ある / いる for living and non-living things

Would using either just ある or いる for both living and non-living things make Japanese unspeakable?

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One would end up referring to people with the same terms that you refer to inanimate objects. That’s not particularly polite. People may get what you’re trying to say, but it will never sound correct.

Do you tend to conflate the two?

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Not really, I was just wondering what would happen if the Japanese language only had one verb to express existence.

It’s like calling a person “that”

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I guess the same result as abandoning such distinctions in English. “I bought a new TV, he’s very pretty.” “I have a new colleague. It’s very good at it’s job.”

It’s grammatically doable, but would need a huge shift in mindset about language, people, and objects.

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And eventually you would end up at something like German, where a TV set is “he” and a girl is “it” :rofl:

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Wait, what? :joy: I did not pay enough attention in German class to recall that tidbit.

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der Fernseher / der TV (der is male),
das Mädchen (das is neutral)

But we very often mess up sentences with “Mädchen”, so it’s even weird for us.
E.g. most would say “Das Mädchen streckt ihre Arme aus.”, but it’s actually “Das Mädchen streckt seine Arme aus.” (ihre - her ; seine - his/its)

tldr: German is weird.

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It’s a quirk that’s present in Dutch too. Diminutives are grammatically neutral, and Mädchen is a diminutive (same as “het meisje”).

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That’s standard in colloquial Finnish :rofl: To the point saying ‘he’ sounds weird.

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I’m guessing it would still work fine. You’d just lose a bit of expressiveness by conflating the two verbs.

Yeah, German noun genders are all over the place. One of my biggest pain points. Also, some words of foreign origin can have a different gender depending on the German-speaking country/region.

Weird flex, honestly. I’m glad English got rid of some of it.

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image

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My favourite is that a skirt is masculine, but jeans are feminine

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Oh, really? :joy_cat: Do you have an example?
[Edit: Oh you mean like Nutella and such? :grin:]

I once heard the following funny story: In German, the sun is female and the moon is male, but in France it’s the other way around, so apparently in some regions very close to the border (Saarland, to be precise) people adopted this into German and made the sun male and the moon female…
(Dunno if it’s true, though. Maybe some Saarländer can debunk this myth?)

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Yeah, and such. I was thinking about Cola, which can be both neutral or female.

I don’t know, I feel like gendered nouns are not helping :smiley:

Edit: oh yeah, but the Moon should totally be female. Luna, duh right?

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I’m reminded of the time I thought I saw somebody use いる to refer to an inanimate object. It took me a moment to realize they meant 要る (to need).
If 居る could be used on inanimate objects, there would be no way to know if they meant that they need something or if they already have it.

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Vehicles that are being operated can be used with 居る, so technically that could be confusing if you hear タクシーがいる, it could mean “there’s a taxi” or “I need a taxi”. Though there’s probably a strong correlation between mentioning the existence of a taxi and needing to ride in one. I think most beginners would expect ある for vehicles no matter what the situation is.

In Kansai, this is sidestepped by the regular verb for animate existence being おる, so タクシーがおる and タクシーがいる are diambiguated.

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