Deciding when to use the GA particle or any other particle is not a matter of following a rule. The answer to this question depends on many factors used in the construction of sentences and the other particles that we use within the same sentence. In some cases, this seems to be more a matter of common sense and custom with the Japanese language than simply following a set of grammatical rules.
When to use the GA particle?
Although the purpose of this article is not to show the differences between the GA particle and other particles, such as the WA particle, it does gather several tips that can help you decide when to use the GA particle. This article was inspired by the reader's request Rodrigo, who contacted me last week. Hope you like it.
topic or subject
The main function of the particle Ga is to indicate the subject of the sentence, appearing right after the main noun of the sentence. The whole thing starts to get complicated when we realize that the WA particle also sets out to do the same job, although it has a slightly different focus than the GA particle. In any case, this is something that ends up confusing and complicating the life of those who are starting to learn Japanese.
“If you still don't understand the concept of topic in Japanese well, I suggest you read the article about the wa particle in Japanese.”
What is the difference between the two sentences above? In a free translation into Portuguese… None.
But if we make a literal translation, we will notice a small difference between the two sentences. See the translations below:
First sentence: About Mr. Yamada… you know? He is a university student (higher course).
Second sentence: Mister Yamada is a university student.
In the first sentence, the particle WA is used to indicate the subject of the sentence (Mr. Yamada), while in the second sentence, the particle GA is used to indicate the subject.
As the concept of topic does not exist in Portuguese, the normal translation of the two sentences ends up coinciding (Mr. Yamada is a university student.). Speaking specifically of Japanese grammar, the topic is just the subject about which something is said, it is marked by the particle WA and is not necessarily the subject of the sentence. On the other hand, the subject of sentences in Japanese is marked by the particle GA and has the same grammatical function as the subject in Portuguese.
Indicating existence or location with the GA particle
Usually the GA particle appears in sentences to indicate the existence or location of something. Note that, to indicate the location and existence, it is necessary to make use of two verbs of the Japanese language. The verbs IRU and ARU. If you still don't know these two Japanese verbs, I suggest you read the article "Japanese verbs iru and aru“.
At this point, you might be thinking… “I can also write one of the sentence patterns above with the WA particle. Is not?" In this case, it would look like this:
The translation of the above sentence was carried out literally to demonstrate the focus of the WA particle. In the case above, the difference is in the focus of the sentence.
Note that we use two different sentence construction patterns in Japanese.
1. place に object/living being が imasu/arimasu.
2. object/living being は place に imasu/arimasu.
The first case of emphasis on place ( 海 ), while the second focuses on the object or living being ( 魚 ). When the focus is on the place, we use the GA particle, and when the focus of the sentence is on the object or living being, it is more common to use the WA particle. But that's when it comes to indicating the location or existence of something.
Expressing need, desire, opinion or ability
When the sentence expresses a desire, need, opinion or ability to accomplish something, it is most common to find both the Wa particle and the Ga particle in the same sentence, with the particle GA always appearing before the verb. This happens because WA indicates the main subject of the sentence, while GA seems to make a kind of connection between the subject and what is happening.
Other articles related to this subject:
Using the GA Particle in Interrogative Sentences
In interrogative sentences, the particle GA can be used after an interrogative pronoun or the main noun of the sentence.
Nouns, adjectives and the particle GA
Usually, an adjective in Japanese appears before the noun that modifies it. Anyway, we can use the GA particle to modify this rule, using the pattern noun が adjective in short sentences.
The GA particle and the five senses
When describing one of the five senses (touch, alpha, sight, hearing and taste), you can use the GA particle, but in this case, GA follows the meaning used in the sentence.
Intransitive verbs and the GA particle
Generally, sentences with intransitive verbs have a noun that acts as the subject. In such cases, we use the particle GA between the subject and the verb.
Knowing when to use the GA particle may not be so easy, but with time and familiarity with the Japanese language, we have acquired a kind of common sense. This makes us intuitively realize when to use the GA particle. Even if the above tips don't help much, be a little patient. Keep studying and practicing and you will soon realize the right moments to use the GA particle.
In future articles, we will talk a little more about the functions of this particle.