There is (non-living) vs. There is (living)

The polite versions of these are:

First one is a Godan verb the 2nd one is Ichidan. Why might this be?
It seems like another “irregularity”, it seems like they could both be the same type of verb:

I’m trying to think of a reason why this would be, and it could be making them sound different enough to be easier to know when someone is talking about a living versus a non-living thing. What do you think?

Well, ある could never be conjugated as あます since ある doesn’t end in an ~iru or ~eru sound and must therefore be godan.

いる can be いります, and there’s actually another いる verb (要る; to need) that is in fact a godan verb. The いる meaning “to be” (居る) just happens to be ichidan.

As for why, there’s probably no way to know. Maybe linguists have theories on the etymology for stuff like this, but I doubt anyone actually knows the reason for something like this. Regardless, I don’t see that knowing would help in any way.

(By the way, が is a particle and not actually part of the verbs)


Yes; the answer often comes down to “historical accident”. As it happens, ある as verb of existence is very old, going right back to Old Japanese which is the earliest we have any sources for. いる is much more recent, only being used as a verb of existence starting with Late Middle Japanese (1200-1600); before that it was a verb that meant "to sit down”. This newness shows up in some dialects using a different verb (both for existence and for the grammar duties that standard Japanese assigns to ~ている.) Why is いる not the same verb group as ある? Pure chance that the “to sit” verb it developed from was in a different verb group[*]. Was there any pressure to keep it distinct so as to make the animate/inanimate distinction clear? Seems unlikely, given that before the rise of いる the one verb ある was used for both animate and inanimate, and for a period you could effectively use either for animate subjects.

[*] Well, that and that ある was and is irregular, which is very much to be expected of a verb that’s been doing a job like “to be” for over 1500 years; only verbs that were essentially formed originally from ある inflected exactly like ある. In modern Japanese some of the irregularity has gone away with the collapse of the old monograde/bigrade/quadrigrade into ichidan/godan, but a different lot has come in with the negative form.

(My source for all this is Frellesvig, A History of the Japanese Language.)


So that explains 御座います! That’s so cool!


Existence verbs originating in a verb meaning “to sit” seems to be not uncommon (Frellesvig says おる is from a different OJ verb meaning “to be sitting” and also notes something similar in Danish). ござる has a funny etymology which he explains as:

  • there were respectful existential verbs owas- and owasimas-, and the kanji pair 御座 was used as the kun reading for those verbs
  • in early Late Middle Japanese a word was coined by using the on reading of the kanji compound with ある tacked on the end, to give 御座ある = ござある (negative form ござない). This became more popular and by the end of the LMJ period had become ござる

Side note, OP, any reason you haven’t installed a Japanese keyboard so you can type in kana instead of romaji? :slightly_smiling_face:


I don’t see a link with ござる,
But it adds a new light to 居酒屋

I think Myria was probably referring to the 座 being in 御座います.