Topic is a key concept in understanding Japanese. Roughly speaking, the topic of a sentence is what the sentence is about. For example, in (a), the topic is Hanako and the rest of the sentence provides information about Hanako.
Hanako wa gakusei desu.
(Hanako is a student.) (Speaking of Hanako, Hanako is a student.)
Topics are presented using various topic-marking devices. Among those, wa is the most frequent marker. When topic is presented it must be something both the speaker and the hearer can identity from their knowledge. Usually a topic is something that has been mentioned in a previous discourse, something the speaker and the hearer perceive through their five sense, a proper noun or a generic noun.
The direct object (sometimes this is often referred to only as "object")
of a verb is the direct
recipient of an action represented by the verb. It can be animate
or inanimate. An animate direct object is the direct experiencer of some
action. An inanimate direct object is typically something which is created,
exchanged or worked on, in short, the recipient of the action of the verb.
The subject is an element of a sentence which indicates an agent of an action in active sentences (as in (a)) or an experincer of an action (as in (b)) or someone or something that is in a state or a situation(as in (c), (d), (e). The subject is normally marked by the particle が in Japanese unless it is the sentence topic.
Jon ga ringo o tabeta. (John ate an apple)
Mearii ga sensei ni homerareta. (Mary was prised by her teacher.)
Nanshii wa kireida. (Nancy is pretty.)
Doa ga aita. (The door opened.)
Tsukue ga hitotsu aru. (Lit. One table exist. (=There is a table.))
A verb which does not require a direct object. The action or state identified by the intransitive verb is related only to the subject of the sentence. For example, the verb はしった "ran" in (a) is an intransitive verb because the action of running is related only to the subject.
Yamada-san wa hashitta. (Mr. Yamada ran.)
Intransitive verbs typically indicates movement (such as いく 'go,'
くる 'come,' 'あるく 'walk,'), spontaneous change (such as なる 'become,'
かわる 'change,' とける 'melt'), human emotion (such as よろこぶ 'rejoice,'
かなしむ 'feel sad,') and birth/death (such as うまれる 'be born,"
A verb that requires a direct object. It usually
expresses an action that acts upon someone or something indicated by the
direct object. Actions indicated by transitive verbs include real
causatives (such as いかせる 'make/let someone go,' ころす 'kill,' みせる
'show'), exchange (such as あげる 'give,' もらう 'receive,' communication
(such as はなす 'speak,' かく 'write' かんがえる 'think'), and others.
Note that some English transitive verbs are intransitive in Japanese.
A verb which represents a state of something or someone at some point in time as in (a).
(a) ある ari (exist (of inanimate things))
いる iru (exist (of animate things))
A verb that represents a momentary action which either occurs once, as in (a) or can be repeated continuously, as in (b).
(a) しる sihru (get to know)
しぬ shinu (die)
はじまる hajimaru (begin)
けっこんする kekkonsuru (get married)
(b) おとす otosu (drop)
ける keru (kick)
うつ utsu (hit)
When the auxiliary verb いる, the punctual verbs in (a) express a state
after an action was takes, and those in (b) express either a repeated action
or a state after an action was taken.
Material on this page is taken from A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui. For detailed discussion, please refer to the book.
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