皆様、こんにちにゃあぁ！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online! We’re here, there, and everywhere, teaching you Japanese language and culture! We’re your digital hosts, bringing you essential Japanese language survival tools and sustenance, Kiki and Koko! Previously, we introduced you to the ideas of demonstratives in Japanese— how the こそあど言葉 function and how to use this system to your advantage when learning future demonstrative vocabulary and grammar. From there, we introduced to you several sets of こそあど言葉, such as pronouns and adverbs. And, it’s the latter that may have made beginning linguists tilt their heads, as usually, even in English, people are used to a certain type of word being used as an adverb like ‘gingerly’ or ‘loudly’. Well, we’ll certainly delve into the makings of Japanese adverbs, but for now, all you need to know is that usually they’ll take on the particle 「に」—though there are exceptions that may be a bit more confusing than helpful right at this moment— the particle 「に」of which we had only truly explained in its directional sense. But, luckily, that’s really all you’ll need to know about it in this lesson! Because, this lesson, we’re going to learn about something that is quite different to English. This is one of the reasons why —while it is very useful to practise and make mistakes on your own—it’s always good to have a guide to let you know of the things that you may not have even thought about learning on your own. You don’t always know what you don’t know! And, that’s okay! Because you’re already on the right path to continuing on your Japanese learning journey with us! And, today, we’re going to help you explain where you’re at, they’re at, and where it’s at.
So, for this, we’re going to be incorporating some useful revision with some previous concepts that should help you practise the previous concepts alongside these new ones. (And, if you did need a bit more practice with your こそあど言葉, you can always go here for a quick practice session) But, no worries, the concepts we’ll be introducing this time won’t rely too heavily on whether or not you have a proper grasp of these, as the grammar is the same for all of the cases. On top of this, it will certainly help with practising 疑問詞, gimonshi, regarding location without always relying on that magical です。And, luckily, it’s a concept to which we’ve already given a bit of preface during those lessons. But, now, due to the change in particle, it serves a different function! And, depending on a couple of factors, you may have to choose between as well as a few different implications. But, without further ado: Let’s NihonGO!!
Expressing Existence | 存在を表現し方
To be, or
not to be [to have]
So, there are technically many ways to express existence in Japanese, but what we’re going to focus on today is going to be different to the previous lesson. Even though the copula, です/だ/etc, can be used in place of many verbs in responses in the same way pronouns that are implied or already known are omitted, this magical copula isn’t linguistically the same as a few other ideas one may naturally want to express. Though these ideas can be implied and can be the same, word choice is important when you want to initiate a statement or be very clear about what you’re saying.
So, what do we mean by this, you may wonder? Well, let’s compare a couple of phrases:
(He/She/We/They/It) (is/are) here.
koko ni arimasu.
(They/It) (are/is) here.
koko ni imasu.
(He/She/We/They) (is/are) here.
Okay, so these phrases may all seem like they’re expressing the same thing:「[subject] is here.」But, actually, there is a bit more found within this word choice that makes each of these very different despite the similarities. Though each of these expresses state of being, です doesn’t require a particle, but when the particle 「に」is used with these two new 存在動詞, sonzaidoushi, (Existential/state-of-being verbs), it expresses existence. In this case, it shows existence IN or ON a location, but we’ll get into the semantics of that in another lesson, as there’s further ways to express location that would make it a bit clearer. But, more importantly, you may have noticed that the type of implied subject changed between these two whilst です seemed to apply to any subject. This is because, in Japanese, one doesn’t simply use one catch-all being verb, but rather, one must choose based on the consciousness of the subject.
But, before we continue onto pinpointing the rules of these verbs, the particles are just as important. As these verbs not only express existence in space, but also existence in one’s possession. That isn’t to say it’s expressing ownership, rather, it’s expressing you have something or someone, such as:
imouto ga imasu.
(He/She/We/They/It) (has/have) (a) sister./
There is (a) sister.
inu ga imasu.
(He/She/We/They/It) (has/have) (a) dog./
There is (a) dog.
kyabetsu ga arimasu.
(He/She/We/They/It) (has/have) (a) cabbage./
There is (a) cabbage.
All of these have an implied subjects (with multiple meanings based on if there is an implied subject or if the statement is standing on its own. The latter translation is in the case that there is no implied subject that ‘has’ the object, but just expresses the general existence in an implied location.) The particles showing the object that is existing still is expressed using 「が」, but let’s say you wanted to express that a certain subject has something. In this case, you would use 「は」to mark the subject and if the subject is stated rather than implied, you would still use the「が」particle as a suffix to the object.
I have (it/them).
嬉嬉ちゃんは お菓子が あります。
ききちゃんは おかしが あります。
kikichan wa okashi ga arimasu.
Kiki has sweets.
And, even still, you’re not just relegated to expressing one of these concepts at a time! You can express all of these concepts together using 「は」「が」and「に」, expressing who has it, what they have, and where they have it.
ビリーくんは バックパックに ノートが あります。
びりーくんは ばっくぱっくに のーとが あります。
biriikun wa bakkupakku ni nooto ga arimasu.
Billy has a notebook in (his) backpack.
But, don’t let that confuse you when you come across concepts like:
地球は ここに あります。
ちきゅうは ここに あります。
chikyuu wa koko ni arimasu.
The Earth is here.
In this case, it’s expressing, ‘as for Earth, (it) is here.’ When it comes to topics, objects, and subjects, the lines can become a bit blurry. But, with time, things begin to fall together that you can find commonality with when you see there are 存在動詞, sonzaidoushi, involved.
That isn’t to mention that there are actually different verbs that aren’t 存在動詞, sonzaidoushi, (Existential/state-of-being verbs), that do express very specific actions like ‘have’ as in literally physically ‘to have’ also as in ‘to hold’— 持つ, motsu— or ‘to have’ or ‘to keep’ a pet—飼う, kau. But, those are much more specific verbs that, again, don’t count as 存在動詞, sonzaidoushi. It’s a useful word choice that makes your sentences much spicier, but for now, we’re going to continue to focus on
We’ll be right back with more Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! after these messages
We’re back! And, this time, it’s existential
Existential Verbs | 存在動詞
Though it may sound like a group of verbs that have reached a higher plane of thought, sadly, as we mentioned in the previous section, they’re simply verbs that express existence. But, that isn’t to say these won’t have you feeling existential by the time you’ve thought through these.
For all intents and purposes, today, we’ll be focusing on the existential verbs of Japanese. Whilst these concepts can be expressed other ways, we’ll be focusing on the main two. But, why are there two, you may ask, when English gets along fine with one. Well, this is because one is meant for animate objects and the other is meant for inanimate objects. Many teachers will say ‘living’ or ‘nonliving’, but perhaps the closest idea is ‘sentient’ and ‘non-sentient’.
Inanimate/Non-living/Non-sentient Existential Verb:
Irregular verb (不規則動詞)
1. to be; to exist
2. to have
3. to be (as in location) (に+ある)
Usually written in hiragana.
Animate/Living/Sentient Existential Verb:
Ichidan verb (一段動詞)
1. to be; to exist
2. to have
3. to be (as in location) (に+ある)
Usually written in hiragana.
So, as we saw in the above examples, depending on whether the item is considered living or inanimate, then you’ll choose either the former or the latter. However, you should be sure to never use ある for an animate organism. Of course, it would be linguistically strange to say 「いる」as it relates to an inanimate object, but we think it’s a bit more horrifying to accidentally use 「ある」for something meant to be living. However, not to dampen the tone, but if you are speaking of something not living anymore that you don’t have an emotional connection or a name for, then you would most likely use ある. However! If it’s a zombie or a ghost, you would oddly say 「いる」. It’s especially good to know.
Here’s where the existentialism really kicks in. Someone who knows of Japanese culture and other beliefs may say that every thing is animate. And, even though, you would really think this would relate to Japanese language, oddly enough, this doesn’t apply. And, let’s not leave scientists out of this! For decades, people hypothesised and seem to have very strong evidence for plants having consciousness as well as communicative skills. But, unfortunately, unless the plants start to have more anthropomorphised qualities, then even if they learn Japanese, they’ll still have to use 「ある」when referring to fruit and veg. Maybe by the year 3000, plants will be called 「いる」. If it makes any botanists or level 5 vegans happier, then you can always refer to these as ‘linguistically’ inanimate. However! There are still decidedly linguistically animate organisms that use 「いる」that linguistically turn into inanimate ‘objects’ that use「ある」。
Let’s say, you’re at an aquarium, and you see a fish swimming around. That’s 「いる」. But, let’s say you’re at the supermarket and see a package with a shiny fishy staring back at you from beneath the plastic or taken home from someone’s fishing trip. That’s 「ある」。This is the best example outside of more obvious cows and piggies as they keep their same form and may be a less straightforward idea. If it’s alive, it’s 「いる」and when it’s sashimi, it’s 「ある」. In future, fish is a useful example of something that has many states that are referred to in different ways depending on their form.
ある’s Irregular Conjugation and Why???
Before we move too much further we want to mention how ある is an irregular verb. And, even if, as of this specific lesson, we haven’t moved onto negative 辞書形, dictionary form, or negative マス形, masu form, verbs, since this will definitely become a staple reference when it comes to these verbs, we’ll include what you’ll want to know which is that ある has a special trick up their irregular sleeves.
Negative Dictionary form:
So, once you learn the basics of dictionary form negatives, you still may wonder why ある becomes ない. But, a better way to look at this is when you think of the lesson: あの魔法的な「です」の反対側は？｜What is the opposing side of that magical 「desu」? As we mention, です is just a contraction of であります or である. So, thinking of it in that way, you’ll see the particle で often represented as じゃ which is basically another sort of contraction of では. So, if this is still making sense, then in the same way that です becomes ではない、じゃない, or even ではありません, just as such does ある become ない. We know that is MORE than a bit of a causal loop, but what other sort of circular logic would you come to expect from such a question.
But, seriously, students always wonder why ある isn’t あらない or even あない. Well! We could, and might, write an entire article on this, but just to give the gist, based on classical Japanese literature, one may lean towards あらない honestly making more sense based on the word we still have あらず, which still is synonymous with なし. Now, to make things simpler and also more complicated, ず is an archaic negative ending, but you’ll still see it in literature and speech today, just not in the same way. But based on a lecture we attended— because if you’re wondering what your teachers do in their ‘free time’ they’re either working their section job or attending lectures and conventions— the easiest way to put this is… ない is now the modern negative form of ある, however rather than actually being the negative form, it’s actually its opposite! So, rather, you’re not conjugating it, you’re just literally switching out words. And, for some reason, that’s always made us feel so much more at ease trying to explain it, that nothing is being changed, it’s just being replaced with its antonym.
However,いる is simply an 一段 verb, so finding its stem for conjugation shouldn’t be as difficult. But, just to balance things out, we’ll provide you with what you need:
Negative Dictionary form:
And, then their マス形 shouldn’t be too much of a stretch once you’ve done a bit of practise. However!! It may be. Because ある may be irregular, but it’s also, as may have been inferred by our mini-lecture, it’s conjugated like a 五段, godan, or うverb.
マス形 | masu form
and, いる is conjugated as an 一段, ichidan, or るverb.
And, if you’re not familiar with how to conjugate to マス形, then we have quite a bit of useful lessons for you:
いるｖある Examples in Comparison to です
We’ll be sure to provide you with some more practice for choosing between these as well as many important types of phrases and grammatical bits and bobs you’ll want to use with these, but for now, we just have a few rules of thumb you can use to tell if you’ll want to use です、いる or ある. Because even if they seem dissimilar, yet similar, it’s just useful to get your mindset geared towards how you should translate this mentally.
(It) is a pencil.
enpitsu de arimasu.
(It) is a pencil.
enpitsu ga arimasu.
(There) is a pencil.
You may notice that the first and second, due to the synonymy of です and である, they are both translated as if naming what an object is. It’s not saying it’s existing necessarily, just that it is a pencil. But, if you’re indicating that there IS a pencil, it exists, it’s there, it’s somewhere in space or time, then it’s just ある with the particle が indicating what exists or is in a state of being.
(I/he/she/we/they/it) (am/is/are) a student.
gakusei de arimasu.
(I/he/she/we/they/it) (am/is/are) a student.
gakusei ga imasu.
(There) is a student.
So, we’re narrowing these down to their simplest ideas, as if you’re saying you have a sibling or a parent, then you’ll end up using いる. But focusing on just the existence, as you can see, the first two are correct when you’re saying what something is, not it’s existence necessarily, just naming what it is, then you’ll be able to use the top. Keep in mind the で, though, particles are so important in these cases. Though it may seem like a step above, it’s something important you’ll hear often in public addresses and on the news, even if であります seems like a formal thing you won’t end up using with friends. But, again, it’s totally separate from expressing, a living thing existing in time or space. However, there is another concept you may find useful.
kyoumi ga arimasu.
Lit. have an interest.
日本語に 興味が あります。
にほんごに きょうみが あります。
nihongo ni kyoumi ga arimasu.
(I/he/she/we/they/it) (am/is/are)interested in Japanese language/
Lit. have an interest in Japanese language.
There are many things you can have that are not physical objects, but inanimate concepts or ideas. These also function linguistically as non-living objects. Even if you have an interest in something living, the interest itself still remains a non-living object. You can keep it alive in your heart, but just not your linguistics.
Don’t touch that dial! There’s a bit more for you overachievers out there– after these messages!
ʕ´•ᴥ•`ʔσ”But, what about [Animate Object]+である？
Well, well, well, someone is using their noodle. And, good on you! However, if you’ve read our lesson: この魔法的な「です」とは？｜What is this magical 「desu」?（SIDE A）, or if you read the above passage, then you’ll already know that this isn’t necessarily an exception, but just an entirely different part of speech. Notice the particle 「で」? Well, actually, we’ll make things even simpler. This is literally the origin of 「です」. You’ll still hear 「であります」even in formal to semi-formal speech, but in basic polite speech and just as a copula, 「です」 is, simply put, the short form of 「であります」otherwise known as 「である」. So, you’ll hear and see things like: 「ヒーローである」, (Subject) is a hero.
But, then, you may wonder if です is a contraction, is it still polite? Yes, it’s basically the base form of politeness you can use with everyone. The step up from that is であります, and the step up from there is でございます / でいらっしゃいます. There are so many levels of politeness and a hierarchy that we’ll cover in future. But, for now, know that であります/である is the same as です and can apply to living and non-living objects whilst あります with other particles like「は」「が」or「に」will still follow the same protocol of applying only to linguistically inanimate/non-living/non-sentient objects.
This was a MONSTER of a lesson, today. We want to urge you, if you’re not quite ready to take it on all at once, you can always come back and read it in multiple sittings, going over the concepts in your head each time to make sure you can continue to build upon what you’re reading. It’s such an important concept even if it seems simple, at first. But, we want to be sure to give you all of the tools and resources you need to survive and thrive in Japanese language! We want to make sure anything that may seem obscured to be demystified. Even still, we’ll continue to do our best to give you more opportunities to put these ideas to the test.
You probably noticed a lot of hiragana used in today’s lesson in order to help you practise your reading. But, if you’d like to unobscure some of the characters we used, have a look at our Reading and Writing sections to revise / review / study. It will help your pronunciation, and reading and reading are essential to learning any language. If you want to make sure your Japanese language survival kit is stocked with the latest tools, you can make sure you stay up to date by subscribing to the Electronic Mailing List of Tomorrow, today, found usually at the bottom of the site page or the sidebar on desktop. You’ll get the latest tools and resources to surviving in Japanese language in straight to your inbox. That’s articles, videos, podcasts, and more.
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