"I do not eat vegetables."
は marks something as the topic. You can think of it as roughly meaning "as for" or "as far as... is concerned". You could say 「私は野菜を食べません。」 (As for me, [I] don't eat vegetables.) This would imply a contrast between you and other people. You don't eat vegetables but other people do. Or you could say 「野菜は食べません。」(As for vegetables, [I] don't eat [them].) That implies a contrast between vegetables and other food. You don't eat vegetables but you do eat other things. Which one you would choose depends on the context.
For an incredibly in-depth look at は vs. が, I recommend Jay Rubin's "Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You." Much of the book is well beyond me, but that section really helped me grasp the difference. He translates many of Haruki Murakami's novels, so he knows his stuff. :D
The subject marker is が (in some constructions such as 私は野菜が好きです it seems to mark the object at first glance, but in fact that’s simply because the way Japanese phrases the sentence differs from English: “as for me, vegetables are likable” rather than “I like vegetables”). But if the topic happens to be the subject or direct object, the topic marker は replaces the subject/object marker.
For negative sentences the particle を is often replaced by は. 「野菜を食べません」isn't ungrammatical, but は would be a bit more natural.
Edit: It does depend on the context as well, read AbunPangs answer below!
Same, I'm starting my second year of Japanese at OU in a few months and I didn't even know you could do that.
what if i want to say "i don't like eating vegetables" just because i don't like to eat them, doesn't mean im not gonna eat them.
Then that's a considerably more advanced sentence. To say "I don't like eating vegetables", you could say 「野菜（やさい）を食べるのが好きじゃないです」
If you want me to explain it in detail, I don't mind, but you'll learn it later in this course I think.
If you are talking about some vegetables on the table and want to say you're not eating them, but you will still eat other things on the table, can you use this same particle をwithout implying you don't eat vegetables at all in general?
First a disclaimer: I'm a learner myself and much of what I'm saying is transferring feelings from Korean (which frequently works in very similar ways grammatically and also has a topic particle like は). But until a native speaker can give their two cents on the issue, maybe my feeling can still help you. With that out of the way:
I would strongly prefer は in that situation because it places the vegetables in the focus while also subtly implying a contrast to other unnamed things. I guess you could technically use を, however I would also add a demonstrative: この野菜(やさい)を食べません。 But somehow that sentence sounds very blunt to me. Like the speaker is a little child who doesn't want to eat the vegetables because they're icky. The version with は sounds a little softer to me, maybe because it implies that you will eat the rest of the food.
Also note that 野菜は食べません could also be talking about vegetables in general (although pragmatically speaking it's probably less likely). は is not a definite marker like English "the" – although there is some overlap. It simply makes whatever is marked by it the topic of the conversation, places it the focus of the discourse. That being said, making something the topic typically requires the thing in question to be something known. Typically that thing is something which has come up before (in this respect は is similar to "the") or something which you can safely assume the listener to know about even without being mentioned before (these would not be marked with "the" in English). A proper noun maybe, or a general category such as "vegetables" in "I don’t eat vegetables". For example: 野菜(やさい)はよく緑色(みどりいろ)です。 (Vegetables are usually green.) So は is an indication that we’re talking about specific vegetables but no guarantee for it.
When the kana は is used as the particle it's pronounced "wa". Check out the Tae Kim into to particles for a bit of info and a great resource to use for Japanese Grammar http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/particlesintro
Ha can replace wa in some places, but its read as wa instead. Like konnichiwa, there is wa but its the hiragana ha instead of wa, but its still read as wa
Thats because its technically broken down as Konnichi [this day] + ha(wa)[subject]. Since its such a common phrase its been shortened. ( From an even longer sentence actually)
Can I add 私は before the やさい part, because the english version starts with "I"?
You can if you want to, and you would be understood by a Japanese person, but it's considered at best, charmingly redundant, or at worst, rude and self-centered.
Adding 私は makes you the topic of the conversation. In English, it might sound like someone saying "hey, we're talking about me here, and I don't eat vegetables."
thx, didint knew about that.. I guess I should consider about their cultural parts too when talking.
You're welcome :)
Of course it's good to learn about the culture a language is used in, especially since Japanese is such a context-heavy language, but I wouldn't stress too much about cultural/social mistakes at this point. I was just trying to give as complete an answer as I could.
In my experience, Japanese people are very understanding of this kind of mistake, and are even very impressed if you can show you know how to use something as simple as いただきます correctly.
If that, I'm relived. Then I was a bit overly thinking about strict Japanese manners, but for the いただきます part, do you mean by baisc Japanese manners? or are there other terms or cases for that useage?
I might be misinterpreting your question here, but yes, what I meant by "using いただきます correctly" was basic Japanese manners. The etiquette I've observed in Japan (i.e. might be incomplete or inaccurate) around いただきます is:
・you say it after you receive your food, but before touching your cutlery to eat it
・when you say it, a small nod/bow or pressing your palms flat together (like a prayer) is common, but not strictly observed
・if eating in a group, you MUST wait until everyone has their food, then you follow the lead of the person who is the most senior in the group (if not by rank, then usually by age) and say it after they say it. If someone/some people in the group don't have their food yet but insist you eat first, it depends on the circumstances, but again, follow the lead of the most senior person, though it is common to refuse their insisting at least once or twice before conceding.
There are other phrases you can say, but to a Japanese person, nothing else means the same thing as いただきます in this situation. いただきます is often used in other situations, taking its more literal meaning of "to receive", but this usage ventures into the realm of 敬語 keigo, or honorific language, which is very difficult to explain in this forum and at this level.
I know this seems like a dumb questions, but what's the difference between は and を? From what im getting so far, は is like a negative partical, and を is a positive partical. I just want to know if I'm right or not, I don't know much
-は marks the topic of conversation. Basically it places the vegetables in focus and tells you that the rest is information about the vegetables. However if whatever you mark with -は happens to be the subject or object, -は replaces the subject marker -が/the object marker -を. So if we ignore real-world knowledge for the moment, this sentence could in theory also mean “The vegetables don’t eat [it].” Real-world knowledge (and in any normal situation also context) tell you that unless we’re talking about some fantasy situation with monster food, this doesn’t make much sense and that the vegetables must be the object.
You’re right that it seems a bit more common to use -は on the object in a negative clause than in a positive one. I guess this is because one important function of the topic marked by -は is to establish a contrast, and this is quite often something you want to do in a negative clause. Think about how often people say “not x, but y”. In our case there is no overt y, but the -は hints at it existing. So when you say やさいは食べません as opposed to やさいを食べません you’re not only saying that you don’t eat the vegetables, but you’re also subtly hinting that there is something else to contrast with the vegetables. In other words, that there is something else which you do eat.
は is a topic marking particle. it should be the object marking particle, を. If you wish to use は, add the sentence topic, わたし/私.
I thought the topic marker replace を when the topic is identical to the object, just like it does with が when the topic is identical to the subject? For example, if I’m asked: 野菜を食べないの？健康的な食べ物が好きじゃないのか？ I could answer like this, couldn't I: 野菜は食べませんけど、果物は大好きですよ。健康的な物が嫌いんじゃないです。 Or would you use を in the first half?