"Meat is expensive."
が does not make the subject (or topic in the case of は) more general. You could use が if you were answering the question of "what is expensive?". In a way, は makes it more general. が puts more emphasis on the word, since its used as a subject. I reccomend looking at the difference between は and が.
I think this is confusing me too. I thought I knew the difference between ga and wa. I no longer think I do...
I have read somewhere that GA is for general and WA is for specific things derived from context or situation.
I put this forward as evidence: When using it with KONO or SONO or KORE, we use WA... Kore wa nani desu ka? = What is this?
Kono pen wa yasui desu = This pen is cheap.
GA has been used for general negation, etc. When we learned how to say I don't eat meat (as in no meat at all not just the meat in front of me) we used GA.
So what gives? Duo is confusing me and you guys are trying to help but I am just getting more confused in the process. I see no evidence that GA is anything but a marker to introduce NEW information and that it is used together with certain verbs....
I wish I knew who started the rumor that が is for general and は is for specific things. They really did more harm than good with that "hint." It sounds just logical enough to make sense, until you actually try to apply it to real sentences and realize there are tons of exceptions that don't seem fit at all.
Personally, I consider that rule pretty much useless and potentially misleading. The whole "general vs specific" idea is related to the function of が and は, but it doesn't really explain WHY in a way that lets you recognize when and where exceptions might exist. It is like noticing that は is used in many negative sentences (true) and assuming that means all negative sentences must use は (false). Or that は gives emphasis to what comes after it, and が to what comes before it. Although that is generally true, it doesn't really give you the whole picture. It is a side effect of the particle's role in the sentence, not the main event.
If you are feeling lost, this guide might be helpful:
thanks! I am reading that article and it does say that idea of emphasizing what comes before vs after, which I have found more useful than the general vs. specific or the "the" vs. "a"....
I think it would be easier if we could hear a more hard and fast rule but it seems there is no hard and fast rule, at least when it comes to translation into English.
One thing I have noticed is that when ga is used, the subject is often there but not specified (e.g. there could be a watashi wa or a anata wa behind it).
Here, the wa particle is used and if you notice, a watashi wa can't precede it unless you make up a whole new sentece: "I think meat is expensive". I bet such a sentence would be translated with a wa for the I and a ga for the meat or you could drop the watashi and say (I) "think meat is expensive". Bet that it would have a ga before meat...
Would love to hear from someone that knows better...
I will read the article carefully to see if it helps me more with this. Thanks!
For anyone wanting to follow up on the difference between ga and wa, I have found this helpful:
It is a wikipedia article discussing the difference between a topic and a subject. Now I finally understand why the literal translations from Japanese to English often are in the passive voice. I think this will help me understand the use of ga and wa a lot better!
When we write a passive sentence, we turn the object into a subject. Normally, the subject is the topic in English but by using the passive voice we emphasize the object, just like using wa in japanese marks the topic.
Another important point of this article which is missing in many ga and wa discussions is that the wa can mark the subject and the topic and takes precedence over ga, meaning that it is wrong to say that a sentence will use a wa in place of a ga, it just takes precedence over it but it would be grammatically correct to use ga in such cases. There would be times in which wa is used but ga is used elsewhere (we have seen that here already), and in such circumstances the subject and the topic are different. When the subject and the topic are the same, wa is used... (unless you need to emphasize the subject).
(and do correct me if I am wrong!)
Sounds perfect to me! I think you got it. :-)
I think the hardest thing about learning ha vs ga is realizing how often the English translations do not match the Japanese grammar. But the sooner you learn that the better off you will be, since it is super common for translations to be very loose. It makes it quite challenging for new learners. But you do get better at recgonizing what has been left out or changed as you gain experience in Japanese.
There are a couple of example sentences that I find helpful to illustrate は and が.
Here is one of them ...
"The elephant has a long nose."
Look at the Japanese and see if you can break down the grammar for yourself based on your understanding of が and は. Regarding the kanji, 象 means elephant, 鼻 is nose, and 長い means long.
So the Japanese sentence is actually saying something like this:
"As for the elephant, (its) nose is long."
The subject is marked by が, so 鼻 (nose) is the subject, not 象 (elephant).
And here is another one:
"John likes dogs."
Again ... the natural English translation is misleading. What does this really say?
"As for John, dogs are liked."
犬 is marked by が, so it is the subject. ジョン can't be the subject in this case. In this case 好き (liked/likeability) is an attribute of 犬 (dog), in relation to ジョン (John). In English, we would just say "John likes dogs", but Japanese is quite different. It gets to the same place by a different route.
This understanding of が is very useful when you come across later sentences like this one:
"Mr. Tanaka can speak English."