Animate "to be" vs. inanimate "to be"

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by TheTruthWSYF, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. TheTruthWSYF Junior Member

    Canadian English

    I am doing a report on the copulae (verbs that mean "to be") in Japanese and am wondering if you would say:

    Raion wa kusa no naka ni aru
    Lion in grass is
    The lion is the grass

    That's what Google Translate says, but we all know how accurate that is. Wouldn't we say る instead, because the lion is alive?

    The lion is in the grass

    How would I say "the grass is around the lion" using ある?

  2. Arui Kashiwagi Senior Member

    You are right. The correct choice is "ライオンは草の中にいる".
    As you said, the lion is alive, so you have to use "いる" - unless you're assuming a lion-shaped statue or something.
  3. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    What happens when the living thing is dead? Plants, animals and humans. What is considered grammatically correct? Because I've seen both ある and いる with dead things that once were alive.
  4. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    .... somewhat annoying. As far as it is a living thing, no matter it is dead or not, you will use いる.
    To avoid the confusing structure, you can say 人が死んでいる 遺体が残っている

    By the way, plants are not living things in Japanese.
  5. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Thank you! Although I'm sure I've seen いる used with plants. But that's just plain rude to the plants, they are alive, why on earth wouldn't they be considered living things in JP? :D
  6. Arui Kashiwagi Senior Member

    As YangMuye said, it depends on whether a subject is an animate thing in general or not:
    草の中に死んだライオンいる A dead lion is in the grass.
    草の中にライオンの死体ある A corpse of a lion is in the grass.

    A footnote in 明鏡国語辞典 tells about its word origin, that may help to understand the usage:
    We have an assumption that corpses and plants never walk around by themselves, thus we use ある. While lions usually have an ability to move around - even though THIS lion no longer have - thus we apply いる.
    (By the way what about zombies? Well, they move by nature! :))
  7. Vaan Junior Member

    Additional comments:

    Please don't mix up いる with ~ている.
    Both are correct.

    And I'll give you some other (touchy) examples:
    a fertilized egg in a test-tube -> ある ( don't mix it up with 入っている. )
    influenza viruses in a test-tube -> いる
    coral -> ある (or いる)
    red blood cells in the blood -> ある
    white blood cells in the blood -> いる (when the speaker thinks that white blood cells move actively to kill bacteria.)

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