(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 covering 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.
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)
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.