How do I express the meaning of "somebody has something" in Japanese?

In English the 'there be...' construction means something exists somewhere, which equals the Japanese 〜〜があります or 〜〜がいます.

For example, "There are three people/chairs in my house." Its related translations are:


My question is how to express the meaning 'somebody has something'.  May I use 私は〜〜を持っている? For example, "I have three books/sons" would be:


Is that right?  Besides that, how do I translate the meaning of 'something has something'? For instance, "The house has a window". Can I say:


Is that right?

2 Answers 2


Hey I have lived in Japan for almost 10 years and have been a student of Japanese for 15 years.

Someone has something → (誰か)は(何か)を持っている
Someone has someone → (誰か)は(誰か)がいる
Something has something → (何か)に(何か)がある

For the examples you gave, you would say:


持つ literally means 'to hold' so when you use it in the context of having something, the object is usually something physical that isn't living. Incidentally you can also use it for abstract things like having an opinion, interest, dream, or desire (意見 興味 夢 欲望)

※If you were to use 持っている for your sons, it's not impossible to say, but it gives off the impression that you see your sons as possessions or assets, and not as family. But if you are talking about someone else who is not a participant in the conversation, you can use 持っている as a way of taking stock of the family.

Person A: お向かいさん、一人暮らし?
Does the person across the way live alone?

Person B: あ、田村ご夫妻? 息子3人持ちの家族よ。
Oh, the Tamuras? They have three sons.

A side note: you use the verb 飼う(かう) for when someone has pets or livestock.


I'm not a native or an expert, but possession in Japanese is so different from English in my opinion, that it's better to avoid thinking of possession as an active ownership, like English.

I'm not sure about the sentences you gave, but rather than having an actual verb for 'to own', the sentences literally translate to:

as for (owner), (object) exists.


It may not make sense in English, but it implies ownership by saying the object is there, when in relation to the owner.

As for your last sentence, it's more accurate to say

In the room, a window exists.

It implies the same thing in English: There is a window in the room. I'm not sure about using 'ha' instead of 'ni' for places, but you probably could get away with it if you meant the room as an object (walls, floor and ceiling) rather than the space that's considered the room.

That reminds me, you can use both particles right after each other, if you want.


This has the same literal meaning, but is focused on the room having a window, rather than the window being inside the room.

I did a bit of research, but I can't really confirm what I get from google - so take this with a hand full of salt - but 持っている is for objects that can be lost, while あります is for inherent traits, like having a brother. Regardless of whether or not your brother is dead, he doesn't stop being considered part of your family, therefore you cannot lose a brother through normal methods.

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