Trying to understand「が」vs 「は」

Discussion in 'Learning Japanese' started by Zizka, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. Zizka

    Zizka Sempai
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    Hello everyone,
    I was recommended to create a thread as opposed to just covering this in my blog.
    Instead of creating a verbose thread, I thought I'd just stick with the 11 mistakes I made in the exercise.
    The mistakes I got wrong were #1, #10, #14, #16, #19, #22, #24, #26, #27, #28 and #30. Instead of copy/pasting the whole thing here, I figured people would check the blog and choose on which mistake they'd like to comment on. For most mistakes, I've left my comments about it as to why I got it wrong.
    An Example to Get Started
    If you could pick a number and explain what I got wrong that would be great. An example to get started:
    #1: リンゴ()みっつあります。
    #14: 桜ありませんよ。
    To me, this is the same pattern. I don't understand why it's not both 「が」.
    This is just an example, there are 9 mores mentioned in the blog.
    Thanks for reading. Please be patient in your tutelage:emoji_thumbsup: .
     
  2. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    First of all, see the following threads including the pages linked there, especially the one dhmkhkk-san provided in this post.
    は, が and を what's the difference between the following sentences? | Japan Forum
    STILL confused about は and が; example sentences | Japan Forum
    を vs. は | Japan Forum

    Notice that #14 is not a stand-alone sentence but a part of a conversation in the question you quoted. In other words, both リンゴはみっつあります。 and 桜がありませんよ。 can be correct in appropriate contexts.
     
  3. Zizka

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    The conversation around #21 vs #22:
    upload_2018-7-10_11-2-21.png

    Followed by: #24: 桜ありませんよ.

    So there's a conversation between two people about flowers and trees.
    My first set of answers were:
    #21:「が」
    #22:「が」
    #23:「は」
    #24:「が」
    *
    #21: It's what I called a "dynamic" sentence or as you would put it:
    "Unlike noun sentences or adjective sentences, が is more commonly used in verb sentences. が indicates the subject, and the sentence describes a movement, action or phenomenon."
    #22: To me, that was the exact same pattern as #21:
    #21: きれいな花たくさん咲いています。
    vs
    #22: チューリップまだ咲いていません。
    Both are verb sentences with the subject being a different kind of flower doing the action of blooming. #21 is affirmative while #22 is negative.
    My guess as to why #22 is 「は」is because of:
    The context is redefined going from きれいな花 to チューリップ.
    This is the challenge at its core come to think of it. 「は」&「が」are not clearly mutually exclusive which leads to incomprehension. It's likely a matter of precedence.
    Is my understanding accurate?
    *
    I read through the link provided. It was interesting to learn about 
    「格助詞」and made me realize how much I would've liked to take Japanese at university.

    The author explains that 「格助詞」"[...] tell us how the word or phrase before them relates directly to the action described by the verb."

    He points points out why it can be challenging to differentiate the two as well:
    As for the information shared by the dhmkhkk I hesitated as he was sometimes mistaken about his understanding of the theory. The first link refers to a post in the same thread as the last link by the way.

    While I find the information provided useful in theory, I'm having trouble when doing the transition to practice. What I mean to say is that I have more theoretical knowledge than before but leaving the field of abstraction is no easy task. I feel like the authors puts it nicely:
    "Of course, this doesn’t cover absolutely everything. Entire books have been written about 「は」 and 「が」 simply because there are so many different variables at play in any given situation."

    Well, that's good to know. Judging from the people writing in the thread mentioned in your post, it seems like it takes people years to understand the difference between the two. Maybe I'll understand better as I practice more as opposed to discussing theory.
    *
    Addendum:
    Going back to the examples I've provided, more specifically #14 as it was part of a conversation. I actually made a mistake when retyping it.
    ありませんよ, is #24, not #14.
    #14 is: あの大きい窓「 」きれいです。
    #24: 桜ありませんよ.
    *
     
  4. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    #21
    Right. It's exactly 中立叙述の"が" (が of neutral description).

    #22
    You can also think that チューリップ is treated as an already-known information since they know チューリップ is the name of a flower even if it's not mentioned previously, like my following example in a thread I linked in my previous post.

    A: 暗くなってきたね。
    B: でも雨は降ってないよ。
    A: It's getting dark.
    B: But it's not raining.


    Another way of thinking is that は works as the contrastive marker there. Actually, this is the question writer's intention, as you can see in the given English translation: Tulipe have not bloomed yet (but other flowers have).

    It's explained in Tae Kim's site or Imabi as well, or we already mentioned it repeatedly in your previous threads, just like the following one in a jt_-san's post or also his reply in your blog.
    Also note that "particle" usually refers to "case particle (格助詞)" in most cases, and the full names are used instead of just "particle" for other particles such like "sentence final/ending particle" for 終助詞 or "conjunctive particle" for 接続助詞.
    Incidentally, が can mean "but" only as a conjunctive particle, not a case particle, so が can't mean "but" in チューリップがまだ咲いていません as you interpreted initially in your blog. Conjunctive particles can't be connected to a noun (or noun phrase/clause) directly.

    Indeed. は vs. が is one of the hardest things to grasp for non-native learners, as mentioned there.

    You can refer to a member by typing "@" + "the member's name", e.g. @Toritoribe or @Zizka. (It should be "she" and "her", by the way.)

    Finally, I think you'd better try the same exercise about は vs. が again before moving to the next one. You might be able to get the correct answers with clearer understanding than before. (And you can ask questions here if you still have.)
     
  5. Zizka

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    Before I forget, regarding your comment in my blog, should I create a new thread every time or should I put everything in this thread? I just want to make sure the thread doesn't go in all directions but I don't want to spam the section either.
    *
    Regarding the @ + member name, I knew about it but didn't want to bother the member with a notification since I wasn't sure if was still interested about the topic anymore.
    *
    Yes, I realized that afterwards but it just clicked because of that part in bold there.
    *
    So by this: 「中立叙述の"が"」 you mean this:
    "Unlike noun sentences or adjective sentences, が is more commonly used in verb sentences. が indicates the subject, and the sentence describes a movement, action or phenomenon."
    *
    Actually regarding this one:
    #22: チューリップまだ咲いていません。
    ...could it just be that 「は」as a topic marker in a negative sentence; In a negative sentence, 「は」usually indicates a comparison, emphasis or choice, which is what you meant by:
    *
    In which category does 「は」belong out of curiosity because it's not 格助詞 ?

    If I do the same one, I'll get 100% as I already know the answers now. What I thinking of doing is to go over the mistakes I've done before just like I did here.
     
  6. Zizka

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    [​IMG]
    As I've already done #22, I'll do #30 next, leaving 9 more left to do afterwards.
    (1) I got that one. Indicates a topic which is then identified or explained.
    (2) The reason I picked 「が」in my initial answer is because:
    In the construction N+wa N+ga, wa indicates a topic (the first noun) about which an aspect or quality (the second noun) is explained.
    In other words, the first noun is 「わたし」and the aspect discussed is the ability to understand French. Even now I feel like it's a sound interpretation of the sentence.
    (3) As for this one, I think it's simply a case of : used to show contrast between two items or ideas, both of which signified by wa.
    I think the part in bold possibly relates to the contrast between French and German which is why 「は」is the right answer for (2) as well.
    *
    See the thing is, what do you do when a function for both 「は」&「が」apply? How do you make the decision to use one over the other as they're not mutually exclusive?
     
  7. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    I think it's better to make a new thread for another topic. Your newest blog is related to は vs. が in this thread, but you might ask more about other questions in the blog, just like for #30, so it could become confusing.

    I see.

    Right.

    "indicates a comparison"

    は is a binding particle (係助詞). Incidentally, も belongs to the same group.

    My point is "before moving to the next one", as I wrote in my reply to your newest blog.

    That's correct if it's just わたしはフランス語がわかります. The point of this question is that two things "French and German" are compared there. Thus, your interpretation:
    is correct.

    Remember that although が is more common for verb sentences, は is used for a specific purpose such like "contrastive". Similarly, が is more common for は・が sentence, but は is applied for showing contrast.
     
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  8. Zizka

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    So just to be clear, you're saying that proper netiquette would be to create a new thread when I start tackling the content of は vs が vs も and stick to this thread for the rest of the questions about は vs が. I reread your paragraph a couple of times but I wasn't sure I got what you meant.
    upload_2018-7-11_12-45-17.png
    So I'd like to tackle #25 to #28 next as it's part of a set and I only got the 25 correct. I feel like this set is giving me a harder time as well to understand.
    So all three answers from #26 to 28 inclusively are 「が」. Let's try to understand why.
    #26: Let's think about this.
    :emoji_point_right: I don't think it's to indicate existence here.
    :emoji_point_right: It's not used with an interrogative pronoun either.
    :emoji_ok_hand: I think it's: indicates the subject of the sentence, when new, as-yet-unknown information is being presented. I'm saying this in the sense of: "Ah, so it is you who is Yamada."
    #27:
    :emoji_ok_hand: どなた is an interrogative pronoun that's why there's a 「が」there.
    #28:
    I'd say this is a case of: indicates the subject of a predicate.
    *
    Ok as it turns out it wasn't that hard once you only had to find the right explanation (assuming I'm right of course).

    Now I have a question. Couldn't you say: (A) わたし田中です instead of
    (B) わたし田中です?
    In (A) you'd be using the function: identified a topic, which is then identified and explained while in (B) you'd use the function indicates the subject of a predicate?

    I honestly think I'm getting better at this but this one is unclear in my mind.
    *
    Ah ok, gotcha.

    I'll wait to see if can get an explanation about my (A) & (B) comparison before moving forward as I want to clearly understand this.
     
  9. Zizka

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    Just to be clear regarding (B), more specifically: indicates the subject of a predicate. We talked about this in the video game thread but I wanted to bring it back a bit.

    So the predicate is what is being said about the subject of a sentence, so anything but the subject pretty much. In other words, 「が」is used to indicate the subject while the rest of the sentence is considered to be the predicate. For example:
    わたし田中です
    The green is the subject while the blue is the predicate. Although to come to think about it 「が」would probably fit in the predicate as well.
    It just seems to me that this:
    「が」indicates the subject of a predicate
    is soooo wide ranging that it would cover tons of situations. I mean, if you wanted to say:
    I'm also happy ➡ 元気です
    Technically, we could say that 「私」is the subject and 「元気です」the predicate and therefore we could use 「が」there too. I mean, of course, in this case using 「が」would have the same meaning as the inclusive 「も」but I guess what I mean to say is that indicates the subject of a predicate is so wide-ranging to the point where it becomes more or less useful to apply as a rule since unless the subject is omitted, sentences with a subject will have both subject and predicate. I don't know if I'm being clear.
     
  10. jt_

    jt_ 人生絶賛迷走中

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    First off, you may want to review the terms "subject" and "predicate", as these have specific meanings in the grammatical sense that are certainly not so wide-ranging as to be absent of all meaning.

    Yes, you could. You could also say 私は元気です, such as in cases where you want to give it a contrastive nuance (e.g. "I'm doing fine [but my friend here isn't...]")

    But the point is that neither も nor は specifically mark the noun (or noun phrase) that comes precedes it as the grammatical subject, while が does.

    So while all the following are all acceptable (with different nuances, of course):

    〇 私は元気です。
    〇 私も元気です。
    〇 私が元気です。

    The same does not hold for the following:

    〇 本は買いました。 I bought a <i>book</i>... (but maybe not anything else)
    〇 本も買いました。 I bought a book, too (in addition to other things).
    × 本が買いました。 (???)The book bought it. *ungrammatical*

    を functions similarly to が, specifically marking the direct object, so you can probably extrapolate why two of the following are perfectly natural expressions, while one is quite frightening.

    田中さんも食べました。
    田中さんは食べました。
    田中さんを食べました。

    You probably don't need to bog yourself down with the specific grammatical terms like 係助詞 and 格助詞 (unless you want to; I didn't learn these until I started taking Japanese linguistics classes, and I already had a pretty solid basis in the language at that point), but what's important to understand that particles like が and を function in a fundamentally different way from は and も.
     
  11. Zizka

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    Well, grammatically speaking I'd define subject as:
    a word or group of words setting forth that which is spoken about and constituting the ‘nominative’ to a finite verb.
    -Oxford English Dictionary​
    And as for the predicate, I'd stick with the previous definition:
    The statement made about a subject.
    Agreed and even more nuances are possible.
    That distinction does help.
    *
    Alright, so I've dealt with #22, #26, #27, #28 & #30.
    I'll deal with #10 next:
    upload_2018-7-11_20-14-7.png
    I wrote 「は」for this one but the right answer was 「が」.
    I think the 「が」here refers to this one 中立叙述の"が":
    "Unlike noun sentences or adjective sentences, が is more commonly used in verb sentences. が indicates the subject, and the sentence describes a movement, action or phenomenon."
    It fits nicely considering that we're dealing with a verb sentence here which describes the movement of coming. That's my take on it at least.
     
  12. Zizka

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    #10, #22, #26, #27, #28 & #30 are done.
    upload_2018-7-12_10-55-34.png
    #19 was supposed to be 「が」not 「は」like I originally thought. I thought of putting the preceding sentences in order to keep the context intact.
    Come to think of it, this is simply a case of interrogative pronoun preceding 「が」。I think I got sidetracked because a noun 「木」followed the pronoun. But that's the most sensible explanation I can come up with so far.
     

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  13. Zizka

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    #10, #19, #22, #26, #27, #28 & #30 are done.
    Doing #14 now:
    upload_2018-7-12_11-5-56.png
    I originally put 「が」there, thinking this was a case of:
    「が」indicates the subject of a predicate
    I mean, I'm not wrong here:
    あの大きい窓きれいです
    Green: subject
    Blue: predicate
    So 「が」would therefore be appropriate. I mean it goes back to what I was saying in reply #9.
    It also fits with:
    specifically mark the noun (or noun phrase) that comes precedes it as the grammatical subject, while が does.
    *
    It's not a contrasting 「は」either as #14 isn't connected with any previous sentence, so there's no topic shift.

    The only right answer I can think of is: indicates a topic which is then identified or explained.

    Even if 「は」is the right answer here, it doesn't disprove 「が」indicates the subject of a predicate. Honestly I think this is about the last element that needs to click in regarding 「は」vs 「が」.

    Could it be that when a sentence is described by the copula 「です」is more inclined for the 「は」? I mean, this sentence isn't a verb sentence, does this play into it (I'm referring to @Toritoribe comment about the neutral 「が」). Could I say that 「は」is used in combination with adjectivial sentences? If it's just that, then it's case closed and I can move on but I doubt it's that simple.
     
  14. Zizka

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    #10, #14, #19, #22, #26, #27, #28 & #30 are done.
    Doing #16 now :
    upload_2018-7-12_11-44-40.png
    So regarding #16 I think this is a clear case cut of 中立叙述の"が":
    "Unlike noun sentences or adjective sentences, が is more commonly used in verb sentences. が indicates the subject, and the sentence describes a movement, action or phenomenon."
    *
    And now #1:
    upload_2018-7-12_11-48-16.png
    This one is ultimately simple as well: 「が」appears in sentences that indicate the existence of something.
     
  15. Zizka

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    Alright so I'm pretty much done here:
    #1 #10 #14 #16 #19 #22 #26 #27 #28 #30
    #24 remains. I actually touched on it in my first message but here is again for good measure:
    upload_2018-7-12_11-58-11.png
    ありませんよ.
    This one causes problem for me for various reason:
    ① this fits the pattern of 「が」,appears in sentences that indicate the existence of something.
    ② There's no contrastive 「は」there either, the topic of 桜 was already established in the previous sentence.
    ③ The only potential answer I can find here is the negative marker 「は」indicates a comparison, emphasis or choice.
    *
    I'll wait for some confirmation more specifically about #14 which is really the thing still confusing me at the moment then I'll move one with my second thread of particle exercises in a different thread.
     
  16. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    Right. That's what I meant. It's more likely just "my preference" rather than "proper netiquette", though.

    This sentence indeed has a nuance of "Ah, so it is you who is Yamada." This が is 指定の"が" (が for specifying). See the following explanation.

    昔々、あるところに、おじいさんとおばあさんが住んでいました。(a neutral description sentence)
    おじいさんは山へ柴刈りに行きました。 (おじいさん is the topic quoted from the previous sentence. This topic sentence describes the action of the topic here.)


    If が is used for already-know information instead of は, が emphasizes the exclusive nuance. For instance, if おじいさんが山へ柴刈りに行きました。 follows the first sentence above, it emphasizes "it is the old man who went to the mountains to gather firewood, not the old woman or someone else." This が is called 指定の"が" (が for specifying). Actually, が in noun sentences is this 指定の"が".

    Incidentally, 私, あなた or これ/それ/あれ are treated as already-known information even if it's not mentioned previously. Thus, は is the most common for these words even in verb sentences, and が works as the specifying one.

    を vs. は | Japan Forum

    Exactly.

    わたし is also the subject of a predicate "山田と申します" in the first sentence. (Speaking strictly, 申します is a verb and 山田と is the quotation, but actually ”と申します" works as a humble form of です as a set here.) Your interpretation can't explain the difference between these two sentences. You need to interpret the usage from the context, i.e., where it's used in the flow of the conversation, not as a single sentence. This is actually also 指定の"が" as same as #26.

    Incidentally, 私田中です is the same meaning as 田中私です. The most important information in these sentences is "who the person in the topic(=the one we are talking about now) Tanaka is", i.e., 私. Remember that the focus of the sentence is put before が or after は. The same goes to あなた山田さんでいらっしゃいますか vs. 山田さんあなたでいらっしゃいますか in #26.

    Furthermore, why が is always used after interrogative words is the same reason. It's because interrogative words (who, what, when, etc.) are always the most important information of the question sentence. どなた田中さんですか? can be rephrased with 田中さんどなたですか? without changing the meaning, as same as 私田中です vs. 田中私です.

    The above is the answer.

    Try again other questions. You might be able to figure out why が or は is used there more clearly now.
     
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  17. Zizka

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    Alright, let's see if I can understand this.
    Would you say it's same function of the contrastive は though? I don't see the difference I don't think. Say for example:
    暑く、夜寒い. I'd say the second は there is also used for an exclusive nuance.
    *
    Let's head back #28.
    私「が」田中です。
    You mean this sentence:
    #25: わたし山田と申します
    Green: subject
    Blue: predicate
    Yes, it is.
    I thought so.
    Ok, I do try to take the context into consideration.
    #26: ああ、あなた「」山田さんでいっらしゃいますか?
    I'll try to keep up a list of various functions nomenclature. It'd be easier than retype the definition every time.
    So 指定の"が" is: indicates the subject of the sentence, when new, as-yet-unknown information is being presented.
    So what you're saying in your paragraph is that #28 is 指定の"が".
    #27: じゃ、どなた「が」田中さんですか?
    #28: 私「」田中です。
    So it's 指定の"が" in the sense that the identification of Tanaka is finally revealed at #28.
    So the only difference would be possible through context in that case?
    I honestly don't see the connection. I don't think it's that much of an issue though as interrogative pronouns are used with 「が」so there's no issue of making the mistake of using 「は」in those situations.
    I'm sorry but I still don't understand despite the explanations.
    I still don't understand this ↑ unless the difference is contextual.
     
  18. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    は is common for adjective sentences, thus, that's just a neutral expression. 夜が寒い has the exclusive nuance "it's night, not any other time".

    Right.

    The two sentences are both correct. There is no difference in meaning between 私が田中です and 田中は私です. You can use the one you like as an answer in the conversation.

    I showed it as an example of "the focus of the sentence is put before が or after は". I believe it's useful for your understanding the function of が to know the reason why が is always attached to interrogative words rather than thinking that it's just because the dictionary says so.

    You can't use わたしが田中です as a self-introduction. Similarly, わたしは田中です can't be used in #28, or as an answer to "Are you Tanaka?". In this sense, it's contextual, but note that there is no correct (or wrong) answer without the context. Only the context determines which is correct. (That's why this question is made in the form of a conversation.) 私山田と申します can be correct in appropriate contexts as same as リンゴはみっつあります。 or 桜がありませんよ。 I mentioned previously.
     
  19. Zizka

    Zizka Sempai
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    So yes, it's essentially a matter of context. I think I need more practice at this point.
     
  20. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    Check the given answer again. は is the correct answer there.

    See that あの is there. Read again more carefully my quote highlighted in blue in my previous post.

    Exactly.

    桜 is an already-known information, therefore は is used there.
     
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  21. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    What about the given correct answer of #10? Isn't it actually は?

    Correction to my reply to #16 above.
    が is used there because 見えます is a potential verb.
     
  22. Zizka

    Zizka Sempai
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    Yes, you were right, it was は, I misread.
    You mean ability right? I mean, couldn't you also justify it as a neutral が? I understand the potential verb is more accurate but wouldn't neutral が work as well to some extent?
     
  23. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
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    Yes. 見える and 聞こえる are a bit special verbs, so I used "potential verb", not "potential form" (cf. 見られる, 聞ける).

    That's right. The interpretation as 中立叙述の"が" is also correct. I should have used "another interpretation" rather than "correction" in my post above.
     

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