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たばこは体に悪いとわかってはいるものの、なかなかやめられない。

If it's は, does omitting は change the meaning in verb-te~はいる? And also, could you talk about what いる is doing?

If it's はいる, in what sense would you describe はいる's usage?

Also, as I googled for more examples, I noticed there was a general pattern of てはいる[が・けど・ものの]、... Is there something to this?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's the 助詞 "は". I'll leave it to the linguists for a technical description, but the practical effect is to emphasize the verb. "Although I do know cigarettes are bad for my body, I pretty much can't quit."

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This は is contrastive topic. 'As for understanding that cigarettes are bad for health, I do understand, but (for practicing that), I cannot quit it.' –  sawa Sep 22 '11 at 5:35
    
@sawa - Thanks, sawa. I don't quite understand what you mean by "(for practicing that)". Could you put it in different words? Also, is there a grammatical term in Japanese for "contrastive topic は"? –  rdb Sep 22 '11 at 6:22
    
Will 'putting it to practice' be understandable? I am not sure how 'contrastive topic' will be translated to Japanese, but a straightforward one will be '対比的主題'. –  sawa Sep 22 '11 at 6:31
    
@sawa - Thanks, I see what you mean now. The phrase would be "putting it in(to) practice". It's idiomatic. BTW, I noticed that you're in Connecticut; you wouldn't happen to be in New Haven would you? I lived there for several years. –  rdb Sep 22 '11 at 7:02
    
I see. I am not in New Haven. The weather is extreme here. –  sawa Sep 22 '11 at 8:17
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