There is a generally expressed rule in Japanese that, when declaring existence, いる is used for animate subjects, and ある is used for inanimate subjects. There are some interesting variations in what is considered to be animate, but there's one very well known exception to these rules.
私は子どもがXある - I have X children/As for me, there are X children.
いる is preferred in this sentence, but ある is permissible. I have heard the acceptability of ある in the above explained in two ways.
- Children are "de-personified" in this structure, either because of linguistic humility or some other reason. In this case, intransitive ある maintains the usual distinction of working only with inanimate/non-moving subjects.
- This is actually a different ある verb from the existence variant. In this case, ある is a transitive possessive verb meaning "to have, to own".
Either of these explanations will work, but moving outside of this specific sentence presents me with a problem.
I have recently read that
is not acceptable, even if 運転手 refers to a permanent servant working for the 私 in the above sentence. Why is this?
I would think it would be at least as acceptable to de-personify one's own servants as one's children. Rather obviously explanation 2 (possession) should allow this construction as well. What distinguishes these two uses of aru?