Sentence 1: 桌子上有一本作业 Sentence 2: 桌子上有我的作业

I think both sentences are correct. However, I just watched a grammar video which mentioned the existential sentence with "有" can only carry a non-specific noun. If so, "桌子上有我的作业“ wouldn't be correct, because "我的作业" is specific. So I am confused. Can anyone explain this?

  • Any link to the video?
    – Stan
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 8:21
  • @Stan There isn't a link to the video, since the video is part of a registered course. You can register the course for free to watch. The website is: edx.org/course/… (中级汉语语法)
    – cnwang09
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 11:53

4 Answers 4


Yes, normally, in standard usage

zhūozishàng yǒu wǒde zuòyè 桌子上有我的作业

isn't supposed to be correct. You'll hear it a lot, though, especially if a different specific noun phrase is contrasted, such as

dàn méiyǒu nǐde zuòyè 但没有你的作业.

My Better Half, a native speaker, swears there's nothing wrong with

yǒu wǒde zuòyè 有我的作业.

Addendum: The preferred way of dealing with stating the location of a specified noun (modified by a personal pronoun ( 我, etc.) or a deictic pronoun ( 那, etc.) is to make it the topic of the sentence, giving it greatest focus, as befits a specified noun. So

wǒde zuòyè zài zhūozishàng 我的作业在桌子上



hi actually Chinese people can understand both sentence and we cannot even tell which is right or wrong in grammar. I believe that for most Chinese people they think both sentence are right.😃this is unbelievable but true😁If you want to communicate with Chinese people is not that hard.But sorry actually I can't help you with this problem. Good luck with your Chinese studying☺️


Maybe the video is trying to make you understand the difference between 有 and 是, which is basically "definiteness".

桌子上一本作业 (indefinite)
桌子上我的作业 (definite)

But I wouldn't say it's wrong to say 桌子上有我的作业, even not being a native speaker.

  • maybe video is about the following, * 一本作业在桌子上 ungrammatical,我的作业在桌子上 correct,1st example corrected:有一本作业在桌子上, subject before verb requires subject to be of definite reference, situation can be rectified by putting verb 有 in front of indefinite subject, another example: Two of them froze to death.他们当中有两人冻死了, consult "word order in Chinese"
    – user6065
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 4:02
  • @Enrico Brasil Yes. The video is talking about the existential sentences with 在,有,and 是, but I am more confused after I watched it. I think both "是" and "有" can carry either indefinite or definite nouns. In my opinion, 桌子上是一本作业 is also correct.
    – cnwang09
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 11:58
  • 1
    cf。CCG(2016)16。3 ... C, unlike E lacks definite and indefinite articles, and def and indef ref is often decided simply by context. ... in narrative sentences, it is usually the position of a noun in relation to the verb that indicates its ref. A noun in a pre-verbal position, that is the subject of a sentence, gen encodes known or old inf and is therefore of def ref whereas a noun in a post-verbal pos ... tends to encode unkn or new inf and is cons of indef ref...有 is used as a dummy verb when an indefinitely referenced noun is moved to a subject, that is, pre-verbal pos
    – user6065
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 16:24
  • @cnwang09 As user6065's references supported, the video is correct and is consistent with my experience, although you may have heard both sentences in colloquial language, the 有+definite one is grammatically wrong.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 19:45
  • @user6065 How do you make a post-verbal position noun to be a definite reference then? Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 1:48

Both are correct. The video is wrong.

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