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I saw a sentence:

これ、オンラインで聞けますか。

Why is ‘は’ instead of 'が' or 'を' used here? I think the full sentence should be like the following. 

あなたはこれ/、オンラインで聞けますか。

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    Why do you think the sentence should have が/を instead of は? Why make the topic あなた instead of これ?
    – A.Ellett
    Nov 8, 2023 at 20:17
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    What do you expect the sentence to mean? Why should that meaning require あなた to be the topic? Nov 9, 2023 at 1:29
  • You should probably read this
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 9, 2023 at 21:05
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    @N.Hunt "This issue [ga vs wa] has become of interest far beyond those who seek to understand the particular facts of Japanese, because it has become a truism that Japanese has an overt marker for topic (wa), a concept that is much appealed to in accounts of not only the pragmatics, but also the syntax and semantics, of a wide range of languages, in many of which however the evidence for the category “topic” is quite indirect." I thought I knew English until I tried to read the introduction in that document...
    – jarmanso7
    Nov 11, 2023 at 4:46

2 Answers 2

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First of all, あなた is never used like the impersonal you in English. It always refers to a concrete person (often someone you don't know the name of). Even when it's used in an advertisement, it's understood as referring to the listener as an imaginary yet concrete potential customer. When a sentence begins with あなたは, it's specifically talking about that person.

Your second sentence, therefore, will be understood as asking about the ability of the person you are talking to, but I don't think that's what you mean here. (It's not a "full" version of the first sentence.) You probably want to ask about the availability of this for online listening. Then marking これ as a topic is a natural thing to do. You can still say これをオンラインで聞けますか (without あなたは) without changing the meaning much. The doer of the listening will most likely be understand as you as the speaker if said in the same context in which これはオンラインで聞けますか is natural.

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  • Perhaps you could say something further about why が wouldn't sound right in a general context. As a nonnative speaker, I hesitate to say anything on this distinction. To say これが in this context seems to be drawing too much attention to これ for a general statement, to be singling これ out as somehow unique in some respect. Am I right?
    – A.Ellett
    Nov 10, 2023 at 18:42
  • @A.Ellett - You're right. In this particular case, これがオンラインで聞けますか sounds like the original sentence of which the OP's second sentence with あなたは is a "full" version.
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 10, 2023 at 22:43
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To me, the difference is like the below.

  • これはオンラインで聞けますか: (straightforward)
  • これをオンラインで聞けますか: 1. It would be convenient for me if this happens to be available on the internet, but is that possible? 2. Would you really choose the online one for this?
  • これがオンラインで聞けますか: 1. I see, so, luckily the online one is available for none other than this, hmm.2. Are you audacious enough to choose the online one for none other than this?

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