"The water is cold."
Is 冷たい only "cold to the touch" and 寒い only when you talk about the weather? Or is there another difference?
If it's cold to the touch, it's 冷たい。When native speaker went into a cold pool they would react with 「冷たい！」
I believe you are correct. Like if it's winter and it's cold out, then you'd say 寒い, and if you drink something cold, you'd say it's 冷たい.
However, one thing I'm not sure about, that hopefully someone can tell me, is what to say when you get into water (ocean, pool, etc.), and it's cold. I think it's 寒い, but I can't remember.
If I compare with Korean: They have chagapda 차갑다 and chupda 춥다. The former is when you touch something (including eating or drinking, so ice cream would also be chagapda). The latter is a general "all around" cold feeling; you would use it for the weather as well as when you get into cold water (or something similar). So assuming that they are at least close equivalents to 冷たい and 寒い respectively, I guess water you swim in would also be 寒い. Maybe we'll find a native speaker to comment on that?
It depends on the context in which the sentence is used. As far as I can see, は seems to be generally only used after the topic in question is introduced into the conversation (or on things which the listener can safely be assumed to know about such as general categories like "dogs" or names like "Japan"). So if you say 水はつめたいです, that would probably be understood as either "the water (the one we have been talking about before) is cold" or "water (in general) is cold". But if you mean some specific water which had not come up in conversation before (for example if you test the temperature of a pool), が would be preferred.
Native speakes please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong :)
Again, native speakers please correct me, but personally I feel は almost never corresponds to "a" in English, precisely because it tends to be used only after the thing has been brought up already. So there often is a "the" or something else like a possessive pronoun. For example:
- 私は犬と猫を飼っています。犬は白くて、猫は黒いです。'I have a dog and a cat. The dog is white and the cat is black.'
But if you ask me that's more a coincidence rather than は or が corresponding closely to English articles. It's a by-product of the fact that は tends to mark definite noun phrases and those are often marked with "the" in English (although it could also be something else, like a possessive or demonstrative pronoun). Also は can mark indefinite nouns, in which case we would usually be talking about a general category which the listener can be expected to know about, for example:
- 猫は鼠を食べる。 'Cats eat mice.'
が corresponds to the indefinite article even less because it doesn't have as much of a restriction in that regard than は. It simply marks a subject which is not the topic and can be definite or indefinite:
- 私は妹がいます。'I have a sister.' literally: 'As far as I am concerned, there is a little sister.' ("I" is the topic and "have a little sister" is information about that topic. So "little sister", being the subject of います 'exists' but not the topic, is marked with が.)
- 彼女は髪が長いです。 'She has long hair.' literally: 'As far as she is concerned, the hair is long.' ("She" is the topic, "hair" is just the subject of "(is) long".)*
So the main question you have to always ask yourself is: What is the topic, the main focus of what I am saying – the thing that I am providing information/asking about? That thing will be marked with は. Conversational flow usually dictates that that thing has to be something that the listener can be expected to already know about – a lot of the time either something which has come up before or a general category. If there is a subject in the sentence which is not the topic, it will get が.
I hope that helps.
* Of course, the last English sentence could also be translated literally as 彼女の髪は長いです。 'Her hair is long.' The difference is that in this case "her hair" as a whole is the topic, so I would expect that the next sentence will also be about her hair. In the previous version with "her" as a topic you could go on describing other things about her – or you could make "hair" the new topic in the next sentence if you want to.
Not native speaker, but been practicing with native Japanese speakers. Wa and ga don't translate to articles. These are like markers. Now that I think about it, I don't think there's 'a' or 'the' in Japanese. wa = marks the topic
What I do to make it easier is:
wa= as for this, about this Watashi wa John desu - As for me, it's John.
Watashi no namae wa John desu. About my name/As for my name, it's John.
ga = object of adjectives (there are probably other uses, but for beginners, it'll help us get by). - x GA y, I think of y as something that would describe x in some way
It also helps to pay attention to what words it usually comes with (ex. ga arimasu, abilities/can do like hanasemasu)
Inu ga ooki desu. The dog is big.
Inu ga imasu. The dog exists/is existing. = There is a dog.
*I think of this as if it's describing that the dog exists
Now, compare it with: Inu wa doko desu ka. About the dog, where is it? = Where is the dog?
I am not native but the way it has been explained to me is that は is used to introduce a new topic. Whereas が is used to identify the topic when it is unknown. i.e. If I asked "Who ate the chicken?" I would say "誰がチキンを食べた?" and the other person would respond with "アリスが食べた." They respond also using が because the current subject is not Alice it is the person who ate the chicken. If you were to say 誰はチキンを食べた. it would translate as "did who eat the chicken." Which makes little sense.
Not quite. As AbunPang explained above, は marks the topic whether it's new or not (but a recurring topic can of course be left out as implied), and が does not mark a topic at all, but rather the subject of the sentence if it is not also the topic. But then again, you seem to be confused by those very terms, since you claim that in your example reply, Alice is not the subject -- in fact Alice is the subject, but she is not the topic. The subject is whoever (or whatever) is doing the action decribed by the verb (in this case eat), while the topic is the thing we are talking about (in this case the chicken.
The topic can be the same as the subject (in which case the topic marker は replaces the subject marker が), but it can also be some other part of the sentence, or none. The subject is a grammatical constituent; it can be determined in an isolated sentence. The topic is a thematic role, and needs more context to be determíned. This is the major problem with trying to learn this with Duolingo, where there never is more context than the isolated sentence.
I think very simply wa is for topic and ga for subject. This means if you were to use wa here, you would be referring to water in general (the topic water) and not the specific water that you are drinking or otherwise interacting with. It would be like saying all water is cold. If you want to be specific to what you are interacting with you would use ga as they did here.
Although the terms "topic" and "subject" are the most common words used to describe は and が, I don't think those terms are very useful in trying to explain their usage to English speakers, as the grammatical subject in English doesn't really work similarly to how the が particle works.
E.g. In the English sentence "He is John", there's no question that "he" is always considered the subject of the sentence. But that sentence could well be translated as 彼はジョンです in the context of providing a person's name. Saying が is the subject particle can easily mislead people into thinking they should use が when they shouldn't.
Maybe but the question is what would be the alternative? If you want to match English syntax onto the corresponding Japanese sentences, you have to conclude that が sometimes marks the subject and sometimes the object (私は犬が好きです "I like dogs"), while は usually marks the subject but sometimes the object (映画はあまり見ない "I don't often watch movies), the possessor (彼は髪が長い "His hair is long"), or something which doesn't have any more than a loose hazy connection to the clause at all (僕はだめです "As for me it won't do"). Is that really more helpful?
I think the better solution is not to try and fit the Japanese sentence into the English pigeon hole but rather do one’s best to understand how Japanese sentences work. So the above sentences become:
- 私は犬が好きです “as far as I am concerned, dogs are likable”
- 映画はあまりみない “as as movies are concerned, [I] don’t watch [them] very much”
- 彼は髪が長い “as far as he is concerned, the hair is long”
- 僕はだめです “as far as I am concerned, it won’t do
True, the Japanese structure does take a lot of getting used to (and the concept of “topic” in particular is indeed something fairly foreign to European learners; I took quite some time getting used to it as well. But once it clicks you realise that it’s a really neat thing to have!) And maybe it does help to take a middle approach and learn along the lines of “the Japanese equivalent of the English construction x is y, which literally means z”. But if you ask me, if you try and view Japanese exclusively through the lens of English, you’re doomed to failure.
Please note that が is used for non-topic subjects. The main problem, I think, is that Duolingo never gives us enough context to tell us what is the topic.
So, I don't know if this has already been asked, but is there any particular rule as to when one uses が or は to indicate the subject? Can I just use whichever? Does it depend on the level formality?
Basically, Japanese splits its sentences into topic and comment. The topic is the thing you’re talking about, the comment is the new information about that thing. The topic is marked with は, the subject with が – unless the subject is simultaneously also the topic, in which case は takes precedence.
So yes, there is a difference between は and が and in many situations only one of the two is correct. That being said, the question of what is the topic of a given sentence often depends on the context – which you don’t have in isolated sentences such as those on Duolingo.
To give you an example: Suppose you want to say that Mr Tanaka has long hair. This could be translated in two ways (ignoring issues besides topicalisation, such as politeness):
- 田中さんのかみは長いです。 (lit.: As for Mr T’s hair, [it] is long.)
- 田中さんはかみが長いです。 (lit.: As for Mr T, [his] hair is long.)
Both of these contain exactly the same information, but in 1. the topic is Mr Tanaka’s hair, whereas in 2. it’s the whole person Mr Tanaka. 1. would be appropriate as an answer to the question how Mr T’s hair looks, or if you want to continue talking about his hair specifically. 2. would be appropriate if you are talking about Mr T as a whole and the sentence about his hair is only part of that description.
The problem is, you don’t have that context information in Duolingo. The only option is to accept several different translations which can make it seem like they are exactly equivalent, which they aren’t. It’s simply that Japanese makes a distinction which English does not (at least not as systematically).
Attaching お before a noun isn't usually obligatory, it's a way of showing respect to the noun. Tea, for example, is usually お茶 because there's a lot of cultural history behind drinking tea.
What's wrong with tsumetai mizu desu? In other sentences, adjective, noun, desu works fine.
つめたい みず です doesn't mean The water is cold. It means - It is cold water. みずは つめたい です means The water is cold.
I would suggest the meaning is the same. The translation "it is" is an artificial convention associated with the fact English uses "complete" sentences, but Japanese employs context. The idea of "The water" in English would be associated with a specific water. But neither the version with ga or the one without gives you enough information to identify a specific water. In both of the sentence structures, we would really say this while (for example) holding a cup of water in our hands. In other words, give me a situation (story) where we would utter this sentence, where ga is correct, but the not ga version isn't.
It is NOT the same. In your version つめたい みず です - the adjective is directly modifying the noun - thus it means It is cold water. In the original sentence (where either は or が could be used after みず, but to be consistent we'll use が as in the original sentence) - が after みず tells us that みず is the focus of the sentence, and that that's where our translation should start. It is a simple A is B type sentence where が (or は as the case may be) tells us that this sentence is telling us some information about the みず - namely that the water is cold. The difference is that in your sentence it is already established that the water is cold - it is a statement of fact. Maybe someone wanted to make some tea and thinking the water in the kettle was hot poured some into a cup only to realise that it is cold water - not hot water and so they need to pour it back into the kettle and boil it. In the original sentence someone is telling someone else that the water is cold, possibly in response to someone inquiring after the water temperature - so they are giving information that is new or correcting someone or confirming that the water is cold.
Still don't agree. Correcting someone. "Iie. tsumetai mizu desu." Confirming that the water is cold. "tsumetai mizu desuyone?"
For instance. If one asked, "Mizu ga tsumetai desuka?" Would it be wrong to reply, "Tsumetai mizu desu." Similarly, if one asked, "Tsumetai mizu desuka?" Would it be wrong to reply, "Mizu ga tsumetai desu."
It might be argued that for the second question, a possible reply might be, "Iie. Koora ga tsumetai desu." (no, the coke is cold). But I would argue this is as legitimate a reply to the first version of the question.
@Cecil164832 There is a difference between “The water is cold/The car is big” and “the cold water/the big car”. It may not be semantic – both of these may well describe the same water/car. However the grammar is very different indeed:
水が冷たいです/“The water is cold” is built like this :
[ [ 水] が] [冷たい] [です]
The adjective “cold” is not within the domains of the noun phrase headed by “water” but is rather a new information about said noun phrase.
By contrast, 冷たい水です/“it is cold water” has the following structure:
[ [冷たい] 水] [です] (with an implied topic which we translate as “it” in English)
Here, the adjective “cold” is part of the noun phrase headed by “water”.
It may not be overly important to make this distinction for the sake of this particular sentence, but it is very important to drive home to students that 水が冷たい is not the same as 冷たい水. The former is a sentence, the latter just a noun phrase, so you can almost never use them in the same environment (appending です is just an exception to this). For example, you can say:
- 冷たい水をください “Please give me some cold water”
- 二月は海の水が冷たい “The water in the ocean is cold in February”
But you cannot exchange 水が冷たいand 冷たい水 or the sentence you end up with is either incomplete or utterly ungrammatical:
- *水が冷たいをください “Please give me some the water is cold?”
- *二月は海の冷たい水 “In February the water in the sea”
For this reason, I think it is important to maintain the distinction between “the water is cold” and ”the cold water”, even in examples where out of pure luck exchanging one for the other does not result in ungrammatical sentence. Accepting it here but not in other places would probably lead to more confusion.
One more thing. With respect to, "new information about said noun phrase." The more appropriate answer would then be, "Tsumetai desu." Water has already been established as part of the context, so we just add the new information about its state.
Cecil - there is a limit on replies. The two sentences - the original and Duo's are quite distinct. I will try to explain one last time and then if you still can't understand the difference then you just can't understand the difference. I was just chatting with a Portuguese Japanese friend of mine and we were discussing how in Portuguese the sentences are quite distinct because they use different verbs which both mean to be - ser and estar - maybe that is why it is clearer or easier to understand for some people more than others?
Anyway, here goes.... みずが つめたい です - The water is cold. I like to think of particles in Japanese as sign posts - they show us what the different parts in a sentence are doing. In duo's sentence が is telling us that we're about to get some information specifically about water. Not about food. Not about the floor. Not about someone's feet. About water. This is why I added the bit about the food in my previous example - to show that が (and は) is used to signpost what we're describing, what we're about to learn some information about. が tells us start with water - this is where your translation should begin.
つめたい みず です - It is cold water. There's no が or は, so we need to go to the end of the sentence - to です. です can mean I am, you (sg./pl) are, s/he/it is, we are, they are BUT as this sentence is describing water - a singular object - the only possible and correct translation is 'it is'. It is WHAT? It is cold water. The adjective is directly modifying the noun, there's no が (or は) splitting them up so they go together - cold water, red car, yellow shoe. Where/when could this be used? You find a mug of clear unidentified liquid in the kitchen - for all you know it could be vodka! You ask - what is this? It is water. It's in a mug, it might be hot - is it hot water? No, it is cold water.
Sorry if you're still not seeing the difference.
たべものは あつい ですか？ たべものは あつい ですけど みずが つめたい です。
Is the food hot? The food is hot but the water is cold.
が and は indicate what items/things we are receiving information about.
これは ぬるい みず です か？ いいえ、つめたい みず です。
Is this tepid water? No, it is cold water.
Adjectives directly modifying the nouns.
I think what you are trying to get at is the idea of predicate adjectives. They discuss this issue in Japanese briefly here http://www.japaneseprofessor.com/lessons/beginning/japanese-adjectives/. A detailed discussion of predicate adjectives vs attributive adjectives as a generic language feature is here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicative_expression. From what I gather, the main benefit is when one tries composing more complex sentences.
The fundamental question would be whether, "The big car" is fundamentally different from "The car is big."
Just so it's clear what I'm replying to : ) Cecil you say - One more thing. With respect to, "new information about said noun phrase." The more appropriate answer would then be, "Tsumetai desu." Water has already been established as part of the context, so we just add the new information about its state.
But the only reason we know that we are talking about water is because it is in the sentence - 水が if you removed it and simply had つめたい です there's no way for anyone to know what is being talked about. It could refer to anything that is cold to the touch. 水が let's us know that we're saying the water is cold - as opposed to anything else in the room that could be cold as well - we're specifically pointing out that the water is cold.
@AnaLydiate. Lol. I can't seem to reply to you. I don't get a reply button now for your post. I agree wa and ga have a use, and once the sentences become complex, we need to use them. That isn't the example here. The example has one adjective, and one noun. I am objecting to their insisting on the answer requiring the use of ga, when the same semantics FOR WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO EXPRESS can be obtained without ga. It is just like insisting that the answer to, "How was your day" must be, "My day was fine." If I gave an answer, "Totally rad, dude," that should be acceptable.
In the example you give where ga becomes necessary, you have to add all kinds of preconditions in the sentence (the food is hot). That is no longer the content that the original statement is trying to express- that the water is cold. My claim is that in any situation where you say, "mizu ga tsumetai desu" (that and only that), you can say, "tsumetai mizu desu" and vice versa.
@AbunPang. I strongly dislike the, "Do it for the sake of the class" argument. I've been there a lot. Question given: "How many states of matter are there?" My answer: "At least 15 known, including glass, liquid crystal, plasma, and supercooled liquids." Teacher: "That's wrong. In class, we only learn about solids, liquids, and gasses so the class will understand." Me: "That doesn't make me wrong."
I think ga is being over used. From my personal experience wa is used to indicate the subject of a sentence and is used much more frequently than ga. Ga is used to further emphasise the subject of a sentence, to indicate the secondary subject of a sentence, to indicate the subject of a subordinate clause or when it's required when used with certain verbs, adjectives etc eg. Naninani ga dekimasu or Naninani ga suki.
Actually, は is for the topic that can span multiple sentences and が is for the subject which is usually only in that specific sentence to emphasize the subject it's talking about.