On https://www.wasabi-jpn.com/japanese-grammar/ha-vs-ga-five-points-you-need-to-know/ there is this sentence:


It’s explained as “this indicates that you like oranges, but don’t like other fruits very much; that is to say, you generally don’t like fruits”. User4092 wrote that this is not an accurate explanation and that it can imply that the speaker doesn’t like some fruits.

I will repeat my question here:

Should I read it as “when it comes to fruits, I like oranges the most” or “when it comes to fruits, I mainly like oranges”? It seems to me that the latter is more correct as “I like oranges the most” does not imply that the speaker doesn’t like some other fruit. I mean if someone told me this and I'd like to buy him/her something fruit-flavoured should I assume that it would be best to not buy anything that is not orange-flavoured as the probability that he/she would not like its taste will be high?

It seems that the former isn’t the right way to understand it.
How much can I read form は when it’s used as a topic marker? Do people use it to imply things? Or is it best to not look too deep into that kind of sentence?

  • You have to look at は as contrast particle. Possibly related question here – Tommy Aug 28 '18 at 5:36
  • Let me use another, more simple example. A) あなたはuser31035ですか vs B)あなたがuser31035ですか. In A, I'm just asking if you are user31035 or not. In B, maybe someone else claimed to be user31035 so I'm trying to confirm if you (and nobody else) are indeed user31035. – DXV Aug 28 '18 at 5:51
  • Can you add a link to where User4092 says this? Was there more to the explanation? – user3856370 Aug 28 '18 at 7:25
  • 1
    @user3856370 japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/61095/… – user4092 Aug 28 '18 at 13:37

It depends on contexts.

 A: 果物で何か好きなものはありますか?
 B: そうですね…果物は…例えば、オレンジは好きですね…

In this case, contrast of this topic is not so strong as to imply that the speaker dislikes other fruits, at most, contrastive in the sense that you don't know about the others.

 A: もしかして、果物が嫌いなんですか?
 B: いや、オレンジは好きですよ? オレンジはね。

This time, the speaker bothers to make it explicit that what s/he says is applied to oranges, which implies that s/he may not like fruits in general, combined with the background context.


It does mark the topic, but the topic is not always the subject of the sentence. Instead, it can distinguish from other possibilities. The ugly go-to translation of は is "as for" - in this case, you would read it something like "As for oranges, I like them ...", implying that there are other things the speaker doesn't like (and context would help understand whether that's describing other fruit, or colours, or English loan words, or whatever).


According to "A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", page 516:
は: a particle which marks a topic or a contrastive element.

So は DOESN'T ALWAYS indicate the topic.
Besides the topic, it can also indicate a contrastive element.

In the sentence below:
he may be comparing oranges with other fruits, implying that he may not like fruits in general, but oranges are an exception.

So the wasabi website is actually correct.

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