Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

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Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

Post by delyn0831 » Wed 04.11.2012 12:41 pm

I know that there must already be a thread about this but i can't see it..

I just watched something from youtube.. I need confirmation it is true. (i am a newbie)
He's saying that 'wa' is emphazising is the word after it... Not the word before..
Ex. Watashi wa kendou desu.
He's saying that wa is emphazising the name which is kendou and not the word "I"

And the particle 'ga' is emphazising the word before it
Ex. Watashi ga kendou desu.
He said that the ga emphazises the watashi.

(can i post the link here? I just want to confirm if it is true :) because i think it makes sense :) )
Just started.. Wishing to be able to make it a 'long-term memory'
Any suggestions how?

Hiragana : 45/46
Katakana : 45/46

(why do i always forget 1 kana character?)

I only know japanese kanji character from 1-10 and the kanji for "person" 人 and sun and book..

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Re: Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

Post by Hektor6766 » Wed 04.11.2012 2:01 pm

A very old example:

As for Caesar, he CONQUERED GAUL. (what was done is important)
As for me, there is KENDOU. (you're all about kendou)

IT WAS CAESAR who conquered Gaul. (who did it is important)
It is for ME that kendou exists. (kendou is all about you)

ha separates off the preceding noun as the familiar or less important topic, not the subject of the sentence.
ga includes and emphasizes the preceding noun as the important subject of the sentence.
Last edited by Hektor6766 on Wed 04.11.2012 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

Post by furrykef » Wed 04.11.2012 2:28 pm

Something that works 90-95% of the time is to think of "wa" and "ga" as answering unasked questions.

What did Caesar do? He conquered Gaul.

Who conquered Gaul? Caesar did.

(It may help to remember that question words like 誰 never take は, so the parallel between 誰がガリアを征服した and カエサルがガリアを征服した should be obvious.)

EDIT: I decided to look it up and found the Japanese name of Gaul is ガリア, not ガル, so I've corrected the above sentences.
Last edited by furrykef on Thu 04.12.2012 10:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

Post by yangmuye » Wed 04.11.2012 2:40 pm

“emphasize” is almost a useless term without a definition.
Let's me give you a definition: “emphasize” means
Your suggest a certain part of speech contains more important information.(new, essential, hard to predicate, easy to mistake, etc.)
You can say it with a louder voice, slower speed, and a higher or lower pitch.
Suppose kendou is 剣道, rather than a person's name.

This is nothing with “emphasize”, you must use them correctly in different situation.

case 1:
Someone else has already introduced himself. You should always use “Watashi wa kendou desu”. You use は to suggest the information surrounding ha is a little different. (Each one maybe different)
You may “emphasize” “kendou” a little more, because it's more important. People are interested in the differences among you.

case 2:
If someone has said “Nobody here plays kendo”, you say “Watashi wa kendou desu”.
The same as case 1, you use ha to suggest the information surrounding ha is a little different.
Moreover, this ha more or less means “I don't know how about others, but at least me, I play kendo”. :whistle: It sometimes shows you don't care about anything else.
You may “emphasize” “watashi ha” a little more, because it's more important, serves as an counter-example.

case 3:
Suppose there are several people including you sitting together. Someone says “Who is kendo”.
You say “watashi ga kendo desu”.
The rule is You don't use ha after wh-words to ask a question and don't use ha to answer the question.
You may “emphasize” “watashi ga” a little more, because it's more important, to answer “who”.
You don't use ha to give information unpredictable, but may be required by the listener.

case 4:
You also use ga to draw somebody' attention to something else for the first time.
It's usually used to change the topic to a totally new one.
Suppose there are several people including you sitting together. Someone says “is kendo here”.
You say “watashi ga kendo desu”. (well, relying “watashi desukedo” may be better)
Then everyone turns their eyes to you. :wave:

You usually don't use “watashi ga” for this purpose, because you have already drawn the listener's attention before your speak.
But I have seen something like “ore ga kuru zo”(I'm coming!). And you see, the verb is also kuru(come) rather than iku(go).

I have studied Japanese for more than 2 years, I still find it hard to use ha and ga correctly, although I haven't study Japanese everyday.

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Re: Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

Post by Ongakuka » Wed 04.11.2012 3:40 pm

There's nothing I can really add to this but, just thought I'd mention that when attempting to explain は and が, I use the term 'highlight' rather than 'emphasize.'

If these particles truly emphasized the words after or before, it would be so obvious that no one would have any difficulty with them.

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Re: Question about particles 'wa' and 'ga'

Post by SomeCallMeChris » Wed 04.11.2012 11:24 pm

I don't think 'highlight' vs. 'emphasize' makes much difference.
But what is meant by 'emphasize' is, to paraphrase niwasaburoo, 'the information that the speaker wishes to communicate to the listener'.

In '僕はクリスです' I'm trying to convey that 'Chris' is the answer to the question of who I am.
In '僕がクリスです' I'm trying to convey that 'Me' is the answer to 'who is Chris'.

This works fine for AはBです・AがBです sentences generally, but in more complex sentences there are other considerations (topic setting, contrasting, etc.) that make it not, I think, quite so simple as 'emphasis'.

I think you'll find that this explanation matches the examples given above by other posters.

The Caesar one is a cute mnemonic by the way. Unasked questions are a good way to think of it ... I fell into using them above... but I think the more Japanese way of thinking of it is, if you shortened the sentence and dropped something, what would you keep?

僕はクリスです→クリスです→both suitable self introductions.
僕がクリスです→僕です→both suitable responses to someone asking 'Is Chris here?'/'Is one of you Chris?'

Of course, thinking of it that way means already understanding Japanese well enough to see why the short is similar to the long sentence, and not all sentences -can- be shortened like that, depending on the context they appear in. Still, it helps me to think of it that way, maybe it will help someone else.

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