With a little research you can find tons of articles on all the differences between は and が, but as a beginner you really just need to know that they do almost the same thing but that は is slightly more common. That’s enough to let you get by until you have the time and experience to really look into the details. No need to overwhelm yourself all at once.
Blue: は isn’t the only subject marker in 日本語. You can also use が.
Yellow: What’s the difference?
Blue: It’s complicated… but in general you use が when you want to put extra focus on the subject of the sentence.
Yellow: As a grammar egalitarian I object to one part of speech getting more attention than the rest.
Blue: If I was talking about my birthday I might say 私はケーキを食べました.
Yellow: I ate a cake.
Blue: The subject and verb get equal focus. We’re talking about me and what I did.
Blue: But if some asked me “Who ate that cake?” I would answer 私がケーキを食べました.
Blue: The focus is admitting that “Who” was 私. The verb is almost just a background detail.
I’ve heard that many Japanese people believe that they are the only country to have all four seasons and are surprised when foreigners tell them that countries like America also have a distinct spring, summer, fall and winter.
No idea why they think this way. Probably just one of those little cultural myths that everybody grows up hearing and never bothers to think about. “Only Japan has four seasons. Every other country is too hot, cold, wet or dry to experience all four seasons properly.”
春 = はる = spring
夏 = なつ = summer
秋 = あき = fall
冬 = ふゆ = winter
寒い = さむい = cold
Blue: The negative casual form of ある is ない. That means the negative past tense casual is なかった.
Yellow: One of these days we’ll run out of irregular verbs and what a happy day it will be.
Yellow: So now what are we going to talk about?
Blue: How about a quick vocabulary lesson?
Blue: Here are the words for the four seasons:
Blue: 日本 is in the right part of the planet to have all four seasons. It’s not like those tropical islands where it’s always warm.
Yellow: Always warm actually sounds pretty good. 冬は寒いですよ！
While “iru” and “aru” are probably most important for talking about locations they can be pretty useful all on their own too. Want to say “We have a problem?” Use “mondai ha aru” to say “A problem exists / There is a problem.”
Also, if anyone is actually curious I’m pretty sure you use “iru” when talking about zombies because they move around as if they were alive. This is also true for other semi-alive things like robots.
Lost and Found
Blue: The verbs いる and ある both mean the same thing: To exist.
Blue: You use いる for living things and ある for almost everything else.
Blue: You can use them with に to talk about the locations of people and objects.
Blue: The pattern for “X is at place Y” is “XはYに いる\ある”
Blue: “I am at the library” would be “私は図書館にいます”.
Yellow: Wouldn’t that literally mean “I exist at the library”.
Blue: Literal translations aren’t always the best.
Yellow: One last question: Should I use いる or ある for talking about zombies?
Blue: Why can’t you ever have a normal grammar question?
I could go on and on about all the different ways to use “ni”… but I’m not going to. The two broad uses we’ve covered here (marking locations and marking the target/goal of verbs) are good enough for a beginner. Just don’t be surprised if you see a “ni” being used in a slightly different way every once in a while.
なる = to become
病気 = びょうき = sick
Overly Ambitious Goal Setting
Blue: に can also be used to mark the goal or target of an action.
Blue: For example, “友達 に なります” means “To become friends”.
Yellow: I think I get it.
Yellow: The action is “become”. What are we becoming? Friends.
Blue: It doesn’t have to be a purposeful goal either.
Blue: 病気になります means “To become sick” even though most people don’t purposefully set a goal of getting sick.
Blue: So if you see a に that isn’t marking a location it’s probably marking a goal or target.
Yellow: Come on に, leave some work for the rest of the prepositions.