Using wa(は) and ga(が) particles with Japanese verbs

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By studying Japanese we learn that the particle wow [は] is the topic marker, ga [が] is the subject marker, wo [を] is the object marker, no [に] and in [で] are location markers and hey [へ] is the direction marker. We use を, に and へ particles before verbs, but can we use wa [は] and ga [が] particles with Japanese verbs?

In this article, we will understand when to use particles wow [は] and ga [が] to mark verbs in Japanese language. First we have to remember that Japanese grammar works with a system SOV (subject-object-verb). With that in mind let's look at when to use は and が particles before verbs or in place of particles like を.

One of the most obvious situations is when the sentence has no object, it only has a subject. phrases like [I run] has absolutely no object to be indicated by the particle wo [を], because the subject is the object that is running. This is one of the situations where we can use は and が before the verb without fear of making mistakes.

If you have questions about when to use wow or ga, you can read our following article: What is the difference between Particle は(wa) and が(ga)

Using wa(は) and ga(が) particles with Japanese verbs

When to use ga [が] or wa [は] instead of wo [を]?

the particle ga [が] is often used in place of wo [を] when the verb is an abstract action, mental or non-physical. This also happens when the verb is in the potential form, as it is indicating that the action is possible and not a reality. Intransitive verbs also often use the particle が.

There is also a class of Japanese verbs (usually predicates) whose subjects and objects take が instead of を. These verbs often relate to conditions or occurrences that occur independently of human decision, will, or volition, such as understanding, need, or power.

Some sentences in the table below represent the use of the particle ga [が] before verbs in Japanese:

肉が食べられない Niku ga taberarenai I can't eat meat
日本語 が分かる Nihongo ga wakaru I understand japanese

In the case of the particle wa [は], we will rarely need to use it in conjunction with a particular verb. Let's just use it in sentences where there are no objects and the subject is doing the action. In these cases we can think that は can express contrast. So we must decide between wa and ga according to the objectives of each one.

Using を or が can change the meaning of the sentence

There are situations where が and を are interchangeable, but there are times when a particle can totally change the meaning of the sentence. An example of a sentence that doesn't matter to use wo or ga is ピアノ[を/が] 弾ける [piano_hikeru]. No matter what particle you use, the sentence will continue to mean I play piano with hidden subject and piano being the object.

An example that shows that particles change the meaning of the sentence is in the sentence 魚が食べる [sakana ga taberu] that we can understand how fish eat. If we change the が to the を it will have the sense of eating fish. O ga says that the fish is the subject and that he is doing the action of the verb. While the wo indicates that the fish is the object being eaten.

Potential verbs using the particle が tend to focus on the noun, while using を the focus is on the entire sentence. This can drastically change what we're trying to say. Of course, there are countless other situations that we should be aware of about the correct use of particles, but I hope this little article has helped to understand a little.

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