The Difference Between が and は (は can include が)

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May 25, 2011 13:07 Japanese_language 助詞 主語 「は」
I know many learners of Japanese have trouble using が and は correctly and, what’s more, I guess, you have heard of many useless “solutions” so far. How about the following explanation? Please let me know your opinion.

1. Unlike English, Japanese passages need a topic. English needs a subject for each sentence, while Japanese requires a topic every couple of sentences.
2. While が can only indicate the subject, は can point out both the subject and topic simultaneously. While が has one function, は has two functions.

For example, “Although I thought that my English skills were considerably high, the test result was bad.”
Logically, it can be:
自分の語学力がかなり高いと思っていたのに,テストの結果は悪かった。
However, I feel (not think) that this one sentence (of a passage) lacks the topic, though it depends on the context. Usually, it should be:
自分の語学力はかなり高いと思っていたのに,テストの結果は悪かった。
(The only difference is が and は.) This は of 自分の語学力は has two functions. One is to mark the topic. The other is to set the subject.

The other function is not only “が”, but also it can be “の”, “に”, “を”.

“What do you have for lunch?”
“僕はウナギだ” (As for me, it (what I will have) is an eel.)
This は can be thought of as functioning in a similar manner as に. “僕にウナギ(をくれ)”

昼飯はまだ食べてない (I have not yet had a lunch./ As for a lunch, I have not ...)
This は can be thought of as functioning in a similar manner as を. “昼飯を”

象は鼻が長い。 (As for an elephant, its nose is long.)
This は can be thought of as functioning in a similar manner as の. “象の鼻が長いこと”

See also:
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/982639/ (ビールは美味しかった)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/986387/ (ほとんどスイカを食べません)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/1013971/ (漫画が好きではない。or 漫画は好きではない。)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/1015355/ (僕は/が先に死んでしまう運命)