"I can speak English."
"In other words, 「は」 is used to redefine or clarify the contents of the context bubble, or part thereof.”
So I was thinking 「は」was used for emphasis, but it's actually somewhat "de-emphasizing." I.e., if it's followed by 「は」then it's not new/important information, but background information.
idk why you were downvoted for discussing the article lol.
Anyway, perhaps I misunderstood the article (this whole section is pretty confusing to me haha) but what I got from it was "“wa” marks the topic of the sentence; it tells us what we are talking about." which to me means it is new information. or at least, information that needs to be clarified (such as watashi wa, to clarify that it is yourself you are talking about in the event that you were previously talking about someone else). Background information is omitted, but implied, as you see in the handy chart they used to show how context plays in:
As I say in basically all of my comments, please correct me if i am wrong. My intent isn't to mislead or pretend to inform, but rather discuss to help clarify not only for who I am responding to, but myself as well.
To prevent confusion, I'd like to explain what they mean when people say that が can be used for new information and は is NOT used for new information. This is an important distinction, but it is easy to get mixup if you over-think it.
A topic is always common information. Something familiar to both speaker and listener. If the listener does not know about something (new information), then it cannot be used as a topic for the conversation (yet). First, it would need to be introduced into the conversation somehow, either by contextual clues, or using a different topic, or by stating it directly as a new subject.
It might help to provide an example. Imagine you are talking to your coworker and you say, "I bumped into Jim from Accounting this morning. He just proposed to his girlfriend. Isn't it exciting?"
In this conversation, you could use "Jim" as a topic in the second sentence, when you are telling your friend about Jim's proposal, but it would not make sense to make Jim the topic of your first sentence. Unless Jim was brought up earlier in the conversation, to provide a context for using him as a topic.
"Speaking of Jim ... I bumped into him this morning."
Now that Jim has been brought up as the topic under discussion, the rest of the sentence is providing new information related to Jim. When you are ready to talk about something else, you just introduce a new topic. But again ... it must be common information. It doesn't make sense to throw out a topic that is completely unexpected. It would break the flow of conversation and confuse your listener. You would need to introduce a brand new subject using が or an existing topic instead.
It takes a while to get used to topics, but they really aren't that scary or strange. Just a different way of organizing the information.
I'm still learning, but I think it might depend on context. If you're talking about the English language it's は, but if you were focusing more on languages you can speak in general, が would apply since it's just one of many, so to speak. I think が tends to be associated with stuff that is still sort of unidentified (sorry in advance if this is all wrong).
Eh, women can use "boku" too (i.e., tomboys), it just has a kiddish masculine connotation, hence why boys will "grow out of" using it and generally fall to either using "watashi" or "ore." There are some exceptions to this, though. For example, singers often opt to use "boku" instead of "watashi" because the syllable count is more convenient for inclusion in music.
I'm not sure if I'm reading this wrong, but it doesn't feel 100% correct.
As far as I'm aware, it's not は or が that causes the sentence to mean "can", it's entirely using the potential form of 話す(hanasu) which becomes 話せる (hanaseru) or in "masu-form" becomes 話せます (hanasemasu). http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/potential
This seems to be unrelated to whether one should use "wa" or "ga", where the resource linked by maggiekarp_ seems to give some decent insights: https://8020japanese.com/wa-vs-ga/
You are correct.
The particles are different because the potential form is intransitive, not because が means "can".
話す is a transitive godan verb. Changing it to the potential form 話せる essentially turns it into an INtransitive ichidan verb. It conjugates differently and follows intransitive grammar rules whic include using が to mark the language that can be spoken, instead of を.
"Boku" is boy-ish, "watashi" is polite and gender-neutral. There are many other ways to refer to oneself, too. For example, "atashi" is extremely feminine/girly, and like "boku" can be considered kind of kiddy. A major thing to recognize is that in Japanese, there is not only several layers of politeness, but also male speech and female speech. Once you understand that, you start looking for it, and it becomes easier to understand what's being said.
not quite right, it goes, 話す ‐ 話します。 話せる is a different form of the verb which means "can speak" and 話せます is just the formal variant. You can do this with every verb. 読む－読める (read - can read) 書く－書ける (write - can write) 食べる－食べられる (eat - can eat) these forms are called "potential" forms and they express ability.
The potential form of a verb is not transitive, meaning it cannot take a direct object. Verbs that are intransitive take が instead. "English can be spoken"
The action of speaking isn't actually being done, you're just describing the ability to do an action. It's like describing English as having the attribute of being speakable, making it the subject.
Yes the particle が marks the subject of the sentence and the particle は marks the topic of the sentence.
When you ask a question, you should use は if the question word comes after the topic in the sentence.
When a question word appears at the beginning of the sentence, you should use the particle が
You should also use が for new information.
If you were to use wa, you'd be saying "As far as English is concerned, I can speak it." But using ga with an implied "watashi wa" means "As far as I am concerned, I can speak English." It depends whether the topic of the conversation is English or yourself. And see DestinyCall's comment above about how the potential makes the verb intransitive.
My understanding: Britain (イギリス) is in Katakana because it’s a loanword from European language (England —> igirisu). “English” (the language) is 英語 which is in Kanji because it comes from the Chinese-based (onyomi) reading of those characters. “English” language is 英语 in Chinese too (I’m using the simplified form of the characters which I am more familiar with). In Chinese they are pronounced ying1 yu3 which became ei go in Japanese.
はなせます is an intransitive verb, which means it doesn't have a direct object and thus doesn't use を. Think of it like a passive statement of your ability instead of an active statement of something you're actually doing: "I have the ability to speak English."
はなせます is used instead of はなします because the original sentence is, "I can speak English," not "I speak English." There is a difference between the two, even though we often use them interchangeably in casual English speech. はなせます is the potential form of the verb はなします; you're saying that you have the ability to speak, rather than that you're actively speaking.
To add to tsuj1g1r1's comment: "Boku (僕)" is a specifically masculine way of saying "watashi (私)", although I believe it's less polite. Using "no (の)", if used the way you suggest would indicate possession; i.e. "僕の英語" would mean "My English language". You could write, ”僕は英語が話せます”, specifying yourself as the "topic" of the sentence, ("As for me, (I) speak English" -- literally) but depending on context this may be unnecessary.
To further clarify, 僕 and 私 are both personal pronouns that translate to something similar to "I" in English. But I would not say that boku is a masculine watashi. Their meaning and usage is similar, but they have different etymologies in Japanese. They are not two forms of the same word.
That being said, boku is more commonly used by men and it considered less formal than watashi. Watashi can be used by men or women and is considered fairly polite. When speaking more casually, male speakers might use boku instead (or the word 俺 (ore) which is even more casual and brusque.) In contrast, women will rarely use boku, even among close friends.
Fun Fact - the literal meaning of 僕 is "manservant" and it was originally a term that was used by a master when directly addressing his servant.
Fun Fact #2 - when talking to small children (especially boys), Japanese people will sometimes use the word 僕 as a second person pronoun, equivalent to the word "you". For obvious reasons, you cannot use this word in this fashion when addressing adults or people of higher social status. That would be incredibly rude.
を is typically used when there is a "direct object" as the focus of a verb. I've found this is normally used if the verb in question is "transitive" (takes objects) rather than "intransitive" (will not take objects).
Looking up the root word in a dictionary, 話す（はなす）you'll find that it is listed as "transitive", so a sentence like this would be correct:
"I will speak (converse in) Japanese"
However, the "potential form" of a verb, I believe, is always "intransitive". In this example, 話せる（はなせる）is the potential form of 話す (the conjugation varies depending on verb type). So you'd have to use が in the following sentence:
"I can speak (converse in) Japanese"
Some verbs are "intransitive" right off the bat and should normally use が, while others are "transitive" and should use を, although there are exceptions (see resource 3). These resources might be helpful (take SE posts with limited responses with a grain of salt though). The first is distinguishing between "ichidan" (る) and "godan" (う) verbs, as the potential forms are different between verb types. The second gives example sentences that would take を. The third is an example case where を is used even for "intransitive" verbs. The last is just an article talking about "transitive" vs "intransitive" but in English
話せ Can be the informal imperative form of 話す (to speak) "Speak!!"
But here it is actually the verb stem for the polite non-past ます conjugation of the potential form of the verb 話せる, The ability to speak. 話せます "Can speak" or "Will be able to speak"
話し is the verb stem for the masu form of 話す, 話します "I speak" or "I will speak"
話す - Hanasu - to speak
話します - I (will) speak
話しません - I (will/do) not speak
話せる - Hanaseru - To be able to speak
話せます - I can (will be able to) speak
話せません - I cannot (will not be able to) speak
as a side: 話 by itself can also be pronounced "hanashi" and is the noun "story, talk, conversation"
は and が are really complex, and I think there is no way to provide a simple explanation.
は is used mainly when the information you are speaking is already known, and emphasizes what comes AFTER it.
が is used when presenting new information, and emphasizes what comes BEFORE it.
In some cases, they are interchangeable. I'm not sure if they play more roles, but this is what I got from the comments here.
です is the copula roughly meaning the verb "to be". It is used in X=Y sentences linking two nouns or an adjective and a noun together.
パンが甘いです - "pan ga amai desu" - Bread is sweet
これはペンです - "kore wa pen desu" - This is a pen
ます is the polite present/future verb conjugation. It cannot by used by itself.
話します - Hanashimasu "I (will) speak"
食べます - Tabemasu "I (will) eat"
飲みます - Nomimasu "I (will) drink"
and here: 話せます - Hanasemasu "I (am able to/will be able to) speak"
Ok i need help.
Ive gotten this wrong to many times and don't know why.
When I use watashi wa before in a question I got it wrong and said i was to use watashi no.
But now that I used watashi no in this question "I can speak english." It says i got it wrong and should of used watashi wa.
When and where and why do I use watashi wa and watashi no?
In the Japanese sentence, the topic is yourself. (Using "wa" after "watashi.") Using "no" would make it possessive. "No" wouldn't make any sense in this sentence. "Watashi no neko wa totemo kawaii desu" is an example of using "no" correctly, as the speaker is talking about his or her cat. But "wa" comes after "neko" because the topic of the sentence isn't oneself, but the cat which belongs to oneself. Hope that clarifies things.
Also, it's "should have used" not "should of used." This is a mistake brought about by phonetic learning, misinterpreting the contraction "could've" as "could of" (which, in spoken English, sounds the same) when this is not at all grammatically correct. "I could have done this." -> "I could've done this."
If you're joining in a conversation about languages in general you would probably want to mark yourself as the topic with は
私は英語が話せます "On the topic of me, I can speak English", switching the focus from someone else to yourself and then emphasizing that English is the language that you can speak.
Japanese also tends to go from the biggest to smallest in terms of detail, so you would start with the the topic (yourself) then the subject (english) and then the important thing that connects those two together (the ability to speak)
If you want to make yourself the subject 英語は私が話せます it would be more like "On the topic of English, I can speak it" (not someone else; ME) Where maybe the conversation was already on English in general and you really want to stress that you are the one who is able to speak.
DestinyCall goes into a bit more detail on the differences between は and が above in this thread. :)
Other forms of "I" such as 僕 should be acceptable as well as completely omitting the "I" part entirely since it can be implied.
If「僕は英語が話せます」and 「英語は話せます」aren't accepted yet you can hit the report button on the question to recommend your answer as another option. The contributors will go through reports and add new options if they are suitable. Note though they get thousands of reports, and not all of them valid, so it may take some time before it is reviewed.
To help with this before reporting always try to make absolute sure that it is a correct answer that isn't accepted and you don't simply have a typo elsewhere that is marking you incorrect as that is very common. I'm sure I've sent in a good number of reports with some accidental misspellings I completely missed. :)
In Japanese, the verb comes at the end: "I you love." And to say that something is owned by something else, you use the Japanese particle "no," which unlike "of" in English, has the thing that owns come before it, and the thing that is owned come after it. So "me-of-name," rather than "name-of-me." Maybe think of it as comparable to an apostrophe-S: "Me's name."
僕 is a first person pronoun "I" primarily used by males
If you mean as far as why it looks the way it does, its etymology is a bit interesting:
There are actually two things in your answer that differ from the accepted one. RVJioWts commented on your use of 話します rather than 話せます (話 pronounced はな). They're based on the same verb, but 話します is speaking, and 話せます is the ability to speak (dictionary forms are 話す and 話せる).
The second issue is using を rather than が. When using potential form (what I referenced above), you use が, even if you'd use を if the verb were in normal form. The potential form turns it into an intransitive verb, so it doesn't take a direct object (what を signifies). To paraphrase Tae Kim's guide, it describes the state, not an action being taken.
The topic of conversation, は, is omitted here. (This happens a lot in conversation if the topic can be inferred from context.) The 'full' sentence would be (let's say the topic is "I") 私は英語が話せます。This would be like saying "As for me, I can speak English", ("I" is what is being talked about) whereas if you wrote (私が)英語は話せます it'd be more like "As for English, I can speak it" (English is the thing that's being talked about). はなせます (話せます) means "to be able to speak". Hope this was helpful!
が is the subject market. は is the topic marker.
が marks the grammatical subject of the sentence while は is used to mark the general topic under discussion. This might also be the subject, but it doesn't have to be.
Here is a simple example:
(Jon ga gakusei desu.)
John is a student.
John is the subject, marked by が. However, it is more common to see this kind of sentence written like this:
(Jon wa gakusei desu.)
As for John, (he) is a student.
Notice that subject of this sentence (he) is implied by the topic of ジョン, but not actually stated. This is important, because sometimes the topic isn't the same as the grammatical subject.
For example, look at this sentence:
(Jon wa inu ga suki desu.)
"John likes dogs."
Okay .. what's going on here?
In the English translation, John is the subject and the dog is the object of the verb "to like". But that is NOT what is happening, grammatically, in the Japanese sentence. In Japanese, you express the sentiment of "liking" by using an adjective, 好き, which describes the thing that you like. So in the Japanese sentence, John is the topic, but John is NOT the subject. In Japanese, "dogs" are the subject. And this is very clear, because we can see that 犬 is marked by が.
A more literal translation would be "As for John, dogs are liked." The important point is that the particles tell you what is really going on in Japanese. You can't really trust the English translation to show you the real grammar, because a natural-sounding English translation probably isn't a literal translation of the Japanese sentence.
As for why Japanese has both a subject marker and a topic marker ... as you spend time learning Japanese, you will notice the language tends to avoid using pronouns whenever possible and that subjects get dropped a lot. And you will also notice that the less directly something is stated, the more polite it sounds. I think these things are related. Basically, it just sounds better to say "Speaking of John ... (he) is a student." Not as direct, avoids stating a subject, very natural. Instead of saying, "John is a student." (Using が). That might sound just fine in English, but it will probably sound unnatural in Japanese. Likewise, using personal pronouns like わたし and あなた is much less common in Japanese, compared with English's use of I/you/he/she/they/etc. Typically, these are left out.
You only really use が in certain circumstances when the subject MUST be directly stated and you should only use personal pronouns when they are unavoidable, too.
I hope that helps.