Today I heard 人形がいる, so I googled around because I thought 居る was only for living things, but I found many examples of this usage. Many for 人形がある as well.

Are there other exceptions for いる/ある?

  • What exactly is the rule that you are asking an exception for?
    – user458
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 0:30
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    Well I'm wondering if there are other inanimate objects that take いる, or animate ones that take ある. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


In your case, it can be simply an instance of personification. That is, metaphorically handling an inanimate thing as if it were animate. That is easy to imagine with 'doll'. If that is the case, then this is not an exception but is simply a rhethoric.

A case where an inanimate thing can take いる is when that thing is inherently mobile, and is used within the context as such. For example, if you are looking at a time table, and found a train that you can take, then you can say


but if you were running into the station to catch a train that may have left already, but you made to it in the last moment and there is a train in front of you, then you can say


On the other hand, when you are talking about an existence of an animate thing, and that is an ordinary scene, you can use it with ある


When you are talking about possession by nature, then you can use an animate thing with ある.


  • 1
    Your example 昔、おじいさんとおばあさんがあった sounds just strange to me. Do you really say that? Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 14:22
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    @Tsuyoshi_Ito The original form in folk tales is like that. Recently published books sometimes use いる because they have in mind a prescriptive rule that ある is used only for inanimates, which does not reflect the reality. You might have been affeced by this. This kind of thing is called hypercorrection in linguistics.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 14:24
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    Thanks! I thought that the usual phrase is おじいさんとおばあさんがおりました, but I found examples with ありました in Daijirin and Daijisen. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 17:50
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    @sawa, I don't think that's hypercorrection. It is hypercorrection if somebody expresses something in a non-standard way because they think it is more correct than what they consider natural. But: 1. "おじいさんとおばあさんがいた" is hardly non-standard, 2. They might have changed the wording, not because they thought the original wrong, but because they found it unnatural. Regardless of what used to be/is correct, many native speakers now find ある with animate things unnatural.
    – dainichi
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 7:11

One such exception is that Taxis get いる.

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