How to say you have something?

So I’m trying to get things straight in my head about all the ways you can say you possess something.

First, there’s ある. This feels like the go-to most flexible way of saying you possess something. I’ve heard it in a bunch of scenarios and it can also be used for experiences (~たことがある) and abstract things (for example, 質問がありますか). However, it doesn’t always work. For example, if someone asks if you have a pen and you don’t, but your friend John does, then:


sounds kind of stiff to me.

Next is いる, which follows from ある and is basically used to talk about people (family, partners, potentially pets*). I have a lot of experience with this one, with questions like 兄弟がいますか or 彼女がいますか coming up quite often (I’m an ALT, students love asking it).

*With pets however 飼う is used (exclusively?) instead. For example, 犬が飼っています. But can 飼う be used for things other than pets? I feel like I’ve heard it used for other things but I can’t remember if I have.

Lastly (at least that I can think of) there’s 持つ, for things you are physically carrying on you. This one can be straightforward, for example if you’re holding a pen you can say ペンが持っています, but what if your pen is in your backpack? As far as I know that still works, but what if you’ve brought your pen with you but left it somewhere. Does 持つ still work, or would it be implied you still have it on you? Again, I think this works but I’m not completely sure where the line is drawn.

If there are any obvious ones I’m forgetting, please tell me. For example, WK teaches 擁する but either this isn’t really used or I don’t understand when to use it.

Any clarification on these would be appreciated!


This one sounds strange to me. I would defo have gone for ジョンさんはペンが持ている。I don’t think it’s just for “carrying on your person”, but is used in a much broader sense. Jisho seems to agree: to own -


I guess this isn’t wrong, but the usual structure is 〜に〜がある, so you’d usually get「ジョンさんはペンがあります。」

I think it would be「ジョンさんはペンている。」I suspect either verb is fine, but yes

this is true. It can even be used in an abstract sense: 〜に興味を持つ (to have an interest in ~) is a common phrase.

I think this is used for rather specific possessions, like money or status.

EDIT: Oh yeah, one more thing:

To me, this sounds stiff more because of the repetition of ペンが. I would have expected the conversation to sound like this:

ペン ありますか。
ありませんけど、ジョンさん には あります。

What you wrote isn’t wrong, but I feel like this might be a bit more natural?

持っている does feel slightly more concrete though, so in the situation you mentioned, I might prefer it to ある.


Well, if I can pile on a little bit to the sounding strange train, 持ている isn’t a word and ペンが持っている should be ペンを持っている

use を here too.

I still feel like its fine to use ある for whenever other people have stuff, but I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head that I’ve heard recently. Either way I would use 持っている in that situation, though.


Yeah I can’t say I’ve ever heard it or used it, I was just wondering about it because it seems like the most grammatically straightforward way of putting it.

Wait really? I thought にある was just for things in places, I have no idea how I’ve never learned this. I always hated using は so much in those sentences, I guess that’s why.

Okay yes I don’t know how I got that one wrong I definitely know that one.

I’ve heard both 持つ and ある being used in this way but I’ve never really thought about it. I’ve always defaultes to ある.

I intentionally tried to keep the grammar as N5 as possible, but yes I agree, thanks!

Same for above, i don’t know how that went over my head.

I think I was originally taught that 持つ is for physically holding stuff so I’ve always been hesitant about using it unless it’s explicit, even though words like 金持ち exist.

1 Like

I was kinda taught that originally, but some of my more recent studies and a lot of the way I’ve heard it used naturally (I’m currently in Japan) implies the sense of just having the item with you. Like, you can use 持って来て when you’re talking about bringing something somewhere (パスコンを持って来てください)and that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to hold it in their hands the whole time, just that they’ll bring it with them.

Then again, I’m still working out the details myself because I hear 持つ used for a lot of things I would’ve assumed to be ある. :sweat_smile: I think part of it is that when I hear it, 持つ almost reads like ‘bring’ sometimes rather than ‘have’, but then when you make it 持ってる it makes it ongoing, so you “brought and still have it,” so to speak.

I dunno if any of that made sense, I guess my tldr is that 持つ gets used more than I initially realized compared to ある.

P.S. just reread and saw that you’re an ALT, so :handshake:. Did you come through JET or a private company? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.


It appears to be exclusive to the pet meaning. I know in the anime/manga Chainsaw Man, the main character is approached by a woman who offers him to live with her as her pet. The only way that the “pet” meaning gets across is because the original Japanese uses 飼う. I haven’t seen it (飼う) used any other way, but there might be an instance or two of some exceptions somewhere, probably in comedy skits

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.