I understand that は and が can be very different in meaning & emotion, and some structures require one of them. However, are there some cases where I can use either of them but the sentence remains (almost) the same in meaning & emotion?

(That is to say, given the same context, a native speaker would choose to use either of them to express the same idea.)

  • This question is kind of difficult because there are many cases where both particles are interchangeable but you can still manage to come up with somewhat reason for the difference if you dare to, apart from if the speaker is really aware of it. – user4092 Feb 24 '18 at 6:04

Actually, yes.

In negative sentences は often replaces が or を. E.g.

読まない (hon wa yomanai) I don't read books.

好きじゃない (kare wa suki jya nai) I don't love/like him.

In these sentences, it would also be grammatically correct to use を and が respectfully, but many Japanese find は to be more natural. The rule of thumb is that there needs to be at least one は in negative sentences. If you add 私は at the beginning of the sentences above, the need for は is satisfied, therefore speakers are less compelled to use は instead of が or を. In negative sentences it may even follow particles like に or で to satisfy this condition.

英語では話したくないです. (eigo de wa hanashitakunai desu) I don't want to talk in English.

I hope this helps.

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