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When you want to say that something exists, there two verbs you have to choose from depending on whether the subject is an animate- or inanimate object. The difference is not quite living/non-living, as plants would be considered inanimate (as they don't move ... well, most only really slowly). A fish swimming in its fish-bowl would be an animate object, but a dead fish (whether at the fish-mongers or — let's hope not — in its bowl) would be in-animate.

  • For animate objects (humans and animals), use "いる" (polite present positive: "います").
  • For inanimate objects, use "ある" (polite present positive: "あります").

Note that these can denote both presence or possession.

In the dialogues below, you may replace "います" with "あります".

Dialogue[edit | edit source]

The presence of no particular object[edit | edit source]

Japanese English
{{{ja}}}:何かいますか。{{{en}}}:Is something (animate) there?
{{{ja}}}:<animate object> がいます。{{{en}}}:There's a <animate object>.
{{{ja}}}:何もいません。 (なにも いません){{{en}}}:There's nothing.

To ask about the presence of a particular animate object[edit | edit source]

Japanese English
{{{ja}}}:<object> がいますか。{{{en}}}:Is there a <animate object>?
{{{ja}}}:はい、います。{{{en}}}:Yes, it's there.
{{{ja}}}:いいえ、いません。{{{en}}}:No, it's not there.

If the animate object in question is not present but something else is, you can suggest this by saying:

Japanese English
{{{ja}}}:いいえ、<animate object> はいません。{{{en}}}:No, <animate object> is not there.

Notice that this reply uses "は" instead of "が". The "は" particle can be translated as "as for such and such", while "が" directly marks the subject.[citation needed]

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

(なに)か: "anything/something". (なに)も: "everything/nothing" (positive/negative depends on the verb)