Wednesday, 30 July 2008

ga or wa?

Could someone who actually studied grammar at school (or anywhere else) please explain to me the difference between the topic and the subject of a sentence. I'm asking because my Japanese grammar book assumes that I know and I don't and I'm therefore unsure of when to use some particles...

'When the topic of the sentence is different to the grammatical subject, the grammatical subject is followed by ga (the topic is followed by wa)'

I have an example:

I don't understand English: Eigo ga wakaranai desu (literally, English ga don't understand)

I don't eat Japanese food: Nihonshoku wa tabenai desu (literally, Japanese food wa don't eat)

I'm sure I should be able to figure this out, but I can't seem to. Help please!


L'homme bizarre avec la barbe grise said...

In the sentence "I hit Jack" 'I' is the subject (of the verb) and 'Jack' is the object (of the verb). The topic is, presumably, the overall meaning of the sentence rather than a specific part of grammar. Hope that helps.

Scriptor Senex said...

In the first sentence, as written in English, English is the topic and the object of the verb. I is the subject. . In the second sentence food is the object, Japanese food the topic, and I the subject. There is no way I can align this with your ga / wa examples! Sorry!

Helen said...

aaah well. Thank you both for your help. At least I now know how it works in English! I shall consult some more books and websites on Japanese.

Dewi Elliott said...

Hi Helen, just read your blog and I found that 'ga' means to state that a thing or person exists in a particular location, e.g. Ni-kai ni o-tearai ga arimasu. (There's a restroom on the second floor).

If you want to comment about that thing or person - even to say he/she exists - use 'wa' instead of 'ga'. e.g. O-tearai wa ni-kai ni arimasu. (The restroom is on the second floor).

Hope that helps,