Differences Between「は (Wa)」and「が (Ga)」

It can be quite confusing for beginners to distinguish the differences between「は (Wa)」and「が (Ga)」. I have summarised some points for those who are new to 「は」and「が」 to start. Firstly, let’s have a look at the English grammar on how a complete sentence constructs with the order as below:

Subject-Verb-Object.

For example:                   She watches TV.

Definitions in English 

Subject (noun: person, name, place; the one that performs the action): She

Verb (or predicate: identifies an action): watches

Object (receives the action): TV

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Let’s look at the basic Japanese sentecne consutruction as below with 「は」:

For example:     彼女(かのじょ)はテレビを見(み)ます。

Topic/ Subject + T.M. + Object + D.O.M. + Verb

Topic/ Subject: 彼女(かのじょ)

Topic Marker (T.M.):

Object: テレビ

Direct Object Marker (D.O.M.): を

Verb: 見(み)ます

  • In Japanese, a topic indicates a topic of discussion. This means the content that the person would like to talk about.
  • A topic can also be the subject as in English but covers broader content than the subject.

Subject Marker (S.M.): 「が」marks the subject that performs the action.

彼女(かのじょ)がテレビを見ます。

Topic/ Subject + S.M. + Object + D.O.M. + Verb

  • The topic marker「は」focuses on the action of the sentence.
  • The subject marker「が」focuses on the subject of the action.

Examples of Different Focuses

  1. 貴方(あなた)は 優(やさ)しいです。You are kind. (Not only you.)
  2. 貴方(あなた)が 優(やさ)しいです。You are kind. (You are the only kind one.)
  3. 私は学生(がくせい)です。I’m a student.
  4. 私が学生(がくせい)です。I’m the student.

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