら
ぎんこうです

sochira ga ginkou desu。
(The bank is over there.)

sochira ga ginkou desu

 In the example above, we are identifying a location.  We could have used (wa) here as well, but it would sound strange: “As for that over there.. that’s the bank”.  Perhaps a tour guide would say it that way, but it sounds very indirect.  We definitely need が (ga) here to give more emphasis on the identified subject.  We want to use a more direct tone particularly when we are answering a question.  The conversation flows nicely this way, where が (ga) is being used to mark the answer to the topic in question:

Ginkou wa doko desu ka?”
sochira ga ginkou desu.”  

 

Special uses of (GA).

 

Some special verbs use が (ga) instead of を (wo) to connect a direct object with an action.

 


わたしはさかなすきです
watashi wa sakana ga suki desu
(I like fish)

watashi wa sakana ga suki desu

 

We can use が (ga)  to mean but.

 


あめですそとにいきたい
ame desu ga, soto ni ikitai
(It is raining but I want to go outside.)

ame desu ga, soto ni ikitai

 

We can use が (ga) for emphasis.  Used this way, it is usually a response to a question.  For example, we could ask a crowd of people “dochira ga Waldo desu ka?” or “which one is Waldo?”.  His response could be:

 


わたしウォーリーです
watashi ga Woori desu.
(I am Waldo.)

watashi ga Waldo desu


Think of が (ga) as an identifier.   We are “filling in the blank” so to speak, in which “I” fills a very emphasized role.  It’s similar to when we raise our tone in English to emphasize a subject, in this case “I”.

 
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