Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The word for "have": 持っている vs. には~がある/いる

Disclaimer: I didn't get this from any book, but this is something that I picked up by hearing these two expressions many times.

Consider the following sentences in English:

1. I have a car.
2. I have two brothers.
3. I have talent.

In English, the idea of possession of a "car", "brother", or "talent" are all handled by the same word, "have". However, in Japanese, there's another nuance that has to be taken care of.

What's the difference between having a car and a brother? One difference here is that you will always have a brother - it's something that's part of you - while you can buy or discard a car. Having a "brother" is inherent, and having a "car" is not. Note that this divide also holds for possession of animate/inanimate objects. Having a "cat" is inherent, but having a "house" is not.

In Japanese, these two nuances are covered by two different sentence patterns: ~を持っている (lit. to hold), and ~に~がいる/ある (lit. to exist in).

1. I have a car. 車を持っています。Kuruma wo motte imasu.
2. I have two brothers. 私には兄弟が二人います。Watashi niwa kyoudai ga futari imasu.

Now let's look at the 3rd example. What about "talent"? It's inanimate, but is it something that you can pick up or discard anytime? It turns out that "talent" or "sainou" 才能 is one of those words where either sentence pattern will work. A quick search on google will give around 46 million hits for "才能を持って" (includes both the negative and positive form, and compound sentences as well), 21 million hits for "才能を持っている" (strictly positive form), and around 3 million hits for "才能を持っていない". On the other hand, 才能がない (negative form) has about 1.6 million hits, while 才能がある (strictly positive form) has 28.5 million hits.

Here are some sentences that I got from Google search and Kenkyusha's 5th ed Japanese-English dictionary.

1. 彼女には商売の才能がある. Kanojo ni wa shoubai no sainou ga aru. (She has a talent/flair for business.)
2. 君は音楽の才能がある. Kimi wa ongaku no sainou ga aru. (You have talent in music.) Note that  is omitted here.
3. 誰でも輝く才能を持っているんだから、それを見つけて仕事をすればいい. Daredemo kagayaku sainou wo motte iru n dakara, sore wo mitsukete shigoto wo sureba ii. (Because anyone has shining talent, discover it and work.)
4. 1%の才能を持っていない人は何をやっても無駄。Ichi paasento no sainou wo motte inai hito wa nani wo yattemo muda. (People who do not have 1% talent are a waste no matter what they do.) This is in reference to Edison's 99%-1% rule, which, translated in Japanese, is 99% hard work and 1% talent.