I'm currently learning Japanese, and I realise that the language has something known as a topic, something which is unheard of in English.

According to Wikipedia,

It is written with the hiragana は, which is normally pronounced ha, but when used as a particle is pronounced wa. It is placed after whatever is to be marked as the topic.

So, accordingly, if I say 車は新しいです, then 車 is the topic.

But, I was given this:

佐藤さん日本人です。 (X)

The second sentence is wrong. From my understanding, you can use も when the topic remains the same in a conversation. In this case, the topic is 佐藤さん, so why couldn't you use も then? My teacher told me 会社員 is the topic, but shouldn't the topic be 佐藤さん?

  • 1
    Were you given two sentences and told one is correct and the other is not? Or were you given a text comprising of the two and told the second sentence does not fit into the context?
    – macraf
    Aug 30, 2017 at 11:35
  • 1
    English does have topics, but it is a subject-prominent language. Japanese is topic-prominent.
    – user1478
    Aug 30, 2017 at 11:48
  • @macraf the latter
    – Kyoma
    Aug 30, 2017 at 11:53
  • So what would you like to know? Because I see no logical connection between the question what is a topic and the example you posted. And your teacher rather did not mean the topic had been 会社員. On top of that, what was the intention behind a "given this"? Your teacher "gave you this text"?
    – macraf
    Aug 30, 2017 at 12:04
  • @macraf the topic is 佐藤さん? Or is it 会社員? (in the first sentence) That's my question.
    – Kyoma
    Aug 30, 2017 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


You are correct that 佐藤さん is the topic in these sentences, but your understanding that も can be used "when the topic remains the same" is incorrect.

The actual usage of も is the opposite - it introduces a new topic (or other element in the sentence) to which the same statement applies. The word to which も is attached should be the only element in the statement that does change, not the only element that doesn't.

So the following pair of sentences would make sense:

佐藤さんは会社員です。 (Mr Sato is a businessman.)
田中さん会社員です。 (Mr Tanaka is also a businessman.)

But the pair you suggested makes no sense, because も is attached to the same thing in both sentences.

The confusion may arise because the English word "also" actually acts on the entire sentence rather than any specific word, and so can function identically regardless of which element has changed. For instance:

Mr Sato is a businessman.
Mr Sato is also a Japanese person.

In English, this makes sense and has the exact same structure as the above pair, even though this time it's the latter element that has changed. In Japanese, however, the structure of this pair would be different - you would need to attach も to the latter element:


In these examples, the topic (佐藤さん) remains the same, so it can and usually would be omitted in the second sentence. も in this case is not attached to the topic, but to the predicate 日本人です (which has to be expanded into the fuller form 日本人であります when も is used).

In a sentence with an ordinary verb rather than です, the usage of も is a little more straightforward - it simply replaces は if the topic changes, が if the subject changes, or を if the object changes. So:

佐藤さんはワインを飲みます。 (Mr Sato drinks wine.)
田中さんワインを飲みます。 (Mr Tanaka also drinks wine.)

佐藤さんはワインを飲みます。 (Mr Sato drinks wine.)
佐藤さんはビール飲みます。 (Mr Sato also drinks beer.)

佐藤さんが来ました。 (Mr Sato arrived.)
田中さん来ました。 (Mr Tanaka also arrived.)

  • 2
    「佐藤さんは日本人でもある」というのは、本当に使いますか。ちょっとおかしいと思いますけど… 「そして、日本人だ」とか、「佐藤さんは会社員で、日本人だ」の方が自然じゃないでしょうか。
    – Right leg
    Aug 30, 2017 at 12:34
  • @Rightleg でもある is certainly a thing, why do you think it is inappropriate in this case? Not enough contrast? Aug 30, 2017 at 12:50
  • @KimitsuDesu I don't doubt it exists, it just seems very formal to me... But it might be just me.
    – Right leg
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:04
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    @Right leg: 「佐藤さんは日本人でもある」は使えます。例えば中村さんが小学校の先生であって、かつ、英会話教室の生徒であったなら、「中村さんは先生です。」「(しかも、中村さんは)生徒でもあります。」という表現は自然です。
    – user20624
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:32

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