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I read 日本語の助詞(情報構造) and from what I understand it says:

What comes before は is old information and after it it's new information. (This makes sense to me).

What comes before が is new information (this makes sense to me) and after it it's old information (This does not make sense to me though).

So I tought of a conversation in my head.

My parents call me at the cellphone while I am in a bar with some friends.

Parents:お祖母さんは死んだ。

My friends ask me what's wrong and I answer: お祖母さんが死んだ。

I am not sure if this is correct to be honest, but this is how I think it would go.
My reasoning is that me and my parents already have a mental referent for お祖母さん and we assume she existed, therefore old information は. My friends do not know that I have a お婆さん so she is new information therefore が, but the fact that she died is new information too.

So from what I understand since は is the only old information what comes is all new information right?

Also by reading:

話題は「話者が区別し、それについての情報をコメントとして与える対象」である

It makes sense that you separate the old info from the rest and you add new info.

Can someone explain to me if I am wrong? From what I understand the only old information is marked by は (and も), while the new information is marked by all the other particles (がをにで and も included).

  • 1
    What does "は がおに" mean in the title? Perhaps "は、が、を、に" (though I don't see much relevance in some of them)? – broccoli forest Feb 10 '17 at 10:53
  • Yeah, sorry. I'll fix the title when I get back home. I added を and に because you could use は instead of them too. – Splikie Feb 10 '17 at 10:56
  • FYI, お婆さん just means "little old lady". "Grandmother" is お祖母さん. I don't know if that's the context you were going for, but your sentences are saying "the little old lady died", not "your grandmother died". – istrasci Feb 10 '17 at 16:15
  • @istrasci I don't think it's a very strict rule. Opinions may vary among people though. – broccoli forest Feb 10 '17 at 20:19
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Whether some information is new or not is certainly one of the most important criteria, but that's not the only thing that determines which to use.

In this case, both your parents and you must say お婆さん死んだ even though you know her well. See:

After saying this, you may add something like 「うちのお婆さん3年前から病気だった」「お婆さん昨日まで元気だったのに…」 because these are not new events that just happened.

  • From what I understand, が can be used when the が marked noun is the new information (so you know the rest) and when everything (the がmarked noun too) is new information. Correct? – Splikie Feb 10 '17 at 12:24
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    @Splikie Not wrong, but you should know much more than that as a lerner. What you're seeing in the linked article is a super-simplified overview for native Japanese speakers who can use が/は without "knowing" them. – naruto Feb 10 '17 at 13:12
  • Thank you. I am going to read them after I finish reading. I have a question though. From what I understand with は you are contrasting different things and chosing one of them and presenting it, after that it comes new info on that. So it's more of an introduction to me, right? There is always a zero pronoun not shown in the sentence. Let0s use:おばあさんは死にました. In reality it's:おばあさんは(彼女が)死にました but you don't need to repeat が since you understand it. Right? I am trying to really interiorize this and focusing on it before going to japan- – Splikie Feb 10 '17 at 13:34
  • Yes は is often collectively referred to as 取り立て詞, but let's not over-simply it. おばあさんは彼女が死にました sounds really weird to me, and most average Japanese people innocently believe "Wa and ga are both subject markers! Difference? Who knows?" – naruto Feb 11 '17 at 2:23
  • (美綴の言うように、すでに弓道の道が当たり前のように根付いていた士郎にとっては部活はさほど必要のないものだったからか、火事を経験して以来物事に執着できなくなっていたためにあっさりと捨てたのか…。) I understand this sentence but could you tell me what a japanese native would think reading 部活は? Would it see it as the subject marker? I heard this explanation:語や文節、活用語の連用形などに接続し、ついた語句の範囲を、多くの事柄から一つに限定して提示したものとするような、強調の役割をしたり、題目を提示して、叙述の範囲をきめたり、叙述内容の成り立つ条件に限定を加える事を示す。また、格助詞や副詞などに付いて意味や語勢を強めるなど、二つ以上の判断を対照的に示すこともある。現在では「わ」と発音する。 somehow if I do not think consciously it sounds like a subject marker to me though. – Splikie Feb 11 '17 at 11:35
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Generally, the usage “は” and “が” depends on where you focus on.


If you focus on your grandma, it’s natural to use “おばあさんは・・・.”

You don’t know how grandma is, whether she is alive or dead.

”おばあさんはどうしていますか? How are grandma?”
“おばあさんは死にました。 Grandma has gone.”

In this context, “おばあさんが死にました” is unnatural.


If you focus on who, it’s natural to use “,XXXが・・・”
You know someone has gone, but don’t know who has gone.

”誰が死んだのですか? Who has gone?”
“お婆さんが死にました。Grandma has gone.”

In this context, “おばあさんは死にました” is unnatural.


I'm not sure but after you get answer and you are aware of it. It must be old information. For me, the explanation of usage "は" and "が" by "new information (before you are aware of it)" and "old information (aftre you are aware of it)" is something wrong.

  • I know about the focus this. It's like answering a different question. How would you explain は and が? Only depending of focus? From what I understand with は you are contrasting different things and chosing one of them and presenting it, after that it comes new info on that. So it's more of an introduction to me, right? There is always a zero pronoun not shown in the sentence. Let0s use:おばあさんは死にました. In reality it's:おばあさんは(彼女が)死にました but you don't need to repeat が since you understand it. Right? – Splikie Feb 10 '17 at 12:28
  • @Splikie No. To begin with, おばあさんは彼女が死んだ doesn't mean "as for my grandma, she died" but "my grandma's girlfriend died". Even if it's "おばあさんは自分が死んだ", it doesn't mean simple "my grandma died" either but something like "her reckless behavior killed herself". People whose language requires the grammatical subject tend to hold that idea, but that doesn't work in Japanese grammar. – user4092 Feb 10 '17 at 17:10
  • @Sonny365 TANAKA I meant to say おばあさんは(おばあさんが)彼女が死んだ as if the zero pronoun is still marked by が but since it's a zero pronoun you do not say it. This is at least what some people explained to me. The gramatical が(主格) is there, but since you can understand what it refers to you don't need to say it out loud. – Splikie Feb 10 '17 at 17:37
  • (Although I'm not him) Interpreting おばあさんは死んだ as "as for my grandma, she died" is correct but interpreting it as おばあさんは おばあさんが 死んだ is wrong, because what corresponds with "she died" is just 死んだ, not おばあさんが死んだ. – user4092 Feb 10 '17 at 17:45
  • @user4092 what do you mean that she died corresponds to 死んだ? Could you explain it further? Thank you – Splikie Feb 10 '17 at 17:54

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