When learning Japanese everyone's taught いる is for a living thing and ある is for non-living things. However, I recently saw the following sentence ...


... which ends in ある / あります for a living subject, assuming were not talking about a dead soccer player!

Now the following make uses of ある sense to me:


But in my mind these adhere to the living/dead rule learned in those first Nihongo classes all those years ago.

So where does もあります fit in? How should I think of this in English (equivalent phrase)?

  • 4
    I keep expecting this question to be about phrases like 子供がある -- in fact, if I was going to ask a question about 子供がある, this is probably the title I would use -- but that issue is only touched on briefly in the comments of an answer. Perhaps this question should be renamed? Something like "Why is でもあります used instead of でもいます for a living subject?"
    – Hyperworm
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 12:34

3 Answers 3


で(は)あります is the expanded form of です. So when you say 「XはYです」, it is really 「XはYで(は)あります」. From this, you can easily see the negative form (ではありません). And also でもあります as in your example. でもあります means "is also".

あの人はサラリーマンです。あと、サッカー選手でもあります。 → That guy is a business worker (salary man). He is also a soccer player.

That's the reasoning as to why it's あります in this situation. As to why です is a contraction of で(は)あります and not で(は)います, I'm not sure.

  • 1
    Because a cause (as indicated by 「で」, the causality particle) is not alive. Commented Jul 13, 2011 at 23:36
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    @Ingacio: i don't think で in this case is the particle meaning "by way of ~ / by ~ means".
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 2:06
  • 1
    @crunchyt - I don't know, it kind of makes sense to me to say "exists as/by-means-of a soccer player/whatever". But then still why isn't it でいます?
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 2:23
  • For the same reason as a verb with 「~ている」 vs. 「~てある」; we don't say that the person is being a soccer player, we just say that the person is as a soccer player. Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 2:36
  • 4
    Regarding で: This で is a variant of にて, which was used as part of a copula in Old Japanese (nite ar-). (にて is still used for the locational sense of で in formal speech in Modern Japanese.) During the transition from Old Japanese to Early Middle Japanese (800-1200 AD), nite ar- gave way to de ar-, which is the source of the modern copula だ. (Source: Frellesvig, A History of the Japanese Language, p. 234-5) でいる is indeed used, but only rarely, and usually only in formal settings: 先生は現在78歳でいらっしゃいます。 Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 12:57

As istrasci and rintaun correctly point out, サッカー選手でもあります has a similar meaning to サッカー選手です. But it is also true that ある is not the same word as です. One important thing that hasn't been pointed out is that the ある used here is not a predicate. It is comparable to the English be.

  • A is a soccer player
  • A is smart

In the sentences above, you can tell that the predicate is the noun/adjective phrase following be but is not be itself (in other words, be is not contributing to the meaning) from the fact that they can be used retaining their meaning, without be:

  • I consider A a soccer player
  • I consider A smart

On the other hand, be in the following examples is used to express existence, and is a predicate.

  • I think, therefore I am
  • There is a soccer player

The animacy restriction on Japanese ある and いる only concerns the predicate usage (the usage meaning existence or possession). While the following ある and いる are in the predicate usage,

  • A の書いた本がある
  • サッカー選手がいる

the following ある is not.

  • A はサッカー選手である
  • 昨日のうちに買い物をしてある

Therefore, your example is a case where the animacy distinction is irrelevant.

Furthermore, as is well known, even the predicate ある can be used with animate subjects.

  • 昔、ある所におじいさんとおばあさんがあった
  • A には子供がある

The distinction between ある and いる is actually much more complicated than mere animacy opposition.

  • 1
    I have read (I think it was Kuno's Structures book), that there are really two あるs, one for existence, and one for possession. The possessive form CAN be used for people, as in 僕は子供がある, which has a slightly different meaning from 僕は子供がいる.
    – jkerian
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 7:51
  • @jkerian: are the examples yours, or drawn from the book?
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 9:52
  • 1
    @jkerian Yes. Kuno claims that. It is generally accepcted that the possessive usage is looser with the animacy restriction. I just mentioned existence and possession together to show what the term predicate means.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 14:04
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    @Axioplase, @jkerian I think what is called inalienable possession is somewhat relevant.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 16:38
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    @crunchyt Inalienable possession means the possession relation is inherent and permanent. Parent-child relation is one such case. You cannot say 私には近所の人がある because having a neigbhour is not inherent possession.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 14:26

でもあります is actually derived from である (basically a written-Japanese way of saying です) and basically means "... is ... as well". For example:

  • AはBでもあります。 → A is B as well (in addition to something previously mentioned or understood).

Or the following:

  • 彼は大学生であり、サッカー選手でもある。 → He is a university student, and he is also a soccer player.
  • Since we cannot say「サッカー選手もです」= NG, I guess「サッカー選手でもあります」 makes sense.
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 2:08

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