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Lesson 211: The contrast marker は

We've already learned that the particle is used to mark the topic of a sentence. Apart from this usage, is also used as a contrast marker.

You can use the particle as a contrast marker by using it multiple times.

I don't like horses, but I like dogs. うまきじゃないが、いぬきよ。
uma ha suki zya nai ga, inu ha suki yo.

Note that in the sentence above, うま and いぬ are subjects of the clauses they're in. But to emphasize the contrast, is used instead of the subject marker . We cannot use the particle after the particle . The contrast marker can also not be combined with the object marker , and therefore also replaces it if we want to contrast two objects.

(I) did not buy a game. (I) bought a notebook. ゲームはわなかった。ノートはった。
geemu ha kawanakatta. nooto ha katta.

Note that 's role as contrast marker is consistent with its role as topic marker, as there are multiple topics that are talked about: as for A it is X, as for B is it Y.

This becomes even more apparent in the following sentences, which show that the contrast marker does not need to be used multiple times in a sentence, and that making something the topic is already inherently contrasting it with other things that are not the topic.

As for Mary, I like her. メアリーは、きだ。
mearii ha, suki da.

May imply there's someone else I don't like.
As for the house, I bought it. いえは、いました。
ie ha, kaimasita.

Points attention to the house, in contrast to the previous topic talked about.
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