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The difference between wa and ga. 2005/8/3 17:03
Hello. At the moment, I am trying to study Japanese language by myself and I find it to be extremely difficulty. Can you guys please explain to me the difference in the usage of the particles ''wa''(は) and ''ga''(が). I find it very confusing, these two particles mean the same thing to me but actually they cannot be use interchangeably in every situation, right?
e.g. What is the difference between between these two sentences;
1.watashiwa gakuse desu. and 2.watashiga gakuse desu
Guys, would you be so kind as to give me an easy to understand explaination about the difference between them please.
Thanks a lot! I am counting on you!

by Kammasit  

Both are correct 2005/8/5 16:40
That is a good question. Both are correct. The difference is:
If I say: Watashi wa Mark desu. It means that the information I want to highlight is after the "wa".
If I say: Watashi ga Mark desu. It means the information I want to highlight is before the "ga".
Here are two examples:
If someone asks me "What is your name?" and if someone else asks "Who is Mark?" In English, the answer to both is "I am Mark". But in Japanese the answer to "What is your name?" is: Watashi wa Mark desu. Because "Mark" is the information I want to give.
For the question: "Who is Mark?" for example when a teacher is asking a group of students, then I will answer: "Watashi ga Mark desu". Because "Mark" is already given, the unknown information is who. So in the answer, I want to highlight "I", therefore I use "ga" to indicate that is the information I want to focus on.
I hope you can understand what I am trying to say.
by Mark rate this post as useful

Mark, what a GREAT example! 2005/8/6 04:11
I had two Japanese friends trying to explain that difference to me a couple of months ago, and I left the conversation not at all sure that I understood. But your break-down was so good, that I now understand how they were trying to explain it as well! AND most importantly, I now understand the difference between wa and ga. Only 998 more particles to go...


by zenbrooklyn rate this post as useful

Thanks 2005/8/6 11:27
Hey, zEn, thanks for your feedback. Actually, I didn't come up with that answer overnight. I racked my brain for months over this same question, looking up many books, asking many people, including this forum, which still has a record of these questions. Only then, did I understand and was able to create this example which I hope can help others avoid my trouble.
by Mark rate this post as useful

thanks Mark 2005/8/6 14:53
Thanks a lot Mark. I salute you for your brilliant explaination. You made this confusing matter seems like 1+1=2 question. Thanks you, give me the inspiration to keep studying Japanese language.
by Kammasit rate this post as useful

thanks 2005/8/7 01:42
thanks for posting this question. I've been having trouble understand the difference between wa and ga, myself. I haven't met a single person trying to learn japanese that doesn't get confused. So thanks for the simplistic breakdown.
by tsukiko rate this post as useful

i heard something else. 2005/8/7 10:23
I've been told by my japanese teacher that the difference between wa and ga is that wa means something happens generally, while ga means its a one off. I can't remember the exmple she used. I'm not saying i'm deffinetly right, and the other explanation seems clearer. Does that mean nihongo wa wakaru, is correct if you are emphasising that you understand Japanese (as opposed to speaking it or writing it.) I'm not trying to be difficult, i was just wondering. Sorry if i confused anyone.
by Ali rate this post as useful

re: wa & ga 2007/5/2 09:59
Nice explanation Mark. I was also enlightened to this difference just last night. My wife (Japanese native) explained it to me the same way as you did but I looked for a more academic answer in my English grammar books. In a simple English sentence, the sequence is subj+verb+object(Obj) e.g. I am Mark. In Jpnese, the sequence is sub+Obj+verb e.g. "watashi WA Mark desu" - "As for myself, Mark is my name" and "watashi GA Mark desu" - "I am the one named Mark" with myself(watashi) being the emphasis. If the question is asked where we want to know the object (the name) and the subject is understood (you are a person with a name), the answer comes back with WA. If the question is asked if we want to know the subject and the object is understood, use GA. "Dare GA Mark desu ka?", "Watshi GA Mark desu." It's already understood that someone is named Mark. The speaker just wants to find out who.
by Seranishienglish rate this post as useful

Mark desu 2007/5/3 09:43
This is quite an old thread. Nevertheless, I am glad to see it is still useful. In fact, I am still trying to learn Japanese and I continue to find this forum very useful. There are many people with good knowledge of Japanese here who are willing to contribute and usually their explanations are very good.
by Mark rate this post as useful

は and が 2007/5/3 10:38
Mark your explanation may be 2 years old but I'm just seeing it now. I've known the difference for quite some time now but never could think how to explain it. That example is brilliant. Well done.
by therage800 rate this post as useful

MY TAKE ON IT 2007/6/26 18:53
(Phew! I finally finished typing it!)


by Sensei rate this post as useful

sensei.. invisible words confused (>.<) 2007/6/26 22:35
Read Sensei's link... Didnt really understand the part on "invisible words". In fact, made me confused a little. Sorry.

Btw, someone once tell me that "ga" is for positive answers. And "wa" is for negative. Is this true?
by TaRe rate this post as useful

Ga and Wa difference 2007/8/14 17:13
All I can say is that whoever sensei is, is a genius. Thanks for the brilliant explanation. I have printed a copy for everyone in my Japanese class. Our sensei is grateful also.
by Jarrod rate this post as useful

What the Textbooks Don't Tell You 2007/8/15 16:25
This book Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You (Power Japanese Series) by Jay Rubin contains a very good section about WA and GA including a pretty good explanation using invisible subjects mentioned also in the bitmap posted by Sensei. For the more intermediate student this is a very good book; the author, Jay Rubin, is of course a well-known translator of Japanese literature.
If you have been having questions about the use of hodo, tame, giving and receiving, tsumori, etc. I would recommend that you look up the book on Amazon.com where you can look inside the book, have a look at the table of contents and read part of the first chapter on subjectless sentences. It made a lot of the puzzles pieces fall into place for me.

by Kappa rate this post as useful

Thank you XD 2008/3/29 23:03
I just wanted to leave a little note of thanks to both Mark and Sensei, in case you still check this thread. I just read it today in 2008, and it has helped make things much more clear.
by Rinnah rate this post as useful

Me too! 2008/3/30 03:31
Tanks a lot!!!!
Recently I also had a conversation with 3 Japanese about the difference between はand が. It already became clearer by that, but through this thread now I am able to always read it again and again!! Perfect!!! Thumbs up!!! :)
by Yozakura rate this post as useful

Holy crap mister Mike! 2008/5/29 06:07
Thank you so much for this explanation, im buying you a beer if we ever meet in RL.
I have a test tommorow, and this will help me big time.
by mr. tuna rate this post as useful

Ah 2008/6/13 01:51
I meant Mark
by mr.tuna rate this post as useful

Almost 3 years old 2008/6/13 16:59
This thread is almost 3 years old but still quite useful. Only today has the difference between wa and ga been made crystal clear to me. Finally! Thanks Mark.
by Still learning rate this post as useful

Best explanation 2008/8/2 07:36
by Jax rate this post as useful

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