I am trying to understand the dialogue 5:03 in this tutorial video. What I'm hearing is this:






The lesson is about how to say that something is somewhere and the differences between います/あります。 So the video goes on to explain the last three sentences.

The first sentence, I think, means something like: "Who's/what's there?". However, I don't understand that the second means. I know も is used for "also", so all I came up with was the nonsensical

What too isn't there, is there?

Please help :)

  • 何もいません strikes me as a strange animate/inanimate construction. 何もありません or 誰もいません sound better to me. Any takers?
    – dainichi
    Oct 8, 2013 at 1:58
  • 3
    @dainichi If they were asking the question specifically with animals in mind, wouldn't it be okay? 何 rather than 誰 for animals, but います because they're animate?
    – user1478
    Oct 8, 2013 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


This use of the expresses completeness or totality, like the English word all. And in particular, when it's attached to an indefinite demonstrative (なに, どこ, どれ, だれ, どなた, and so on), it causes that word to refer to a complete set of the type denoted by the demonstrative:

  だれ   who
  だれも  everyone   (with positive verb)
  だれも  no one     (with negative verb)

The same thing happens when you add も to other words like this:

  どこ   where
  どこも  everywhere (with positive verb)
  どこも  nowhere    (with negative verb)
  どれ   which
  どれも  all        (with positive verb)
  どれも  none       (with negative verb)

But なに is an exception. It doesn't usually appear in positive sentences:

  なに   what
  なにも  everything (with positive verb)
  なにも  nothing    (with negative verb)

So let's make things easier to understand by starting with an example that's not an exception. We'll use だれ, which means who, and we'll add も to that to make everyone. Here it is with a positive verb:

[ だれも ] が 知っています【しっています】
[ everyone ] knows

And now, with a negative verb:

[ だれも ] いません。
[ no one ] is here.    

Why does the meaning change with a negative verb? Well, it doesn't really. The example above literally means "Everyone is not here", but the usual way to say that in English is with the logically equivalent "No one is here".

Okay, so now let's try a sentence with なにも. Like I said before, this is an exception, so we'll skip making a positive sentence and go straight to the negative:

[ なにも ] ありません。
[ nothing ] is there.

This literally means "Everything is not there". But again, that's not how we usually say it in English, so we translate it instead to the logically equivalent "Nothing is there". And your sentence is the same, except that it uses います (animate existence) rather than あります (inanimate existence).

  • 1
    何もかも essentially serves as the positive 何も, oddly enough (although it's perhaps a little more intense than the other positive 〜も words). Oct 8, 2013 at 1:00
  • Thanks, snailboat! Can you please explain why in the positive sentence you used the subject-marker ga, while in the negative sentence you omitted it? Oct 8, 2013 at 7:26
  • 1
    @ArmenTsirunyan Well, usually you don't use が with も like that. I think that the reason it's okay here, is that in positive sentences だれも is usually treated like a single lexical word, rather than as a combination of だれ + も. It has the same meaning either way, but since it's considered a single word, it can be marked with が. But most of the other combinations are usually treated like word + も combinations, so you won't usually see them with が. (It's been a while since I read about this, but hopefully I remembered correctly :-)
    – user1478
    Oct 8, 2013 at 17:58

This means "There isn't anything" or "Nothing is there", where "nothing/anything" has to be an animal or something living due to the use of います. It's worth noting that it is NOT a "who", since both question and answer use なに instead of だれ.

You are correct that is used for "also". But it is used as a "negation" particle in the pattern 〜も〜ません. Here are some examples.

  • なにもいません/ありません → There is nothing (living/non-living) (there).
  • だれも来【き】ません → No one will come
  • なにもしませんでした → I didn't do anything
  • どこにもいきませんでした → He didn't go anywhere
  • Thanks, I didn't know that meaning of mo. I'll research further! Oct 7, 2013 at 19:30
  • So, in case of subject, が is omitted. I should say なにもいません。 instead of なにがもいません。 But in case of direction, に should be present. I should say どこにもいきませんでした。 instead of どこもいきませんでした。 Does this sound accurate? Oct 7, 2013 at 19:39
  • Yes, that's correct. I think technically どこもいきませんでした is correct, but adding the really emphasizes the "to" of going somewhere -- "I did not go (to) somewhere". Also, as replaces the は/が in positive statements, it also replaces it in the negative, so it is not added on as がも (as you said).
    – istrasci
    Oct 7, 2013 at 19:44
  • Retract what I said about replacing all the time. See @snailboat's (deleted) answer below. There are times when you can say something like だれもが to mean "everyone", and similarly for other question words. I forgot about this kind of scenario.
    – istrasci
    Oct 7, 2013 at 20:40

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