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. So unlike with action verbs, you're going to be describing an action that is kind of like just sitting there. It could be standing there, lying there, sitting there hanging there... the point is it isn't actively doing anything.
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.
Note that in English we sometimes use a verb in its "-ing" form, and sometimes use the passive "-ed" form of the verb.
Pattern with 是
The subject in the 是 sentence pattern indicates the location or area. The object that comes after 是 is the only thing (worth mentioning) in that area. It's worth noting that there's no real time indication for most sentences like this. It could be setting a scene in a story (in the past), or it could be describing the current state of things (in the present).
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