This is an old and perhaps exhausted topic, but there's still something I don't get.

I read these two questions and its best answers, but I don't understand why then

  1. あなたの目きれいです

implies that one's eyes are pretty, but not rest of the their body, and

  1. あなたの目きれいです

just says that one's eyes are pretty.

The fact that their eyes are pretty might be newly perceived information to the speaker, but it isn't temporary. So why is が not contrastive, even though it is in this case?

Would that が in sentence 2 only be contrastive (and rude) if the person had asked, for example, 「私の髪がきれいだと思いますか?」? Like:

Do you think my hair is pretty?

Your eyes are the ones that are pretty (meaning your hair isn't).

Would that は in sentence 1 be understood as the topic-marker は and therefore would the sentence not be rude only if that person and the speaker were previously talking about that person's eyes for some reason?

It's the same with 好き, isn't it? If I say 「あなたのそういうところは好き」, it would imply that's the only part of that person I like, right? And the correct phrase would be 「あなたのそういうところが好き」, but once again, this is not necessarily newly perceived information, and it most likely isn't temporary. And, if it were exhaustive listing が, it should be contrastive as well. So what type of が is that?

According to this question's top answer, は can also be the preferred particle to use with adjectives, such as in 「ポストは赤い」, so I don't really get the pattern here. What types of adjectives require が? The ones based on opinion?

  • "So why is が not contrastive, even though it is in this case?" I'm confused, the link you gave explains how は is contrastive, not が ? Oct 25, 2019 at 6:08
  • @Thomas Petit Oh, right. In that case, I was referring to l'électeur's answer. If the second person wanted to offend the half-Japanese person that said 「私は日本人です」, they would've said 「私が日本人です」, meaning "I'm the Japanese one". Oct 25, 2019 at 6:13
  • That't not how I read l'électeur answer. For exemple Person1 says 私はアメリカ人です。 Person 2 says 私は日本人です. That's the usual contrastive は. It switches the topic and contrast with the previous topic. But if Person2 say 私が日本人です, then person2 would use the highlight function of が on 私. It's like saying << I >> am japanese. But it's difficult to come up with a situation where you would say something like that, except maybe how l'électeur pointed out, << I >> am the Japanese here (not you!). But I think it's just a byproduct of the highlight feature of が. Oct 25, 2019 at 7:16
  • @ThomasPetit I don't think the は in person 2's 「私は日本人です」 is contrastive. There is no contrast, they're both Japanese. It's just the regular topic marker. As I understood it, l'électeur clarified that that wasn't an example of contrastive は. I agree with you that が would sound like person 2 is saying << I >> am Japanese, but that's exactly what I meant. It's contrastive because it's like "<<I>> am Japanese (unlike you)". Oct 25, 2019 at 7:24
  • As you said, if person 1 had said 「私はアメリカ人です」 then it would make sense to call the は in person 2's 「私は日本人です」 contrastive. In that context, が wouldn't even make sense, I guess. But both persons 1 and 2 were Japanese in the example. Oct 25, 2019 at 7:32

1 Answer 1


Let me just explain how your example sentences feel like. Please refer to the previous questions for the generic explanation about those particles.

  1. あなたの目はきれいです

implies that one's eyes are pretty, but not rest of the their body

No, that's not correct. This is usually a plain neutral sentence that just means "(I know) Your eyes are (always) beautiful". Unless you emphasize は when you read it loud, は like this is a plain topic marker, not a contrast marker. The rest of the body is not mentioned at all.

  1. あなたの目がきれいです

just says that one's eyes are pretty.

No, that's not correct. This is a nuanced sentence that makes sense only in limited contexts:

  1. as a 現象文, "(I noticed) Your eyes are beautiful!" (But note that you normally have to omit あなた and say something like 目がきれいですね instead)
  2. (exhaustive-listing-ga) as an answer to a question like "Which part of my body is beautiful?"


This は after 目 is taken as a contrast marker, because there is clearly something that can be contrasted in the question, and you suddenly mentioned 目. This response is like "(Instead,) your eyes are beautiful", and it does imply the questioner's hair is not beautiful.


This が after 目 is not a contrast marker but an exhaustive-listing marker. This response sounds like "It's your eyes that is (the most) beautiful!" This can be rude, but not necessarily so.

  • So in this case as well, A's は could've been the topic marker? But B interpreted it as the contrastive は probably due to A's intonation? Would が be preferred there because the context is like context 1 you mentioned in this answer? In that situation, would は normally be interpreted as contrastive or truly was it interpreted like that most likely due to A's intonation? Oct 26, 2019 at 13:45
  • ajsmart also mentions in the comments of l'électeur's answer that 「今日はきれいですね」 insulted other people and now I notice the structure also matches context 1 in your answer. Oct 26, 2019 at 13:49
  • 1
    @E.Matsunaga Regarding that question, the normal sentence for "You're good at games!" is (あなた)ゲームうまい. This is so-called a double-consonant construction in Japanese, and ゲーム must be marked with が unless you need some weird implication. In other words, if you said ゲームはうまい, this は is almost always contrastive. The same goes for ゲームが好き vs ゲームは好き, etc.
    – naruto
    Oct 28, 2019 at 3:59
  • 1
    @E.Matsunaga Yes, after looking at someone's eyes, saying あなたの目はきれい and (あなたは)目がきれい are interchangeable and neutral. Regarding 目はきれい, if it's said without proper context, it's just a puzzling sentence that means "(all) eyes are beautiful". If the context tells it's about the beautiful point of "you", then it can be contrastive (i.e., "(Instead/At least) your eyes are beautiful.")
    – naruto
    Oct 28, 2019 at 5:10
  • 1
    @E.Matsunaga If this is a response to a question like "How about the train?", Sentence 1 is plain "I'll arrange that" and Sentence 2 is "I will arrange that" with an emphasis on 'I'. But if it's a response to a question like "You're doing nothing! Do I even have to arrange the train?", then は in Sentences 1 and 2 will be closer to contrastive ("I will arrange that, at least"). The interpretation is always context-dependent, and you should not rely on the word class.
    – naruto
    Oct 29, 2019 at 1:35

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