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  1. こども ねて いますから、しずかに して ください。 

  2. こども ねて いますから、しずかに して ください。

I know that the 2nd one is incorrect. But why? To my understanding, が is used to emphasize the subject we can hear or see, while は is rather for emphasizing the subject with description or judgement. So it seems that both are correct to me.

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As far as I know, it is usually never technically incorrect to replace one for another, but the emphasis will be different and so will the meaning.

Using は in your example, would give me this impression.

Maybe YOU are not sleeping, but THE KIDS are, so calm down!

With the が the emphasis on comparing the sleeping people and the non sleeping people is gone, and it becomes much more like a factual statement, which is usually what you wish to say.

[just so you know] the kids are sleeping so please don't make too much sound

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    Thanks! So what will the impression be if it is a が? I want to figure out the difference. – user1503 Jun 16 '17 at 16:32
  • @Cadenza with the が the emphasis on comparing the sleeping people and the non sleeping people is gone, and it becomes much more like a factual statement, which is usually what you wish to say. "[just so you know] the kids are sleeping so please don't make too much sound" – stack reader Jun 17 '17 at 1:06
  • I'm not entirely understanding why using は to mark the topic in the sentence is giving an implicit impression that is much stronger than using が, though I am aware that が is referring to the subject こども. I would think that using は is not correct because while technically the sentence has one real topic (sleeping children), there are two subjects (yourself, and the sleeping children), but I don't see the correlation for the change in tone. – psosuna Jun 17 '17 at 1:23
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    @psosuna は tends to put emphasis which brings a comparison with the rest. For example, if you say to a girl 顔は綺麗 she might get angry because it somehow implies that the rest of her body is not beautiful. – stack reader Jun 17 '17 at 6:38
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A useful rule to follow is this:

は indicates that what precedes it is the topic of the whole of the rest of the sentence up to the next full stop

が marks the subject of the next verb that is in a sentence-ending form (and of any intervening verbs in non-sentence-ending forms) but not of any subsequent verbs in the same sentence.

In other words, は lasts for the whole sentence, but が is 'used up' by the next sentence-ending form, so any subsequent verb in the same sentence must have a different subject.

Try it out on these two:

こどもがねていますから "The child is asleep, so . . ." (こども is now used up, so the next verb will have a different subject)

しずかにしてください ". . . please be quiet" (subject is obviously the person addressed)

こどもはねていますから "The child is asleep, so . . ." (こども will be the topic/subject of the next verb so that verb can't be a request such as しずかにしてください: sentence 2 is therefore invalid. The sentence could perhaps conclude with something like ないていません, giving "The child is asleep, so it isn't crying")

The sentences traditionally used in Japanese school textbooks to illustrate this point are:

とりはなくときくちをあけます "When birds sing they open their mouths" (とり is the subject of both verbs: "Birds [topic] - when they sing they open their mouths"

とりがなくときくちをあけます "When birds sing I open my mouth" (Subject とり marked with が is used up by verb なく, so あけます must have a different subject, and in the absence of a new subject being provided we fall back on default "I".)

Consider also these examples:

ちちはびょうきになったから、いそいでかえった "My father, because he fell ill, hurried home"

ちちがびょうきになったから、いそいでかえった "Because my father fell ill, I hurried home"

おとうとはらくだいしたからだいがくをやめた "My younger brother failed his exams so he dropped out of university"

おとうとがらくだいしたからだいがくをやめた "My younger brother failed his exams, so I dropped out of university "

  • is 静かにしなきゃいけない、子供が寝ていますから interchangeable with 子供が寝ていますから、静かにしなきゃいけない? Or the first would make kara translate to "so" even though I have another sub clause – Felipe Oliveira Jun 16 '17 at 18:34
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    I'd say the grammatical relationship between the two elements is the same in both cases. Think of these two pairs of sentences without the から. The speaker is making two statements: "the children are asleep" and "we must be quiet". から indicates that one is the reason for the other and the order in which they come makes no difference to the grammar,only to the speaker's focus. Don't let the difference between the behaviour of English because and so interfere with your understanding of Japanese grammar. – Graham Healey Jun 16 '17 at 19:42
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    Your answer is great but I have to point out that は doesn't denote the subject in a temporal or conditional clause, i.e. …とき unlike …から. So, 鳥は鳴くとき口を開ける doesn't technically say "when birds cry" but just the omitted subject is inferred as the same birds. – user4092 Jun 17 '17 at 1:39
  • Thanks for that comment. My point would be that は identifies what precedes it as the thing about which the speaker is about to say something - usually called the topic in English. The topic is uncommitted as to grammatical role. It can be subject, object, place where, time when, etc. Translating forces choices in target language. Basic sense of sentence is "About birds - here's the thing: when [they] sing, [they] open [their] mouths". Xが tells us that a verb with X as subject is coming. Xはdoesn't, only that what follows is about X and not about something else. – Graham Healey Jun 17 '17 at 5:47

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