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So I ran across this example sentence: 食べている人はいますか? And the translation was "Is anyone eating?" However I thought the sentence would be: 誰でもが食べていますか? Is this correct?

Also is Xはいます = is any X? Examples: 猫はいます = is any cat, 車はあります = is any car, 花はあります = is any flower.

EDIT: I've added this question based on the answers so far. Based on what everyone has said, 花はあります = There is a flower, but I thought that 花があります is the (only) construct for that sentence structure.

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As for the edited part about は versus が, see e.g. these questions: 1, 2, 3. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 7 '13 at 2:13
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誰でも is more like "whoever". Same with the other 〜でもs: いつでも → "whenever"; どこでも → "wherever"; etc. –  istrasci Jan 7 '13 at 21:07
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There is a lot going on in this. The biggest problem is the fact that the structure of the example sentence you found is a bit more advanced than you are used to. The example sentence is right. If you were to break it down

食べている = currently eating
人は = "a person" [the は marks the "person" the focus of the question]
います = exists
か = ?

誰でも is the closest thing to "anyone" in Japanese, but it is not used here because it is implied by the use of the word person. The example sentence could also be translated "Is someone eating?" rather than "Is anyone eating?"

To use an easier sentence structure I think you would want "誰かが食べていますか?" which is (again) closer to "is there someone eating?" than "is anyone eating?" but using ”誰でも” here sounds very awkward.

An important point to mention is that when you use "誰でも" the でも replaces the particle you would normally use, so if you were to use 誰でも you would remove the が entirely.

Xはいます is confusing in the example you've included because of how advanced a sentence structure the example you found is. (I don't think you would be taught sentences like that until you reached Japanese 201.) X is not "any" it is merely the topic of the sentence, as it would be in any structure where it was followed by は.

In all of your example sentences you want to look at the います which in all cases indicates existence. You would translate

います  = "there is"
は    = "a"
猫/車/花 = "cat/car/flower"

EDITED: However, as Yadokari pointed out, since います can only be used for living creatures you would usually use があります for the car or flower, leaving 猫はいます the only correct example.  Depending on the sentence all 3 would more commonly be written with が than は, but that gets into an entirely different question.

I am sorry this got so long but I hope it can help you a bit!

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I've learned that がいます=There is. But if there is no difference between the particle use of は and が、then ok. –  dotnetN00b Jan 6 '13 at 23:10
    
The difference between は and が is a huge mess that easily deserves it's own topic! When to use which can be a huge hurdle for foreigners to learn and I will admit that I still screw this up sometimes. For the sake of understanding this sentence you are okay to look at them as meaning the same thing, but in a sentence including both you would have to have a better understanding. Also, Yadokari is right - it's vital to know that います can only be used for living animals/creatures/humans. So the only of the example sentences at the bottom that is actually correct would be "there is a cat." –  Adora Jan 6 '13 at 23:29
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食べている人はいますか?

Literally translated this means: "Are there people who are eating?"

This basically means the same thing as "Is anyone eating?"

The first translation is unnatural in colloquial English, while the second one would be the natural way to say it.

Your attempt seems correct to me (minus the が). However, another interpretation of 誰でも could be "everyone," making the first quoted example you found more accurate in meaning. (Your attempt could also mean "Is everybody eating?")

In English, "any" is a very versatile adverb/adjective that can apply to many things. If you look up "any" in a Japanese dictionary you will find a number of corresponding words for different situations.

I did not understand the second part of your question.

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I thought that if 人はいます is translated to "is anyone", then 花はいます would also be translated to "is any flower". –  dotnetN00b Jan 6 '13 at 22:55
    
I believe 花はいます is ungrammatical in japanese. ”花があります” means "there is a flower"/"there are flowers." 花がありますか means "are there any flowers?". The verb いる is mostly used for people. –  yadokari Jan 6 '13 at 23:02
    
You're right. I meant 花はあります –  dotnetN00b Jan 6 '13 at 23:06
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You are over analysing. English and Japanese often do not translate word for word (no matter how much you try to make them do so!)

A thorough analysis of this sentence (which I am sure you don't need but we might aswell) would be:

食べている人(person eating - modified noun) は(topic marker)います(present - animate word for existence)か?(question mark)

In English this boils down to;

Is a person eating present?

which could be re-written as,

Is anybody eating?

or

Is there anybody eating?

"Is any ____" (as opposed to "Is any ____?" ) is probably not in any English text book. (Have you ever heard anybody say "is any cat" as a statement of fact?). Compare the following two statements:

猫はいます=> There is a cat

猫はいますか=> Is there a cat?

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