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むかし、 むかし、 ある ところ に おじいさん と おばあさん が いました。

Here's what I got so far:

(adv. time), (adv. time), (to be - infinitive) (somewhere) (ni particle), (old man) (to - conjunction) (old woman) (ga subject marker) (iru - polite past)

Does the subject marker が always have to be there before a conjugated verb?

  • いました is a full sentence by itself, so is 彼{かれ}はいました. None of these have a が. But maybe this is not what you're asking? Could you clarify the question? – dainichi Mar 28 '12 at 6:54
  • Hrmm .. like would I have to say 私がいました ? – user27251 Mar 28 '12 at 6:55
  • That's dictionary form, not the infinitive. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Mar 28 '12 at 6:59
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    in あるところに, ある is not "to be - infinitive". It means "A certain ~" – Flaw Mar 28 '12 at 7:57
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    You should see Japanese particle as being always after something. What is after the particle is not important. What is before it, is everything. – oldergod Mar 28 '12 at 9:13
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I think your confusion may be arising from thinking that が is a prepositional particle. It is not preposed(placed before a word) to the verb. It is a post-positional subject marker, it is postposed(placed after a word) after the subject.

By extension, there is no requirement for が to immediately precede the verb. The element of Xが may be freely moved around the sentence.

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