A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar has this example sentence:

"He was indeed a good person, but he was stubborn, wasn't he?"

What is the purpose of the "いい人は"? It reads to me as redundant: "That person. A good person. Was a good person. although sure was stubborn, eh?."

Whether I leave it out or in Google Translate gives me the same translation with slightly different wording.

What is being emphasized by putting it in?

  • 9
    That looks a lot like a typo. Also, never use Google Translate to try to understand nuance. Google Translate has been known to change translations based on how many newlines come after the end of a paragraph. It's just not trustworthy. – Eiríkr Útlendi Oct 4 '19 at 22:59
  • Perhaps it’s a typo but they also spelled it out in romaji. – John K Oct 4 '19 at 23:01
  • 1
    I feel like I've seen いい人はいい人 before, but a native I asked said that だった coming after it sounds strange. – Leebo Oct 5 '19 at 1:13
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    Eiríkr, 今回はタイポじゃないですね・・・ 以前にこんなのがありましたけど: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/68704/9831 – Chocolate Oct 5 '19 at 4:19
  • 2
    If anyone was curious, this is example sentence (g) under the "koto wa ことは" entry in A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. – Setris Oct 5 '19 at 4:24

Repeating a word using は is a way to emphasize something. There are several patterns.

  • X + は + X + が/けど/けれど works like "indeed ~ but ~" or "it's true that ~ but ~". X can be an adjective, a noun or a verb (usually used with に). See: What is the meaning of 「読むには読んだ」? and Need help with understanding X ことは X construction

    • おいしいはおいしいけど、量が少ない。
    • この問題は簡単は簡単ですけど、時間はかかります。
    • 彼女は学生は学生ですが、すでに2つの会社の社長でもあります。
    • すべて売るには売ったが、利益はほとんどなかった。
    • 彼はいい人はいい人ですよ。
      He is a nice guy, well, at least. (sometimes けど/が and the following part may be omitted; this implies there is something negative untold)
  • N + は + N + だ/です (N: noun) as a predicate works just like English "a rule is a rule", etc.

    • たとえ理不尽でも、ルールはルールです。
    • ミスはミスだ、認めて謝罪しよう。
    • 駄目なものは駄目だ。
      No means no.
    • 運がよかったが、勝ちは勝ちだ。
  • By extension, N + は + N + だ/です (N: noun) sometimes means "N is different" or "N is an exception".

    • 彼は彼ですし。 Well, he is not like us.
    • (idiom) それはそれです。 That's another story.
    • (idiom) これはこれ、それはそれ。 They are irrelevant.
  • N + は + N + で (N: noun) means "in its own way". See: What is the meaning of あいつはあいつで?

    • これはこれでおいしい。
    • 彼女は彼女であなたのことを心配しています。
    • 今日も忙しかったが、明日は明日で忙しい。

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