My fellow Japanese-learning friend was told the following difference in meaning:

  • 彼が好きです means I like him. Potentially, I can like many others; there is no emphasis whatsoever on the person that I like.

  • 彼は好きです on the other hand means I like him. Or something like 'it is he that I like', due to the topic-marker は.

I understand how they are different. My question is, can 彼は好きです (without comparing it to 彼が好きです) be interpreted in another manner? Perhaps along the line of 彼はなにかが好きです (He likes something), only with the object omitted. As in:


(I hope that is the right way of saying 'I hate omelette rice, but he likes it.')

My question is, is this also a potentially correct way of interpreting 彼は好きです? If not, are there other ways to look at that?

1 Answer 1


Yes, this is also a correct way of interpreting「彼は好きです」because the は used in this sentence marks a contrastive element. When you first say「私は」, anything else you say after that will be about yourself. In order to talk something about someone else, you need to use the は to mark a contrast between you and someone else.

See notes from this page for more information.

  • Can 彼 in 彼は好きです also be the subject when は is not acting as a contrast but a topic marker?
    – L Parker
    Commented Feb 20, 2021 at 9:41
  • @LParker In most cases, a subject is a は marked element. But remember that は doesn't mark subject, only topic. Topic and subject are two different things. A subject can be inferred from a context. は clarifies context.
    – Jimmy Yang
    Commented Feb 20, 2021 at 20:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .