Grammar: The “Ga” Particle


The Japanese particle “ga” is a very versatile particle that can act as a subject marker, an object marker, and even a conjunction. “Ga” usually calls attention to a word or clause.

When used as a subject marker, “ga” puts more emphasis on the subject of a sentence. You may even see it translated in English as “It was [subject] who…”

Watashi ga sono hon wo yomimashita.
“I read that book” or “It was I who read that book.” (As opposed to someone else whom you might have thought read the book.)

Imoutosan ga anata mitai desu yo.
“Your younger sister looks like you” or “It is your younger sister who looks like you.” (…And not your brother or your older sister or anyone else.)

“Ga” is used as a direct object marker with a number of verbs and adjectives. The most common phrases you will see using “ga” as a direct object marker include:

  • Suki desu (“to like”): Eiga ga suki desu. (“I like movies.”)
  • Kirai desu (“to dislike”): Gyoza ga kirai desu. (“I dislike gyoza.”)
  • Hoshii desu (“to want”): Sushi ga hoshii desu. (“I want sushi.”)
  • Aru (a form of “to be” used with inanimate objects): Keeki ga arimasu. (“There is cake.”)
  • Iru (a form of “to be” used with people and sometimes animals): Gakuseitachi ga imasu. (“There are students.”)
  • Wakaru (“to understand”): Nihongo ga wakarimasu. (“I understand Japanese.”)
  • Dekiru (“to be able to”): Oyogu koto ga dekimasu. (“I can swim.”)

Sometimes “ga” is also translated as the conjunction “but” or “although” if it appears after one clause of a sentence. For example,

Watashi wa inu ga suki desu ga, haha wa arerugii de arimasu.
(“I like dogs, but my mother has allergies.”)