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Help Minna Particle Quiz. Help me, I failed.


27 Apr 2018
A. 窓開いていますから、閉めてください。
B. このコピー機故障していますから、あちらのを使ってください。

Hello, friends:

The two preceding sentences are found in a "review" quiz in my Minna textbook. I have highlighted the respective が and は as these particles were left out of the sentences, to be filled in by the reader. I have a few questions:

1. The 窓 of sentence A is the subject of an intransitive verb in the first clause, and the object of a transitive verb in the second. I've wondered why は couldn't work here, as there does seem to me to be a contrastive context between the reality of an open window and the desired outcome of a closed window, even though only one window is being talked about.​
2. In the second sentence we have two copiers being talking about; the physically closer copier is broken, in contrast with the distant, working copier. What is the key difference between sentences A and B that necessitates different particles?​
3. What is the best way to understand 故障 + する? I realize it means "the copier is broken down"; but this translation loses the activeness of the する verb, and I'm assuming that the copier is the subject of the する verb construction. This wasn't a question of the quiz itself, but I should like to clarify this for my own understanding.​

PS...as mentioned in the subject line of this post, yes, in my quiz responses I reversed the correct particles. FAIL. 😖
PPS...I realize that the perennial は and が learner conundrum must be tedious for Japanese teachers so I apologize in advance.

Thank you!
The following thread might be somewhat helpful.

窓 is new information that is not mentioned yet, and が is 中立叙述の"が".

The contrastive nuance is on the one indicated by は, but there is no contrastive nuance on 窓 there. 窓は開いていますから 、ドアは/を閉めてください can be acceptable, but 窓が開いていますから 、ドアは閉めてください is more common for contrasting 窓 and ドア.

As I wrote in the thread linked above, このコピー機 is treated as already-known information, so は is used even if there is no other copier there (e.g. このコピー機は故障していますから、使わないでください。). It would be OK to interpret は as the contrastive marker in your case, though.

Not all -suru verbs have "activeness". 故障する is a non-volitional verb (非意志動詞) as same as 壊れる, so there's no problem that the copier is the subject of 故障する.

The は - が issue is one of the hardest things to grasp for non-native learners. Here's what Glenn-san, who is one of the most serious and knowledgeable learners this forum have so far, once said about this issue. I completely agree with him.

Hi, Toritoribe-san; thank you so much for your very informative response -- it's always amazing you offer so much excellent knowledge and so quickly.

I need to read all the information you've provided more carefully, but I wanted to let you know I appreciated your help.

Your point about このコピー機 taking は because the この implies already known information is brilliant! Minna has never made this explicit but I've always wondered if there was a connection between demonstrative pronouns/adjectives and は. Thanks to you I now understand why: これ/この implies known information, known info = は; previously unknown/new information = が. Brilliant! Perhaps I'm oversimplifying, but I think this will really help me.

Regarding 故障する, great explanation. Thank you very much. 🙏

I'm thinking I know the difference between 1 and 2 here. Would you mind confirming if I'm correct or clarifying for me?

1. For this one it could be contrasting 犬 with other things that could be eating the bread. I.E. It is the dog that is eating the bread (not the cat).
2. For this one it could be contrasting パン with other things that could be eaten. I.E. The dog is eating the bread (not the dog food I bought)

Didn't think to check the original post before asking but it seems that's the case with the answer you'd already given. I'm always quick to jump the gun.
が is used to emphasize "It is the dog that is eating the bread, not the cat". This is が for specifying.


In that case, 犬 is the main topic, and パン is the sub topic.
犬はパンは食べています。(The second は connotes ペットフードは食べていません.)
In the original sentence though は can be a contrast between the dog (the one that ate the bread) and other things (the ones that did not eat the bread) is that right?

The example I'm more used to is referring to weather. 今日は暑いです。Today is hot (but not other days).
In the original sentence though は can be a contrast between the dog (the one that ate the bread) and other things (the ones that did not eat the bread) is that right?
Right. "The dog is eating bread" and "the cat is not eating it" are in contrast in 犬はパンを食べています。猫は食べていません。. However, は is also the usual topic marker since 犬 is already-known information. In fact, 犬と猫がいます。犬はパンを食べています。 doesn't have a so-strong contrastive nuance as same as 昔々、あるところに、おじいさんとおばあさんが住んでいました。おじいさんは山へ柴刈りに行きました。. が works as "が for specifying" for already known information 犬, and strongly suggests "it is the dog that is eating bread" here.

The example I'm more used to is referring to weather. 今日は暑いです。Today is hot (but not other days).
今日 acts as already known information as same as 私, あなた, これ/それ/あれ. so 今日は暑いです。 can be a simple forecast or fact regarding today's temperature. 今日が暑いです。 means "the/a hot day is today, not the other day". This is used in a context, for instance as an answer to 昨日と今日ではどちらが暑いですか.

Of course, は can be a contrastive marker in a context.

It's often hard to say whether は has a contrastive nuance or not for a stand-alone sentence without context, especially for verb sentences.
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