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I've seen sentences like

彼女に孫が一人いる。

彼に本当の友達がいない。

In a reference book (see the picture below, No.17), it says that the particle 「に」 is to introduce the "owner" of something or someone. But in the dictionary スーパー大辞林, I didn't find this meaning for 「に」. Does it mean this meaning is seldom used today?

Can I say something like:

私に本がたくさんある。

to mean that "I have a lot of books."?

Entry 17 スーパー大辞林

9

[person] + に(は)~がある/いる is a very common pattern that can be translated to "[person] has ~", but this is safely used only with certain type of objects.

  1. ability, trait, idea, right or other invisible/abstract things
    • 私には夢がある。 I have a dream.
    • 彼女には才能がある。 She has a talent.
    • 彼には欠点がある。 He has a (certain) fault.
    • 我々には投票する権利がある。 We have rights to vote.
    • 私にいい考えがあります。 I have a good idea.
    • 彼には莫大な財産がある。 He has a great deal of property.
    • この件に関しては彼女に責任がある。 She is responsible regarding this issue.
  2. family member, friend, partner, etc.
    • 私には妹がいる。 I have a sister.
    • 僕には友達がいない。 I have no friends.
    • ヘレン・ケラーにはすばらしい先生がいた。 Helen Keller had a great teacher.

However, when this construction is used with other types of tangible objects, I think the sentence tends to gain an added nuance of reliance (please don't ask me why):

  • 私にはこのピストルがある。 I've got this pistol (which may save me).
  • 私には本がたくさんある。 (I lost many things in my life but at least) I have many books (which will comfort me).
  • 彼女には黒い髪がある。 (She is in trouble but) She has black hair (which she can make use of).
  • ピーチ姫にはマリオがいる。 There is this guy Mario to help Princess Peach.

So you should use this construction with care when the object is tangible.

In this construction, the subject does not necessarily "own" the object (you don't "own" your friends, for example), and thus this type of に is often explained as a kind of a location marker (② in スーパー大辞林's entry).

| improve this answer | |
  • Amazing point in your last block. I had never consciously noticed this. – Darius Jahandarie Mar 18 at 21:54
  • @DariusJahandarie Me, neither. I could not find anything that tells when ~に~がある is possible... – naruto Mar 19 at 0:55

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