Wa or Ga particule ? ..explained like a French comedy

Hey everyone!

Not I that I am doing this topic for French people, but rather for everyone who has never really got this fundamental and appealing first Japanese rule: は is topic marker and が is the subject marker.

Is anyone supposed to understand this rule when they start ? I was really scared by it at first and then you learn to get through it by yourself haha.

This is why I created this video which mimetic a french comedy (anyone knows??) to explain by showing the situation for each particles.

Tell me if you like it and PLEASE tell me how you did to understand the difference between はand が ?


It’s “un gars, une fille” (a guy, a girl); which makes small sketches, contrasting the point of view of the man and the woman in a couple.
(but wasn’t it because they copied the rose/blue text display, I wouldn’t have recognized it :slight_smile: )

I looked at your posted video until the end;
it is a nice one indeed; thanks.

Thank you @YanagiPablo !! Actually it is me on the video haha ! This difference between WA and GA we have been looking for with my Japanese friend but every case was a new exception :sweat_smile:

I was wondering if Wanikanian would have some tips for it!

Argh, I didn’t looked closely at your picture…

I am clearly much less advanced in Japanese than you;
however, an eye opener I had some time ago, is when I read that “what is the difference between が and は” is a wrong question, because they are grammatically unrelated, they never hold the same roles.

One (が) is a grammatical particle (like を, へ, に, で), it marks the grammatical subject for the verb.

The other (は) doesn’t have any grammatical role at all, but is more a conversational particle (like the endings よ, ね, か, な)

So, asking difference of が vs は is like asking difference of を vs よ, it doesn’t make sense.

It is a wrong mental framework, coming from the fact that the notion of “topic” is completely missing in non topical languages, but trying to force it into a purely grammatical framework miss the point.

Even once we accept the topical nature of it, it is still difficult to learn properly how and when to use は, but at least we can avoid some traps.

It’s really one of the biggest conundrums of teaching and learning Japanese. Japanese sites write whole articles on it as well, probably because it’s not easy to explain even if you’re a native speaker: you just have an intuitive feel of when to use each particle, but you’re not necessarily sure why.

I read an article on the difference quite a long time ago. I find that my ‘intuitive sense’ has developed since then, but I think it was these ideas that set me on the right track in the first place. The original article is from Yousei Academy ARC or something like that, but here’s my summary:

New information Old information (For answering questions like what, who, where…)
Fact (e.g. describing what you can see) Judgement/opinion
Linked to the start/just one chunk of a sentence Related to the whole sentence
Exclusive characteristics Comparison He is X’ vs ‘He is A while she is B.’
Identifying (pointing) statements Descriptive statements ‘A=B’ vs ‘A has X as a characteristic/is a type of X’

This is true, but it’s really hard to understand initially, especially because you see は seemingly indicating the subject in sentences that have no が anywhere at all, and you have no idea why. Also, there are often sentences in which both particles work and the difference in nuance isn’t clear without context. Personally, I prefer to think of は as the ‘context particle’ and が as a particle that closely binds two objects (e.g. a noun to a noun, a noun to a verb, or a noun to an adjective) and makes them act as a unit. That basic sense of what each particle does, combined with the principles above, is what I feel really helped me to figure the two particles out.