Placement of は

イ リ ニ

Hello everyone,

I'm spending time trying to wrap my head around 'wa' and every time I think I understand where it should go, I make a mistake.  In this example from module 1.6, if "wa" signifies the subject of a sentence, then in the following example:

Are you Sayaka?
Sayaka san desu ka / さやか さん です か

Why wouldn't it be:  
Sayaka san wa desu ka / さやか さん は です か

Or can you say it both ways, and the first example is less formal?
If the second example is incorrect, then how would this mistake sound if you tried to say it in English (that would help me grasp why it would be a mistake).

どうも ありがとう!


There is no は after さやかさん because the subject/topic of the sentence is "You".  A more detailed sentence in Japanese would be:
あなた さやかさん です
You                  Sayaka-san      are   ?
Are you Sayaka-san?

In Japanese the topic is often omitted if it's understood from the context.

(Corrections or further explanation welcome!)

イ リ ニ

Ok, so in cases where the topic is "you" and it's obvious, then it is omitted.

But I guess that in sentences where the context doesn't seem obvious to me, it's not used and vice versa.   For example:

Nihon jin imasu ka? / にほん じん いますか?
Is there a Japanese person?

That is a sentence that would seem to me should be:
にほん  じん  は  います か?

When I look at the collection of sentences I've learned so far up to module 1.8, I would have guessed incorrectly at least 30% of the time where and where it shouldn't be used.


Maybe「にほん じん いますか?」is a case where the particle is dropped because it's casual speech (i.e. from a Kenny & Sayaka conversation)?

vs give me trouble, so I'll wait for Crystal to explain. (^-^*)ノ

Edited: clarity


This Japanese Ammo video might help:


You can never put the ha particle in front of imasuka. It simply does not go.

日本人いますか from the lessons in literal translation is Japanese person is there? There can never be a particle between these. It can be ここは日本人いますか That is where it is dropped from because the obvious part of the sentence has been omitted. What you will find confusing about Japanese is that if the subject is obvious to both the speaker and listener then a great many words will simply be omitted completely. If you put the ha subject marker after nihonjin then it is like saying Japanese people are.... 日本人は丁寧です Japanese people are polite - nihonjin ha teinei desu.


Tony-さん, would 「にほん じん いますか?」be an acceptable question? I know that you can use Noun + が + いる for statements, for example 「いいひといます。」


I do not believe that would ever be an acceptable sentence.

I know you can use it for arimasu with both like 鏡がありますか 鏡はありますか kagami ha/ga arimasuka is do you have a mirror / are there mirrors.

When talking about people the markers sound really off like they should not be there at all. Its more something to do with living things and objects that make the difference.

イ リ ニ

Thanks very much to both of you.

I'm a little lost on the kanji characters as I'm only proficient right now in hiragana and I've started katakana, and some of this is a little over my head as a beginner.  But what I'll take from this is:

When the topic is "you" and is obvious, it's omitted.
When talking about people, the markers shouldn't be there.
Never put the ha particle in front of imasu ka.
Many words are omitted when the subject is obvious to both speaker+listener.



I wouldn't say that the particles/markers should be omitted when talking about people. I just looked in GENKI I (2nd Edition) and on page 108 the construction (place に) person が  います is introduced. Later in the practice section of that lesson (page 115) the question is asked:
あなた がっこう にほんじん がくせい います か
So particles are appropriate when discussing people in some cases.

Also, any topic (not just you/あなた) can be omitted under the correct circumstances. Example:

      ここに ねこが います。ぎゅうにゅう   を のんでいます。
      There is a cat here.                    (The cat) is drinking milk.

(Corrections or further explanation welcome!)


In your example above the ga immediately follows the word for student which is totally different to having it next to nihonjin.


That's what has me confused—what is the difference between がくせい (student) and にほんじん (Japanese person)? Both are nouns. Why would one take the particle が before います, while with the other the particle would be omitted as a rule?


I am no expert on the placement so can honestly say I am not sure of why.

I know you can say things like の本の女性は 日本の男性が 日本の子供達が and use the particles.

However I have only ever known these 日本人いますか to be used without the connecting particle. 

I am guessing it has more to do with the use of "imasu" "iru" connected directly to a person without the use of any other word between.

彼は日本の女性が結婚していました - かれはにほんのじょせいがけっこんしていました

彼女は日本人の男性が好きです - かのじょはにほんじんのだんせいがすきです

Even to me the use of particles gets confusing, however when you look at many sentences you can begin to see a pattern of how and where they are used and still not understand why but just follow along. There are even mysteries of the English language about things we say and do that I do not understand.


I have been thinking about this more and thinking about other Japanese words.

They say things like

There is no particle in the above words and I am starting to guess that the same reasoning for the above is the same for below. Just my guess anyway. In all the years I have practised Japanese 11 years on and off, I have never seen a topic marker for the below.


Hi everyone!

You can use the particle 「は」or the particle「が」with 「います」.
E.g. 「ひと が います。」"There is a person there."
「日本人スタッフはいますか」"Do you have any Japanese staff?"

However, in casual speech,「は」(and the topic of the sentence) is commonly omitted, since it is usually understood from the context of the sentence. (Although, as I pointed out in another post, misunderstandings can and do occur among native Japanese people because of this.)

「食べている」,「歩いています」, and 「来ている」 are different in that they are phrases constructed using the 「Te-form verb + います] pattern. That is why there is no particle, as they are not the topic of the sentence.

I hope that helps!



Thank you Crystal!

(I wish I had a way to bookmark your post so I can refer to it easily in the future.)

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