I came across this line in a song and was wondering why が was used over は:


I would interpret the usage of が to mean that out of everything, the 足跡 left behind is specifically the thing that won't disappear. If は had been used instead, I'd interpret it as although other things may disappear, the 足跡 will still remain (showing contrast as opposed to stressing) which is also why I thought it'd make more sense?

However, I also came across this comment on the video:




and realised that none of my interpretations were correct.

How does the が make it seem like the 足跡 won't disappear no matter what? And how does the は seem to imply that the 足跡 can be erased? Basically, in what way are both of these particles functioning so that they can be interpreted in the way the comment has mentioned? I'd also appreciate any examples anyone could give of how they may function similarly in other sentences !!


1 Answer 1


If the predicate were 消える instead of 消えない, が would have sounded neutral and 消える would have been understood as referring to a one-time change (that does happen).

君とここまで歩いてきた足跡消える [one-time change / neutral]

は, on the other hand, would have put 足跡 in contrast with other things as if to say although those other things won’t disappear, their footprints will.

君とここまで歩いてきた足跡消える [one-time change / contrastive]

Your understanding is more or less correct so far.

However, the predicate in your sentence is 消えない. In general, a negative verbal predicate tends to be understood as referring to a static property of something, rather than a one-time change that doesn’t happen. In this case, は sounds more neutral than が just as is the case with a nominal or adjectival predicate (whether affirmative or negative) which usually refers to a static property.

ボールペンで書いた字消えない。[static property / neutral]

は also sounds neutral when an affirmative verbal predicate does refer to a static property, although it may still carry a contrastive nuance depending on the context (as when the following sentence immediately follows the sentence above).

鉛筆で書いた字消える。[static property / neutral]

When が is used with a negative verbal predicate, it takes on an “exhaustive-listing” quality and also the verb is likely to be understood as referring to a one-time change that doesn’t happen. The result is that it sounds like you are specifically stating something doesn’t happen when it is expected to.

Let’s take a step back and look at the following pair with affirmative predicates, where たら more or less ensures the verb is understood as referring to a one-time change in both.

8時になったら電気消える。[one-time change / neutral]

8時になったら電気消える。[one-time change / contrastive]

Now, let’s look at the following.

8時になっても電気消えない。[one-time change / unexpected]

8時になっても電気消えない。[one-time change / contrastive] or [static property / neutral]

The sentence with が sounds like the speaker is surprised that the lights don’t go off even after eight.

Your sentence is similar to that.

たとえ思い出になってでも 昔の話になってでも

It almost sounds as if the speaker wants to erase the footprints but they persist. I agree with the commenter. は would sound more neutral and natural.




<規則2> 述語が動詞以外(形容詞・名詞+だ)のときは通常「は」を使う。動詞の場合でも次のときは通常「は」を使う。

① 主語が「私」「あなた」(一、二人称)である場合
② 恒常的な出来事を表す場合
③ 否定文である場合




3 (3) (高原でバスを降りた直後に)うーん、空気がうまい



(6) 田中さんパーティーに来ませんでした。


(7) あっ、財布ない。

(8) あっ、かぎかかっていない。


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