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I am reading chapter 4 from the JLPT N5 book, where I found the following sentence:

昨日勉強しましたか。

After 昨日, why wasn't there a topic particle? Is "昨日は勉強しましたか。" an incorrect sentence?

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Marking it with は is certainly not wrong, and would in fact be natural. It doesn't change the meaning, but if the は is stressed, it will contrast yesterday to all other days, and will thus put stress on the time:

昨日勉強しましたか - Did you study yesterday? (Plain question)
昨日勉強しましたか - Did you study yesterday? (As opposed to any other day)

However, if the は is not stressed, then は is a normal topic marker and it is still a plain question:

昨日は勉強しましたか - Did you study yesterday? (Plain question, は unstressed)

(Thanks to naruto for pointing this out in the comments.)

  • I would probably say 「昨日は勉強しましたか」 when I want to plainly ask "Did you study yesterday?" as opposed to nothing. – naruto Aug 21 '15 at 2:41
  • @naruto So, it doesn't emphasize the time after all? – Blavius Aug 21 '15 at 2:43
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    I think it depends on the pronunciation; when は is stressed, it would be the contrastive-wa, but otherwise it would be the usual topic marker. Perhaps OP just didn't know 昨日 can act as an adverb by itself? – naruto Aug 21 '15 at 2:49
  • Huh, I was not aware of that distinction. I will edit my answer. – Blavius Aug 21 '15 at 2:52
  • I wonder why nobody say anything about 晩強... – broccoli forest Aug 21 '15 at 5:17

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