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I am really getting confused regarding the state verbs used in the grammar pattern さえ~ば.

See the following examples:

家族さえいれば、他に何もいらないです。

In the above example, we use the state verb いる because what we are describing (家族) is an animate object.

But for adjectives, this gets really confusing.

Normally if want to describe people using adjectives, we say adj+です。For example, 子供は元気です。/子供は元気である。(super formal)

But if we want to express an adjective using the さえ~ば pattern, we get the following sentence:

子供が元気でさえあれば、私は幸せだ。

My doubt here is, why do we use でさえ~あれば and not でさえ~いれば? In the noun example above, we used いれば because we were referring the 家族. In this example, we are referring to 子供(animate thing).

Also I have seen some instances where さえ~いれば is also used for adjectives. For example, see the below posts-

https://twitter.com/mu1127/status/1345312617380806657 https://www.instagram.com/sacha_sng_laboratory/reel/CnG0cTDINQm/ https://twitter.com/sato00ai/status/1638763415333384195

Can both of them be used?

1 Answer 1

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The ある/いる distinction for animate things is applied when these are used as verbs of existence (i.e., "There is ~").

  • ✅猫がいます。
    ❌猫があります。
    There is a cat.
  • ✅机があります。
    ❌机がいます。
    There is a desk.

When the predicate is an adjective or a noun, you have to forget this rule. You basically always use だ, です or である regardless of the type of the subject.

  • ✅私の父親は画家である。
    ✅私の父親は画家です。
    ✅私の父親は画家だ。
    My father is a painter.
  • ✅子供たちは健康である。
    ✅子供たちは健康です。
    ✅子供たちは健康だ。
    My children are healthy.
  • ✅この問題は簡単である。
    ✅この問題は簡単です。
    ✅この問題は簡単だ。
    This question is easy.

However, when the subject is a human/animal, adjective/noun + ~でいる has another usage, "to stay/keep/remain ~". You can think this of this as "the progressive form of だ".

  • ✅子供たちは健康でいる。
    My children remain healthy.
  • ✅みんなのヒーローでいてください。
    Please remain everyone's hero.

In the sentence in question, since 元気 is a na-adjective, である is the basic choice regardless of the type of the subject. So 子供が元気であれば means "As long as my children are fine", whereas 子供が元気でいれば means something a little more nuanced like "As long as my children remain (or continue to be) fine". Both make perfect sense.

See also:

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  • So if I have this sentence- 貧乏でさえいれば、幸せは無理だ。
    – Ananya
    Mar 19 at 5:08
  • In the above example is it necessary to use いれば only and not あれば?
    – Ananya
    Mar 19 at 5:16
  • @Ananya You cannot use さえ in that sentence because it's for minimal requirement ("if only ~"). As long as you use the right conditional expression, 貧乏である限り幸せになるのは無理だ and 貧乏でいる限り幸せになるのは無理だ are essentially the same (the latter has the nuance of "stays/remains poor", but it doesn't make a big difference).
    – naruto
    Mar 19 at 7:51

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