Alternative existential sentences
Expressing something's existence in a certain place or location is not just limited to 在 (zài) and 有 (yǒu). The word order may be a little different from what you are used to, but 着 (zhe) and 是 (shì) are also ways to make everyday statements such as, "There is a book lying on the desk."
Pattern with 着
Verbs that are paired with 着 are usually stative verbs, strong action verbs are not used in this case.
Place + Verb + 着 + [Noun Phrase]
- 桌子 上 放 着 一 本 书 。There is a book on the desk.
- 大厅 里 站 着 一些 警察 。There are several policemen standing in the hall.
- 教室 里 坐 着 两 百 多 个 学生 。There are more than two hundred students sitting in the classroom.
- 地下室 里 堆 着 很 多 旧 东西 。The basement is piled with lots of old stuff.
- 楼下 停 着 几 辆 车 。A few cars are parked downstairs.
Pattern with 是
The subject in the 是 sentence pattern indicates the location or area. The object behind 是 is the only thing in this area.
Place + 是 + [Noun Phrase]
- 洗衣机 里 是 一些 脏 衣服 。There is nothing in the washing machine other than the dirty clothes.There are dirty clothes inside the washing machine.
- 袋子 里 是 我 的 午饭 。The only thing in the bag is my lunch.My lunch is in the bag.
- 墙 上 都 是 他 家人 的 照片 。His family's photos are all over the wall, and nothing else is on he wall.His family's photos are hanging on the wall.
- 盒子 里 是 你 的 礼物 。Other than your gift, there is nothing else in the box.Your gift is in the box.
- 桌子 上 是 昨天 没 吃完 的 菜 。The food that was left over from yesterday is the only thing on the table.The food that was left over from yesterday is on the table.
Note that 是 is used to describe a singular object existing somewhere, while 有 can refer to multiple objects/people.
- Indicating location with "zai" before verbs
- Special cases of "zai" following verbs
- Expressing existence in a place with "zai"
Sources and Further Reading
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 128) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 1 (pp. 191) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 2 (pp. 264, 325) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 4 (新实用汉语课本4) (pp. 40-1, 164-5, 185) →buy