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"Ga" question

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"Ga" question

Postby MFoogle » Mon 11.06.2006 1:35 pm

I have this Pimseluer Learn Japanese audio CD, and it says that you are supposed to say "_____ ga wakaru" to say "(I) understand ____". But I don't get why "ga" isnt supposed to be "wo". Can someone explain this to me? Also, why is it "___ ga suki"? Why wouldn't it be "___wo suki"? Is it sort of like Spanish (for those of you that know it) where there really isn't a word for "like" and to say "like" would be "pleasing" (I hope that isn't really confusing...)?
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Infidel » Mon 11.06.2006 1:46 pm

wakaru is intransitive.
Desu (da) is intransitive. It's omitted but implied since suki is a na adjective. Intransitive verbs do not have direct objects (wo.)
Last edited by Infidel on Mon 11.06.2006 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Sunken » Mon 11.06.2006 2:05 pm

Strictly speaking, wakaru means "to be (or become) clear"; it's the thing you understand that becomes clear, not you yourself; so, "ga" is used.

There is at least one verb expression meaning "understand": 理解する; it uses を just as you might expect. Likewise, there's a verb version 好む (このむ) of "to like" which uses を. They're just less frequently used.
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby magma » Mon 11.06.2006 4:36 pm

There are some verbs in Japanese which never take an wo phrase, and wakaru is one of them. As Sunken pointed out, "X ga wakaru" means literally "X is clear" or "X is understandable". When you want to say who it's clear to, you use ni:
sonna koto ga watashi ni wakarimasen. "That matter is not clear to me."

As for X ga suki, you can think of it as saying "X is likeable" if that helps.


For more on these, see this book.
神は、実に、そのひとり子をお与えになったほどに、世を愛された。
それは御子を信じる者が、ひとりとして滅びることなく、永遠のいのちを持つためである。
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby paul_b » Mon 11.06.2006 4:44 pm

magma wrote:
There are some verbs in Japanese which never take an wo phrase, and wakaru is one of them.

I love it when people say "never" :-P

There are approximately 40 times as many hits for "が分かる" as there are for "を分かる". So certainly "が" is usual but if you look at it the other way round 1 in 40 is not that insignificant.

Most "never" and "always" rules in grammar are good approximations or apply to 'correct' language use, knowing* when to break the rules is what makes the difference between good language skill and great.

* Not that I do. :D
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby magma » Mon 11.06.2006 5:09 pm

That's a very good point, paul_b. In fact, I think I've heard "...を好きだ" somewhere before as well.

I guess I should have said, "There are some verbs in Japanese which never take an wo phrase--except of course when people are being grammatically incorrect."
Last edited by magma on Mon 11.06.2006 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
神は、実に、そのひとり子をお与えになったほどに、世を愛された。
それは御子を信じる者が、ひとりとして滅びることなく、永遠のいのちを持つためである。
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 11.06.2006 5:20 pm

The issue is generally one of volition (choice). The general rule (which has exceptions) is that verbs that involve the control/choice/volition of the subject take "o", and ones that don't take "ga".

So for instance, whether or not you understand something is not under your direct control. You can do things to attempt to influence it (i.e. studying more or asking questions) but you can't control it in the same way you can control eating or walking. So it's "X ga wakaru". Same thing with "suki" -- you can't generally control what you like and what you don't.

Now, there are exceptions, particularly in casual speech. "X o suki" is particularly common in relation to other exceptions, although native speakers I've talked to about the subject agree that there's a difference in nuance between "X o suki" and "X ga suki".
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby magma » Mon 11.06.2006 6:15 pm

Wow, that's really interesting--I'd never heard that before!

So let's say a man is confessing his love to Natsuko. Do you think you can explain the difference between him telling her "Nat-chan ga suki" and "Nat-chan o suki"? Maybe it's too subtle or complicated to explain though...
神は、実に、そのひとり子をお与えになったほどに、世を愛された。
それは御子を信じる者が、ひとりとして滅びることなく、永遠のいのちを持つためである。
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 11.06.2006 6:29 pm

Infidel wrote:
wakaru is intransitive.
Desu (da) is intransitive. It's omitted but implied since suki is a na adjective. Intransitive verbs do not have direct objects (wo.)


There are sentences like この道を行く which involve intransitive verbs that take arguments with を -- terminology can get a bit confusing with examples like that.

Although I'm curious, in a sentence like 私が英語が分かる, if "eigo" is not a direct object, what is it? (Different books use different terminology so I'm not sure exactly how this is defined in some textbooks).
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby magma » Mon 11.06.2006 8:25 pm

Although I'm curious, in a sentence like 私が英語が分かる, if "eigo" is not a direct object, what is it? (Different books use different terminology so I'm not sure exactly how this is defined in some textbooks).

*head explodes*
神は、実に、そのひとり子をお与えになったほどに、世を愛された。
それは御子を信じる者が、ひとりとして滅びることなく、永遠のいのちを持つためである。
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby keatonatron » Mon 11.06.2006 9:59 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Infidel wrote:
wakaru is intransitive.
Desu (da) is intransitive. It's omitted but implied since suki is a na adjective. Intransitive verbs do not have direct objects (wo.)


Although I'm curious, in a sentence like 私が英語が分かる, if "eigo" is not a direct object, what is it? (Different books use different terminology so I'm not sure exactly how this is defined in some textbooks).


Like he just said, intransitive verbs can't have direct objects. 分かる doesn't actually mean "to understand", it means "to break down", which has the associated meaning of becoming simple to understand. So, the 英語 is "breaking down" from the speaker's point of view, which by implication means they understand it. 英語 is the actual doer of the action which is why it can't use を.
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 11.06.2006 11:30 pm

That's an interesting interpretation, but then if 英語 is called the "doer", what's 私? You may be able to conveniently describe 分かる (to understand) by relation with "to be divided", but not all verbs have that. For instance, 私がお金がいる -- there's no "doer" here, and no associated meaning of いる unless you want to argue that いる actually means "to be needed" instead of "to need". Then with nouns, you get something like 私が酒が好きだ -- I assume here 酒が is not something you would call a "direct object" either, but it's hard to name this as a "doer". In all of the preceding "X wa Y ga Z" phrases, the "Y ga" part serves the same function so it seems like there should be a convenient name for it.

This is actually a complicated issue that linguists have done a lot of research on -- I understand the grammar myself, I was just wondering how textbooks refer to these things if they don't call them direct objects. JSL uses the terms "primary affect" and "secondary affect" but these are non-standard.

(If you want to put "koto" after all these sentences to make them more plausible without any surrounding context, that's fine)
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Dehitay » Tue 11.07.2006 12:19 am

I'm pretty sure they're the subject of intransative verbs. And I've never see anybody use sentences like 私が酒が好きだ. My guess is that would be bad grammer. In such a case, 私 should be the theme not the subject and take the particle は. 私は酒が好きだ "As for me, sake is favorable"
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 11.07.2006 12:32 am

The sentences are fine given the right context. Depending on the context and position in the sentence, both can be "ga", both can be "wa", or one can be "wa" and the other "ga".

Rather than making up contexts, though, it's easier just to make it a relative or subordinate clause -- 友達が英語が分かるから英語を話しました is normal, and you can't make it 友達は without changing the meaning of the sentence. The problem is that が does not always indicate a subject (and a subject is not always marked with が).

The problem with considering the second thing to be the subject is that you have a situation like this:
鈴木先生が英語がよくお分かりになるから英語を話してください
If "eigo" is the subject of the first clause, then you would not expect "o-wakari ni naru" to work, since the honorific expressions generally apply to the subjects of sentences.

Honestly, even in linguistic papers I have never seen any clear name assigned to these things outside of the JSL words I said earlier -- I'm not trying to be nitpicky but "ga" and "wa" are confusing enough without having terminology issues as well. I think some of the confusion of the original poster comes from trying to think of Japanese too much in terms of English grammar...
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Tue 11.07.2006 12:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: "Ga" question

Postby Infidel » Tue 11.07.2006 2:38 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Although I'm curious, in a sentence like 私が英語が分かる, if "eigo" is not a direct object, what is it? (Different books use different terminology so I'm not sure exactly how this is defined in some textbooks).


Verb complement.

Part of the problem here is that understand can be either transitive or intransitive in English, so when we think "understand" we apply the word in our minds the way it would work in English, transitive, but in Japanese, it is intransitive.
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