In the elementary sentence:


人 is not marked with a particle. So what does it function as, gramatically?

If we translate the sentence as

A person exists.

then presumably "person" functions as the subject of the sentence (so would have to be marked by either が or は, no?). If we instead translate the sentence (probably more idiomatically) as

There is a person.

Then "there" functions as the sentence's subject, correct? So does that mean there's a hidden pronoun in the Japanese sentence? Something like


If that's the case, what is 人, grammatically?

  • 1
    There are a few things to consider: First, 人だ is more "It's a person" rather than "There is a person" (the latter would use いる). Second, だ is a contracted form of である, which is で + ある, so depending on how you look at it it is actually followed by a particle. Also, the subject in "There is a person" is "person", not "there", which is an adverb.
    – Kaskade
    Aug 2, 2022 at 19:11
  • I'm curious if what you are asking is about the technical grammar terms or just the popular/layman ways in which Japanese grammar is studied, because those can be quite different. If you are truly curious about these concepts in linguistics, in order for you to get the most suitable answer it matters how much you know about such linguistic concepts as "subject" "predicate" "object" "agency". I suggest these as a good place to start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject_(grammar) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicate_(grammar)
    – Eddie Kal
    Aug 2, 2022 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


First, 人だ does not actually mean "a person exists". That would actually be 人がいる. 人だ actually says "(it) is a person" (that is, it is describing some other thing as being a person).

だ/です ("is") is a bit special in Japanese in that unlike verbs (or unlike other verbs, depending on whether you consider だ itself to actually be a verb or not (opinions differ)), it always takes an argument immediately before it (without any particle). This argument is generally either a noun or a な-adjective.

So in this sentence, 人 is a noun, and だ is the copula (the verb/grammatical construct which expresses equivalence), which always comes immediately following the noun/な-adjective which it is saying something is.

As far as "part of speech" it could arguably be considered to be the "object" of the copula (more formally referred to as a "predicate"), but unlike other verbs the copula just does not use を to indicate its object, but instead just immediately follows it. Alternately you could say that it has a part of speech which doesn't have an equivalent term in English (I'm not sure if there is a Japanese term for it or not)..

  • 1
    Maybe 人 is what is called a "predicative nominal" as described in this Wikipedia article?en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicative_expression
    – Kaskade
    Aug 2, 2022 at 19:15
  • @Kaskade actually, you might be right, I was not aware there was a specific term for that, but it does seem to fit..
    – Foogod
    Aug 2, 2022 at 19:20
  • The concept of predicate and predicative expressions is actually directly related to the concept of "subject". They are really two sides of the same coin.
    – Eddie Kal
    Aug 2, 2022 at 19:50
  • @EddieKal To be clear, I was familiar with the concept of "predicate". It was "predicative nominal" specifically which I had not encountered before (but I suppose it's not surprising that there is such a term)
    – Foogod
    Aug 2, 2022 at 20:04
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    @George Regarding the difference between "it is a person" and "there is a person". They can be seen as answering different questions: "Is it a person or a chair?" - "It's a person" vs ... dunno, can't think of a good example "What is there?" or "Is there anything?" - "There is a person" Aug 3, 2022 at 8:08

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