I found these example sentences plus their translations from WaniKani by Tofugu, but I got confused by the differences between 有る【ある】 and ある.

マヨネーズなら、まだ少し有ります。 We still have a little mayonnaise.

彼には金も有るが、屋根の上に銀もある。 He has gold as well as a silver on his roof.

Why in the second sentence, they use both 有る and ある?

To me it seems that they both mean "to have", so why the change in kanji/hiragana?

Are they interchangeable?

Also, how often and when do people use 有る?

  • 1
    Great question. From my experience, limited as a nonnative speaker, it seems unusual to use 有{あ}る in this sort of context. It looks a bit old-fashioned to me like something I'd expect to see in a Meiji-era novel or short story. But a number of on-line resources for learning Japanese seem to almost overdo kanji usage to a degree you don't see in typical Japanese publications.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


I believe here we have to think of the fact that ある is not necessarily 有る in kanji, but could be 在る and 或る as well (we can forget about the last one here). More on the differences here.

The first one is used to indicate possession, ownership of something (「財産が有る」「貫禄が有る」「有りがち」etc.). On the other hand, 在る indicates existence, "being somewhere" (「東京に在る」,「要職に在る」 etc). I'm sure you know this already.

This being said, I think in your sentence the actual meaning is intended as follows:

  1. If (you need) mayonnaise, I still have some. (Rather than there is some).

  2. He has gold but there is even silver on his roof.

I think the difference here is that the second ある in sentence number 2 is probably supposed to be 在る here. This is the only difference I can think of and at least what it seems it can be inferred from the structure of the sentence and the use of kanji and kana. If the writer used 在る this would be extra clear but I believe this is seldom written in kanji anyway. This is probably true for 有る as well but maybe here it has been used just to make clearer the difference between the first and second.

What actually confuses me is the translation you provide. Is that yours or it was given on the website? If it's coming from an official Japanese language site, the translation is probably better than mine and in that case I would not understand well the difference you are asking for as with that translation both should be 在る in that case (there are both silver and gold on the roof, which means of course that "he has" those). However, no matter how I try to parse the sentence, I feel my translation is OK. Maybe someone can comment on this.

To expand on this subject, there is actually a document compiled on October 1st of the year Showa 56 (1981) that establishes a set of rules for the use of kanji and kana in official documents to which everyone who belongs to an official institution (and writes official documents) should adhere.

Regarding ある, it precisely states the following:


Where the sentence in brackets is meant to give an example of the situations in which ある should be written in kana. You can find the full thing here.

  • So 在る is also ある? This is new to me. いる would be totally different, right? Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 0:46
  • Oh and also, the translation was provided by the website. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 0:48
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    Yes 在る = ある and 居る=いる. This is just an example of why I like kanji so much better. If it were for me I'd use them much more often and avoid a lot of misunderstandings and confusion. Although maybe this is likely to be a paradox (I mean that for a foreign learner might be easier with kanji than without.. At least so is for me).
    – Tommy
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 0:49
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    @GabbyQuattrone well yeah then I don't know. I'm sure that translation works but if you think about it that one and mine are quite different. If theirs is correct though I really don't understand the use of kanji as I explained. Hope some native speaker with good command of English will comment on this.
    – Tommy
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 0:51
  • 1
    @Tommy, Personally I like your translation better. I would have translated the first sentence as something like If its mayonnaise that you're looking for, I still have some. That being said, I could see it it as ... there's still some left. since the meaning is somewhat similar to I have some left. I guess the real hitch would be what website provided the translation.
    – ajsmart
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 12:55

ある and 有る are almost completely the same to native Japanese speakers. Of course, 或る (a certain, some) is completely different, though. It's an adjective, not even a verb.

About thirty years ago, when there were no word processors, Japanese people almost always hand-wrote letters. At that time, more than 95% people chose ある, just because it was easy to hand-write. Very educated writers, however, tended to use 有る. I think they just wanted to show their education level.

Today, in the word processor era, it's very easy to type kanji, no matter how difficult a kanji would be. Therefore, many people would choose 有る.

In many cases, writers even don't choose which. The word-processor decides which, and they just follow the automated conversion by the machine.

In case of the second sentence, you may wonder why ある and 有る are used. Probably there is no intention for the writer who was a human. The writer just followed the machine. lol

In my opinion, using too much kanji is too heavy, bossy, too-elegant. So I personally like ある.

For example, はしを持つ is confusing. It can be 端を持つ or 箸を持つ, although 橋を持つ is less likely. In this case, kanji is preferred in order to make the meaning clearer.

For example, せんせいにおうえんをたのんだがたぼうだからというりゆうできょひされた。 is difficult to read, while 先生に応援を頼んだが多忙だからという理由で拒否された。is much easier to read.

However, in case of 有る/ある, there is no difference. Both are two letters. Therefore, I don't think the two have any difference.

Do you understand what I'm getting at?

  • kana is much simpler to read. too many kanji is confusing and look like chinese writing. i like combination between kana and kanji.
    – Kakashi
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 12:09

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