How do you tell apart は as a particle and は as apart of another word?

So, I know that in this case, as a particle, は is pronounced WA, but what if you're reading a Japanese phrase?? If there's audio you can tell WA and HA apart, but if you're reading a sentence, how do you know for sure if it's actually HA, as part of a word? Any tips? 

4 Answers

  • Lv 7
    1 month ago

    you must use the context of the other words around it to tell. read it to yourself and see if it makes more sense one way or the other.

    it's important to learn common phrases, so you will recognize them when they appear.

  • Pontus
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    The two current answers are both very good. Here are some examples.

    flower = 花 (a kanji)

    nose = 鼻 (a kanji).

    Both in hiragana are: はな (hana). Note that flower and nose have different pitch accents, so they are not pronounced the same.

    If I add on は, to either kanji, that is unquestionably the topic marker, "wa". Even if added on to the hiragana "hana", the last "ha" would be the topic particle and pronounced as "wa".

    tooth = 歯, or "ha" in hiragana. In the sentence, the tooth is white - 歯は白です - it's clear that は is the topic particle. It that sentence were written entirely in hiragana (which is very unlikely, mostly in children's books or in passages designed for students learning Japanese), it takes context to determine which pronunciation is correct.

    the respectful word for mother (used to talk about your own mother to people outside your "in" group" is 母, pronounced "haha". In the sentence, my mother is here, the topic particle is obvious: 母はここにいます.

    Again, if hahawa, were written entirely in hiragana, it would take context to determine that the last "ha" is "wa", but it's the only possibility.

    It's actually easier in Japanese than in English, most of the time, because Japanese uses three different scripts, each with different purposes, to form one writing system. Hiragana is used for the grammatical glue of Japanese, like the topic particle, and for words without kanji.

    In English, only context tells us the correct meanings in the spoken language for homophones like where/wear; fair/faire, sea/see/C; tee/tea, pee/pea, there/they're/their; flower/flour, bare/bear, by/buy/, brake/break, for/four, to/too, eight/ate, wait/weight, berry/bury etc.

    In the written language, context again is required for the homonyms can (the verb or the noun - different meanings); bark (of a tree; of a dog), might (verb or noun - different meanings), story (fiction, or the floor of a building) etc.

    Then there are heteronyms (spelled the same but pronounced differently): wound (wound up) vs wound (injury/injure), axes (plural of ax) vs axes (plural of axis); dove (past of dive) vs dove (the bird) etc.

    At least in Japanese, context is often not required in the written language, due to the three scripts.

  • 1 month ago

    Context. My best advice is to study the language in more depth. It's easier to tell, especially when you're familiar with more vocab, when は is the grammar particle or when it's part of the word. However, just to make it a little easier on you, I read a lot of manga in Japanese. Words with は aren't exactly common, so more often than not it's safe to assume that it's the grammar particle. Another thing is kanji-- if there are words next to grammar particles, they are most likely going to be shown in their respective Chinese characters. When that happens は is most definitely going to be read as the grammar particle.

  • Ben
    Lv 5
    1 month ago

    Context. It's always context.

    It's only really difficult when reading sentences written mostly in hiragana (which I assume is what you, as a beginner, are doing at them moment). With kanji in the sentence, there are very few instances where it's possible to mix things up.

    No words are written ending in the hiragana は (except certain given names and when words normally written in kanji are written out in hiragana instead for people who struggle with kanji), so you only really have to work out whether the は belongs to the following word, or whether it is the particle. Most words start with a kanji, so in those instances it is immediately obvious. In all others, it's just context. Learn more words, more vocabulary, then you will learn to recognise whether the collection of hiragana which follow the は are their own separate word, or whether they are a word starting with は.

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