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Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

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Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby prep_girl_Nessa » Fri 01.05.2007 10:24 am

I definitely feel like a noob for this question, but...

I saw the sentence, 最近天気が悪い。I was wondering why it was 'が' instead of "は," but I thought maybe it was just something from the context (There wasn't any context, actually, but if there was context it might have mattered).

I decided to Yahoo Japan search it, and found that "天気が悪い" beat "天気は悪い" 760,000 to 60,600, so I think there is something more than context.

Basically, does "最近天気は悪い" still mean that recently the weather has been bad? Or does it have to have a が?
Last edited by prep_girl_Nessa on Fri 01.05.2007 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby paul_b » Fri 01.05.2007 10:59 am

は is used to mark an established topic (directly introduced or indirectly implied) and also to show contrast.

There is no particular difference in meaning between 最近天気が悪い and 最近天気は悪い except that in the second "the weather" is the topic of conversation.
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby prep_girl_Nessa » Fri 01.05.2007 11:59 am

It still aggrivating that I've studied for so long and I still get stuck on simple stuff like this... But I think I understand better. Thanks ^_^
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby paul_b » Fri 01.05.2007 12:04 pm

Cheer up. "wa" vs "ga" is one of the most difficult questions to Japanese learners and it will no doubt be bothering you for years to come. :D
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby prep_girl_Nessa » Fri 01.05.2007 12:28 pm

paul_b wrote:
Cheer up. "wa" vs "ga" is one of the most difficult questions to Japanese learners and it will no doubt be bothering you for years to come. :D


More stuff to look forward to, great. ^_^''
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby skrhgh3b » Mon 01.08.2007 6:18 pm

jay rubin wrote a very enlightening essay on the differences between は and が in his book "making sense of japanese." it's definitely worth reading and re-reading if you're having trouble keeping the functions of these two particles apart.

at any rate, neither "天気は悪い" nor "天気が悪い" is necessarily more correct than the other outside of a context. however, they don't exactly mean the same thing either, and there are at least two points worth remembering. one, は focuses attention on what comes after it by marking a new topic of conversation, whereas が focuses attention on what comes before it by marking a grammatical subject. and two, は, because of its function of introducing a new topic of conversation, often carries with it a naunce of contrast. but like i said, outside of a context....
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 01.08.2007 7:03 pm

The は is especially common in sentences that establish some sort of contrast -- e.g. if you went to a football game where it rained, but the game was exciting, you might say 天気は悪かったけど、試合はすごく面白かった。
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby flammable hippo » Mon 01.08.2007 7:12 pm

To add on to what's already been said, wa can also replace ga in instances where ga is most likely to be used. For example, normally, it is correct to say sushi ga suki desu, but when comparing that liking with something else you can use wa. So the following sentence; sushi wa suki desu kedo, sashimi wa kirai desu, is acceptable because of the obvious contrast.
Two muffins were baking in an oven. One turns to the other and says "sure is hot in here." The other replies "AH TALKING MUFFIN!"

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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby Dehitay » Mon 01.08.2007 7:30 pm

flammable hippo wrote:
To add on to what's already been said, wa can also replace ga in instances where ga is most likely to be used. For example, normally, it is correct to say sushi ga suki desu, but when comparing that liking with something else you can use wa. So the following sentence; sushi wa suki desu kedo, sashimi wa kirai desu, is acceptable because of the obvious contrast.

That reminds me, either the Genki textbook I was using or some worksheet my Japanese teacher gave me had a single sentence reading ねこはすきです. I was tempted to ask the teacher if whoever wrote that hates every other kind of animal.
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 01.08.2007 8:34 pm

flammable hippo wrote:
To add on to what's already been said, wa can also replace ga in instances where ga is most likely to be used. For example, normally, it is correct to say sushi ga suki desu, but when comparing that liking with something else you can use wa. So the following sentence; sushi wa suki desu kedo, sashimi wa kirai desu, is acceptable because of the obvious contrast.


The comparison can be implicit also:

A: じゃあ、日本食は全部きらいなの?
B: いや、すしは好きだよ。

(The first "wa" is just topic-setting, not contrastive).
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby Oracle » Mon 01.08.2007 8:41 pm

A nice simple context where is easy to get a feel for は・が is at the beginning of old Japanese stories:

「昔、昔おじいさんとおばあさんいました。」

Note that it is always , not 。 This is (sort of) equivalent in English to
"Once upon a time, there lived an old couple" : we don't use "the old couple" until we have established their existence with "a / an". Similar sort of thing in Japanese.
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby prep_girl_Nessa » Mon 01.08.2007 10:16 pm

Wow, so many different rules, but I didn't know a lot of this. Thanks guys!!
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby Matsumoto_hideto » Mon 01.08.2007 11:59 pm

Great question and a great thread! Im enjoying reading everyones answers!
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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby AJBryant » Tue 01.09.2007 12:41 pm

There's also another thing. In a lot of those "が" sentences, there's already an understood subject taking up the は -- the unspoken "watakushi wa" or "kimi wa" or "Tanaka san wa".


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RE: Why 'ga' instead of 'wa?'

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 01.09.2007 1:38 pm

Tony brings up a very good and valid point. Many times the implied subject takes up the は..
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