I've read: Difference between Xはどこ and どこがX.

I understand the top answer but I'm unsure of the "why" for why those two statements mean differently.

A) 「病院はどこですか。」
B) 「どこが病院ですか。」

They say that (A) is when the speaker has little idea of where the hospital is, or if it even exists while (B) assumes knowledge of a hospital. What part of the structure gives them this difference? I've only been learning Japanese for two weeks so I'm still pretty foreign to this. Is (A) structure used more? It's consistent with what I've learned like "nan desu ka".

Thank you!

1 Answer 1


どこが病院ですか contains something called exhaustive-listing が. This type of が is used to identify something from multiple possibilities.

  • 私は英語を話せます。
    I can speak English.

  • 私が英語を話せます。
    I can speak English.
    (with emphasis on "I", as a response to "Who can speak English?")
    It's me who can speak English.

  • ここは病院です。
    This is a hospital.

  • ここが病院です。
    This is the hospital (we were talking about).

  • 誰が英語を話せますか。
    Who is the one who can speak English?

  • どちらが本物ですか?
    Which is the genuine one? (I know only one of them is genuine)

If you are using a good textbook, you should be able to find a long explanation about this, but here are some online resources:

  • I really appreciate this, thank you! I'm pretty new to Japanese (I'm only on Lesson 2 of Genki I) so I'll do some reading on the threads that you've linked. How I understand it right now is that the "exhaustive-listing が" allows you to specify something while "wa" would just tell you what something is (this is a hospital compared to this is the hospital)? Also, for the first two dotpoints, is が's purpose there just to emphasise as one would in English? (e.g. 'You wanted to go home' versus 'Well... you were the one that said to go home')
    – user36012
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 12:33
  • I hope that Genki later explores these small details. Else, I might put a note to check out other textbooks/references to supplement my learning.
    – user36012
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 12:35

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