About Wa and Ga

I dug up an old article I wrote like ten years ago about studying “wa” and “ga” in Japanese classes. It’s tough to really explain, it’s just something you gotta experience, but here’s what I wrote up:

Why Wa and Ga Ruin Lives

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6 Responses to “About Wa and Ga”

  1. SoreThumb says:

    I’m nowhere near your years of experience, and I’m just beginning with Japanese. A Japanese friend was talking to me about wa and ga recently, so it’s pretty cool you’re mentioning it.

    On that note, something about it felt like “ga” was used when something was out-of-the-ordinary, or special, just like how you said ‘the’ is used in English.

    I’d hate to expose my ignorance, though.. so I’ll spare what I understood him as saying for now. :X

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    I remember being told in my early Japanese classes that “ga” was used to strongly express something or to indicate one liked something. (Watashi wa cheeseburger ga suki desu!) I haven’t been to a Japanese class in ages due to my horrible schedule, but even now, it hasn’t “clicked” on when the proper time to use “ga” is.

    • Mato says:

      Yeah, it’s tough to explain, I’m definitely not qualified to try to teach the language. The simplest crutches to use until you get a hang of it might be this:

      “ga” marks the subject of a sentence or phrase (though it has other uses, like with ‘suki’) as we English speakers would be familiar with. Kind of like if you did the old sentence grammar diagrams back in grade school and had to mark the subject, object, etc. Well, “ga” marks the subject. Obviously it’s tougher than that, but that’s the basics. It also answers the question (whether asked or not) of who/what/where/why/etc. which is why answers to those questions use “ga” most of the time.

      The easiest crutch for “wa” is to think of it “As for…” so saying “Watashi wa amerika-jin desu” is essentially saying, “As for me, I’m American.” or, “I don’t know about anyone else here, but as for me, I’m American.”

      The more intricate/complicated stuff is best left to professional instructors and personal experiences 😛

  3. CrouchingMouse says:

    My first-year Japanese professor recommended a great piece by Jay Rubin for us to read about the difference between “wa” and “ga”, in Making Sense of Japanese. It used to be up on Google Books, but I couldn’t find it when I looked again this morning. =\ Anyway, I found it pretty helpful when I was in my early stages of learning. I don’t recall the exact content since it’s been about 2 years since I last read it, but I took away a couple valuable nuggets from it: “wa” really means “as for (this thing)…”, like Mato mentioned, and using “ga” is sort of like putting the subject in italics or bold font – you’re using it to specify something. That’s why it was used in the example in Mato’s article: “ima ga chansu!” “NOW’s your chance!” If it’d used “wa”, it would have sounded more wishy-washy and not good for an ad.

    I don’t know exactly if it’s “clicked” for me or not, but since reading that, I haven’t really had any problems with it….maybe I haven’t had enough experience yet. =p Anyway, thanks for posting this, Mato! I hope you can dig up some of your other old articles soon. =)

  4. tapioca says:

    my professor gave me an article on their relation to the deictic center in longer narratives a while ago that made a bit of sense. idk, i never talk to anyone in japanese tho, so it’s never really had an opportunity to click for me.

  5. Shichiji says:

    I just had that “click”! Thanks so much, Mato. I was comparing some lines between the Japanese and North American versions of Tales of Symphonia, and it just kind of hit me. Took me four years, but it happened.

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