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Why does てはいけない use は? I know it's a construction, but where did it come from? て form verbs are not nouns, it doesn't make sense to me that は could be used with them.

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THe は in ~てはいけない. Is actually not the topic marking particle, but a different particle entirely. IT's kind of like how the particle に has a number of different uses. In this case the は is used to emphasize the negative part of the sentence. You'll see in other places が being replaced by は before ない or another negative verb or adjective.

Edit: I found some more information on the subject. This website does a good job discussing this concept as I understand it.

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    People can be creative, and I think it's better to think of は as attaching to concepts, not nouns. も is also used with te-forms, 「座ってもいい」. Also, sentences such as 「まず『ありがとう』と言ってはどうだろう」 show that te-forms are considered a fully-formed concept like 言うのは. – blutorange Aug 8 '13 at 9:41
  • Both in 「象 は 動物 だ」 and 「言う は 動詞 だ」 and (talking about pronunciation)「言う は ゆう」, は attaches to the concept of the words 象 and 言う. Often, you want to talk about the concept of performing a verb, and one way to do that is の 「XをYと言うの は 何故 だ」 – blutorange Aug 8 '13 at 9:58

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