The subject marker particle が

Mark the subject of a sentence and the difference between は and が

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Outline

KanjiVocabularyThe subject marker particle が

Kanji

Father

Mother

White

School, Exam, Correction

Male, Man

Who, Someone

Vocabulary

ペット

Pet

お父さん

Father, Dad

お母さん

Mother, Mum

白い

White

中学校

Middle school, Junior high school

男の人

Man

Who

The subject marker particle が

The particle indicates that the words or phrases which come immediately before the particle are the subject of the sentence. The particle is generally used to introduce new information to the listener and it represents the logical relationship between a subject and predicate.

A predicate is a part of a sentence or clause that contains an action or the state of the subject. For example, "walk" is a predicate in the sentence "I walk home.", and "beautiful" is a predicate in the sentence "The view is beautiful".

New Japanese learners often struggle with when to use the subject marker particle or the topic parker particle . There are many reasons that one is used instead of the other and this will be covered on a case by case basis. For now we will focus on getting comfortable using the particle. Take a look at the example below to see the difference between the and particles:

  • わたしはアリスです。
  • I am Alice. (The emphasis is on the name Alice.)
  • わたしがアリスです。
  • I am the one who is Alice. (The emphasis is on “I” being Alice, not anyone else)

Let's imagine some fictitious scenarios of when you would use or . If someone were to ask "What is your name?" you would respond with わたしはアリスです. The main purpose of this sentence is to state that Alice is your name and therefore the emphasis is on the name Alice.

If you were in a group of people and someone asked "Which one of you is Alice?" you would instead respond with わたしがアリスです. This is because the purpose of the sentence is to state that you specifically are Alice, and no one else is. The emphasis is therefore on the fact that out of all of the people, you are the one who is Alice.

Here is another example that shows the beginning of a conversation using both the and particles:

  • あのおとこひとわたしのおとうさんです。
  • That man is my father.
  • とうさんは中学校ちゅうがっこう先生せんせいです。
  • My father is a teacher at a middle school.

In the first sentence, the particle is used to introduce "my father" in the conversation by showing that "that man" is equal to "my father". In the second sentence, the particle is used instead because "my father" is already a commonly known topic for both the speaker and listener.

Below are some more example sentences of in use:

  • あのしろいぬわたしのペットのポチです。
  • That white dog is my pet Pochi.
  • だれがあなたのおかあさんですか?
  • Who is your mother?
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