Topic marker particle

Topics and subjects of sentences, what particles are

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KanjiVocabularyTopic marker particle


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Topic marker particle

In the previous lesson, we have learned how to say X is Y with the implied topic (X). In this lesson, we will learn how to explicitly state the topic of the sentence (X).

The topic of a sentence generally means 'what the sentence is about'. For example, in the sentence 'I ate an apple', the topic of the sentence is 'I' because the sentence is about 'I' and what 'I' did. In the sentence 'Yesterday, I ate an apple', the topic of the sentence is 'Yesterday', because the sentence is about 'Yesterday' and what I did then.

The topic of a sentence is not to be confused with the subject of a sentence. The subject of a sentence is 'who' or 'what' performs the action of a sentence. In the first example sentence above, 'I ate an apple', 'I' is both the topic and the subject of the sentence. Whereas in the second example sentence, 'Yesterday, I ate an apple', 'Yesterday' is the topic and 'I' is the subject.

Topic marker particle は

Japanese particles are small words, mostly written in hiragana, that define the role of the word that comes immediately before the particle. The topic of a sentence can be stated with the particle (read as ). indicates that the phrase or noun which comes immediately before the は particle is the topic of the sentence.

The particle が is used to state the subject of a sentence, but this is taught in a later lesson.

You'll notice that Japanese sentences do not have spaces between the words, and this can make it difficult for beginners to differentiate individual words within a sentence. A useful way to break down a sentence is to separate the sentence into word + particle groups.

Here are the same example sentences from lesson 1, but this time with the topic explicitly stated.

  • これはほんです。
  • This is a book.
  • わたし学生がくせいです。
  • I am a student.

More examples

  • わたし日本人にほんじんです。
  • I am Japanese.
  • それはみずです。
  • That is water.
  • あれは日本にほんです。
  • That is Japan.
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