What's Grammar anyways?

I’m sorry if I asked this before, I suffer from a very particular kind of memory loss. I come bearing two questions and an unnatural amount of energy.

Question A: I was taught that は and が both mark the subject of the sentence, but how do I know exactly when to do so? Like how you use 私は__です yet おかしが大好きです。I have which one to use memorized for certain sentences, but I know there must be a better way of going about it.

Question B: My grammar is my weak point for sure. While I’m not starting from zero, I would prefer to start from the beginning anyways in case my lost memories are holding things or I forgot naturally some. But due to the pandemic and other life situations I have no money, so what are some free online resources that would work to guide me through many grammar points so I can level up my Japanese?


There are a bunch of options in the following list: Ultimate list of Japanese Learning Resources.


は marks the topic of the sentence - what the sentence is about.
が marks the subject of the sentence - the doer of the verb.

The subject is frequently the topic, but it need not be.


I used Genki and then later went through Tae Kim’s grammar guide which is totally free. If you’re worried about memory you could try Bunpro.com which is basically WaniKani for grammar. Just make sure you also apply your grammar by listening or reading Japanese to really make it sink in.


There is also the WaniKani Community thread: The Ultimate Additional Japanese Resources List!
Did you mean to link that thread?


This. Eventually you will pick up the knack for which to use and when, or at least reading it in a ton of different contexts will solidify that learning for you.

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I highly recommend watching Cure Dolly’s grammar course on Youtube. She has the best explanation of how Japanese grammar works that I’ve encountered.


Yes, I did! Thanks for catching that :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks a lot. I was at last able to understand the difference between them from your simple 3 lined answer as compared to all the articles and blogs I have read. I just couldn’t understand the difference. Again thanks. :slightly_smiling_face:


If it helps, you can think of the particle は as “Regarding x”

今日 きょう月曜日げつようびです → “Regarding today, it’s monday”
わたしいぬき → “Regarding me, dogs are liked”


Thankyou, it sure helped in remembering. :smile:

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If I could add one more thing it would be that although you might get marked down in a test for using は and が incorrectly, in the real world it hardly matters. I work for a Japanese company. I’m pretty sure I mess this up daily, but it doesn’t affect my ability to communicate.
Think about how non-native English speakers often get “a” and “the” mixed up. They might say “it’s the nice day today, a weather is warm”, and the message still gets through.


Thank you for the help everyone! I understand now. It’ll take me a little to go through all the resources, but I started bunpro at least today and I’m enjoying it

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What’s grammar but second-hand emotion?


From “The American Scholar” by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action. Life is our dictionary. Years are well spent in country labors; in town; in the insight into trades and manufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in all their facts a language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions. I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get tiles and copestones for the masonry of to-day. This is the way to learn grammar. Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made.

At least, that’s his opinion. I think he makes a good point though.


I’m pretty sure this guy learnt his grammar from a book. :stuck_out_tongue:


If you read The American Scholar, you’ll find that he’s not saying you can’t learn things from books, or that you shouldn’t, but rather placing perspective on what books are good for. In this instance, he’s saying that the grammar in books are merely recorded observations of the pre-existing spoken language. It’s fair to say that we all had a basic intuitive understanding of basic grammar before we ever learned to read a book.

In any case, I was posting that quote as inspiration for an answer to the thread’s title, “What’s Grammar anyways?”, not to start a debate about what books are good for.


This was the most concise explanation I’ve ever seen, thank you. I was also struggling to remember which was for which.

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Ah, I realised on second reading what my post sounded like.

I’m not trying to espouse the benefits from learning grammar from books. I’m trying to disparage that guy’s grammar - he’s learnt his grammar only from books, and probably hasn’t seen a field or work-yard in his life, is what I’m trying to say. :slightly_smiling_face:

Maybe he laments this fact? :man_shrugging: