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  1. 私は[二人]{ふたり}のおにいさんがいる。
  2. 私は二人のおにいさんがいます。

I am trying to say "I have two elder brothers."

Someone told me that I should say "私には二人兄がいます/いる。"

I have some doubts:
1. Why is it 私に but not 私は?
2. Can't I say "二人のおにいさん"?
3. Actually I do not quite understand why います and いる are both acceptable. Any difference in meaning between them?

I am a beginner of Japanese....

  • 2
    For 3, both are forms of the same verb: います is the polite (nonpast affirmative) form, and いる is the plain form. (Despite the name, the latter isn't necessarily impolite; for example, it's commonly used in certain clauses and in modifiers like 食べている人.) If you're talking with someone senior, unknown, etc, います is much safer in the sentences above. – anomaly Mar 9 '16 at 16:42
  • 1
    ↓「の」について (「二人兄が」vs「二人兄が」) の説明は要らないんでしょうか・・・ – Chocolate Mar 10 '16 at 5:45
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First of all, we don’t use honorific suffix “さん” when we refer to any member of our family in the talk with others. We don’t say 私のお父さん(お母さん、お爺さん、お婆さん、叔父さん、叔母さん、お兄さん、お姉さん). We say 私の父(母、祖父、祖母、兄、姉、叔父、叔母), though I witness some youngsters violating this rule, and calling their mother by ‘お母さん’ in their conversation with their friend(s) in the train and coffee shops from time to time. Maybe it’s passable in informal conversation among young people today.

With the expression – “私は二人のおにいさんがいる,” your friend is right. “私は兄がいる” sounds somewhat awkward, and “私には兄がいる” sounds perfect.

I’m unable to give you a clear reason why. But possible reason would be when you say “私は…いる(ある),” it presupposes “You are something,” not “You have something.” Whereas when you say “私には…いる(ある),” of which literal translation is “To (for) me, there is XX,” it’s closer to saying “You have something.”

Though I’m not sure whether you can buy this rational or not, “私は二人のおにいさんがいる” is not recommendable whether it’s delivered during an informal or formal conversation. .

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1) When speaking of your own brother, you use 「あに」, not 「おにいさん」. The latter is when speaking about someone else's brother.

2) います・いる is a matter of speaking politely vs. informally. It depends to whom you're speaking, and how you want to come across to them.

3) Why is it 私に but not 私は? Refer to this question concerning は・が vs. に.

Note that you could also say this as 私には兄が2人いる (note the swapped position of 兄 and 2人).

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  • 1
    In more colloquial conversations, お兄さん and the like are frequently heard for your own relatives, though I personally would avoid because it's what children almost always do. – Aeon Akechi Mar 9 '16 at 21:39
  • お兄さん is applied to sometimes crews of Yakuza. For example, 昨日山川組のお兄さんが二人「あがり」を取りに店を訪ねてきた - Two members of Yamakawa Crew came to my shop yesterday to collect 'Conribution.' – Yoichi Oishi Mar 10 '16 at 22:02

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