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As the title says, I'm looking for some help understanding the following sentence:

あなたの学校に何がありますか。

I'm really confused with this sentence, especially about the use of 何 here. Could someone help me translate / understand it better?

As far as I can tell, a direct translation would be:

your school what there is?

Which makes no sense.

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To translate something, you have to not only get the word-by-word meanings right, you have to understand the difference in sentence structures and make sure to move the words around correctly.

When trying to understand a sentence in Japanese, always start with the final verb and build on that. In this case, the verb is あります - "[there] is".

Building on that, the two main things are the subject - 何 - and the fact that it's a question, thanks to the sentence-end particle か. So adding those in, you get "What is [there]?".

Then we add the "fluff" - the additional information marked with particles like に, any relative clauses, and other stuff that adds detail to the main sentence. In this case, we have あなたの学校に - "at your school".

So our final sentence is "What is there at your school?", which depending on context might just become "What does your school have?" or something similar.

  • Ahh, I wasn't considering the fact that が is used as the topic marker here. This helps a lot, thanks! – Cm Mc Feb 2 '18 at 18:57
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You're not too far off. The に acts as 'at'.

Your school / at / what / there is / ? As it it a question, the 'is' will come before 'there'.

何がありますか? What is there.

野球場{やきゅうじょう}があります。There is a baseball field.

As far as what the person asking really wants to know, it is unclear from the context. One can assume, however, that they know what is normally provided at a school, so they are likely asking 'What is there (that is special) at your school.'

Just to summarize, the translation to the phrase is:

'What is there at your school?'

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