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In a language exercise, I was supposed to write the following in Japanese: "Please close the window." Intuitively, I thought, since 窓 is the direct object of 閉めて, then probably

窓を閉めてください

I found out the correct answer is:

窓は閉めてください。

My question is, is 窓を閉めてください a grammatical sentence at all? If it is, then does it mean something different from 窓は閉めてください?

Further on in the same exercise, I came across another sentence:

その窓を閉めてください

I thought, strange, why is it now を and not は? So now my other question is: is その窓は閉めてください grammatical? And if it is, does it mean something different from その窓を閉めてください?

May I add that it's an online exercise, so I had no teacher to ask. Thanks for helping.

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    The “correct” answer with は is correct only in certain contexts. Does that exercise have any context? Without it, your answer with を should be considered more generally correct.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 3:53
  • @aguijonazo No, it doesn't have a context. Just stand-alone sentences.
    – monalisa
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 5:11
  • In that case, your question might be closed as a duplicate. Have you searched for similar questions in this forum? As an example, The difference between は and を? might help, although this itself has been closed as a duplicate.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 5:21
  • When you say an online exercise, is it a published resource? Or is it just a website that collects sample problems and posts them? If it's the latter, they may just be exercises that aren't well thought out.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 5:23
  • @aguijonazo I did read all the questions that popped up when I started to write mine, and didn't find what I wanted. Will try a more thorough search next time.
    – monalisa
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 17:31

1 Answer 1

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窓を閉めてください is perfectly correct and natural as the translation of "Please close the window." If there is no other context, there is nothing wrong with your translation.

窓は閉めてください is also a perfectly grammatical sentence, but its meaning is different, because 窓 is now topicalized using は. Note that は is a topic particle, and it can replace both が and を. In other words, 窓 is still the direct object of 閉める, but を is "masked" by the topic marker は. Since 窓 is topicalized, this sentence is now about the window itself; the speaker wants to state a fact, a rule or something regarding this window. A very literal translation is "As for the window, please close [it]". A sentence like this implies you have to always close this window (e.g., at the end of a day), and you have to remember this as a rule.

To summarize, if the original English sentence is a simple one-time request, 窓を閉めてください is correct. If the original English sentence is presented as a rule to remember, 窓は閉めてください is also correct.

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  • Thanks. How about the other sentences with その? Do they work the same way? What confused me was with その, they seem to want その窓を ... and not その窓は ...
    – monalisa
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 14:09
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    @monalisa その makes no difference. "Please close that window (now)" vs "Regarding that window, please (always) close it."
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 14:10
  • Haha, maybe I am reading too much into the differences. That's the problem with learning without a teacher. Thanks for answering.
    – monalisa
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 17:26

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