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All About Japanese Particles: が (ga)

I. Indicates the subject of the sentences or, with certain verbs and adjectives, the object.

1. Indicates existence; used with such verbs as aru, gozaimasu, iru, irassharu.

あそこに私のボールペンありますか。
Asoko ni watashi no bōrupen ga arimasu ka.
Is my ball-point pen over there?

あそこに郵便局あります。
Asoko ni yūbin-kyoku ga arimasu.
There’s a post office over there.

私の会社には、女の人50人以上います。
Watashi no kaisha ni wa, onna no hito ga gojuū-nin ijō imasu.
There are more than fifty women in my company.

Note: Wa can replace ga in such sentences when (first example below) something is being contrasted (my ball-point pen, say, in contrast to my pencil) or when (second example) information is being presented about a subject already identified. See wa (#1, nos. 1, 4).

私のボールペンあそこにありますか。
Watashi no bōrupen wa asoko ni arimasu ka.
Is my ball-point pen over there?

郵便局はどこにありますか。
(郵便局)駅の前にあります。

Yūbin-kyoku wa doko ni arimasu ka.
(Yūbin-kyoku wa) eki no mae ni arimasu.
Where is the post office?
(The post office is) in front of the station.

2. Indicates the subject of the predicate.

あそこに桜咲いています。
Asoko ni sakura ga saite imasu.
The cherry trees are blooming over there.

あの山を見てください。まだ雪残ってきますよ。
Ano yama o mite kudasai. Mada yuki ga nokotte imasu yo.
Look at that mountain. There’s still snow on it. (Lit., … snow still remains.)

Note: When making a contrast, wa (#1, no. 4) can replace ga:

あそこに桜咲いていますが、梅咲いていません。
Asoko ni sakura wa saite imasu ga, ume wa saite imasen.
The cherry trees are blooming over there, but the plum trees are not.

3. Indicates the subject of an intransitive verb.

開きました。
To ga akimashita.
The door opened.

降っている。
Ame ga futte iru.
It’s raining.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) can replace ga for contrastive purposes:

降っているが、雪まだ降っていません。
Ame wa futte iru ga, yuki wa mada futte imasen.
It’s raining, but it’s not snowing yet.

4. Indicates the subject of the sentence when new, as-yet-unknown information is being presented.

こちら山田さんです。
Kochira ga Yamada-san desu.
This is Mr. Yamada. (a personal introduction)

昨日友達のジャックあなたに会いたいと言っていました。
Kinō tomodachi no Jakku ga anata ni aitai to itte imashita.
Yesterday my friend Jack said that he wanted to meet you.

Note: Here again wa (#1, no. 4) can replace ga for contrastive purposes:

ご紹介します。こちらが山田さんで、こちら鈴木さんです。
Goshōkai shimasu. Kochira ga Yamada-san de, kochira wa Suzuki-san desu.
Let me do the introductions. This is Mr. Yamada, and this is Ms. Suzuki.

5. Used with interrogative words in questions.

a) In general questions:

どの人課長ですか。
Dono hito ga kachō desu ka.
Which one [person] is the section chief?

一番早く来ましたか。
Dare ga ichiban hayaku kimashita ka.
Who came [arrived] first?

Note: Wa (#1, nos. 1, 2) can replace ga if a topic is being presented:

課長どの人ですか。
Kachō wa dono hito desu ka.
The section chief—which one [person] is he? / Which one is the section chief?

b) In asking for a choice:

すしとてんぷらとどちら好きですか。
Sushi to tenpura to dochira ga suki desu ka.
Which do you like better, sushi or tempura?

中国語と日本語と、どちら難しいですか。
Chūgoku-go to Nihon-go to, dochira ga muzukashii desu ka.
Which is more difficult, Chinese or Japanese?

6. Indicates the subject of a relative clause.

先週私見た映画はつまらなかった。
Senshū watashi ga mita eiga wa tsumaranakatta.
The movie I saw last week was boring.

1週間で私読む本は4冊です。
Isshūkan de watashi ga yomu hon wa yonsatsu desu.
I read four books a week [in one week]. (Lit., Four books is what I read in one week.)

Note: No (#17, 1-5) may replace ga in this usage.

7. Indicates the subject of a clause ending in ka.

なぜ彼そんなことをやったか、わかりません。
Naze kare ga sonna koto o yatta ka, wakarimasen.
I don’t know why he did that [lit., … something like that].

どうして彼女あんなつまらない本を読んでいるのか、不思議です。
Dō shite kanojo ga anna tsumaranai hon o yonde iru no ka, fushigi desu.
It is a mystery to me [beyond me] why she’s reading such a boring book [a boring book like that].

8. Indicates the subject of a subordinate or conditional clause when it is different from the subject of the main clause.

a) Subordinate clauses:

日本にくる前に、(私は)この部屋をきれいに掃除しなければならない。
Haha ga Nihon ni kuru mae ni, [watashi wa] kono heya o kirei ni sōji shinakereba naranai.
Before my mother comes to Japan, I have to make this room nice and dean.

来たとき、私はごちそうを作った。
Haha ga kita toki, watashi wa gochisō o tsukutta.
When my mother came, I prepared quite a spread.

来たあと、私は買物に出かけた。
Haha ga kita ato, watashi wa kaimono ni dekaketa.
After my mother came, I went out shopping.

b) Conditional clauses.

あの人行くんだったら、私は行かない。
Ano hito ga iku-n dattara, watashi wa ikanai.
If he’s going, I am not.

あなたそう言うなら、納豆を食べてみます。
Anata ga sō iu nara, nattō o tabete mimasu.
If you say so [if you recommend it, insist, etc.], I’ll try some fer-mented beans.

9. Indicates the object of verbs of ability (dekiru, wakaru, and the potential forms of verbs).

阿部さんはゴルフできます。
Abe-san wa gorufu ga dekimasu.
Abe can play [lit., do] golf.

岡田さんはピアノ弾けます。
Okada-san wa piano ga hikemasu.
Okada can play the piano.

山田さんは中国語わかります。
Yamada-san wa Chūgoku-go ga wakarimasu.
Yamada understands Chinese.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) can replace ga to create a contrast:

山田さんは、中国語わかりますが、英語わかりません。
Yamada-san wa, Chūgoku-go wa wakarimasu ga, Eigo wa wakari-masen.
Yamada understands Chinese, but not English.

10. Indicates the object of verbs of sensation (mieru and kikoeru) as well as suru in certain uses.

ここから富士山見えます。
Koko kara Fuji-san ga miemasu.
Mt. Fuji can be seen from here. / You can see Mt. Fuji from here.

朝の台所は、コーヒーの香りします。
Asa no daidokoro wa, kōhī no kaori ga shimasu.
The kitchen smells of coffee in the morning. / In the morning you can smell coffee [brewing] in the kitchen.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) can replace ga for contrast:

ここから富士山見えますが、登る人の姿見えません。
Koko kara Fuji-san wa miemasu ga, noboru hito no sugata wa miemasen.
You can see Mt. Fuji from here, but not the figures of the people climbing it.

11. Indicates the object of verbs and adjectives of necessity (hitsuyi da, iru).

私はお金要る。
Watashi wa okane ga iru.
I need money.

交通の安全のため、厳しい規則必要です。
Kōtsū no anzen no tame, kibishii kisoku ga hitsuyō desu.
Strict rules are needed for traffic safety.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) replaces ga when a contrast is being made:

私は、お金要るが、物要らない。
Watashi wa, okane wa iru ga, mono wa iranai.
I need money, but I don’t need things.

12. Indicates the object of adjectives of desire (hoshii and the -tai form of verbs). Compare the use of o (#18, no. 5) with the -garu and -tai forms of verbs.

時間とお金欲しい。
Jikan to okane ga hoshii.
I want time and money.

冷たいもの飲みたい。
Tsumetai mono ga nomitai.
I want something cold to drink.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) replaces ga when a contrast is being made:

冷たいもの飲みたいが、温かいもの要りません。
Tsumetai mono wa nomitai ga, atatakai mono wa irimasen.
I’d like to drink something cold, but not anything hot.

13. Indicates the object of verbs and adjectives of emotion (suki da, kirai da, ureshii, kanashii, kowai, shinpai suru, etc.). Compare the use of o (#18, no. 5) with verbs in the -tai and -garu forms.

私はモーツアルト大好きです。
Watashi wa Mōtsuaruto ga daisuki desu.
I love Mozart.

ジョンさんは納豆嫌いです。
Jon-san wa nattō ga kirai desu.
John doesn’t like fermented soybeans.

秋になると台風心配です。
Aki ni naru to taifū ga shinpai desu.
In the fall, typhoons are a worry [a problem].

花子はこんなすばらしいプレゼントをくれたんですよ。その気持ち嬉しいです。
Hanako wa konna subarashii purezento o kureta-n desu yo. Sono kimochi ga ureshii desu.
Hanako gave me this wonderful present. I’m so pleased by her thoughtfulness.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) can be substituted for ga to create a contrast:

ジムさんは納豆嫌いだが、するめ大好きです。
Jimu-san wa nattō wa kirai da ga, surume wa daisuki desu.
Jim doesn’t like fermented soybeans, but he loves dried cuttlefish.

14. Indicates the object of adjectives of ability (jozu na, heta na, tokui na, kiyo na, etc.).

新しい首相は、俳句上手だそうです。
Atarashii shushō wa, haiku ga jōzu da sō desu.
The new prime minister is said to be good at haiku.

小川さんは語学得意で、フランス語もイタリア語もできます。
Ogawa-san wa gogaku ga tokui de, Furansu-go mo Itaria-go mo dekimasu.
Ogawa is good at languages; she can speak both French and Italian.

Note: Wa (#1, no. 4) replaces ga when a contrast is intended:

新しい首相は、俳句上手ですが、政治まあまあです。
Atarashii shushō wa, haiku wa jōzu desu ga, seiji wa māmā desu.
The new prime minister is good at haiku, but his politics are just so-so.

II. Used between clauses (and sometimes at the end of sentences), usually with the meaning “but.”

1. Used between two clauses to indicate that they are opposed in meaning (cf. II-3, below): “but, although.”

この頃昼は暖かいんです、夜は寒くなりました。
Konogoro hiru wa atatakai-n desu ga, yoru wa samuku narima-shita.
Lately, the days are warm, but the nights have turned cold. / It’s warm during the daytime these days, but cold at night.

私の家からスーパーは近いんです、駅は遠いです。
Watashi no ie kara supa wa chikai-n desu ga, eki wa tōi-n desu.
The supermarket is close to my house, but the train station is far away.

2. Indicates that a given subject has two different qualities: “but, although.”

桜の花はきれいだ、香りがない。
Sakura no hana wa kirei da ga, kaori ga nai.
Cherry blossoms are pretty, but they have no fragrance.

この映画は面白い、長すぎますね。
Konō eiga wa omoshiroi ga, nagasugimasu ne.
This movie is interesting, but it’s just too long.

3. Connects two clauses without any adversative implication (cf. II-1, above): “and.”

谷さんは頭がいい、横田さんもいいです。
Tani-san wa atama ga ii ga, Yokota-san mo ii desu.
Tani is intelligent, and so is Yokota.

昨日富士山を初めて見ました、きれいでした。
Kino Fuji-san o hajimete mimashita ga, kirei deshita.
I saw Mt. Fuji for the first time yesterday, and it was beautiful.

4. Indicates a preliminary remark.

Note: This type of sentence is often terminated after ga, at which point the interlocutor, sensing what it is to follow, takes up the thread of conversation.

私、広野と申します、ご主人はいらっしゃいますか。
Watashi, Hirono to mōshimasu ga, goshujin wa irasshaimasu ka.
My name is Hirono. Is your husband home?

先日お願いしたことです、どうなりましたでしょうか。
Senjitsu onegai shita koto desu ga, do narimashita deshō ka.
About the request I made several days ago, how has it turned out [has there been any progress)?

5. Used at the end of the sentence.

Note: These usages are essentially the same as those in 11-4, above, except that the second clause isn’t stated outright (Words in brackets show only one of various imaginable contexts.)

a) Implies an unstated meaning that is in contrast to the one stated: “Well, yes, but.”

おっしゃることはもっともです ……
Ossharu koto wa mottomo desu ga
What you say is quite right, but … [it’s difficult to implement now].

b) Softens a refusal: “I am sorry, but …”

部長は今会議中でございます ……
Buchō wa ima kaigi-chū de gozaimasu ga
The division chief is in a meeting now … [so you’ll have to wait to see him].

6. When used at the end of a sentence or clause and preceded by to ii, indicates that the speaker wants the event to come out as stated. Context determines whether or not the wish is actually realizable: “it would be nice if; it would have been nice if.”

来年外国へ旅行できるといい、だめのようです
Rainen gaikoku e ryokō dekiru to ii ga, dame no yo desu.
It would be nice if I could make a trip abroad next year, but it seems as though I can’t [seems impossible].

早く春が来るといいんだ
Hayaku haru ga kuru to ii-n da ga
It would be nice if spring came soon. / I hope spring comes soon.

彼女が独身だといいんだ
Kanojo ga dokushin da to ii-n da ga . . .
I hope she is single. / (Or, knowing that she is not) I wish she were single.

7. Used idiomatically after contrastive verbs or adjectives: “whether or not.”

a) After the forms of contrastive verbs or adjectives.

私は助かろう死のうかまいません。
Watashi wa tasukarō ga shinō ga kamaimasen.
I don’t care whether I live [lit., am saved] or die.

暑かろう寒かろう私は大丈夫です。
Atsukarō ga samukarō ga watashi wa daijōbu desu.
I’m all right [it doesn’t bother me] whether it’s hot or cold.

b) After the and -mai forms of the same verb.

私が行こう行くまい、あなたには関係ないことです。
Watashi ga ikō ga ikumai ga, anata ni wa kankei nai koto desu.
Whether I go or not has nothing to do with you [is not your concern].

田中さんが信じよう信じまい、僕ははっきりとUFOを見ました。
Tanaka-san ga shinjiyō ga shinjimai ga, boku wa hakkiri to yūfō o mimashita.
Whether Tanaka believes it or not, I clearly saw a UFO.

8. Used in the expression V + ga hayai ka: “as soon as, no sooner had.”

窓を開ける早いか、猫が飛び込んできた。
Mado o akeru ga hayai ka, neko ga tobikonde kita.
No sooner had the window been opened than the cat jumped in. / As soon as I opened the window the cat jumped in.

横になる早いか、すぐ眠ってしまった。
Yoko ni naru ga hayai ka, sugu nemutte shimatta.
No sooner had I lain down than I fell asleep. / I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

– Source: All about particles – A handbook of Japanese function words

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