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Hello pretty new to Japanese and I have a question.

So I know this is supposed to be something like "he differs from his former self" but I can't really make sense of what the とは is supposed to mean in this particular situation.

彼は昔の彼とは違う

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This is just a case of acting as emphasis. The is used with 違う to say that something is different than something else

AはBと違う → A is different than/from B

Adding the is placing the focus on the relationship ( and 昔の彼), not the analysis of the relationship (違う).

  • 彼は昔の彼と違う → He is different than his former self (neutral statement)
  • 彼は昔の彼とは違う → As for him and his former self, they differ

Fundamentally, they mean the same thing. The difference is the focus. Don't know if I'm explaining that well. Take a look at this related question. It does a good job explaining in-depth how adding to another particle affects the meaning.

What is the difference between “に” and “には”?

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