So I am currently learning through the Genki textbooks and I'm starting to use は and の. I understand their general ideas は is used to clarify the subject and の is used to signify possession but I ran into these two examples in my textbook:



This sentence is talking about Kimura's university, so shouldn't this sentence be Kimura's possession and start with the の first?



This sentence seems to contradict the structure of the above sentence. It is talking about Kimura's major, again possessive like the last time, but this time reverses the は and の.

Is it that Kimura is Sakura University's student meaning that it's the university possessing him?

I am still very much a beginner so forgive me if this is obvious or I am thinking of it too much like English. Thank you for your time!

2 Answers 2


If you do a very direct translation...

as for Kimura-san / Sakura University's / student / (he) is

as for Kimura-san's major / Japanese Language / (it) is

「は」takes priority over「の」in the second example.

I think you are correct in parsing the first example's usage of「さくらだいがくのがくせい」as "Sakura University's student". This is not a natural expression in English, but it is in Japanese.

Many Japanese people who study English mistakenly say things like, "He is Sakura University's student" or "shoe's box" because it is common to express things that way in Japanese with「の」.


I think you are a bit confused about the nature of each of the particles you are discussing.

は can be called the "topic marker", and is the particle that introduces (or marks) the topic being discussed. Many times this corresponds to what in English is called the "subject", although this is not always true (since I want to keep the discussion as basic as possible though, I will not provide examples of such a case here. I believe that for the moment thinking of it marking mostly the subject might help you understand).

Let's look at your first example.

  1. Kimura-san here is marked by は because he is the topic of that sentence: Kimura-san is a student of Sakura University. So I guess what is confusing you is that the sentence is not talking of Kimura's university. It is talking rather of Kimura-san, and then it specifies the university he goes to. This leads naturally to why we have の after だいがく: it is specifying that Kimura is a student OF Sakura university (that is, specifying possession).

I think that if you try to switch の and は the sentence wouldn't make sense, unless you turn it around this way: きむらさんのだいがくはさくらだいがくです。 This also works, and in this case we simply turned the topic of the sentence from Kimura to Sakura University. Is this clear?

Second example.

  1. Basically, is very similar to example 1. You are right, the topic here is indeed Kimura's major, hence the major is marked by は (it does not contradict the above example, I think rather you missed what the actual topic was in example 1). On the other hand, の refers to the major expressing possession as you understood.

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