〈33〉 ◆ chap 3 " The Japanese expressions & their secrets ! "
part 17. “ watashi wa ・・ga suki desu” ( I like ・・)
One of the most common phrases used when talking to friends, lovers or people you have never met before is
“ watashi wa ・・ga suki desu” ( I like ・・),
or “ Anata wa ・・ga suki desuka? ” ( Do you like...? )
Because when you are trying to get to know someone or want someone to get to know yourself, your own and that person's tastes, interests and preferences are very important factors.
It's the "ga" that is worth noting!
Again, consider the contrast between English and Spanish.
For example, “watashi wa nihon ga suki desu” is said in English as "I like Japan”.
Grammatically, "I" is the subject, "like" is the verb and "Japan" is the object. Oh no! That's a bit odd. The object should have had an “wo". Why is it "ga"?
“watashi wa nihon ga suki desu !”
I often use Spanish when explaining this riddle. This is because most of my students are Spanish and they all know Spanish, even if they are from other countries.
So how do you say "I like Japan" in Spanish?
It is actually quite different from English. They say ”Me gusta Japón”. The “me gusta”(gustarse) in this, is called a recursive verb, meaning "something fascinates me". (The “me" is the “me" in English, although pronounced differently) Therefore it means, "Japan fascinates me".
So here the subject is "Japón" (Japan), not "me". The verb is "gustar” (to fascinate), and the object is "me" (me). What a surprise, "watashi(I)" becomes the object !
This really annoyed not only the Japanese students at the Spanish school, but also the English-speaking students. The word that is supposed to be the object has to be the subject. It means that the verb has to be changed to something else... However it was a difficult task to do it in Spanish, where the verbs change dizzyingly in every person. （sweat!)
So how do you describe "Do you like me ?" in Spanish ???
Well, well, well,
Let's look back and verify!
If the English sentence "I like Japan" is translated directly into Japanese, it becomes “watashi wa nihon wo suki desu”. Yes, that is undeniably correct. You can also say “anata wa nihon wo suki desuka?(Do you like Japan?)”, and “kanojo wa anata wo suki deshita yo(She really liked you)” are all grammatically correct.
According to my dim memory, most people used to use “wo” when I was a child. However, as the years went by, it seemed to change to "ga" before I knew it. But I never really thought about why.
Then, decades later, when I came across the Spanish language, I caught a glimpse of the Japanese imagination which changed the “wo” into "ga”, in the curious Spanish expression "Me gusta Japón (Japan fascinates me)".
In “watashi wa nihon wo suki desu”, the subject, or protagonist, is obviously me. However in “watashi wa nihon ga suki desu", the value, or rank, of the subject, "Japan", is emphasised and heightened, as if it were the subject of the conversation or a second subject.
In other words, “watashi wa nihon wo suki desu” is a general expression such as "If you ask me a question about the country of Japan, I like it, not dislike it. But “watashi wa nihon ga suki desu" means "I like Japan compared to other countries", which is a further intensification of the speaker's intention.
Thus, between "Me gusta Japón" and “watashi wa nihon ga suki desu", even if the sentence structure is different, there seems to be some kind of commonality. I sometimes joke in response to a student's question, "Maybe the Japanese are getting closer to the Spaniards and their expressions are becoming overdone! ".
Because Spaniards always say "Un segundo" (Wait a second!) instead of “Wait a moment!”(chotto matte!). But by the time you say that, one second has already passed. Haha, in fact, you have to wait at least five to ten minutes!
Joking aside, let's consider this a little more seriously!
Grammatically, "I like Japan" is neither “watashi wa nihon wo suki desu.” nor “watashi wa nihon ga suki desu." This is because "like" is a verb, but “suki” is an adjective, in addition is a copy adjective".
As a matter of fact, the English verb "like" is equivalent to “konomu” in Japanese. Therefore, ”I like Japan" can be translated grammatically as “watashi wa nihon wo konomimasu”. However this expression is a bit old-fashioned and not often used in everyday life. (If I had to guess, it would be "I prefer Japan" in English.)
But this “watashi wa nihon wo konomimasu” can never be “watashi wa nihon ga konomimasu”. This is because with verbs (especially transitive verbs), it is necessary to clarify "who did what ?”. However adjectives are words that refer to the state of someone or something, so this is not clear. Furthermore, the word “nihon”(Japan) of “watashi wa nihon wo suki desu.” or “watashi wa nihon ga suki desu.” are not the object of the adjective “suki”.
For these reasons too, it may have been easier to change "wo" into "ga".
|“ What, you don't like us? ”|
Come to think of it, '“kirai(dislike)”(also a copied adjective) may be deliberately used more than “suki(like)”. For example, some people use this word with strong hatred like as “watashi wa gokiburi ga kirai desu!”(I hate cockroaches!), even though the insects are innocent. Oh no, I made another joke.
See you next time!
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