〈22〉3-6 a convincing way to use “aru” (exist) & “iru” (exist)

                   〈22〉  ◆ chap 3  " The Japanese expressions & their secrets ! "   

               part 6. a convincing way to use “aru” (exist) & “iru” (exist)

In the last article, I talked about the word “nai” which used to be an adjective but has now acquired a verb-like conjugation. It was a very interesting history of language transformation.

                            Let’s review it again

The reason there are two ways of saying KONO MISOSHIRU WA OISHIKUNAI DESU and KONO MISOSHIRU WA OISHIKU ARIMASEN is that “nai” has both formal forms with the adjectival “+desu", and the formal form as a verb. Both are grammatically correct. Your question has been answered, hasn’t it ?



    Now, let’s look at the verb  "aru" , which is also the negative of the verb  "nai”.

However, the verb meaning "exist" is not only  "aru" in Japanese. Yes, there is also the verb “iru” (lol) !

                            So what is the difference between "aru" and  “iru”  ?

Is it "aru" to be used for non-living things, and “iru” to be used for living people and animals ?

But trees and flowers, even if they are alive, do not say “iru” .  So, are things that move “iru”, and things that don’t move "aru" ?  No, that’s not right either, because a clock is "aru"  even though it moves, and no one would say that a clock “iru” . That’s a problem !

                                        But for the sake of convenience,

let’s think of things that move as “iru”, and things that don’t move as "aru" !  If we do this, we can understand why the progressive form of the verb “iru” is used.


For example, “I am eating a sandwich.” is a combination of be verb and the progressive form of “eat” in English, but in Japanese, the verb “taberu” (eat) is combined with the verb “iru” (exist) in this way,

                                               (I am eating a sandwich.)


                            “ Watashi wa sandoicchi (sandwich) o tabete iru.”

In other words, the Japanese use the verb “iru” (exist) for moving things, and attach it to other verbs, such as “tabete iru” (eating) which is the progressive form in Western languages. 

Yes, the Japanese progressive form adds “iru” (exist) to the verb, which is used for moving things !  That’s what it means.

                       So what about the verb "aru" , used for things that don’t move ?

Again, if we think of "aru"  as representing the existence of something that does not move, we can see the essence of this.

For example, the sentence “kokoni nihon no moji ga kaite aru” (Here Japanese letters are written.”) is evidence that, in fact, Japanese letters are written here, and that they were definitely written by someone before.

                     Yes, you can think of "aru"  as indicating some kind of “evidence”.

---   "Oh, the fact that there are Japanese characters written here is a proof that there were Japanese people in this room !"  His assistant, Watson, shouted. But the great detective Holmes, replied with his pipe:  "No, it's not necessarily Japanese who can write the Japanese alphabet !   ---

                                                .. and so on, for example.

          So, “iru” is used as a progressive form, and "aru"  is used as an evidential form (?). 


                                   But unfortunately, things are not so simple.

For example, in Japanese, when the window of a room is open, we do not usually say “mado ga aite aru”, but “mado ga aite iru”. Originally, the phrase “mado ga aite iru” would refer to the ongoing state of a window slowly opening, but it is also used as a form of evidence.

This is a difficult subject for students of Japanese to understand and one that I have been asked many times. To put it bluntly, it’s a mystery that even we Japanese can’t explain. Is it possible that the Japanese have a special feeling for movements such as “open” and “flow”, and for some reason they use the progressive form ?  Haha, that’s just my imagination.

                                ------ Now let's analyse this grammatically. ------

There are two types of verbs: transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. Transitive verbs are used when the subject (e.g.a person) moves something (the object), and intransitive verbs are used when the subject itself moves.

“mado o akeru” (open the window) is a transitive verb, while “mado ga aku” (the window opens) is an intransitive verb.

In fact, with transitive verbs, both “iru” and "aru" can be connected, but with intransitive verbs, “iru” can be connected, but  "aru"  can not.

In other words, both “mado o akete iru” and “mado o akete aru” are OK, however “mado ga aite iru” is OK, but “mado ga aite aru” is NO. Similarly, intransitive verbs: “mado ga simatte aru” (the windows are closed ?), “hashira ga taorete aru” (the pillar has fallen down ?) and “gyuunyuu ga koborete aru” (the milk has spilled ?) are also NO.  

Therefore, “mado ga hiraite(aite) iru” indicates that the window has already been opend, whereas a window that is in the process of opening is usually described as “mado ga hiraki(aki) tsutsu aru”.

Furthermore, the word “開く” can be read either as “aku” or “hiraku”, with “aku”  being an intransitive verb and “hiraku” being transitive, but there is also the transitive verb “開ける(akeru)”, which is a bit more complicated.  Let’s try illustrate this in a simple way.


        《 open 》                           《 close 》

ーーtransitive v.ーーintransitive v.ーー         ーーtransitive v.ーーintransitive v.ーー

 (open the window)   (the window opens)       (close the window)       (the window closes) 

   窓を(mado o)         窓が(mado ga)                窓を(mado o)           窓が(mado ga)

    開ける(あける)   開く(あく)                閉める(しめる)   閉まる(しまる)

             akeru                     aku                                   shimeru              shimaru

    開く(ひらく)  =  開く(ひらく)            閉じる(とじる)  = 閉じる(とじる)

            hiraku                   hiraku                                   tojiru                    tojiru

In the lower part of the sentence, “hiraku” and “tojiru” are verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive. Therefore, both “mado ga hiraite iru” and “mado ga hiraite aru”, as well as “mado ga tojite iru” and “mado ga tojite aru, are both correct answers. It’s useful to remember !!  

(Please note, however that there are exceptions to this, such as the use of "mado ga akete aru." and "mado ga shimete aru.", but there are no such things as "mado ga akete iru." and "mado ga shimete iru." !)



                       But why does this happen ? The reason is probably this.


If you think about it, “…iru” indicates that there is some kind of action going on, and it can be connected to either someone else’s action or the action itself.

However, when we use the expression “…aru”, we mean that someone(or something?) has done some action to something, before a certain point in time. In other words, it has been prepared or completed in advance. Therefore, it inevitably requires someone or some actor to do it.

      Common sense dictates that the thing itself cannot be prepared in advance, can it ?


                         Here's a bit about the glue that holds the word together!

In order to connect verbs and sentences, the Japanese language uses a kind of glue. These are “te” and “de”.  In the above example, when you connect “akeru” with “iru” or “aru”, you also get “akete iru” and “akete aru”,  “te” plays the role of glue.

It’s easy to use !  If the informal past tense of a verb ends in “ta”, change it to “te”, if it ends in “da”, change it to “de”.  This way of putting words together will be a great help to you.

                           But we’ll talk more about this word glue in a late chapter.

          ーーー  The next post will be                         

                            <23> chap 3 "The Japanese expressions & their secrets!"

                                                      part 7.  “mono” (thing / object)  &  “koto” (thing / matter)


                   See you, soon !!

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