I don't quite get how あります is used in the following sentences from the Genki textbook:

  • あなたの学校に何がありますか。
  • デパートに何がありますか。
  • 動物園に何がいますか。
  • あなたの国に何がありますか。
  • あなたの家に何がありますか。

Is あります used as in "where," "what," or "what's there?"


  • Can you give an example of a sentence with あります, where you understand what あります means?
    – Earthliŋ
    Jan 23, 2014 at 12:59
  • I get something like this: あなたの町に日本のレストランが有りますか。 - Are there any restaurants in your city? あなたの家に猫がいますか。 - Do you have a cat at home? Are those questions above just really generic questions that I'm overthinking? Something like "What does your country have" seems too... strange to me. Jan 23, 2014 at 13:19
  • They are indeed just generic questions. Your textbook is asking "What is there at/in your school?" and is expecting a response like "There is football field at my school."
    – Earthliŋ
    Jan 23, 2014 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


あります in those sentences means something along the lines of "There is ..." or "it has". It's an extremely common verb in Japanese with no perfect parallel in English. It is not used for living things.

います is used similarly but for living things.


What is in your school? / What does your school have?


What is in the department store? / What does the department store have?


What lives in the zoo? / What does the zoo have [that is alive]?


What is there in your country? / What does your country have?


What is there in your house? / What does your house have?

All of that to say that あります does not make a sentence a question. So then what does? The question is being generated by the か at the end and the 何 in the middle.

何 roughly means "what" か transforms a sentence into a question (at least for the sake of what you are asking).

The form of the answers would be:


e.g. 私の国に[砂漠]{さばく}があります。

or for living things


e.g. [動物園]{どうぶつえん}にりすがいます。There are squirrels in the zoo.

  • You say that あります means "to have", but none of your translations contain the verb "have".
    – Earthliŋ
    Jan 23, 2014 at 13:01
  • @Earthling. I've tried amending it... adding some ways to translate using to have. Since it is such a common verb in Japanese which serves a few grammatical functions, it's quite hard to express it in a single way in English.
    – virmaior
    Jan 23, 2014 at 13:14

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