What is the difference between these two sentence patterns?

I am struggling to see a difference between the following (with P being place and N being noun):

P に N が あります。
N は P に あります。

They seem to both be “N is in P.” Or no? Please help me :sweat:

They are both about the same in terms of meaning, with a few exceptions dealing with which information has higher priority in the sentence. There is a link on imabi somewhere, I’ll see if I can find it quick.

[edit] Link: http://www.imabi.net/10majoraspects.htm


It changes what you’re emphasizing. This isn’t exact, but it’s that kind of thing.

There’s a _____ in the _____. (and not something else)
In the _____ there’s a _____. (rather than somewhere else)


I was reading Jay Rubin Making sense of Japanese, and from what I remember ha sends the emphasis forward and ga throws it backwards onto the thing that preceded it.

So, ここにぺんがあります。The PEN is here.

Or, ぺんはここにあります。The pen is HERE.

This is a really simplified example and this is totally contextual as always but I recommend Rubin’s book if you want to know more about wa vs ga, which is as hard for English speakers as a and the is for Japanese speaker… and let me tell you they have trouble with a and the.

@Leebo, let me know if I’m totally wrong. It seems like my explanation fits with yours, just another way to say it.


@DelBaset @Leebo Thanks guys! This helps!!

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