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Back to the very Basics with grammar (Using "wa"/"ha")

GoldCoinLover

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Since I've found out I want to be the best and learn japanese the correct way, and be the best speaker/writer/and reader of it I can be, I've decided since grammar is fundamental to understanding the language (especially later on I've heard) I've decided to get a better understanding of it. I bought Japanese Demistified by Eriko Sato. It seems like a great book, even better than my "Dummies" book. I heard good things about its grammar when I did some research on inexpensive grammar books.

It's comprehensive I think , it has kanji, and kana writings as well as written in romaji. I'm surprised I'm able to understand written japanese at mid beginner level, but with speaking and especially writing I'm severely lacking. I'm even more lacking in understanding grammar, fundamentally and every aspect of it and how all the particles relate and don't relate.

Also the book has a good vocabulary, dictionary, glossory and index as well as a test after grammical usage and of each chapter, as well as writing excerises, speaking ones and reading ones as well and also has a final quiz of everything you've learned all together as a final close-book test at the end. I really like it.

With the Japanese for busy kana workbook people I was given by a member here, Japanese For Busy people (kana verison.Vol1. It's a good book,I disliked how simple it was and lack of grammical structures, but it has a great CD For speaking it, and listening) and my Japanese Demistified, and i got an app for my android on the go called JA Sensei. Even the free verison is pretty nice. It teaches you proper stroke order on writing and all kana and alot of kanji. It even lets you draw the kana/kanji and quizzes you on proper drawing usage, and grades you. I try to match each kanji/kana up exactly to the drawing, making sure the proportions as correct as I can get and taking careful note of stroke order (I heard thats important).

I learned how to write Miru (to see) and have it memorized and well down pat, and the stroke order. I also know how to wrote dog (inu). That's it for kanji. I have only 1,800 more to go! heh. But I have all the hiragana (almost all) down pat now with writing, I think I write them OK, but it's hard without a proper teacher to guide me. All I can do is take note of stroke order and right each one as well as I can according to the ones I see in the kana workbook. I had a japanese friend take a look at them through a webcam, he said I drew them well though. I also posted a few images of them here on the Japanese section. Also I made a friend on Lang 8. I post my japanese there (even though its flawed grammically, most of the time they understand it). I made a friend and we can talk on skype through my phone for free. She lives in japan and is learning English. I can't wait to talk to her in japanese, and we can teach each other. She's learning alot like me. It may be tough to communicate everything i want to say in japanese. But I'll give it a shot. I think it's good to be able to speak and hear it. I don't get to much.

Also, I had a question, and wanted to see if I understood the grammical usage properly of "wa" or as written "ha".
I know it's prounouced wa and written as "ha."
I always thought of this just as a particle to introduce new things. But once I read this book, I realized why I didn't understand it right. Because the book mentions, when you're already talking about a topic, you use the particle "wa" to bring up NEW information on that topic, that isn't know. This makes more sense to me for some reason.

For example,

Nihongo ga benkyou shimasu.
(I'm) studying japanese.

Mai gatsu wa benkyou shimasu.
Every month (I'm) studying japanese.

I don't know if I wrote the second sentence correct or not, but my point is (hopefully I wrote it correct)
that (wa) at least my understanding is, it seems to be used when the topic (japanese) is already known, and I want to bring up something new about that topic. So maybe in the first example, I'm studying japanese. But in the second, perhaps the new info is that Every month, I'm studying it. So I may use "wa" right? Because it's new information about a already known topic.

At least thats what the book said, it used different examples, which are correct, when mine most often isn't.

I wish I could get this grammar down. I know I can and will do it with time, I'm not giving up on this, until I understand it, even then i won't give up after, but it's frusterating. It's really frusterating. I feel I can never get it right. Sometimes I do, but alot I don't.

Thank you!
Kevin (Goldcoinlover /GCL)🙂
Maichi
 

Toritoribe

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I'm studying Japanese.
日本語を勉強しています。

が is the subject marker and 日本語 is not the subject.
You can also say 日本語は勉強しています. In this case, は performs as the contrastive marker, thus, it means "I'm studying Japanese but am not studying other languages" or like that.


Every month I'm studying Japanese.
毎月[まいつき]日本語を勉強しています。

は can't be used here. Although you can use it in the negative sentence 毎月は勉強していません.

は/が is one of the hardest issues to grasp in Japanese grammar. Step by step.
 

GoldCoinLover

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Damn. Why can't I ever get it right? Did I have the right idea about one possible elementary usage of wa/ha? I'm discouraged. But I'll keep studying hard everyday. I'm never going to give up trying. Sigh
 
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nameless

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Please take whatever I say with a grain of salt because I'm just a beginner myself. I was reluctant to post this.

There used to be this nice book called "Gone Fishing" that explained the use of and difference between は and が。 It was published by Kodansha. Unfortunately my books are already in Japan so I can't just scan the chapter and post it here. :<

Here's a condensed version from some notes made ca. Oct 2010:

[We] were usually given "as for" as the closest English equivalent to は, which it indeed is. But after encountering は several thousand times and mechanically equating it with "as for," we forget the special effect that "as for" has in English, and it simply becomes a crutch for translating Japanese into a quaintly oriental version of English before turning it into real English.

「私は行きました」= "As for me, I went" = "I went."

The last equation in this sentence is wrong.

Sure, we have the expression "as for" in English, but sane people use it much more sparingly than do students of Japanese. [...]

The next time you are tempted to say 「私は行きました」 , stop and think whether you really want to proclaim to the world, "I know not what course others may have taken, but as for me, I went!" […]

は builds suspense. […] If the speaker were to pause at the は, the listener's brain would whisper subliminally "Yes, yes, and then what?" [...]

は dumps its emphatic load on what comes after it. This makes it very different from が, which emphasizes what comes before it. […]

This is why you don't say 「私が行きました」for a simple "I went," because what you are really saying is "I went", to which the proper response is "OK, OK, calm down." […]

Obviously, there are very valid places for は and が in Japanese, but the point here was to show that these particles are not really what they appear to be at first.

For the sake of completion, the normal way to say "I went" in a conversation is 「行きました」.
 

GoldCoinLover

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I understand kono and kore now. Can I use it like this? Sono hon wa dewa arimasen.... Demo kore wa hon desu. Thats not a book, but this one is a book.
 
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Mike Cash

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I understand kono and kore now. Can I use it like this? Sono hon wa dewa arimasen.... Demo kore wa hon desu. Thats not a book, but this one is a book.

Sore ha hon de ha arimasen.
Demo, kore ha hon desu.

Use "kono" when the noun follows immediately after it. Use "kore" when it stands alone.
 
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GoldCoinLover

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Thanks mike. My book said to use kore "this one" sore "that one" that it can be used for non human things. Maybe it would be rude or incorrect to say, kore wa hito desu. This one is a person, but is it ok to say sono hito wa chuogokujin desu. That petson (near listener) is a chinese person. Am I right? I understand what youre saying mike, it's frusterating. Because right when I think I understand something important in japanese, I find out I really dont. I hope I have made progress from years agi o. I never see myself improve.
 
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GoldCoinLover

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The more I think about it..........maybe ir would be a mistake to always think of kore wa as 'this one' . Maybe irs meaning, in general is more generic. .i remember reading in kim taes japanese reading how generic a topic can be and not to get into the habit of always finding exact translations. She mentioned how plyable it can be.
 
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Mike Cash

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Your problem is that you're over-thinking this.

Kore / sore / are / dore
NEVER followed immediately by a noun

Kono / sono / ano / dono
ALWAYS followed immediately by a noun.

That's it, Kevin. That's the whole enchilada.
 

GoldCoinLover

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Both have the Same meaning? Thanks mike. I understand the usage. あのいぬはおきいです。 あれはいぬおきいです。
 
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staren

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Both have the Same meaning? Thanks mike. I understand the usage. あのいぬはおきいです。 あれはいぬおきいです。

If I'm wrong someone can correct me but;
The first sentence is correct(except one missing お)
あのいぬはおおきいです。That dog is big.
The second sentence is wrong, as far as I know. The adjective should come before the noun.
あれはおおきいいぬです。This would mean: That is a big dog.
The sentences are a little different as you can see.
 
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nameless

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Both have the Same meaning? Thanks mike. I understand the usage. あのいぬはおきいです。 あれはいぬおきいです。

あの犬は大きいです。 - That dog over there is big.
あれは大きい犬です。 - That over there is the big dog.

Not quite the same meaning.

どの犬は大きいですか。 - Which dog is big?
どれは大きい犬ですか。 - Which is the big dog?

kosoado
 
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GoldCoinLover

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From my book, it says similiar: それは赤いぬです。 that dog is the one that is red.そのいぬは赤です。 thats the red dog. Correct me if im wrong
 
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Toritoribe

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どの犬は大きいですか。 - Which dog is big?
どれは大きい犬ですか。 - Which is the big dog?
I'm not going to nitpick, but it should be どの犬大きいですか and どれ大きい犬ですか. As you quoted, "は dumps its emphatic load on what comes after it. This makes it very different from が, which emphasizes what comes before it." The focus is ALWAYS put on interrogative words like どの, どれ, 何, どこ, 誰 in interrogative sentences, so は can't follow these words. You can say 大きいのはどの犬ですか or 大きい犬はどれですか.

は/が is tough indeed. 😌

From my book, it says similiar: それは赤いぬです。 that dog is the one that is red.そのいぬは赤です。 thats the red dog. Correct me if im wrong
それは赤いぬです。 
そのいぬは赤です。

赤いぬ can be correct but it usually refers to a dog breed, or at least has a nuance of it unlike 赤いいぬ.
 

GoldCoinLover

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I'm not going to nitpick, but it should be どの犬が大きいですか and どれが大きい犬ですか. As you quoted, "は dumps its emphatic load on what comes after it. This makes it very different from が, which emphasizes what comes before it." The focus is ALWAYS put on interrogative words like どの, どれ, 何, どこ, 誰 in interrogative sentences, so は can't follow these words. You can say 大きいのはどの犬ですか or 大きい犬はどれですか.
は/が is tough indeed.
それは赤いいぬです。 
そのいぬは赤いです。
赤いぬ can be correct but it usually refers to a dog breed, or at least has a nuance of it unlike 赤いいぬ.

それは赤いいぬです。 

そのいぬは赤いです。

That makes sense. I forgot to add the extra い to 赤 and seperate it from いぬ. Maybe that's why using kanji is good. Sometimes you can confuse the hiragana with other hiragana?

Was my translation right?

Sore wa akai inu desu.

Sono inu wa akai desu.

In the first, "That one is the red dog." (Closer to the listener)
In the second,
"That dog is red." (closer to the listener)

Which dog is it?
Maybe "Ga" is used here, since it is an interrogative and it emphaizes WHICH DOG.
While "wa/ha" emphaizes what comes after it right, that the DOG IS RED.
Dona inu ga desu ka?
Which dog is it?

Dore ga inu desu ka?
Which (one) is the dog?

I heard from Tae Kim's japanese that "Ga" is more of the "Identifior particle." It can identify which one.

Like,

Which is (the one) that is the student?
Dare ga gakusei desu ka?

Donna ga gakusei desu ka?
Whose the student?

Who is a student?
Dare wa gakusei desu ka?

I'm probably completely wrong. But do I have the general idea right? At least in its elementary usages.
I'm trying! :cry:


Thank you.
 

nameless

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I'm not going to nitpick, but it should be どの犬が大きいですか and どれが大きい犬ですか. As you quoted, "は dumps its emphatic load on what comes after it. This makes it very different from が, which emphasizes what comes before it." The focus is ALWAYS put on interrogative words like どの, どれ, 何, どこ, 誰 in interrogative sentences, so は can't follow these words. You can say 大きいのはどの犬ですか or 大きい犬はどれですか.
は/が is tough indeed.
それは赤いいぬです。 
そのいぬは赤いです。
赤いぬ can be correct but it usually refers to a dog breed, or at least has a nuance of it unlike 赤いいぬ.

Thanks for spotting that. You're right of course. My teachers and textbooks repeated that point dozens of times.

I really don't know why I wrote は with the question words. It even sounds "wrong" to me in my head. Perhaps I shouldn't answer posts at ~1am. :(
 

Toritoribe

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Was my translation right?
Sore wa akai inu desu.
Sono inu wa akai desu.
In the first, "That one is the red dog." (Closer to the listener)
In the second,
"That dog is red." (closer to the listener)
The following post might be somewhat helpful.

Kore/Kono, Sore/Sono and Are/Ano | Japan Forum

Thus, その犬 or それ can be the dog the addressee mentioned, even if the dog isn't actually there.

Dona inu ga desu ka?
Which dog is it?
どの犬がそれですか。

Donna ga gakusei desu ka?
Whose the student?
Who is the student?
誰がその学生ですか。

Who is a student?
Dare wa gakusei desu ka?
学生は誰ですか。
 

GoldCoinLover

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Toritoribe, I understand it, I think. Mike cash explained it well with "That is my dog." and "That dog is mine."

Interesting your explaination of locations with kochira. I never knew it related to location. Anyway, currently I am learning about sono/sore, kore/sono, and are/ano. I did well on the exam. I got them all right. But, constructing a sentence I usually mess up (from scratch in my own words.) I usually understand what I am reading though with this. When mike mentinoed it, I knew what he meant before he explained it. I think this is good. But confusing the particles is so easy for me to do. I feel like I'm studying so hard and going no where.

That dog is mine.
That is my dog.

In the first sentence, you'd use Sono Inu.

the second, Sore wa inu. Because I think its like what mike said ( I thought he said) Sono/kono/ano seems to modify what comes after it, while Sore/kore/are stands alone. that makes sense to me.

What is the name of THE student that is over there?

Are ga gakusei
The student (over there)

namae wa.
Here I think "wa' might introduce something new about the subject, the name of the student, right?
Assuming we already knew about the subject, and bringing up a new topic, the student's name, would we mark it with "wa"?

So, maybe "What is the name of the student that is over there?"
Are ga gakusei wa namae desu ka?

In my book, it talks about Tom. And we already know about Tom. He was mentioned before. So I want to bring up something new about Tom. His car. So I use "wa/ha" particle to introduce this new piece of information about the topic Tom, which is already understood. So, it says "wa/ha" can be used to introduce new things about a topic that is already known. Is this a correct elementary usage of "wa/ha"? That is how I understood it. But the more I feel I ask here, the more confused I get and the more disappointed I get I have it wrong every time. I'm learning, but it's frusterating. Japanese really is difficult to grasp the grammarical basics. Maybe because of the context, and subtle assumptions made based on context.

So, back to the topic marker.

Sono hito wa Tom desu.
That person is Tom.

Sono hito ga Tom desu.
*That person* is the one that is Tom.
*That person* is Tom. ("ga" maybe emphaizes that that person is , out of many people, the one that is Tom. So "Ga' maybe modifies
the word before it, the person. Right?)


Kore wa sakana desu.
This one is a fish.

Kono sakana wa desu.
This is a fish.

Kore ga sakana desu.
This one is the fish.

Kono sakana ga desu.
This fish is it.
This is the fish.

That over there is a fish?
Are wa sakana desu ka?
(As for that over there, its a fish?)

Ano sakana sore wa desu ka?
Is that a fish over there?

do I Got the right idea? (I Hope.) I read and understood what mike was saying well. Just when it comes to putting sentences together naturally...I'm not the best as you can see.

This dog is pretty.
Kono inu wa kirei desu.

This is a pretty dog.
Kore wa inu kirei desu.
 

Mike Cash

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Forget all that "subject marker" and "topic marker" crap. It is confusing as hell and I'll tell you quite honestly that I never was able to make sense out of it. Erase it from your mind and pretend you never heard it.

What we do with stress (emphasis), Japanese does with wa/ga.

As our very patient and most helpful friend pointed out: ga emphasizes what comes before it; wa emphasizes what comes after it. Just remember that in alphabetical order "g" comes before and "w" comes after.

Examples:

Japanese is HARD
Nihongo ha muzukashii desu

JAPANESE is hard
Nihongo ga muzukashii desu

Hiroshi is a STUDENT
Hiroshi ha gakusei desu.

HIROSHI is a student
Hiroshi ga gakusei desu.

Now, of course we don't always throw such a heavy stress on what we're saying in English, but we do always have in mind just which bit of the information is the key bit we want to convey to the other person. But since we do that with stress instead of with word (particle) choice, we don't have to be conscious of it when forming sentences. In Japanese, you do have to be aware because the word (particle) choice indicates which bit is the key bit of information you're trying to get across.

You could be totally clueless about this and still have a 50/50 chance of being right (as there are only two possible choices). Getting it right 100% of the time is extremely unlikely, so don't beat yourself up if you don't get it 100% of the time and don't get hung up on it. Do the best you can with it and keep moving right along. If you're right 75% of the time you're doing fantastic.
 

GoldCoinLover

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Thanks mike, that makes sense. Ill keep studying, and doing my best. マイクさん,わかります。頑張っています。わたしの日本語は 良くないですが,すこし上手がですね?
 
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Toritoribe

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わかりました。頑張ます。わたしの日本語は上手ではありませんが、すこし上手がですね

The last clause doesn't make sense at all.
良くない is more likely used as "bad language".
 

Angel Valis

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マイクさん,わかります。頑張っています。わたしの日本語は 良くないですが,すこし上手がですね?

It's good that you're continuing to ply forward; that's the most important thing.

A couple things though. You should be using a Japanese comma (、) rather than an English one; it's not that it makes it unable to be understood, but the English comma looks odd with Japanese, and since you're using the Japanese period, it would also be more consistent.

With the negative adjective, you should use either 「良くありませんが」, or 「良くないが」. You don't need です to intervene with the short form. As such, you should attempt to keep your formality level consistent (don't worry about it too much while you're learning, but it is something to think about); since you end your next clause with です, you should probably use 「良くありませんが」.

Also, you can drop が from 「すこし上手がですね」, it isn't needed...unless が can simply be used for emphasis (which, who knows, it may be able to be; I learn new stuff all the time about things I thought I knew), it doesn't accomplish anything here. Though 上手 does take が as its "faux" object marker in sentences such as 「日本語が上手です」.

Finally, to me, making a statement about your Japanese being good (even with the confirmation particle ね), even a little, seems a bit too forward. Perhaps 「すこし上手ですかね」, which introduces a sense of uncertainty would sound a bit less forward. Then again, I am not Japanese, so take my cultural observations for what they are; observations.

---------- Post added at 18:20 ---------- Previous post was at 18:15 ----------

The last clause doesn't make sense at all.
良くない is more likely used as "bad language".

Thank you Toritoribe-san, I was thinking of saying something about 良くない seeming off in that clause, but wasn't completely sure. Thanks for catching the other things I wasn't sure of in that as well; hitting a roadblock in my studies seems to be robbing me of the ability to tell whether something is possible or not.
 

GoldCoinLover

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I'll keep trying. I'm just frustrated I cant make any sentences that make sense. I think at least, even though my examples are flawed, I understand sono/sore, etc now. Esp mikes example in the other thread. I also understand wa/ga . They make a little more sense now
 
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