I'm studying japanese from not that long and a doubt came to my mind studying ある and いる verbs, so sorry in advance if the question isn't clear.

If we take those two phrases as example:

A. つくえへやにあります

B. へやにつくえあります

For what I've understood, in the phrase A, I want to underline the location of the desk, in this case the room. In the phrase B, instead, I want to underline that in the room there's a desk, so I give more importance to the object, not to the location.

If I would want to translate the phrase "there's a desk" without pointing out the location, I can choose between:

C. つくえあります

D. つくえあります

indifferently or, if my previous argument is correct, I have to choose C?


3 Answers 3


The basic difference is already covered in this question: What's the difference between wa (は) and ga (が)?

The following is a brief summary. As you can see in the above link, each sentence has two different meanings.

  • C. つくえがあります。
    ① There is a desk.
    ② (Among the aforementioned options,) The desk is what exists. [exhaustive-listing]
  • D. つくえはあります。
    ① The desk (we are talking about) exists. [thematic]
    ② (By contrast / However,) There is a desk. [contrastive]

Regarding Sentence C:

  • ① You are bringing a desk into the current conversation. In English, you mention something firstly using 'a' (e.g., "a boy") and then talk about it using 'the' (e.g., "the boy"). In sentence C, が in つくえがあります is similar in purpose to the article 'a' in English.
  • ② is a bit tricky, but this is possible when someone asks you "What do you have at home, a desk or a kotatsu?".

Regarding Sentence D:

  • ① When you have been already talking about some desk, and someone asks you "Does the desk exist?" or "Do you really have the desk?" then you would answer, "はい、つくえはあります。"
  • ② If you stress は when you read this out loud, it would be "contrastive." For example, when someone asks "Do you have a kotatsu at home?", you could answer, "いいえ、こたつはありません。つくえはあります。". In English, you would directly stress the "desk" in this situation.

So when you simply want to say "(Look!) There is a desk.", you have to use が. If you said "つくえはあります" in an inappropriate situation, it would sound very awkward to native speakers.

  • Thanks very much for your explanation and examples, I understood more about は and が usage. Perfect answer Sep 14, 2016 at 9:22
  • Can つくえはあります also mean that desks exist in general? Or if not how would you express that? Nov 23, 2021 at 7:30
  • @hawkymessengerhawk What do you mean by "desks exist in general"? If it is said as opposed to something that does not exist (eg, "Ghosts may not exist but desks do"), saying つくえはあります is correct.
    – naruto
    Nov 23, 2021 at 7:38
  • @naruto Sorry, when I say desks exist in general I mean stating the simple fact that desks exist. Similar to how you might say 空は青い the sky is blue. In that sense could you say つくえはあります or does it only have the contrastive connotation? Nov 24, 2021 at 8:04

To add to @Naruto's brilliant answer:

When asked "What's there? / What do you have?" (なにがありますか?), you'll reply with (C) つくえあります, not つくえは...*

When asked "Are there any desks? / Do you have a desk?" (つくえはありますか?), you'd reply with (D) つくえあります, not つくえが...

*You might reply つくえあります to mean "We have desks, at least (but we may not have other things)."

Similarly, you might say (A) つくえへやにあります as a response to "Where's the desk?" (つくえはどこにありますか?)

You might say へやにつくえがあります as a response to "What's in the room?" (へやにはなにがありますか?)

You might say (B) へやにつくえがあります to simply state that there's a desk in a room (≂ つくえがへやにあります), or to emphasize that the desk is in the room and not in other places (with a stress on へやに).

  • +1 for pointing out the は I though it was missing in B.
    – Tommy
    Sep 14, 2016 at 5:42
  • Thanks very much for your additional explanation to @Naruto answer and for the two examples on A and B! Sep 14, 2016 at 9:23

Comparing A and B. -- I'd say in A there may be emphasis on what's sentence-initial == つくえは.

An indifferent assertion "There's a desk." (a certain, particular desk), like a scientific statement, like Spock or Data or HAL might say:

    C.   つくえがあります

D. つくえはあります sounds like (for example) ---- [ We don't have that other X that you asked about, but we do have a desk (for sale). ]

Please see:     「電話は切れた」 vs. 「電話が切れた」


「AがBである」の時は、Aに重点がある。 .......... 「AはBである」の時はBに重点がある。 ......

  • Understood with the two examples, thanks! Sep 13, 2016 at 21:45

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