Japanese particles are both a blessing and a curse. They make Japanese grammar simple and direct, almost like a computer language. They always follow the rules because they are the rules. Particles tell us “this word does this” and “this word does this.” However, these little suffixes can cause tremendous headaches for us English-speaking learners because they group meanings together quite differently than our English equivalents (prepositions), or in some cases have no equivalent at all.
Of the lot, wa (は) and ga (が) are almost undoubtedly the most annoying pair of particles to keep straight. They’re probably the most frequently used particles in the language, so you need to learn them early (note: you won’t master them early), but it’s very difficult to find a decent explanation for them even in big bulky text books. And if you want to make your Japanese teacher sweat, just ask them to explain the difference.
I’ve devoted a lot of introspective soul-searching time to thinking about these two little guys, and in this article, I’m going to do my best to shed some new, meaningful light on the difference between は and が.