Does が always mark the Subject?

Foolish me … instead of reading multiple textbooks, then watching Cure Dolly videos and learning the correct way, I’ve watched Cure Dolly videos, then started reading multiple textbooks, and they’re disagreeing with her. Naturally!

But the textbooks don’t go so far as to tell you “Here’s a wrong way you might be told about, and our way is right,” which Cure Dolly does, so I suspect she is indeed correct about most of her clarifications. Nonetheless, I want 3rd party confirmation!

So my understanding is that が always marks the subject, if it’s present in the sentence as a particle, and it NEVER marks the object—at least not in Japanese. If you translate the sentence into English, because of the particularities of each language, the Ga-marked noun may end up being an object in the English version, but it’s really not in the original Japanese.

To take the usual example:

(私は) 本が好きです which in English would be rendered as I like the book.

But, in Japanese, it’s literally saying something like (As for me), the book pleasing-is. The book is the subject, and what is it doing? It’s making itself desirable, at least so far as I’m concerned. Maybe you won’t like it, but I do.

Have I got it? Because I keep reading “sometimes が marks the subject, and sometimes it marks the object,” and I think “No, I’m past that, Cure Dolly explained it.”

She did, right?

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I would be wary of trusting people just because they tell you to distrust other sources, but yes が
is still marking the subject there.

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が always marks the subject, but sometimes the subject in a Japanese sentence is the object in the equivalent English sentence.

So you’re saying we should distrust people who tell us to distrust others? Intriguing… :stuck_out_tongue:

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Where are you seeing that it sometimes marks an object?

I don’t think of “が is the subject marker” as a Cure Dolly thing.

I don’t really get this kind of stuff though. Cure Dolly has her perspective, which is basically explaining in English the way that native Japanese people learn grammar, but that doesn’t make other frameworks “wrong.”

EDIT: My use of “it” in the first sentence is an example of how talking about this can be fraught with issues… I was thinking of “the subject が” when I said “it” and as I noted in my later post, that results in tautologies a lot of the time

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No, what I said was that you shouldn’t trust someone on the basis of whether they told you to distrust others or not. The reason is that “no you see, that isn’t true that’s just what they want you to believe” is a common tactic used by con artists, cultists, conspiracy theorists, and other people to manipulate others into believing crazy things. So even if it’s being said behind a valid point, I think you should take that kind of statement with a grain of salt and examine the evidence.

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I can’t think of any textbook introducing が as a particle that can mark both the subject and the object in Japanese so I would also assume that those textbooks are referring to how some Japanese subjects can become objects in English.

The only other thing that could cause a confusion about the subject or object role that I can think of is the use of が and を with the potential form of a verb.

It’s worth noting that が doesn’t always mark the subject when it’s in a suboridanate clause. For example:

彼は私が好きなレストランが嫌い。
Translation: He dislikes the restaurant that I like.

Normally, 好き requires a は + が construction, where は is the person that likes what is marked by が. Things can be omitted of course, but that is how it is marked. However, は isn’t allowed in a relative clause, so we must use が to mark 私, and we leave が unmarked as including レストラン is redundant. This does make が mark the English subject, but then the normal construction of 私はあのレストランが好き is backwards.

For everything else, it is subjective. In general, が marks what in English is considered the object for stative verbs (ie: 分かり, ある, etc) and the adjectives which are verbs in English (欲しい, 好き, 嫌い, etc). One can make up reasons for why they are actually the subjects in those sentences (like making the verbs automatically passive), or you can consider them exceptions. Whatever makes you more comfortable.

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Most recently “All About Particles” by Naoko Chino, where the introduction to “GA” says “indicates the subject of the sentence, or, with certain verbs and adjectives, the object” which seems fairly explicit, and https://www.punipunijapan.com/japanese-particles-wa-ga/ which says “the object of the sentence is usually marked by the particle o, but some verbs and adjectives (expressing like/dislike, desire, potential … etc.) take ga instead of o.” Those are the two I noticed this week.

I see it quite often, I promise!

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I would assume that all of these are written with an English-speaking audience in mind and don’t mean to indicate that it’s an object in Japanese.

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Okay, so there are different definitions of が and there are different ways of thinking about this (namely, what someone actually means when they say “the particle が”).

In a monolingual dictionary, the marking of something that then follows with 好き or ~たい is not listed under the same definition as the one for marking the subject.

①主格を表す。古語では従属節の主格表現にのみ使用されたが、中世の頃より用法が広まり、一般に主格を表すのに用いられるようになる。 「ぼく-やります」 「花-美しい」 「先生-書いた本」 「兼行-書ける扉/徒然 25」
②希望・能力・好悪などの対象になるものを表す。 「リンゴ-たべたい」 「あの人-好きだ」

So in that sense, yes, it does mark an object in those cases. And it explains why a sentence like 私がリンゴが好き has no grammatical problems in it.

But to me, that’s basically another way of saying "there are multiple types of が’s”, just like not all uses of の are the same kind of の, etc.

Definition #3 in that list is the が that can attach to a demonstrative

③指示語に付いて、接続詞のように用いる。 「それ-ね、また大変な人なんだ」

And there are more が particles than that as well.

So, basically, you have to look at how a given text is framing everything before you start comparing it to other things.

And if someone says “the subject が always marks the subject, right?” it’s basically tautological.

I would say if Cure Dolly is saying that some of the がs, that are different from each other, are actually the same が, that could be sloppiness on her part.

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It seems like the monolingual dictonary doesn’t even cover the case where が substitutes for は when in a relative clause

In 私が好きなレストラン, I would say that が is definition 1, the subject が, just for that given clause.

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Well, I kind of drew an arbitrary example there, but DoJG says that in general は is replaced by は in GA for relative clauses so I think one can use it in any は can (tell me if this is wrong), like:

彼が昨日が行った店は私のだ。

Translation: The store that he entered yesterday is mine (with a contrastive emphasis on the day)

That usage of が after 昨日 in that sentence is definitely not allowed. You would just drop the は that had appeared after 昨日.

It’s important to know what the は is doing in the first place. The subject が is the base you start with, and if the subject is a topic, は can take the place of that が. That’s how when the sentence gets reformatted to be a relative clause, the は can revert to a が.

But if you have a は that never marked a subject like the one marking 昨日, it could never become が, since it was a different kind of は to begin with.

EDIT: Just to be clear, the “object が” can also be replaced with は. It’s just that は can also crop up in places where there never could have been a が, and in those places you can’t then put a が in a relative clause.

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Ah I realized I misread the entry in DoBJG in that you don’t always replace は with が, just whatever it replaced.

Although, DoBJG considers both the contrastive は and the topical は to be the same は, just used in different ways. This makes sense to me, since in:

車は欲しい。

The は feels both topical and contrastive, right? The topical part since it is the first appearence, and contrastive since the normal way for this construction would be 車が欲しい。

As I said in the edit I added that you might not have seen, basically the main issue is that contrastive は’s can mark things that never could have been marked with が as well.

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I know that は can be any logical part of the sentence, as it is just the topic/contrastive indicator depending on the sentence. I had the idea that it was always が in relative clauses because I misread the DoJG entry. I thought it was just an odd quirk that we could theoretically mark anything with が in a relative clause.

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You could ask her yourself?

She might have explained one shade of meaning, but there is more nuance to が than you’re assuming. It’s like if someone said を “always marks the direct object of a transitive verb.” While that is not a false statement per se, it fails to capture other uses of を outside of its usage with transitive verbs. So it should not be used as the end all be all explanation of the particle. Does that make sense?

Maybe this video might be helpful?

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To be honest, that the video is even trying to explain “the difference between は and が” makes me think that it’s more like Genki’s nonsense and less like actual Japanese. Am I wrong?

As for the original question, it’s probably safe enough to just say that が marks the subject. It definitely doesn’t mark the object. If you start thinking that が marks objects, then everything else gets confusing pretty fast.

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