in the following sentence why は particle is used? Could I also use の in this sentence? Thanks.


  • 1
    彼の歯が白い is grammatically correct but used in a different situation and not interchangeable to 彼は歯が白い. So, you can't use の in this sentence.
    – user4092
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:22
  • @user4092 Could you please maybe elaborate on that a bit? What exactly is the difference? I saw both options used to say things like "His teeth are white", and it's also grammatically correct. I could include that into my answer eventually. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:25

2 Answers 2


Basically, you should think of this as a set construct. XはYがZ. Of course, Z can be anything, not just an i-adjective, but in general when you see this construct, you should interpret it as:

Regarding X, Y is Z.

For example,


"There are many temples in this town". Or, literally, "Regarding this town, the thing that's 'many' is 'temple'".

And of course, you could say


That would also be correct. However, please pay special attention that in my example above, there is a particle, not the particle there. There is a reason to that.

The reason is that the が particle emphasizes what comes before it, when the は particle describes what comes after it. So when you say


you say "As for his teeth, they're white.". Describing what comes after the topic marker. This is actually the perfect substitution for your original sentence in question. Their meanings are the same with .

In general, you can interpret the topic marker as:

AB means "As for A, B.".

However, works in a different way. With , you can generally interpret things you see as

AB means "The thing that's B is distinctly A [among all the other things in the context]".

So when you say


this is going to be interpreted as

The thing that's white is his teeth.

Implying that, depending on context, his teeth are white and no other thing is white.

Or you could also say


This means

"The white teeth are his" [and no other teeth are white in this context].

Implying that his teeth are white, and no other teeth are. For example, this could be used when there are 4 people in the room, and one of them has distinctly white teeth in comparison to other people's teeth. So you can't say 「彼の歯白いです。」and expect it to mean the same, because it's used differently.

If you have any questions left, fire away in comments.

  • 2
    I'll comment here. 彼の歯が白い is only possible when it's (1) a kind of answer to question "whose teeth is white?" (in other words, an inversion of 白いのは彼の歯だ), (2) when you find his teeth white in the moment against usual expectation, or (3) when it's not really an independent sentence but functions as a kind of clause e.g you can rephrase 彼の歯が白いことが… as「彼の歯が白い」、そんなことが…
    – user4092
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:35
  • @user4092 I was kind of switching は、が on and off because I was also concerned by that. Would you say that 彼の歯は白い sounds absolutely/almost identical to the original 彼は歯が白い? My original intent was to put は there, but I had my doubts. If it's true, I'll just change it to は in the answer, because が has the function of emphasizing the subject it talks about. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:52
  • The point is to use some topics when you say something in general. In this sense, both of 彼の歯は白い and 彼は歯が白い are fine, while there's a problem left which between 彼 and 彼の歯 should be the topic.
    – user4092
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 12:10
  • @user4092 I'd say that we should stick to answering the original question. The author asked if he could use の in this sentence and the answer was "He couldn't, but if you change が to は, then he could". I'll reflect this in my answer when I can. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 12:22
  • @user4092 I've updated the answer a lot, so you should probably take a look at it again. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 12:53

は emphasizes that the sentance applies to him in particular and not somebody else. The sentence relates to the conversation topic of him.


Consists of the first part ''彼は'':''As for him in particular and not somebody else'' and the main part of the sentence 歯が白い. ''teeth are White''. The first says what ''teeth are white'' relates to.



Only consists of one part. It Would be ''His teeth are white''. Here, the grammatical subject of the sentance (which is always marked with ga) isn't just ''teeth'' but instead ''His teeth''.

  • 1
    I think you got the kanji wrong. Please ask this in the comment and see my answer. 歯 is not age, it's "tooth". His teeth are white. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 9:34
  • Ooh, haha, rikaigu messed me up. Now it makes sense. I'll edit it to let my explanation make sense. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 9:34

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