First Japanese Stack Exchange question :D

I'm reading a Japanese book and one of the chapter got me thinking.

The book wrote it like this:

How many pencils are there ?

Can we not not replace は with を ?

Like this:

えんぴつ を なんぼんですか
  • In this situation no. です does not take as a particle.
    – dotnetN00b
    Aug 3, 2015 at 12:52
  • @dotnetN00b thanks for the extra note, I tried up voting but it wouldn't let me :D
    – CuriousOne
    Aug 3, 2015 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


を denotes a direct object in a sentence. は denotes the subject. Here, えんぴつ is the subject of the sentence, so it should have a は next to it.

  • Rightio, thanks :) My brain learn from seeing patterns. I assumed since えんぴつをいっぽんください (can I have a pencil please) would naturally have a reciprocal question form. I guess I jumped the gun a bit :D
    – CuriousOne
    Aug 3, 2015 at 13:09
  • You're welcome. And just to add to @dotnetN00b's comment above, you can only use を if you have an action verb in the sentence. So for your example, ください is your verb (effectively "please give"), so you use を. But asking "how many" has no action, so it can't use を. Hope that helps you make sense of it. Aug 3, 2015 at 13:15
  • 1
    は doesn't necessarily mark the subject, が does.
    – Blavius
    Aug 3, 2015 at 13:57

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