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I was wondering if there's a difference in usage between 神様がいる and 神様がある. In both cases, I mean specifically the meaning "There is a God", either as a statement of the kind "God exists", or as in "There is a God on the top of that mountain."

Both instances are very common results on Google. However, I've been told by two Japanese that, in this case, "神様がいる" is the only correct form, since God is considered to be an animate entity. Also, one of them suggested that the structure "神様がある" could be used to mean "'to have' a God" (similar to "僕は姉がある"), though it might sound a bit unnatural. Additionally, some results are similar to "神様が、 ある日何々を言った…", but my guess is that they make up less than half of the total for ~がある.

So, if only 神様がいる is correct, how can one account for the many examples employing ~がある?

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+1 good question. And welcome to JLU –  Ataraxia Sep 26 '12 at 4:48
    
I wonder if this is related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/6474/1328 –  Chris Harris Sep 26 '12 at 4:54
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@phoenixheart6 Thanks! –  Arthur Melo Sep 26 '12 at 15:27
    
@Chris Yes, I was thinking of a case like that when I mentioned the example "僕は姉がある". It turns out using ある, in this case, is only strictly valid for when the object is "[...] someone who maintains a very close relationship with the possessor, such as a family member, a relative or a friend." (From 'A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar'). Even though some might consider a personal God to be all of those things, it might be a matter of categorization, like "physical" vs "spiritual" existence, for instance. –  Arthur Melo Sep 26 '12 at 21:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

We hardly say 「神様がある」 as "There is a God. / God exists." But you can say 「~神様(というもの)がある」 as "there is a god called ~"

From some of the Google results,

たいていの郷土玩具の産地には天神様があるそうです。

「天神様」 here means an idol called Tenjin-sama. So it means "In most folk-toy districts, there are idols of Tenjin god".

今日夜10時からエンタの神様があると思う。

「エンタの神様」 is a name of a TV show.

神様がある特定の場所や建物におられ、

「ある」 is 「或る」 in this sentence, not 「有る/在る」. http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/7648/m0u/

熊本に味噌の神社があったことを思い出しました。いろんな神様があるんですね。

It reads "I remembered there was a shrine of soybean paste in Kumamoto. I see there are different kinds/types of God." In fact, this might be confusing for non-natives. When you can replace 「神様」 with 「神様というもの」 in the sentense, you can use 「ある」. Otherewise, you should use 「いる」.

As for "僕は姉がある", I don't uderstand what this means; it's not unnatural but does not make sense.

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神様(というもの)がある in English means "There is a god", "God exists", etc. –  Jesse Good Sep 26 '12 at 9:33
    
@JesseGood Japanese don't say it that way. The suffix '様' is mostly used for a person. You can say 神は存在する but not 神はある. No, never. You can use it but instantly Japanese people would recognize you as a foreigner. –  Teno Sep 26 '12 at 9:38
    
Um, you use it in your answer, are you saying your answer is incorrect? –  Jesse Good Sep 26 '12 at 9:44
    
@JesseGood 「神様(というもの)がある」 can be translated to "There is a god" but not the other way. When Japanese translate "There is a god", it becomes 「神様がいる」 not 「神様がある」 –  Teno Sep 26 '12 at 9:47
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@JesseGood Ah, I wrote 「~神様(というもの)がある」. "" is 「何々」, meaning an arbitrary prefix in Japanese. If it causes confusion, feel free to edit the answer. –  Teno Sep 26 '12 at 10:20

Since 様 is used when referring to people and most people would think of 神様 as being animate 神様がいる should be used.

Also, please notice your google results are off:

神様がある

神様がいる

Please read Google counts may not be as reliable as you imagine.

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@Jesse_Good Thanks for pointing that out. With this and the other replies (and links), I think there's no longer a case for 神様がある. –  Arthur Melo Sep 26 '12 at 19:23
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@ArthurMelo: Yes, in general I agree (I changed my answer to reflect this). –  Jesse Good Sep 26 '12 at 20:19

In Japanese Christian churches, we say 神様がいる since the Christian bible says that God created man in His own image. However, more often than 〜いる we use 〜おられる to show respect.

  • 神様は私たちとともにいます。 → God is with us.
  • 苦しい時こそ、確実に神様はあなたのそばにおられる。 → Certainly God is by your side especially during hard times.
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Interesting. I didn't know about this use of おる. Thanks! –  Arthur Melo Sep 27 '12 at 18:15

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