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が and を

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が and を

Postby LordDisa » Wed 05.16.2007 10:10 am

I think I'm pretty well set on the differences between は and が, but due to some examples I've seen, I have some confusion between が and を. Here's one:

私は日本語が分かります。

The most natural translation obviously being "I understand Japanese," but that makes me wonder why 日本語 is the subject, and not the direct object of 分かります. However, maybe it uses が because "to understand" isn't necessarily an active verb that would have a direct object.. I don't know.

That brings me to the next question.. for the phrase "I am learning Japanese," would the following be correct:

私は日本語を習っています。

I'm going with my instincts on this one, but because of the example above, I'm not entirely sure that I shouldn't be using が instead of を.
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RE: が and を

Postby richvh » Wed 05.16.2007 10:22 am

分かる is intransitive/stative verb; it describes a state of something being understood, rather than an action. 私 has no volition here; either something is 分かる or it isn't. The objects of intransitive verbs generally take が.

習う on the other hand is transitive; there is an active doer 私 who is actively doing something (習う), and the object of transitive verbs (in this case, 日本語) takes を.
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RE: が and を

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 05.16.2007 10:27 am

LordDisa wrote:
I think I'm pretty well set on the differences between は and が, but due to some examples I've seen, I have some confusion between が and を. Here's one:

私は日本語が分かります。

The most natural translation obviously being "I understand Japanese," but that makes me wonder why 日本語 is the subject, and not the direct object of 分かります.


This is one of the pitfalls you can get into in using English grammatical terms for Japanese structure. richv's explanation is good; the particle を is only used in cases where you have volition (although there is some leeway; 日本語をわかる is said by some Japanese). What is marked by を does not always correspond to the direct object in English (or vice versa).

The idea of "が marks the subject and only the subject" is shaky in cases like this, because in the above example, the は can be replaced by が (particularly in a relative or subordinate clause), so you could have something like:
私が日本語がわかるから...
In the same way as above, what is marked by が will not always correspond to the subject in English (or vice versa).
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RE: が and を

Postby LordDisa » Wed 05.16.2007 10:29 am

Heh, got another reply while I was replying. Editing to avoid confusion:

richvh:

Aha, that explains it perfectly.. thanks! Seems I was on the right track when I was talking about it not being an "active verb," but my brain was missing the connection to the whole transitive/intransitive thing.

Yudan Taiteki:

True. I was considering omitting the "私は" part altogether, but left it in for completeness of context, since there was no previous sentence to fill in the context for my translations. From what I've read, が also has a large number of other uses as a particle, and I also wasn't completely sure that in the example it wasn't taking some other purpose that I hadn't read about or remembered. Thanks for the head's-up on that point, though.. I'm sure I'll get to dealing with it soon enough.. :) I recently decided to get into working on learning Japanese grammar, since just drilling away on kanji exclusively was seriously burning me out (I'll work on kanji as I learn the words now).
Last edited by LordDisa on Wed 05.16.2007 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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