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Clearly, if something is not present or does not exist, it's usually natural to say 없다, and likewise, it's usually natural to use 있다 when something exists or is there.

But my question is — is it possible to say 있지 않아요 (or 있는지 않아요) or 안 없어요? To achieve a particular emphasis, perhaps? Or is that just wrong?

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  1. '-지 않다' is an auxiliary verb [보조 용언] which is used to negate a verb or adjective. For example:

(1) 나는 여자친구가 있어요. I have a girl friend.

(2) 나는 여자친구가 없어요. I don't have a girlfriend. (I have no girl friend.)

(3) 나는 여자친구가 있지(는) / 있진 (contraction of 있지는) 않아요. I don't have a girlfriend.

(4) 나는 여자친구가 없지(는) / 없진 (contraction of 없지는) 않아요. I have a girlfriend.

No. 3 and No. 4 are more emphatic than No. 1 and No. 2, but they are not as broadly used.

Adding the particle '-는' is also optional and it is used for emphasis.

  1. '안 없어요?' sounds like a Korean language beginner talking. It will never be used by a native Korean speaker unless (s)he wants to make a joke.

"여자친구 안 없어요?" sounds like asking if you have a girl friend, but it is not idiomatic. However, "여자친구 안 있어요?" would be understood to mean "Don't you have a girl friend?".

'안' (네이버 국어사전 link) shows that it is an adverb (부사) which is a contracted form of '아니' and it is used to negate a verb or adjective or to make an opposite meaning (of an adjective, e.g., 덥다 (hot) vs 안 덥다 (not hot)).

‘아니1(1. 부정이나 반대의 뜻을 나타내는 말)’의 준말.

안 벌고 안 쓰다. (Literally) Subject doesn't earn money and doesn't spend it.

안 춥다. Not cold. (춥다, cold)

비가 안 온다. (Literally) The rain doesn't come. (It is not raining.)

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You may say '존재하지 않는다' (It does not exist), or ~~을(를) 가지고 있지 않다 (You do not have it) or otherwise acceptable way but 있는지 않아요 and 안 없어요 is plain wrong.

있지 않다 is sometimes used in translations, too.

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  • Interesting that 있지 않다 is used in translations - would you be able to tell me an example?
    – topo morto
    Jul 15 '16 at 7:01
  • @topo My quick google suggests that -- italki.com/question/266780 's last part. (I also agree with that and I have used the terms such way, so...)
    – revi
    Jul 15 '16 at 7:09
  • Thanks. Why do you think it is natural to use in that translation if it's not standard Korean? Just because it matches the English construction?
    – topo morto
    Jul 15 '16 at 7:18
  • Sometimes just to increase their article's length or people are not cautious of grammatical weirdness.
    – revi
    Jul 15 '16 at 8:18
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안 있어요 (✔ and ✘) (In place of 없다, 안 있다 cannot be used.1)

  • 저는 이 집에 얼마 안 있어요. 조만간 이사 가요. (✔)
  • 애가 가만 안 있어요. 기분이 좋은가 봐요. (✔)
  • 이 물건은 값 안 있어요. (✘; "... 값이 없어요" is correct.)
  • 오늘은 시간이 안 있어요. (✘; "... 시간이 없어요" is correct.)

있지 않아요 (✔)

  • 저는 집에 오래 있지 않아요. 밖에 나가 놀기를 좋아해서요.
  • 애가 밤에도 가만 있지를 않아요. 이를 어쩌죠?
  • 아이가 저기에 있지 않아요?
  • 행복은 멀리에 있지 않아요.
  • 지금 가실 데 있지 않아요?

있는지 않아요 (✘) ("-는-" cannot be placed right before "-지 않다." For 않다 as an auxiliary verb and adjective, Standard Korean Language Dictionary mentions the grammar: "동사/형용사 뒤에서 ‘-지 않다’ 구성으로 쓰여.")

안 없어요 (✘) (없다, 말다, 모르다, and 아니다 are negated not by 안 but by "-지 않-".2)

없지 않아요 (✔)

  • 우리가 이러고 있을 시간이 없지 않아요?
  • 저도 돈이 없지는 않아요.
  • 저도 제 마음을 모를 때가 없지 않아요.
  • 그래도 일할 데가 없지 않아요.

References (excluding the dictionary):

  1. "합성용언에서의 어근 분리와 부정소 삽입" by 최형강

  2. "한국어 문법" by 이익섭

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