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  5. "マリアとジョンは日本語がはなせます。"


Translation:Maria and John can speak Japanese.

June 8, 2017



と (to) is a particle used to separate items of a complete list. Its English equivalent is "and", as well as commas in longer lists.


It also means "with" if I'm not mistaken o3o


Yes. 私と means with me. However it may be a different part of a sentence than used here.


It's like わたしと

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Yes, 私 is the kanji for わたし.

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"Watashi / わたし / 私" is "I".

The "wa / は" is a grammar particle that marks the topic of the sentence.

Thus "watashi wa" is "As for me..."

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FelipeKail.an, I can't reply directly to you so hopefully you get the notification of this comment.

I was taught that 私 literally means (or etymologically derives from) "private".


Also if, but conditionals are a whole 'nother thing.


Ah, like Spanish, where 'si' means yes and if

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Like any language that has homonyms.



Close enough, though. The accent mark just means that syllable gets stressed. The pronunciation is otherwise the same.

Can't reply to the other one, so I'll reply here.

Accents on Spanish monosyllables are just diacritics. They mark a different etymology and a different meaning, hence a different word. It's not really about stress.

But anyway, yes, they're indeed homophones.


"Accents on Spanish monosyllables are just diacritics. They mark a different etymology and a different meaning, hence a different word. It's not really about stress."

In the case of Spanish "si" and "sí" it is also about stress.


En realidad son distintas: Yes = sí If = si El acento marca la diferencia


It marks the difference AND the stress


What's the difference between と and も?

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と is "and". It connects noun phrases:
neko to inu -- a cat and a dog.
Note that it does not connect verbs or clauses. There is a special conjugation for this, the て-form:

も is a grammar particle that translates as "also" or "too".

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It's important to note that と is only "and" for noun phrases:
neko to inu -- a cat and a dog.

It does not connect verbs or clauses. There is a special verb conjugation for this, the て-form:


The two names don't have honorifics here. Is that how it usually is when you list several people like this?


No, even in lists, you can use honorifics if you wish. I don't know why Duo is so inconsistent with their usage.

To me, the lack of honorifics suggests that the speaker is close friends with John and Maria, but because of the ます, they are perhaps speaking about them to someone who they aren't so close to.


I am also confused by this


I know that if you're saying you're own name, you don't use an honorific. If you're talking to someone like your boss or a co-worker or a stranger, than I think you definately do.

But, if you're talking to someone outside your group about people in your group, I think you would not include honorifics with the people of your group. Like in this example, if you worked with maria and john you would say to your client. "Hello, henry-san. Maria and John will finish doing this business stuff with you."

Again, I don't know how right I am, but I heard that somewhere


It's typically dependant on familiarity and formality. Duo may be trying to not bog down the sentences, but typically when you're speaking, you should add the さん (-san) honorific at the end. There are other honorifics, both more and less formal, but さん should be your default.


Isn't は supposed to be pronounced as 'ha'? Why does it sound like 'wa' here?


The particle. は ha pronounced wa is this sentence because it is identifying the topic in the sentence.

Its good to learn about all particles as it is very useful


So は comes after the topic? Because John and Mary are the topic?


はい, particles follow the words they identify. Other particles include the subject 「が」, object 「を」 (pronounced お), direction/time 「に」, destination/direction 「へ」, possessive 「の」, "also/too" 「も」, "and" 「と」 (used between items in a list when the full list is known), "and" 「や」 (used when you don't know the full list), and question 「か」. It takes a bit of time to memorize, but so does every other aspect of 日本語, so I recommend finding a cheat sheet on google.


So if i undersand well.

1/ Here we use は to dientify "Maria and John" as the subject?

2/ Why don't we use はい?

Thanks in advance for your help and your answer to help me improving my japanese skills

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As a grammar particle, は is pronounced "wa". It's pronounced "ha" when it's part of a word.

はい ("hai") means "yes". It is unrelated to the particle.

は ("wa") is the topic-marker. が ("ga") is the subject-marker.

マリア と ジョン = Maria and John
は (topic)
日本語 = Japanese language
が (subject)
はなます = can speak

Roughly, "As for Maria and John, Japanese can be spoken." Except it's not in the passive voice at all. This is just the only way to render it in English sensibly while still retaining the structure of the Japanese.

As for why it uses the subject marker and not the direct object marker を ("o"), that's because the verb is in the potential form as highlighted above, therefore technically there is no action to be received. If it were in the straight-up indicative form, then it would look like this:

マリア と ジョン は 日本語 を はなます

As for Maria and John, they speak Japanese.


Thanks Rae.F


Blame historical kana usage, it used to be a lot worse.


What is "ga" for?

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Ga is the subject particle. Ha (pronounced wa) is the topic particle.


So is the topic a phrase and subject a noun? Or is it more complicated?

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Topic vs subject has nothing to do with how simple or complex the noun phrase is. It's about the grammatical role it plays in the sentence. You can take "Maria and John can speak Japanese" and emphasize various parts of it, like so:

Speaking of Maria and John, they can speak Japanese.
Speaking of Japanese, Maria and John can speak it.


I'm just trying to figure out what that sentence actually says...

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マリア = Maria
と = and
ジョン = John
は (grammar particle)
日本語 = Japanese language
が (grammar particle)
はなせます = can speak


と is also a particle here. Although it indeed can be translated as "and" in this context.


The "masu" is also a grammatical particle

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No, it's part of the verb conjugation.


It's a politeness marker, right? Is that part of the verb conjugation? (If so, my bad for assuming it wasn't)


You're kind of both right actually :)

ます forms, in and of themselves, are verb conjugations and politeness markers. The three examples Rae gave are actually the polite declarative, polite negative, and polite hortative. You indicate politeness by choosing to use these ます forms instead of the plain/casual forms.

As an example, the plain forms of Rae's examples for the verb "to speak" would be はなす, はなさない, and はなそう, respectively, and for "to eat" they would be たべる, たべない, and たべよう, respectively. Those of you who recognize ichidan and godan verbs will notice why I chose those two verbs, but when you're studying ます forms, there's no need to think about ichidan vs godan, since the conjugations are the same.

This is a bit of a tangent, but there's a reason ます forms are usually taught first, besides "it's better to be on the safe side when it comes to politeness". The reason being that ます conjugations are quite straightforward and easy to identify.

Going back to the verb used in this exercise, はなせます, you would have to say it's the "polite positive potential form" to fully describe the conjugation.

はなす (plain positive declarative) 》 はなせる (plain positive potential) 》 はなせます (polite positive potential)

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No, it's just ordinary present tense. I'm sure Duo will get into verbs later in the tree.

-masu is the simple declarative (I do x.)
-masen is the negative (He doesn't do x.)
-mashou is the hortative (Let's do x!)

There's more, but that's what I remember off the top of my head. It's been a few years since those two semesters of Japanese.


Why 日本語が and not 日本語を?


Because the verb is in its potential form. We're just saying that Maria and John can speak Japanese, but we are not referring to any Japanese actually being spoken by them. That's why を doesn't work with the potential form, because it is the "direct object" particle, marking something actually being acted on by the verb.

As for the use of が, it acts as a target marker for preferences and ability, i.e. 好き, できる, etc., so it can work with the potential form of a verb.


What purpose does ga serve here? Because "japanese (language)" in this sentence is not subject, unless my grammar lessons are wrong.


still don't understand what's the difference between は and が ……


Topic is about information about context and new information. It is the contextual subject, the wa Subject in the grammatical role in the sentence, is the one who 'does' the verb, the ga. That is why wa and ga get mixed up. This link renders a good explanation: https://8020japanese.com/wa-vs-ga/


"mas" is used when wanting to be poliet? Is that correct?


Yes and no. ます, or more specifically the ます form of a verb, or です are used to be "cordial" or "well-mannered" with people you aren't close to, e.g. not friends or family. It is consider polite, in so far as it is more polite than using the plain form with strangers.

There are other ways to be even more polite than ます, but using them correctly comes down to understanding subtle social dynamics, which is definitely beyond beginners, and the scope of this course.


I am seeking insight on honorifics. With singular subjects, Duo has used them, but not in this case. Is there a reason or resource anyone has found that makes this more understandable?


Even in lists, you can use honorifics if you wish. I don't know why Duo is so inconsistent with their usage.

To me, the lack of honorifics suggests that the speaker is close friends with John and Maria, but because of the ます, they are perhaps speaking about them to someone who they aren't so close to.

Alternatively, adding honorifics for both Maria and John to this sentence would simply make it too long for Duo to handle.


Does anyone know a simple way to explain the part of the sentence "はなせます"?

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The base verb "to speak" is "hanasu". The conjugation "speak" is "hanashimasu". It seems that "hanasemasu" is "can speak".


so which is the right one? "hanashimasu" or "hanasemasu"?

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The prompt is "can speak", therefore the correct translation is "hanasemasu".




Why isnt it "can maria and john speak japanese".

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Questions have the か particle at the end of the sentence.


Whats the difference between と and も?

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と is literally just "and". It's used inside noun phrases like peanut butter and jelly, or Eric and Christine.

も translates as "also", but it's more of a subject/topic particle.


So what's after the "ha" is the topic?

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It's spelled "ha" but when it's the topic marker it's pronounced "wa". And as a grammar particle, it comes after the phrase it marks.

マリアとジョン -- As for Maria and John (topic)
日本語 -- the Japanese language (subject)
はなせます -- can be spoken (verb)

Although it's not actually in the passive voice. That's just the least twisted way to translate it more or less literally into English.


It feels strange not using honorifics in this sentence. Is there a grammatical reason they're not there, or is it a weird Duolingo thing?


"Can" is not suppose to be できる ?


できる is the potential form of する, so any phrases which use する can be conjugated to "can ~" that way. However, する is an irregular verb because it changes so much (and so differently from other verbs) when you conjugate it.

If you really wanted to use できる (which involves a more complicated grammar structure), you would have to change the verb from 話せます hanasemasu, which is simply the potential form of "to speak", to 話すことができる/できます hanasu koto ga dekiru/dekimasu, roughly "the act of speaking, I am able to do".


Pimsleur's japanese states か (ka) means 'and' aswell like in


Now I'm getting this is completely wrong - any idea why they might have said this?


It can be translated as "and" in some situations, but I think it tends to be more similar to "or".

Expanding on your example, if the full sentence read:


A possible translation could be "I don't drink any alcohol like beer and sake" but an equally valid alternative is "Whether it's beer or sake, I don't drink any alcohol".

As you can see, か can be used to delineate items in a list, but using it over と emphasizes that the items are only options or examples, and imply that there are many more alternatives. On the other hand, と is a simple inclusion of the items, and suggests that only these particular items are relevant to the conversation.

You may have come across や as well, as an alternative to と, and it is similar to か in that it suggests that there are other relevant items which have gone unmentioned, but it doesn't have the same implication that the listed items are merely examples.


Why is "ga" used with the language name after the verb "speak"?? In English, we would think this is the object of speak, not the subject. And to make matters worse, they are also throwing in the "wa", topic particle here, with Maria and John, who, actually are the subject of the verb speak. Some explanation for this would be useful.

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Correction to my earlier reply:

In Japanese, the grammar changes whether the verb is in the actual or potential form. Speaks vs can speak.

If it were "speaks", then Japanese would get the direct object mark. But it's "can speak", so Japanese gets the subject mark.

It's difficult to translate the Japanese sentence directly into English because our grammars are so different, but the closest would be this, despite being somewhat contrived:

As for Maria and John, Japanese is a language they can speak.

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A lot of languages do what's called topicalization. It's kind of like saying "Japanese is a language Maria and John can speak".


What does は really means or do in phrases ?

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As just another syllable in a word, は is pronounced ha.

As a grammar particle, は is pronounced wa and it marks the discursive topic of the sentence (which is not necessarily the subject of the sentence).

Roughly, "[noun phrase] は" is "As for [noun phrase]".

が is the subject marker.

There is no neat and clean way to literally translate into English, because if we make "Japanese" the subject of the sentence, we need to either put it in passive voice or add some things in. But roughly, the Japanese sentence rendered in English would be something like:

As for Maria and John, Japanese can be spoken by them.
As for Maria and John, Japanese is a language they can speak.


Is it possible to have 2 topic indicators?


In practice, definitely yes. A somewhat common example of this is to have は follow the time clause and a separate topic word as well, in the same sentence.

Whether this is theoretically acceptable or not, I have no idea.


Why is 日本語 not marked as object in this sentence?

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Because the verb is in the potential form: hanasemasu: can speak. It would get the direct object mark if it were in the actual form: hanashimasu: speaks.


So let me get this straight: Since maria and john are the subject of the sentence we use は And we use が for another subject, just not the main subject. Is this correct?

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Yes and no. Sort of.

は marks the discursive topic of the sentence. The English equivalent would be, "As for Maria and John, they can speak Japanese."

Now you're asking why 日本語 isn't marked as the direct object with を. That's because the verb is in the potential form can speak, and so does not trigger the accusative because technically there is no action taking place. So it's roughly like "Japanese is a language they can speak", except it's not in the passive voice. English has no equivalent to this aspect of Japanese grammar.


は should be interchangeable with が, right? They just emphasize different parts of the sentance?

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No, they're not interchangeable.

は marks the discursive topic.
が marks the grammatical subject.

Please read the rest of the comments on this page, if you can.


Why is it 日本語が instead of 日本語を?

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Because the verb is in the potential form: can speak はなます

If it were in the indicative はなます then it would be the direct object.


if the potential form doesn't have a direct object how should we generally determine which argument is a topic or a subject? is it possible to appear two subjects or two topics around a same verb?

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マリアとジョン takes は because we're on the topic of Maria and John. 日本語 takes が because it is more properly the subject of the sentence.

Japanese syntax and grammar is very different from English. We can't really translate the Japanese sentence here with perfect faithfulness to the original construction. The closest we can come is "As for Maria and John, the Japanese language can be spoken". But the Japanese sentence is not in the passive voice.


How is が after Japanese the subject if Japanese is actually the object here?

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This has been discussed on this page before. But in case the comments are not showing up for you--

This is because the verb is the potential form はなせます, which we translate as "can speak". If it were はなします, or just "speak", then we'd need to mark 日本語 with を because then there is an actual action it is the recipient of.


Because the verb is in the potential form, it does not take a direct object. The closest English translation of this sentence is "As for Maria and John, Japanese is something they can speak."


Godan Verbs (non-ru verbs) in Base 4 + る = 'Can do' that verb

eg: かう (root form aka base 3) -> かえ (base 4)

かえる(plain)->かえます (polite form) = can buy

Likewise: はなすー>はなせ+るー>はなせるー>はなせます

In short: root form->base 4+る(plain)->base 4+ます(polite)


Why are they using が and は in the same sentence if they both indicate subjects for different tenses?

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Verb tense has nothing to do with it and it's not a matter of "they're both subjects".

It's explained here: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/22987615


マリアとジョンは日本語が話せます was wrong. Any reason for that?

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All I can think of is that we're not expected to know the 話 kanji right now, so the course developers didn't put it in the database. Report it as "My answer should be accepted".


Why is が used here but not in the "maria and john can speak japanese" question?

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This is the "Maria and John can speak Japanese" question.

If you read the comments on this page, it will all be explained.


fool doubt:

if "wa" is わ, why is used "ha" は as "wa"?

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Historical quirk.

わ is only used to spell words.
は is "ha" when it is used to spell words. But when it is used as a grammar particle, it is pronounced "wa". It is never interchangeable with わ.


Wait is this "Maria and John can speak Japanese" or "Maria and John speak Japanese"


はなます means that this is "Maria and John are able to speak Japanese." Please read through some of other comments on this page for a more detailed explanation.


whats the different between " Maria to Jon wa nihongo ga hanaseru " and " Maria to Jon wa nihongo ga hanasemas"

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はなせる is the infinitive "to be able to speak"
はなせます is the present-tense "can speak"

For details, see the other comments on this page.


Why use ます instead of です?

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です is just the present tense of "to be".

ます is a suffix for conjugating other verbs, like はなす.


I just don't understand the ending Gahawasemasu ?

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マリア = ma-ri-a (Maria)
と = to (and, for noun phrases)
ジョン = jo-n (John)
は = wa (grammar particle, marks the topic)
日本語 = ni-ho-n-go (Japanese language)
が = ga (grammar particle, marks the subject)
はなせます = ha-na-se-ma-su (can speak)

When は is used as a grammar particle it is pronounced "wa". It is not interchangeable with わ.


How would you say they "can't speak Japanese"?

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I'm not sure how the potential form gets negated. That might get covered in a later lesson. I know "does not speak" would be マリアとジョンは日本語をはなさない (where "does speak" is マリアとジョンは日本語をはなします). For more details on why so much changes, please see other comments on this page.


The potential form of any verb gets conjugated like any regular godan/5-step/-る verb.

So, はなせ (plain potential positive) becomes:

  • はなせない (plain potential negative)
  • はなせます (polite potential positive)
  • はなせません (polite potential negative)


What does Ga mean? (Sorry I haven't installed the Japanese keyboard)

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If you can't see the other comments on this page, "GA" is the particle that marks the subject.


Pour être plus poli je préfère dire "さん" après les prénom :: マリアさんとジョンさんは日本語話せます.


All i did was miss the n in can and it marked me wrong ):


こにちわ みな さん I studied Japanese before, a long time ago, and I am pretty sure I used to say はなします and not はなせます. I never learned the kanji though. Am I (or my memory) wrong, or this is another possibility?

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This has been discussed in detail on this page before. You're remembering "I speak" and this lesson is teaching "I can speak". Two different things, not the same thing differently.


ども ありがとう ラえ さん! In fact I read some messages but didn't go further enough to fid the answer...

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