Is Cure Dolly Wrong?

I checked out some of the grammar/particle intro Cure Dolly videos today and they seemed helpful, but after I mentioned something I learned to my Japanese wife she said it was wrong.

Cure Dolly said that the “ga” particle exists in every sentence, and she taught 私が instead of 私は, as if using “ga” here is more correct. But my wife said this is obviously wrong and sounds unnatural and does not convey the basic meaning if you’re just trying to say my name is ____. My wife confirmed that 私は is the correct option, and that が does NOT exist in every sentence, and she’s never heard of an “invisible ga.”

Cure Dolly keeps going on about how bad textbooks are and how poorly Japanese is always taught, but there must be a good reason why most beginner lessons teach 私は… because that’s what’s actually correct?

Anyone know what Dolly’s credentials are? Is it just another non-native speaker who has learned Japanese and wanted to make a YT channel?


I don’t think she wrong but if she don’t work for you and there’s no point in seeing her videos.
I love her peronsally but that voice is grating


You didnt get far enough. I believe the third episode she explains は, and did you miss the part where が is sometimes invisible? So by the way she teaches, it is 私(0 が)は. You dont see the が. In all my experiencewith different means to learn Japanese, Cure Dolly has made the most sense.


I got that but is this just something she’s making up? If a well-educated native speaker tells me no, ga is not in every sentence, I’d tend to believe them over a non-native speaker with what might be unconventional ideas.


She’s not like… someone with a linguistics degree or teaching credentials as far as I know.

That and the clickbait nature of the channel mean I usually can’t bring myself to watch any of the videos.


I didnt mean to sound condescending and Im sorry if it came off that way.

Your wife is right that が is not voiced in every sentence. I dont think either of them are wrong. CD is trying to teach the sentence structure to non natives, and explaining it this way makes sense, especially considering the subject of sentences are often left out in Japanese also. I dont think if the 0 が concept is right or wrong is an issue. Its a means to an end (understanding sentence structure.) It becomes less prominent as you go further in the series.


I don’t think it matters whether an invisible “ga” is officially recognized as a thing in Japanese or not, and whether Japanese people have learnt grammar that way or not. Nobody is really wrong here, and you’ll never be asked “is there an invisible ga in Japanese?” in a test. If it is validation from natives that you would like in order to follow Dolly, I’ll just give a counter-experience: I have mentioned this concept to Japanese coworkers and it made sense to them, even if they don’t think of it that way.

Dolly uses the concept of invisible “ga” to explain how particles “ha” and “ga” work, and it makes a lot of sense.


As I said, I’m no fan of Cure Dolly, but to be fair, most grammar explanations intended for non-natives will sound strange to natives.

This might come as a surprise to non-native learners, but the way Japanese is taught to natives is very different. Teachers getting certified to teach Japanese to foreigners have to go through a whole separate system to learn all the terms used in non-native education.

For instance, in native grammar education, there is no “て form” of verbs. て is a particle that attaches to the 連用形 (conjunctive form) of a verb.

That’s just one way things differ. But you’d confuse a native talking about て form without explaining it.


Okay that makes sense. I’ll keep going with the Dolly videos as I don’t mind the voice


Dolly published a short book that collects some/most of the ideas from the videos, called “Unlocking Japanese” if I recall correctly. That is a good alternative for people who don’t like their voice.


What she’s saying is that every sentence has a subject, and the subject is marked by が. That is, the important factor here is not the presence of the が, but rather the presence of the subject. However, frequently the subject is also the topic, in which case the topic marker は replaces the subject marker が - in which case you can think of the が as still being there, just hidden underneath the は.

And sometimes the subject is just omitted, because it’s plain from the context.

Been a while since I watched the video, but I’m 90% sure that she was just illustrating her point, rather than saying you should use 私が all of the time.


I found it irritating at first, but its grown on me. Especially since I associate it with clear understanding to concepts that frustratedme before.


I’ve not watched a lot of Cure Dolly, but I do think there is value in understanding ‘ga’ either at the same time as ‘ha’ or immediately before, because native English speakers are already familiar with ‘subject’ as a grammatical feature. Starting with ‘ha’ seems to cause English speakers to make false assumptions about what ‘ha’ really means, even if you present the “as for X” analogy. So, when they are later presented with ‘ga’, it’s sometimes a struggle to reshape what they’ve learned.

Anyway, some supplemental info:


True we simply don’t know but, I forgot which video but she gave an overview into a concept I learned in my college semantics class, not easily found info unless you purposelly get taught that.

Which leads me to believe she might actually at have a degree who knows tho…


Her material on が is based on the writings of Jay Rubin in his book “Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You”. For what it is (or is not) worth in this conversation, Rubin has a PhD in Japanese literature.

To add to this, consider the following sentence:


Who is the performer of the action in this panel? The subject. How is a subject denoted in Japanese? With が. The subject is not stated here, so が does not appear.

If we want to make the fact that there is an unstated subject clearer to an English native, we can refer to the “zero が”. It’s a way to help visualize the lack of a pronoun filling in for a subject otherwise known from context.

A Japanese native wouldn’t be expected to be aware of such a visualization method intended to help English natives conceptualize the “missing” pronoun.

(Although, funny enough, the line in this panel can translate into natural English that also has no subject pronoun.)


I see this sentiment a lot and all I can say is that if we compare learning Japanese grammar to learning how to predict the movement of the planets, then while everyone argues about the best way to learn epicycles (genki, tae kim, the native japanese method, etc) Cure Dolly is over here loudly telling people “hey the sun is at the center not the earth bozos” and then gets criticized for clickbait titles. And yeah, she spends a lot of time criticizing other models, but that’s like how Galileo spent a lot of time criticizing the geocentric model. When the overwhelmingly prevailing model is overcomplicated and dysfunctional, you end up spending a lot of time removing its misconceptions before you can teach the simpler model.


The attitude of Cure Dolly being the “only true way” or something like that is what I find annoying (manifesting partially in clickbait titles). I don’t find her explanations intuitive (though I’m mostly exposed to them via people talking about them here) and I managed to get to where I am in my studies using other methods.

Actually it’s interesting that this topic came up with regard to a native finding it confusing, because a lot of her other explanations are framed as basically “the native way is right and textbooks are wrong.” This is one case where, it seems, she’s not going with the native understanding of a grammar concept. I am of the opinion that there’s a place for non-native focused textbooks and education that doesn’t use the same kind of explanations that natives get.

Other people finding it helpful is fine. The trashing of everything else gets tiresome.

As noted above, we also don’t really know what her level of education in Japanese overall or as an educator is either. Textbooks and proper courses tend to be transparent with their credentials. When she starts a video with a poorly pronounced こんにちは it doesn’t give a lot of confidence.

Are there any videos of her speaking unscripted Japanese with a native or anything?


So I find Cure Dolly and any other humanoid doll monster deeply unsettling, but in her (ugh) defense I would like to argue that ha/ga is an extremely deep and multifaceted grammar topic.

I’d be completely shocked if anyone had a bite sized clip that explained completely in one sitting.

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I think @IzCreature already explained what is going on… I just wanted to point the Cure Dolly was not the first person to come up with the idea of the zero pronoun. Jay Rubin (Haruki Murakami translator) in his book,

Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You (Power Japanese Series, Kodansha’s Children’s Classics), Kodansha International (March 1, 2002), paperback, 144 pp., ISBN 978-4-7700-2802-0 – first published as Gone Fishin’ (1992)[4]

explains very well the idea of the zero pronoun. Cure Dolly also borrowed several other ideas from Jay Rubin… I love Making Sense of Japanese but feel that one ought to have mastered some basic grammar (i.e. Genki II equivalent) in order to benefit from it.

Sorry @ChristopherFritz , only now I saw you already mentioned Jay Rubin…


The notes from my Japanese Linguistics course hint that An Introduction to Japanese Linguistics by Natsuko Tsujimura may have some information on subjects in Japanese, particularly in the part where verbs, valency and arguments (as in the Linguistic term) are discussed, but my copy of the reading is locked in storage and my notes barely touch it.

Agreed on sources needing more credentials. Honestly, I’m disappointed by the lack of guides written/coauthored by native speakers with PhDs in Japanese Linguistics. Might be because they’re mostly into researching their niche topics though.