The Japanese grammar particle wa is one the most confusing particles for most beginner Japanese. The particle wa is really just a simple particle for indicating the topic of a sentence. Most of the time, the topic can be the subject in the sentence too.
Watashi wa ningen desu.
I’m a human.
Let’s take a look at the example above. Watashi means I and ningen means human. In this case watashi is the topic and ningen is the subject. Since watashi and ningen are referring to the same thing, the person who is a human, the topic is the subject.
Ashita wa ikimasen.
Tomorrow, I’m not going.
In the second sentence, ashita means tomorrow and ikimasen means not going. Ikimasen comes from the word iku which means to go. Notice that ashita and ikimasem are not related in anyway. In this case, the topic is not the subject.
Using the Japanese particle wa correctly in a sentence is very important. Let’s take a closer look at more examples below:
Neko wa kawaii desu.
Cat is cute.
Kanojo wa watashi no koibito desu.
She is my lover.
Yudan wa taiteki desu yo.
Negligence is your worst enemy.
In the 1st example, neko means cat and kawaii means cute. In the 2nd example, Kanojo means she or girlfriend. If you want to say he or boyfriend you can use kareshi. Koibito means lover. In the 3rd example, Yudan means negligence or unpreparedness. Taiteki means great rival or powerful enemy.
Perhaps the easiest way to think about the Japanese particle wa is to think of it as “as for…”. Tabako wa yoku nai desu. As for cigarette, it’s bad. Tabako means cigarette and yoku nai means bad, not good. Literally translated it would mean, As for cigarette, not good it is.
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