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In my textbook it says that to say:

There is a good restaurant in this building.

the translation is:

このたてものにいいレストランがあります。

However, why is が used and not は? Would は be indicating a contrast (for example, a good restaurant exists in this building but not something else, like a shoe store)?

This leads me to a general question about intransitive verbs: it seems that intransitive verbs almost always have が before them so why is が used over は in these cases?

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This が is used to introduce a new thing into the discourse. It's one of the most basic functions of が, and I believe you have learned it before. It roughly corresponds to "a" as in "a good restaurant". See: What's the difference between wa (は) and ga (が)?


Would は be indicating a contrast?

The sentence in question has nothing to do with a contrast. It's just a plain sentence that means "There is a good restaurant". If you used は, that would turn the sentence into a contrastive sentence.

このたてものにいいレストランあります。
(Although there is no shoe store / I know you're looking for a bar, but) There is at least a good restaurant in this building.

This makes sense only in a special context.


This leads me to a general question about intransitive verbs: it seems that intransitive verbs almost always have が before them so why is が used over は in these cases?

Transitivity of the verb has nothing to do with the choice between が/は, so you should forget that observation. We can safely say 彼は走った "He ran", for example. (If you saw が used for something that has already been introduced into the discourse, it may be related to neutral description-ga. But it has nothing to do with the original sentence in your question.)

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  • About は case, If I talked to a friend about some good restaurant before, and we happen to pass in front of the building, can I also say いいレストランはこのたてものにあります, to say "About the good restaurant (that we talked about before) it's in this building" ? – Thomas Petit Nov 6 '19 at 0:48
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    @ThomasPetit Basically yes, but if you think your friend may not understand which restaurant you are referring to, you have to describe the restaurant using a relative clause that corresponds to "that we talked about before". – naruto Nov 6 '19 at 1:08
  • @naruto For the sentence この窓からさくらが見えますよ, is が being used to introduce something new in the conversation, namely さくら? – user34759 Nov 6 '19 at 21:13
  • @user532874 Yes, that's right. In English, you would say "You can see cherry blossoms" without 'the', right? – naruto Nov 7 '19 at 23:07

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