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I am a bit confused by the sentences in the below image, especially the third one where が follows お酒. Surely お酒 is still either the topic or the object in that sentence, so why is the subject marker が used? Is it because 飲む is in the potential form?

Also I can’t quite grasp the subtle difference why を is used in the first sentence, but は in the second. To me, “do you drink alcohol often” and “I don’t drink alcohol often” are pretty much the same sort of sentence, at least in English, so what is the difference in particle conveying here?

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    See this for the が-を part: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/609/43676
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 23 at 22:00
  • This is the closest one I've found for the を-は part though it's closed as a duplicate of another, more general question: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/73023/43676
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 23 at 22:06
  • Regarding を vs は, I think the main reason is because the sentence has habitual aspect (forced by あまり, but in a conversation like this it probably would anyway). In a vacuum, I would tend to interpret お酒は飲みません with the sense of "I'm a teetotaler" (if the topic is alcohol, presumably that means alcohol abstractly and generally), and お酒を飲みません more like "don't worry, I won't steal your drink while you're in the bathroom" (a direct object should be a specific, concrete target of the action). Feb 24 at 7:44
  • I think your question is just too broad to get a satisfactory answer. You may get some ideas from existing questions like 私は猫が好き and 猫は私が好き
    – sundowner
    Feb 24 at 10:43

1 Answer 1

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I think it's important to note here that whether は or を is used, the お酒is always the object of the sentence.

You must have heard already that は is the topic marker, が is the subject marker, and を is object marker. That's right, は denotes the topic of discussion, which may NOT necessarily be the subject.

Consider the following examples:

私は食べます。 (literally) As for me, eat.

Here, we first bring up 私, and mark it with は, this is the topic of our discussion. Thus instead of "I eat", a more fitting translation is "As for me, eat." It just happens that 私 is also the subject.

お酒は飲みません。 (literally) As for wine, I(or someone else) do not drink.

Here, the logic with the は does not change. We first bring up お酒 as the topic, then, as for the お酒, I or you or some other guy does not drink it. The true subject who's doing the drinking is not mentioned in the sentence, and is implied to be the speaker. If you do wanna mention it clearly, you could say お酒は私が飲みません。

Such is the logic of Japanese sentences, the idea of a "topic" doesn't really exist in English, and the best approximation you can do it translate XXは as "As for XX". Which could be the subject, the object, or neither, just a piece of information that we're setting as the topic, like the following sentence:

公園には私が行きたくない As for to the park, I don't want to go.

Subject: 私, object: none since verb is "to go", topic: directional adverb "to the park"

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