The Differences in Use Between「を」and「が」

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As we continue to explore the difference in Japanese particles, we will look at two which are particularly useful. These are used for distinguishing objects and identifying unknowns, namely 「を」 and 「が」 respectively.

If you’re new to Japanese particles, you may be interested to read our first entry about the basics titled ‘Topic Marker and Sentence Ending Particles – は, も, よ & ね’. This will help you with the elementary kinds of particles used in building your foundations of the Japanese language.

「を」the Object Particle

When speaking about objects in Japanese, the「を」is typically used to connect the object and verb. It is commonly written in romaji as ‘wo’, however, the consonant sound remains silent and so it is pronounced the same as「お」or ‘o’. Let’s explore some examples to demonstrate how it can be used:

1. 新聞を読む (しんぶんをよむ or Shinbun wo yomu) – Read a newspaper

2. 絵を描く (えをかく or E wo kaku) – Paint a picture

3. ハンバーガーを食べる  (はんばーがーをたべる or Hanbaagaa wo taberu) – Eat a hamburger

4. 日本語を学ぶ  (にほんごをまなぶ or Nihongo wo manabu) – Learn Japanese

In all of the above examples, we can see that the object (noun) is always preceded by「を」and then followed by a verb, which is receiving the action. The general structure is as per follows:

Noun or object (receiving the action) + を (‘Wo’ or ‘O’) + Verb

This is an easy way of understanding the primary function of this particle.

「が」the Identifying Particle

Another important particle to help build your basics of Japanese grammar is 「が」, it can be seen as the identifying particle, especially when trying to identify unknowns. Let’s explore this first use with some question examples:

  1. 何が好き (なにがすき or Nani ga suki) – What do you like ?

2. 誰が学生 (だれががくせい or Dare ga gakusei) – Who is the student ?

As you can see above 「が」is used to identify unspecified details. Let’s now look at potential answers to these questions:

Q: 何が好き (なにがすき or Nani ga suki) – What do you like?

  1. アイスが好き (あいすがすき or Aisu ga suki) – I like ice cream.
  2. ビールが好き (びーるがすき or Biiru ga suki) – I like beer.

Q: 誰が学生 (だれががくせい or Dare ga gakusei) – Who is the student?

  1. マイケルが学生 (まいけるががくせい or Maikeru ga gakusei) Michael is a student.

The answers also demonstrate how「が」identifies unspecified information and can be used to directly link this detail in your answer.

Hopefully, these examples help you to understand the simple application of both 「を」and 「が」. If this exercise was useful, or maybe you have some further questions or wish to contribute to this page, then we are looking forward to your comments below.

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