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Title says it all. When saying それは椅子 would I use あります or です? I've been using です, but from what I've read, it's used to describe an object, and あります to declare it's existence. So I'm thinking あります would be the correct verb to use.

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I figured out it was です after seeing それ as something that is being described. –  Daniel May 26 at 19:43
です=で・あります (though it's not necessarily the etymology) –  user4092 May 27 at 5:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

それは椅子です = That is a chair. (as in "that thing is a chair") 椅子があります = There is a chair. (as in "a chair exists" somewhere)

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Why do you use が with あります? I just heard about that particle today and I'm still trying to get my head around it. Is あります one of the verbs you use it with? –  Daniel May 26 at 21:17
With ある (あります) you would generally use が. there are, of course, exceptions, like when contrasting. because が (subject marker) and は (topic marker) don't really exist in English, it can be very difficult to master, but I have come across a very good explanation here. Hope that helps! –  Chishiki May 27 at 6:58
@Daniel が is the general nontopic (i.e. not は) subject marker. Chair is the subject, thus use が. は is incorrect since it is the topic marker. You cannot set the topic here, since it implies a chair already in the mind of the listener. 椅子はあります means something more like "The chair, it exists!" が "tones down" the 椅子 to make it refer to some generic chair "a chair" and focus the sentence on あります: you are not talking about the topic of The Chair, but the fact that a chair Exists. At least that's how I think of it. –  user54609 May 27 at 8:30
@user54609: I like you explanation that が tones down; if have not already seen it, do check out the answer to the most frequent question on this site which explains that this が is of the "neutral description": japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/22 –  Tim May 27 at 12:59
I think it would be better if the が question were answered in a separate question so people could upvote/downvote etc. –  snailboat May 27 at 16:17

When you use それは~です you can think of it like saying "that's a ~". In the case you mention you should use です.

あります is the equivalent of there is/are and to have, depending on the context.

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it could actually be either, depending on the context.

「それは椅子です」 - that's a chair / that would be a chair

「何?椅子ないかってー?そりゃ、椅子ありますよ」 - What? If we have chairs? Why, of course we have chairs.

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What is 「ないかてー」? –  非回答者 May 27 at 14:05
That whole sentence is a colloquial, spoken version of 「椅子 が ない か って?」 I notice my answer was downvoted, but I think it's important for learners to see examples of real Japanese too, not just bizarre textbook sentences like 「それは椅子です。」 –  Marcus May 27 at 23:25
じゃ、「椅子ないかってー?」って書く方がいいかもしれませんね。(小さな「っ」を入れるだけ。) –  Choko May 28 at 5:28
そうね、標準語にしといたほうが勘違いされないね。 –  Marcus May 28 at 5:36

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