Asking Where: どこですか? vs どこにありますか?

Hi everyone! I’ve recently learned how to use あります and います to say something exists and does not exist. The part I’m struggling with is the questions!

For example, “Where is the book?”
Are they asking the same thing? Is the a subtle nuance that I’m missing? And which is more correct?

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They’re the same with different levels of politeness. どこにありますか is the more polite of the two.

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@Kumirei is right. In the case of the example question, あります is more formal, though they’re both polite (ある and だ are their informal versions).

I should note that generally speaking though, they serve different functions. あります is typically used to relay location information (“the book is on the shelf”) or the fact of something existing (e.g.:“There are 3 grocery stores in my neighborhood”).

です is usually used for a wide variety of phrasal expressions (e.g.: ____はずです, ___そうです, ___といいです), to attach adjectives onto things(e.g.:“That dog is big”), and to name/identify things (e.g.: “That tall guy is Steve”). Of the two, です/だ is way more flexible, so if you’re not sure it’s あります, you’re almost always probably better off with です.

hope that helps!


While in this sentence, the main difference is politeness, and the semantic difference is small, the function of the two words are not the same, and are not interchangeable in all cases.

This stackexchange answer is a bit more thorough in explaining.

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