Wild Nihongo!
が Particle (Subject Marker)

が Particle (Subject Marker)

が Particle (Subject Marker) Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Particle

Construction: Grammatical Subject + が

Notes:

  • The basic purpose of が is to mark the grammatical subject of a sentence or clause. In other words, it marks the person or thing that performs some action or exhibits some state and is the focus of the sentence. が can be interpreted either as a neutral descriptor or as an exhauster lister depending on the context and on the type of predicate that follows が.
  • が as a neutral descriptor:
    • As a neutral descriptor, が is used to mark a grammatical subject when it is first introduced into the discourse. The information conveyed by が is implied to be new to the hearer, and it is presented with a neutral and objective viewpoint. The vast majority of the が particles you will encounter will be neutral descriptors.
    • が as a neutral descriptor is used with:
      • (1) Existential verbs (i.e. ある and いる)
        • E.g. いぬがいる。[There is a dog.]
        • E.g. ギターがある。[There is a guitar.]
      • (2) Action verbs (both transitive and intransitive)
        • E.g. ウサギがはしっています。[The rabbit is running.]
        • E.g. ジョンがコーヒーをんでいる。[John is drinking coffee.]
        • E.g. ドアがまります。[The door closes.]
        • E.g. あめっています。[It’s raining.]
      • (3) Transitive stative verbs that express permanent, non-volitional states.
        • E.g. まどけています。[The window is open.]
        • E.g. ドアがまっている。[The door is closed.]
      • (4) Stative verbs that describe non-intentional human perception, emotions, or ability. These have a tendency to be potential verbs.
        • E.g. サッカーができます。[I can play soccer.]
        • E.g. やまえる。[I can see the mountain.]
        • E.g. 日本語にほんごかる。[I can understand Japanese.]
      • (5) Transitive adjectives (e.g. [To like]、きら [To dislike], しい [To want]) that act as the object of the sentence. These sentence typically follow the ~は~が structure.
        • E.g. わたしきみきだ。[I like you.]
        • E.g. マークはあたらしいくつしい。[Mark wants new shoes.]
        • E.g. 明太子めんたいこきらいだ。[I hate mentaiko.]
      • (6) Stative adjectives (e.g. さむ [Cold], うまい [Delicious]、いい [Good]) that describe human perception, emotions, or ability that are outside of the subject’s control. These adjectives typically follow the ~は~が structure.
        • E.g. 天気てんきさむい。[The weather is cold!]
        • E.g. ツナがまずいだ。[Tuna is gross.]
        • E.g. 11がいい。[11 o’clock is OK.]
      • (7) WH-words (e.g. なに [What], どっち [Which], だれ [Who]) are always marked by が when they are the subject .
        • E.g. こんばんだれますか。 [Who is coming tonight?]
        • E.g. どっちがしいの。[Which do you want?]
        • E.g. だれがきですか。[Who do you like?]
      • (8) Subjects of subordinate clauses generally take が.
        • E.g. おにぎりがべている女子じょしぼくいもうとだ。[The girl who is eating an onigiri is my little sister.]
        • E.g. わたしはデビーがフランスへくことをらなかった。[I didn’t know that Debbie is going to France.]
        • E.g. ジーンがぼくがアパートをときまだていた。[Gene was still sleeping when I left the apartment.]
    • In situations outside of this list (i.e. non-perceptual stative adjectives), が tends to be interpreted as as an exhaustive lister.
      • E.g. 日本語にほんごむずかしい。[Japanese is difficult.] むずかしい is an adjective that describes a permanent state and does not directly involve human perception, emotion, or ability, so this sentence would likely be interpreted as an exhaustive listing. For example, it could be the answer to the question: “Which subject is difficult?
  • が as an exhaustive lister:
    • ANY が can be interpreted as an exhaustive lister, no matter the predicate. Subject + が is vocally stressed by the speaker to distinguish the exhaustive lister interpretation from the ordinary neutral descriptor interpretation.
    • が as an exhaustive lister is used to contrast the marked subject with all other potential subjects and to imply that the action or state in question applies ONLY to the subject marked by が. In other words, が exhaustively lists the subjects in the universe of discourse to which the predicate applies.
    • For example, if a teacher asks a class だれかがオーストラリアにったことがありますか。[Has anyone visited Australia?] and a student replies マイクオーストラリアにったことがある。[MIKE has been to Australia.], the student is implying that ONLY Mike has been to Australia, and nobody else. In other words, Mike is the only potential subject to whom the predicate “has been to Australia” applies.
      • E.g. A: だれ日本語にほんごっていますか? B: ジョン日本語にほんごできます。[A: Who knows Japanese? B: John (and John alone) can speak Japanese.]
      • E.g. A: この学校がっこうきびしい先生せんせいがいますか? B: 黒木くろぎ先生せんせいきびしい。[A: Are there any strict teachers at this school? B: Kurogi-sensei (alone) is strict.]
  • が is very similar to . The difference in a nutshell is that が marks a grammatical subject when it is first introduced into a discourse, while marks a topic that has already been introduced into the discourse or is common knowledge that is shared between speaker and hearer. Check out this article for a more detailed look at vs が.

Example Sentences:

あめっています。[It’s raining!]

わたし部屋へやにはステレオがあります。[There is a stereo in my room.]

のりこがはしっています。[Noriko is running.]

A: このレストランはなにがおいしいですか? B: ステーキがおいしいです。[A: What’s delicious at this restaurant? B: The STEAK is delicious.]

わたし昨日きのう映画えいがはドイツの映画えいがだった。[The movie I watched yesterday is a German movie.]

ぼくはスポーツカーがしい。[I want a sports car.]

春子はるこはスペインかる。[Haruko can speak Spanish.]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line from 0:30: 明日あしたある、明日あしたある、明日あしたあるさ [There’s always tomorrow! There’s always tomorrow! There’s always tomorrow!] This is an example of が in use with an existential verb.
At 0:50, listen for this line: ポップコーンはじけるようにきという文字もじおど [Like popcorn popping, the letter of love is dancing.] This is an example of が in use with action verbs.
At 0:11, listen for the following: 2番線ばんせんドアまります。ご注意ちゅういください。[On track 2, the doors are closing. Please beware.] This is a very typical usage of が with a transitive verb.
The line that repeats throughout this song is 45びょうなにできる?[What can you do with 45 seconds?] This is an example of が in use with a potential verb and following a WH-Question word.
Listen to this line from 1:40: ボスこわい、きゃくつよ [The boss is scary, the customers are demanding] This is an example of が in use with stative adjectives.
Listen to this line from 2:32: かんがえすぎで言葉ことばまる、自分じぶん不器用ぶきようさがきら [I overthink and trip over my words, I hate my awkwardness.] This is an example of が in use with a transitive adjective.

***YouTube videos may be region-locked depending on your country of origin. If you experience issues, please try using a VPN set to a United States IP address.***