Grammar Question

Can you explain this grammar?

Using particles in Japanese

Andrew Li Andrew Li (0) on 31/08/15

Hey everyone!

Got a quick grammar question :D

Would it be right to say:

Eigo wo hanashimasu ka? (do you speak English?)

or

Eigo wa hanashimasu ka? (As for English... do you speak it?)

or

Eigo ga hanashimasu ka? (do you speak English - ga draws attention to the subject, right?)

and as a response to "What language do you speak?", would someone say:

Eigo ga hanashimasu.

or

Eigo wo hanashimasu.

or

Eigo wa hanashimasu.

Basically, I'm confused about the interchangeability of wo and subject markers like wa and ga. If someone could clarify this for me, I'd greatly appreciate it!

Thanks in advance!

Answers

2

First of all, let me introduce you to the 'can' form of Japanese verbs as I think that's confusing you a bit.

Hanashimasu - as you know, means to speak.

Hansesmasu - equals can speak.

To make a verb into it's can form, you use the hiragana that has the 'eh' sound. So, hanasu (the root of hanashimasu) ends in 'su'. The line of hiragana with su is: sa, shi, su, se, so.

So we use the 'se + masu' to change a verb to it's can form.

Pop quiz! How would you say 'can swim' by only conjugating the verb?

oyogu (swim) [ga, gi, gu, ge, go] => oyogemasu

Alright. Now that is out of the way.

I will speak English would be: eigo wo hanashimasu.

Notice the 'will speak'. Hanashimasu by itself emphasizes the fact that you will speak, not that you can. Eigo is the direct object and hanashimasu is what you will do with it. So in those cases, you use 'wo'.

To talk about the ability to speak English, you want to use our new 'hanasemasu' form.

When you talk about the ability to do something, it is most common to use 'ga' putting emphasis on the fact you can do something. That still doesn't sink in sometimes but in 90% of the cases you will use the can form, you're going to use 'ga.' Asking as a question though, you're going to use 'wo'.

(Watashi ha) Eigo ga hanasesmasu = I can speak English.

(Anata ha) Eigo wo hanasemasu ka? = Can you/Do you speak English?

But you tend to hear ha, ga, and wo being used once you've been in enough conversations. So there is some interchangeability between them. I'd say don't worry about it too much. Just use what feels right, make mistakes, and people will correct you. Good luck!

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Remember that は is usually the topic marker, or to add emphasis. That helps you keep は and が straight.

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