Excluding the subject with the invisible が


Every Japanese sentence marks the subject (either the doer of an action or holder of an attribute) with the particle が. However, the subject does not have to be included in the sentence when it is known by context.

The idea of leaving the subject out of the sentence has a counterpart in English. Pronouns such as “I”, “he”, and “it” are used to refer to someone or something already known. You can say, “Charlie won’t make it to dinner tonight. He’s working on a big project at the office. Here, the second occurrence of “Charlie” was replaced with “he”. In Japanese, the second instance typically remains unspoken.

If a sentence does not have が in it, it is because the subject is implied by context, and does not need to be spoken.

Examples

ご注文はうさぎですか? » Volume 1 » Page 11

As she samples each coffee, Cocoa fails to properly guess which flavor each is. The third coffee she suggests is instant coffee. Chino corrects her, saying it is the café’s original blend.

「うちのオリジナルブレンドです」

Here, the subject is the coffee Cocoa tasted. Because the two are talking about the cup of coffee, the subject doesn’t need to be spoken. If it were, Chino might say 「そのコーヒーが」.

ご注文はうさぎですか? » Volume 1 » Page 26

Seeing the hat with Chino’s school uniform, Cocoa imagines the rabbit usually sitting atop Chino’s head as being underneath it. However, upon lifting the hat from Chino’s head, Cocoa is shocked to find no rabbit. Chino asks what she expected.

(なに)期待(きたい)したんです?」

Here, the subject is Cocoa. Since Cocoa is showing expectations unmet, it is clear from context that Chino is referring to Cocoa’s expectations. If the subject were spoken, it might be 「ココアさんが」.

ご注文はうさぎですか? » Volume 1 » Page 33

Looking at the bread inside a bakery window, Cocoa remarks “cute”. Context only suggests one possible subject, but Chiya needs to confirm, so she asks if it’s the bread that is cute.

「…かわいい」

「パンが?」

ご注文はうさぎですか? » Volume 1 » Page 52

Cocoa inquires about the rabbit Tippy going with the group to purchase new cups for the café. Chino points out that Tippy is an employee of the café as well.

従業員(じゅうぎょういん) ですので」

Cocoa’s question sets Tippy as the context of the conversation. Because of this, Chino does not need to say 「ティピーが」 in her response.