Japanese dictionary & Nihongo learning tool. Use it online here or download an offline app
The Japanese grammar content is from jgram.org licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.

< back to grammar index
Edit  Amatuka
'topic marker' (also shown as 'wa')
X wa Y desu : X is Y
Edit  Amatuka
See also
Mr. Tanaka is a university student.
Edit  #623 Amatuka
I am Michael.
Edit  #5241 eastmael
The apple is green.
Edit  #5891 joe
Where is everyone?
Edit  #7818 Rinji_HalfElf
I am American.
Edit  #7819 Rinji_HalfElf
We are Martians.
Edit  #7820 Rinji_HalfElf
Where are you from?
Edit  #8778 beno
Discussion and comments
Introducing は "wa" and です。"desu."
the particle は marks the topic.
(Remember particles attach to the word which they follow, and that when は is a particle it is pronounced wa.)
です。functions like "is" or "topic is."

Is pronounced as "wah".
は a subject or topic marker.
は can appear as ha, or wa in romaji depending on the system used.

The kana used for は is usually pronounced as "hah", but pronounced as "wah" when used as a particle.
The same phenomenon happens in the word "dewa/deha" では in the negative conjugation of the verb [desu].

Other notes:
In yakuza speech,
は、becomes や (yah).
Typically, the y sound is softened such that it sounds like "ah"
Ore ha --turns to-> Ore ya --but sounds like-> Ore a
See here and here for two very interesting Japanese pages on using ha vs. ga
When to use は vs が?
Both sentences like 雨は降っている。[ame ha
futteiru] and 雨が降っている。[ame ga futteiru] are
valid, so working out when to use which form is a
tricky point.

First: In answering a question such as
Q. 机の上に何がありますか。[tsukue no ue ni nani ga arimasu ka]
A. 鉛筆があります。[enpitsu ga arimasu].
Here が is used.
On the other hand if attention has been placed on something in advance and the question is asked with that object as the topic...
Q. 本はどこにありますか。[hon ha doko ni arimasu ka.]
A. 本はイスの下にあります。[hon ha isu no shita ni arimasu]
then は is used.
が is also used to indicate a specific choice.
私が行きます。[watashi ga ikimasu]
_I'll_ go. (not any of the other possibilities).
は is used for contrastative sentences (see ha-2).
For example normally you'd say
犬が好きです。[inu ga suki desu] I like dogs.
However if you want to contrast how you feel about dogs with how you feel about other animals then
犬は好きだが、猫はどうも・・・[inu ha suki da ga, neko ha doumo ...]
I like _dogs_ but I really don't (get on with) cats.
は [ha / wa] follows a noun or a noun phrase.
(e.g. 犬は [inu ha] 'as for dogs'
知るのは [shiru no ha] 'as for what (I) know'
The latter case の nominalizes (turns into a noun) 知る)

N = noun
In [ex #7818], shouldnt it be: 皆さんはからどこですか?
Or から皆さんはどこですか? Wouldnt ex #7818 just mean "Where is everyone"? Im no Japanese grammar expert but doesnt から mean from? And shouldnt から be used in ex #7818?