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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".



The presence of no particular objectEdit

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 objectEdit

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]


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