は(wa) marks already known information

The difference between は(wa) and が(ga) is difficult for Japanese language learners.
Let’s study some typical examples.

Principle 1: は(wa) marks already known information

Please take a look at the following sentences and figure 1.

1. There were a man and a dog.
2. The man was waiting for something.
3. There came a woman.
4. She had a bag with dog food.

image-2017-1210172533_253

Figure 1 shows an analysis of the sentences from the viewpoint of “Old and new information”.
As shown in it, when you write multiple sentences, there are several sentences which have “old and new information together”, e.g. sentences 2 and 4.

Then, let’s study about the Japanese expression of describing such sentences.

 

The example sentences can be translated as below.
Red characters are “(wa)” particles, blue characters are “(ga)” particles.

1. 1人の男性(だんせい)と一匹の犬(いぬ)いました。
2. 男性(だんせい) 何か(なにか)を待って(まって)いました。
3. そこに1人の女性(じょせい)やってきました。
4. 彼女(かのじょ)ドッグフードの入ったバッグを持っていました。

image-2017-1210172906_254

Figure 2 shows following rules.

  • が(ga) is used for introducing new information.
  • は(wa) is used for mentioning already known information.

However, you might wonder about “なにか” and “バッグ”. Those are new information, but the particles are “を(o)”, not “が(ga)”.

To solve the question, you should remember “the Four cases structure” explained here. Please read it again, if you don’t remember.
The structure is as below.

image-2017-1210173148_255.png

According to this structure, the example sentences 1 and 2 can be analyzed as below.

image-2017-1210173355_256

“が(ga)” particle’s basic function is “NOM case marking”. “Something” is new information, but its role in the sentence is ACC. Therefore, “が(ga)” is not used for marking “something”.
The sentence 3 and 4 can be recognized as the same. Please try it.

 

Actually, you can use “が(ga)” particle in sentence 2 as below.

1. 1人の男性(だんせい)と一匹の犬(いぬ)いました。
2. 男性(だんせい) 何か(なにか)を待って(まって)いました。

“だんせい” in sentence 2 is already known information, but “が(ga)” can be used there. “が(ga)” is NOM marker, it doesn’t have any special meaning of “New information”. So you can use “が(ga)“ as above. (However, “は(wa)” is more natural in sentence 2.)

In contrast, you can’t use “は(wa)” particle in sentence 1 as below.

1. 1人の男性(だんせい)と一匹の犬(いぬ)いました。
2. 男性(だんせい) 何か(なにか)を待って(まって)いました。

“は(wa)” marks combined information as “old(already known)”, so sentence 1 above is not correct.

Is it okay?

That is the most fundamental principle of “は(wa)” and “が(ga)”.

However, there are some more patterns you should know.

see also in the next post: “は(wa)” Don’t Always Mean a Subject

 

は(wa) marks already known information」への5件のフィードバック

  1. ピンバック: “は(wa)” Don’t Always Mean a Subject – Kaimai's bilingual notes

  2. ピンバック: Think About the Implicit Topic. – Kaimai's bilingual notes

  3. ピンバック: “は(wa)” Don’t Always Mean a Subject | Japanese Grammar in Logic Diagramming

  4. Anusha

    お疲れ様です。
    ’は’と’が’について説明していただいてありがとうございます。

    最近私もブログ書き始め日本語のレベルを上達したいとおもいます。

    開米さんのブログからいろいろ勉強になりそうとおもいます。

    どうぞよろしくお願いします。

    返信

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