My textbook says the correct structure is


For example:


But I've seen some webpages with examples such as:


So... are they both correct? Do they have different meanings? Is one of them wrong?


Both are correct but their meaning isn't exactly the same.

An easy way to understand it is to think of them as answers to different kind of question :


(There is) a dog in the garden.

Can be the answer to :


What's in the garden?

Whereas :


The dog is in the garden.

Can be the answer to :


Where is the dog?

In the former example, the word precedeing が is the new information (which in this case can be translated with the indefinite article "a"), the hearer and the speaker both know which garden they are talking about.

EDIT : This distinction between known and unknown information is probably 100% true when に is followed by は (庭には...) but 庭に犬がいる can also mean "there is a dog in a garden" with both informations being new to the hearer.

In the latter example, the word preceding は is the known information (translated with the definite article "the" here, they know which dog they are talking about), and the word preceding に is the new one.

So in your case :


(Who is in Japan?) (It is) Kaoru (that) is in Japan.



(Where is Kaoru?) Kaoru is in Japan.

You can find a similar construction with だ :

僕は学生だ。 (What are you?) I'm a student.


僕が学生だ。 (Who is the student?) I'm the student.

  • Thanks a lot for the answer. Is the word order important? My book says that usually with ある/いる it's あそこにお酒がある, but I've seen in some places, for example, かおるさんは日本にいる – Daniel Aug 29 '14 at 11:06
  • I think it's usually AにBがある and BはAにある but it's not mandatory. – Alox Aug 29 '14 at 11:21

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