Question about は particle in ようにする

I’m familiar with ようにする from Tae Kim, and I saw something similar to it in an example sentence today:

主人と私は、私達の双子をできるだけ比べないようにはしていますが、やっぱり難しいですね。

“My husband and I have been trying not to compare our twins with each other, but it’s difficult.”

The は particle in ようにはしています threw me off though. I’m trying to get used to は being all over, understanding it as a topic marker and differentiating it from が (which is so hard for me I know very original complaint T_T). However this one is new to me.

Is the は here providing a sort of emphasis? Is it changing the meaning of ようにする?

2 Likes

Yes. It’s highlighting できるだけ比べないように. You could see that as the topic of the first half if you want, but I think it’s also rather like something marking a comparison here. ‘About that (the topic), well, we have been trying… but it’s difficult, at the end of the day.’ The other key takeaway here, I guess, is that は can actually come after any other grammatical case particle except perhaps が and を. (Obvious exception here, before someone pulls Japanese YouTuber Yuta’s example out against me: if you’re actually quoting something in order to use it as a topic, then all rules go out the window because you’re just treating it as something to discuss. Doesn’t matter what grammatical function it normally has then.)

Just to elaborate a little further: I sincerely wouldn’t be too surprised to see something like をは since をも does exist, but let’s just say that it’s not common to see は come after が or を (and I’ve never seen it save some random classical tone-particle-style usage in my dictionary).

Speaking of particles that can appear anywhere: actually, you can throw ね (the tone particle) almost anywhere in a sentence for emphasis/to seek your listeners’ agreement and attention.

6 Likes

Perfect, thank you. The more I see は after all sorts of other particles the easier it becomes to sort of interpret what it’s trying to say. Though I’m afraid my interpretation can only go so far and I’ll have to grind grammar references and read some more to actually understand the nuance.

3 Likes

You’ll work it out eventually with experience. But if you want some ideas on は vs が to keep in mind/help you along when you’re confused, you could try looking at this (not my ideas – I just translated an article that was written in Japanese):

No need to memorise these things, especially because they don’t always come naturally, but I found that asking myself which nuance/difference I was seeing helped me early on as a learner.

2 Likes

If you prefer something a bit more casually expressed, this kind of ‘contrastive’ use of は is one of the things Jay Rubin talks about in Making Sense of Japanese.

2 Likes

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.