Hello everyone as the title states I am having difficulty understanding when to use the correct particle.

As an example

肉は食べません (I do not eat meat)


やさいを食べます (I eat vegetables)

Is it acceptable to use both wa or o in both these sentences? Wouldn't the first sentence be more correct if I were to say 私は肉を食べません. The reason I chose these two specific sentences is because I saw them in a book. I can not understand why in one sentence they used は while in the other they used を even though they have the same basic structure.

Thank you for any help you may provide!

  • Having stated は is always to indicate the subject/theme/topic of the sentence, I think I should say it differs from では or とは. ^^;
    – karlalou
    Jul 6, 2017 at 4:15
  • 1
    ^ always <-- Naw. The は's in these examples do NOT indicate subject/theme/topic: 「普段いい子なのに・・・」「10万円するぞ!」「私は、電気嫌いです。(by バーサ in 魔女宅. There can't be two topics in one clause)」
    – Chocolate
    Jul 7, 2017 at 1:24
  • I don't see a point of marking this as a duplicate. How a learner can tell the other thread talking about ではない is the one to read when having trouble knowing why it's は instead of を? I myself need a lot of time to read the whole thing and determine if it's really related or not.
    – karlalou
    Jul 19, 2017 at 21:38
  • I don't think the word indicated by ではありません or とは思いません can be rewritten as an object of the verb. Isn't the point actually different from the other thread?
    – karlalou
    Jul 19, 2017 at 21:47

2 Answers 2


[野菜]{やさい}食べます。 vs 野菜食べます。

Grammatically speaking, both are correct. They're different in meaning and usage.

を is the object marker. 野菜を食べます is usually an unmarked statement to say "I eat/someone eats vegetables". The は can be, roughly speaking, the topic particle (主題の「は」) or the contrastive particle (対比の「は」). For example, you can use them this way:

「普段、朝食に何を食べますか?」--「野菜食べます。」(not は)
"What do you usually have for breakfast?" -- "I have vegetables."
「鈴虫は何を食べますか?」--「ナスやキュウリなどの野菜食べます。」(not は)
"What do bell crickets eat?" -- "They eat vegetables such as aubergine and cucumber."

Here, the を marks new information (新情報).

「普段、野菜は食べますか?」--「はい、野菜たくさん食べます。」(not を)
"Do you eat vegetables regularly?" -- "Yes, (lit. As for vegetables, I eat a lot. →) I eat a lot of vegetables."

The は is the so-called "topical/thematic は". Here, it marks old/known information (旧情報/既知情報).

は can also be used this way:

"I eat vegetables. But I don't eat meat."
"Bell crickets don't eat meat, but they eat vegetables."
*The は in 鈴虫は is a topic marker; there can be only one topical は in a clause. If you see two は's in one clause, at least one of them should be contrastive.

The は here is the so-called "contrastive は". (You could refer to this thread for more about the contrastive は: What's the difference between wa (は) and ga (が)?)

食べません。 vs 肉食べません。

Again, they're both grammatically correct, and different in meaning and usage.

The は can be topical/thematic:

「お肉はよく召し上がりますか?」--「いいえ、肉まったく食べません。」(not を)
"Do you eat meat often?" -- "No, I don't eat meat at all."

The contrastive は is also used to mark or highlight the negated element in a sentence:

I usually don't have meat for breakfast (can imply: but I have something else).
I usually don't have meat for breakfast (can imply: but I do for dinner).
I usually don't have meat for breakfast (can imply: but I do today).

Here, the は shows the scope of negation: 肉を* is negated in the first sentence, and 朝食に is negated in the second, and so on.
* When 「XXを」 or 「XXが」 is marked with a は, the は replaces the が or を, as in 「XXは」 rather than 「XXをは」「XXがは」.
There usually is some negated element in a negative sentence, and therefore you'll more frequently see a は in a negative sentence.

As for the example using an を, you'd use it in a context like this:

「子どもの好き嫌いが激しくて…。」--「何を食べてくれないんですか?」--「野菜ぜんぜん食べないんです。」(not は)
"My child is so picky about food..." -- "What does s/he not eat?" -- "S/he doesn't eat vegetables at all."
You'd reply with 「~を」「~が」「~に」「~と」「~から」 etc., not 「~は」「~には」「~とは」「~からは」 etc. to questions 「何を」「何が」「どこに」「誰と」 etc., as in: 「何がないんですか?」「消しゴムないんです。」(not は) / 「誰と連絡がつかないんですか?」「山田さん連絡がつかないんです。」(not とは)


肉は食べません ( I do not eat meat) and やさいを食べます (I eat vegetables)

Is it acceptable to use both wa or o in both these sentences?
Wouldnt the first sentence be more correct if i were to say 私は肉を食べません.
I can not understand why in one sentence they used は while in the other they used を even though the they have the same basic structure.

In Japanese, the subject is not necessarily the action maker. The verb forms are made in such a way that we can, most of the time, tell the action maker without it being stated. for us is always to indicate the subject. I'd say therefore it's more truly a subject than the English subject. The Japanese subject always means the theme/topic of the sentence, as the name 'subject' suggests.

私は肉を食べません is the word-to-word translation from English, I don't eat meat. But this is not very natural in Japanese, although there's no problem to say the action maker and say 私食べませんが、魚(さかな)食べます。

[Replying to the OP's request below]
I find お茶は飲みません is the natural one to stand alone.

お茶を飲みません ... I find this expression does need the action maker and say, for example, この人はお茶を飲みません, and この人 suggests it's someone close to the speaker such as a family or friend. It sounds nicer than この人はお茶は飲みません.

Thinking like this makes me also think that 私は肉を食べません and 私はお茶を飲みません can be a well constructed sentence. So nice that we rarely hear it, but indeed these sound nicer than 私は肉は食べません or 私はお茶は飲みません, which tend to sound like refusing an offer or something because of the nature of は to be used for comparison.

  • Thank you for your comment! To help me better understand may you please tell me what the difference is between these two sentences: お茶は飲みません and お茶を飲みません
    – Tokyo Rose
    Jul 5, 2017 at 23:07
  • I've replied to your comment in the above 'answer' section. :)
    – karlalou
    Jul 5, 2017 at 23:48
  • Thank you so much for taking the time to explain(: I believe I have a much better understanding of its usage! Thank you
    – Tokyo Rose
    Jul 6, 2017 at 0:49
  • @karlalou Are you sure 魚は食べます is correct? My understanding was always that は when used in place of を is not functioning as a topic marker, but as a contrast marker, and to that end can only be used in a negative sentence. Also, I'm not so sure 私は肉を食べません is unnatural in general either... (although depending on the context, I guess it could be unnatural if emphasizing the contrast is important). Jul 6, 2017 at 20:12
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    @Ataraxia I don't surprise that you've learned something adjusted to non-natives. But when は alone as particle, contrasting or not it's always the subject/theme to native speakers though it's just not necessarily the action maker, but it can be the object of the verb. 魚は食べます alone can be taken as saying 'fish eat,' however, when making a comparison, we say 肉は食べませんが、魚は食べます, as I stated above, or it can be 肉は食べますが、魚は食べません. We do have the freedom to say these. 私は肉を食べません is not wrong, but I guess it sounds rigid to us because we are more used to say it with は. I am a native speaker. :)
    – karlalou
    Jul 6, 2017 at 20:54

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