(pronounced わ) is often considered to be one of the most difficult particles to master in Japanese, alongside が
marks the topic of the sentence, and describes the whole sentence broadly. However, が
primarily marks single actions or statements. We will explore this distinction in more detail when coving が
Tanaka-san is a teacher. (Broadly speaking, not compared to anything)
I am Tom. (Broadly speaking, not compared to anything)
In many sentences (especially short ones), either は
would be considered perfectly natural.
In the first sentence, は
broadly describes what the sentence is about. In the second sentence, は
again describes the whole sentence, but が
highlights one specific piece of information.
Caution - は
cannot be used to describe things that you are seeing or experiencing ‘in the moment’ (right now). This is due to ‘in the moment’ events being considered part of a larger experience (your whole day for example).
I have a test now. (Slightly unnatural, as the test is happening ‘right now’)
It will rain today. (Natural, as rain is a fairly broad event)
Caution - は
has 2 main functions. The first marks the topic of the sentence, the second is used for contrast or making comparisons. Although there are no ‘strict’ rules for this, when は
is used toward (or after) the middle of a sentence, it will usually have the nuance of contrast.
I like Fridays. (Focus is on Friday)
I like Fridays. (Focus is on the comparison to other days)
In the second sentence, は
will give the listener the impression that there is a comparison being made.