Common Mistakes: How to translate “There is a taxi over there” in Japanese?

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Anyone who has studied even a little Japanese should easily be able to explain the difference between “imasu” and “arimasu”.

庭にネコがいます。
庭に木があります。
庭にブランコがあります。

Niwa ni neko ga imasu.
Niwa ni ki ga arimasu.
Niwa ni buranko ga arimasu.

There’s a cat in the garden.
There’s a tree in the garden.
There’s a swing in the garden.

That’s right, you use “imasu” for animate beings (a cat), and “arimasu” for living things that can’t move on their own (a tree) and for inanimate objects (a swing).

To apply this rule, you would use “imasu” when referring to fish swimming in an aquarium, such as 「水槽に魚が五匹います」”Suisou ni sakana ga gohiki imasu”, “there are 5 fish in the aquarium”, and “arimasu” when talking about fish on display in a case at the fish market, such as「ショーケースに魚が5匹あります」”Shoukeisu ni sakana ga gokiki arimasu”, “there are 5 fish in the case”.

So, what about taxis lined up at the station? Would you use “arimasu” or “imasu” to describe this? “Takushii ga aru” or “Takushii ga iru”?

Taxis are inanimate objects, but pay attention to the fact that a driver is on board.

A:うわ、もうこんな時間。急いで、タクシーつかまえなきゃ。
B:駅前なら、タクシーいるんじゃない?
A:そうだね、行ってみよう。

A:Uwa, mou kon’na jikan. Isoide taxi tsukamae nakya.
B:Ekimae nara taxi irun’ja nai?
A:Sou dane, itte miyou.

A: Wow, it’s this late already? I gotta hurry up and catch a cab.
B: Aren’t there taxis in front of the station?
A: Oh yeah, I’ll go check it out.

It’s interesting that modes of transport such as cars, trains, planes, and ships are treated as “living things” when a person is operating them.

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Iidabashi Japanese Language School

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School motto is "Be Unique, Have fun Globally!" We teach classes focused on conversation skills to foreigners living in Japan.

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