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I'm only a beginner learner in Japanese, and I'm having trouble on when to use です or います.

I also have trouble on when to use は or の.

Example:

まゆさん は ともだち ふたり が います。

Why would it be は instead of の, and why did they use います?

How do you know when to use each particle?

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    These should be two separate questions. – istrasci Mar 4 '15 at 22:33
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I will try to answer your question but it is quite a broad subject. I will start on the choice of the verb. I guess your confusion comes from the fact that both may have been introduced as meaning "am/are/is".

  • います is a verb meaning "to be", but only in the sense that a living person is in a place i.e. ここに人{ひと}が二人{ふたり}います。 translates to There are two people in this place. You can for example use 今{いま}、学校{がっこう}にいます. In fact, います may be closer in meaning to exist rather than be but anyway, this is Japanese so please try to remember examples of usage, as the meanings between English and Japanese generally don't match very well.
  • です is called a copula. It indeed also means "is" in a variety of contexts, especially when describing properties, qualities of objects or people including but not restricted to color, shape, nationality etc... The copula can take other forms but you will discover them later. Be careful though, because です by itself does not really carry a meaning, it can only be used in a sentence. A few examples are:

    • いすは赤い{あかい}です → The chair is red
    • 私{わたし}の顔{かお}は丸い{まるい}です → My face is round
    • オバマさんはアメリカ人です → Obama is American
  • Please note that です must be used alone, it cannot be used in conjunction with います or あります.

  • Note that when dealing with inanimate objects or animals, you will use あります instead of います with the same meaning of There is.

On the choice of particles, denotes the subject of the sentence. (I am not sure it is really a particle) expresses a possession relationship between two nouns. also has other usages, but let us concentrate on your example:

まゆさんは友達{ともだち}が二人{ふたり}います

So Mayu-san has two friends right? In this case, the direct translation is a bit tricky because Mayu-san is the subject of the sentence, hence we use the particle. To denote the existence of the friends, we use the particle. I would point out that in this case, you could also say

まゆさんの友達{ともだち}が二人{ふたり}います

Both sentences have almost the same meaning, but in this case, you insist that there are two of Mayu-san's friends, maybe present in the room at this time, whereas the previous sentence implied that only two friends of Mayu-san exist.

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