I recently read lots of articles/posts from the が particle usages and there is something which isn't clear for me. So the basic usage of the が is to mark the subject of the sentence. But in addition が can be used to mark the focus of the sentence and in this case it is an exhaustive listing or neutral description.

First I think the が particle always marks the subject and the focus at the same time, because lots of article doesn't state the opposite. But seems that’s not true. The japanesewithanime.com says the following:

The ga が particle can mark a noun as having the focus in a simple sentence.

But what is the situation with the complex sentence? So after this I'm thinking lot and came the following conclusion:

When the が subject marker is used in a simple sentence or in a main clause then it marks the focus too. However が subject marker doesn't mark the focus too in the subordinate clause. Am I right?

So based on it the が is just a "plain" subject marker in the following example:

私 は お母{かあ}さん が 作{つく}った お菓子{かし} を 食{た}べました。

So what I want to know: is it possible the が is just a plain subject marker in the sentence?

1 Answer 1


You are correct. The subject of a main clause is typically marked with は, so when が is used instead, it carries a nuance such as exhaustive-listing or neutral-description.

My mother is studying English.
(neutral; described as a known fact)

It's my mother who is studying English.
(nuanced: exhaustive-listing-ga)

(I found/report) My mom is studying English.
(nuanced: neutral-description-ga)

On the other hand, the subject of a subordinary clause (including a relative clause) is marked with が by default, so it carries no extra nuance there. If は is used within a relative clause, that's probably a nuanced は known as contrastive-wa.

a person whose face is beautiful

a person whose face, at least, is beautiful
(nuanced: indicates this person has some fault)

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