Short Grammar Questions

田中さんを走る = (Someone) runs through Tanaka-san
田中さんは走る = Tanaka-san runs

I would not advise attempting the first one in the real world. It gets messy.

1 Like

Oh I see, thank you.
How about
田中さんを話す
And
田中さんは話す
Isn’t it different from 走る?

は is a topic marker, and を is usually a direct object marker (it has some other usages too). They don’t mean the same thing at all. Replacing one with the other will completely change the meaning of the sentence.

1 Like

田中さんを話す = (Someone) speaks Tanaka-san
田中さんは話す = Tanaka-san speaks

Well, yes… those are different verbs.

To clarify a little bit, the topic is what the sentence is about, while the direct object is the thing that has the verb done to it. Sometimes the object can be the topic, in which case the は replaces the を, but that’s comparatively rare (more typically, the subject - the doer of the verb - is the topic).

1 Like

Ah, now I see. I had thought を was indicating that Tanaka was doing the action, hence why I was confused about the difference between the two, but now it makes a whole lot more sense. Thank you!

That would a be a third particle, が. が is the particle that marks the grammatical subject of a sentence. while は marks the semantic subject of a sentence. IE, は is for what is being talked about, and が is for what does/receives something. When が and は point towards the same thing, が is replaced by は.

(を is also replaced by は, if the direct object is also the topic of the conversation.)

ETA: there’s a very, very, very long discussion in the linguistic and Japanese learning communities about the differences between は and が are, but at the end of the day you just learn to distinguish between them from exposure and experience.

ETA2: Compare the following:
田中さんが話す - OK :white_check_mark: : Tanaka is speaking
田中さんは話す - OK :white_check_mark: : So about Tanaka, they’re speaking
田中さんを話す - NOT ok :x: : Tanaka is being said ???

日本語が話す - NOT ok :x: - Japanese is speaking ???
日本語を話す - OK :white_check_mark: - (I/you/s/he/they/we) speak(s) Japanese (though when there’s no names/pronouns/context, it’s usually “I”)
日本語は話す - OK :white_check_mark: - So about Japanese, (I/you/s/he/they/we) speak(s) it (ditto)

7 Likes

Not exactly a grammar question, but what are the little dots on nani supposed to mean? They seem to pop up on random words.

1 Like

They’re like italics in English, used for emphasis. In whatever way they might be using emphasis in that moment.

3 Likes

かれはパソコンを かいたがって週末しゅうまつはたらいた。[う]
Wanting to buy a PC, he even worked weekends.

I don’t get why the て-form was used here.

It’s used to connect the clauses together. It’s the same reason we might say “He wanted to by a PC, so he even worked weekends” instead of “He wanted to buy a PC. He even worked weekends.” Using the て form for continuation makes a looser connection than something like から, but it’s the same basic idea.

3 Likes

This is probably one of the clearest comparisons of が, は and を that I’ve seen. Thank you.

1 Like

I get it now, so thanks.

Sorry to double post, but is then the same reason why the te-form is used here:

お客さんが早めに来たから、息子に部屋を綺麗にさせてよかった。
“The guests came early, so I am glad that I made my son clean his room.”

There’s even a “so” in the translation, which is making me think that’s why the te-form was used. I kept thinking it was somehow connected to the imperative function of the te-form, but that didn’t seem quite right?

The “so” here comes from 来たから, which has the meaning of “because”. The [綺麗させ]てよかった means “I’m glad that […]”. You’ll also hear ~てありがとう as a common way of thanking someone for doing ~.

@ambo100 Thank you! There’s a lot more that can be said about は・が・を, but at the most basic level of sentences that’s typically how they act.

2 Likes

While one shouldn’t take translations too literally, the “so” in that translation is referring to the から in the original sentence.

It’s easiest to think of て as just a way to continue a sentence, an “and” (but only sometimes worth an “and” in the english translation), sometimes with an implication, often a weakly causal one. てよかった in general is used to mean “I’m glad x” and is easier to think of as a set expression, like ている/ていく/てくる/ておく and the giving/receiving verbs, which all have semantic meaning beyond what one might literally expect.

Edit: I’m late!

4 Likes

The more explanations, the merrier.

二人に助けてありがとう!

2 Likes

完璧!<10 chars>

2 Likes

True, although the comparison has almost always been between が and は or sometimes が and を and most resources tend to explain in as much details as possible whereas sometimes a simple comparison is more effective.

I think some of the confusion comes from teachers explaining は and が as if they are even remotely similar in function. By suggesting to students that they are commonly confused and then teaching them together, it seems to make things worse. They are never ever interchangeable, and they mark entirely different things. There are very few places in a sentence where は (topicalizer) can’t go, but が serves one and only one function as marking the subject. I think Jay Rubin gives the most concrete and simple explanation. He hypothesizes that every sentence, whether it is stated or not, has a subject. i.e 私は学生です。-→ 私は(私が)学生です。 I think this helps with understanding, because instead of deciding which one to use, all you need to decide is whether or not the sentence needs a は (and if stating the subject with が is even necessary or desired).

4 Likes

This may be a little bit more than a short grammar question, but why exactly is it that 料理する means making food, while 食事する means eating food?

1 Like