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Japanese has three ways to say "to be,"  at least when expressing existence. 

  • です・だ desu / da
  • いる iru
  • ある aru

Let's look at the last two. Both show "existence" but they are NOT interchangeable.

Let me illustrate with the following question:


Do you know the DIFFERENCE in these two sentences?

くもがある。
kumo ga aru.

and

くもがいる。

kumo ga iru.


くも could mean CLOUD or SPIDER.

Cloud image kumo
spider image kumo

So... which is which?

くもがある and くもがいる


If you know the KANJI it is easy.

(くも)がある。

There is a cloud.

蜘蛛(くも)がいる。

There is a spider.



But there is an easier way. Do you know the difference between ある and いる?

くもがある

and

くもがいる

THE SECRET


ある shows existence of inanimate objects

いる shows existence of animate objects

Since a cloud is inanimate, it uses ある.

And a spider is animate, it uses いる.


くもがある

There is a cloud.

くもがいる

There is a spider.


Conclusion:

If something has breath, use いる. if not, use ある.

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