Wild Nihongo!
~は~が

~は~が

~は~が Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Structure

Essential Meaning: As for X, it is is Y / Speaking of X, it is Y

Construction: 

  • (Topic + は) + (Subject + が) + Predicate
    • E.g. かれあしなが [As for him, his legs are long]

Notes:

  • ~は~が is a basic Japanese sentence structure (along with the ~は~だ structure). In the construction XはYがZ, Y and Z constitute a clause in which Y is the subject (marked by the subject marker ) and Z is the predicate (e.g. あしながい [The legs are long] or 天気てんきさむい [The weather is cold]). The YがZ clause is then used to describe some attribute or quality of the topic X (which is marked by the topic marker ). Although this construction may sound awkward when translated into English, it is an extremely common structure in Japanese and therefore very important to understand.
    • E.g. マイクはあしながい。[As for Mike, his legs are long.]
    • E.g コロラドしゅう天気てんきさむい。[Speaking of Colorado, the weather is cold.]
  • There are 3 basic situations in which the the XはYが Z construction is used:
    • (1) X is a human and YがZ expresses X’s physical or mental state, ability, or desire.
      • E.g. わたし英語えいごかる。[As for me, I understand Japanese.] In this example, the ability to speak English describes the subject’s ability.
      • E.g. たかしはテニスが上手じょうずだ。[As for Takashi, he’s good at tennis.] In this example, being good at tennis describes Takashi’s ability.
      • E.g. わたしはボーイフレンドがしい。[As for me, I want a boyfriend.] In this example, wanting a boyfriend describes the subject’s desire.
    • (2) Y is a part of X, and Z expresses something about Y, which in turn expresses something about X.
      • E.g. 花子はなこがきれいだ。[As for Hanako, her eyes are beautiful.] In this example, prettiness is a quality of the eyes, and pretty eyes is in turn a quality of Hanako.
      • E.g. ぞうはなながい。[As for elephants, their trunks are long.] In this example, longness is a quality of the trunk, and long trunks is in turn a quality of elephants.
      • E.g. わたしはおなかがすいた。[As for me, my stomach is empty.] In this example, being empty is a quality of the stomach, and an empty stomach is in turn a quality of the subject.
      • E.g. ミラーさんはたかい。[As for Mira-san, her stature is tall.] In this example, tallness is a quality of the stature, and a tall stature is in turn a quality of Mira-san.
      • E.g. 日本にほんはステーキがたかい。[As for Japan, the steaks are expensive.] In this example, expensiveness is a quality of the steaks, and expensive steaks are in turn a quality of Japan.
    • (3) Y belongs to the category of X, and Z expresses something about Y.
      • E.g. 辞書じしょはウェブスターがいい。[Speaking of dictionaries, Webster’s is good.] In this example, Webster’s belongs to the category of dictionaries, and Webster’s happens to be a good one.
      • E.g. うみ日本海にほんかいがきれいだ。[Speaking of seas, the Sea of Japan is pretty.] In this example, the Sea of Japan belongs to the category of seas, and the Sea of Japan happens to be a pretty one.
      • E.g. 日本にほん野球やきゅうはどこがつよいですか。[Speaking of Japanese baseball, which team is strong?] In this example, the category of Japanese baseball is introduced, and the speaker wants to know which member of this category (i.e. which team) is the strongest.
  • When referring to the speaker’s own emotions, abilities, et cetera, the topic can typically be omitted.
    • E.g. (わたしは)英語えいごかる。[I can understand Japanese.]
  • Certain verbs and adjectives idiomatically require the ~は~が construction. The following expressions generally require the ~は~が construction.
    • Words of Ability:
      • わかる [To understand]
        • E.g. 日本語にほんごかる。[I can understand Japanese.]
      • できる [To be able]
        • E.g. けんだまができる。[I can use a kendama.]
      • られる [Potential verb ending]
        • E.g. 刺身さしみべられる。[I can eat sashimi.]
      • える [To be visible]
        • E.g. 富士山ふじさんえる。[I can see Fuji-san.]
      • こえる [To be audible]
        • E.g. こえこえる。[I can hear voices.]
      • 上手じょうずだ [To be good at]
        • E.g. テニスが上手じょうずだ。[I’m good at tennis.]
      • 下手へただ [To be bad at]
        • E.g. テニスが下手へただ。[I’m bad at tennis.]
      • 得意とくいだ [To be one’s strength]
        • E.g. テニスが得意とくいだ。[Tennis is a strength for me.]
      • 苦手にがてだ [To be one’s weakness]
        • E.g. テニスが苦手にがてだ。[Tennis is a weakness for me.]
    • Words of Desire / Need:
      • しい [To want]
        • E.g. パソコンがしい。[I want a computer.]
      • ~たい [To want to]
        • E.g. 刺身さしみべたい。[I want to eat sashimi.]
      • いる [To exist]
        • E.g. いぬがいる。[There is a dog.]
      • 必要ひつようだ [To be necessary]
        • E.g. 宿題しゅくだいをするのが必要ひつようだ。[Doing homework is necessary.]
    • Words of Fondness:
      • きだ [To like]
        • E.g. テニスがきだ。[I like tennis.]
      • きらいだ [To dislike]
        • E.g. テニスがきらいだ。[I dislike tennis.]
    • Words of Emotion:
      • ずかしい [Embarrassing]
        • E.g. 発表はっぴょうずかしい。[Presentations are embarrassing.]
      • なつかしい [Nostalgic]
        • E.g. 小学しょうがくなつかしい。[Elementary school is nostalgic.]
      • にくらしい [Detestable]
        • E.g. あのくにがにくらしい。[That country is detestable.]
      • おそろしい [Terrifying]
        • E.g. あのくにがおそろしい。[That country is terrifying.]
      • こわい [Scary]
        • E.g. いぬがこわい。[Dogs are scary.]
      • うらやましい [Enviable]
        • E.g. かれがPS5をっているのがうらやましい。[I’m jealous that he has a PS5.]
      • くやしい [Frustrating]
        • E.g. けるのがくやしい。[Losing is frustrating.]

Example Sentences:

わたし英語えいごかる。[I can understand English.]

花子はなこがきれいだ。[As for Hanako, her eyes are pretty.]

辞書じしょはウエブスターがいい。[Speaking of dictionaries, Webster’s is good.]

たかしはテニスが上手じょうずだ。[As for Takashi, he’s good at tennis.]

わたしはボーイフレンドがしい。[As for me, I want a boyfriend.]

ぼくはフットボールがきだ。[As for me, I like football.]

ぞうはなながい。[As for elephants, their trunks are long.]

わたしはおなかがすいた。[As for me, my stomach is empty.]

ミラーさんはたかい。[As for Mira-san, her stature is tall.]

日本にほんはステーキがたかい。[As for Japan, the steaks are expensive.]

うみ日本海にほんかいがきれいだ。[Speaking of seas, the Sea of Japan is pretty.]

日本にほん野球やきゅうはどこがつよいですか。[Speaking of Japanese baseball, which team is strong?]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line at 2:12: きみちからち、きみあたまがいいきみかおがいいきみはみんなにやさしい [You are powerful, You are smart, You have a beautiful face, You are kind to everyone]

***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.***