When the actual meaning of a phrase isn't obvious from the literal meanings of the words that it contains, what we get is an idiom. Those misleading expressions are among the trickiest parts in learning any language, but in Japanese, opaque "inside jokes" are not limited to proper idioms; they also exist in the general vocabulary and grammar.
One common example is a special use of the verb ある. Most of the time, this verb is used to indicate existence ("there is") or possession (equivalent to "have"). But it also means "a certain", "a particular"—when pointing at something that either cannot be identified or is deliberately left unidentified.
This function of vague reference is so different from the verb's normal meaning that dictionaries actually list this ある as a separate derivative word. They are even written differently in kanji. The regular ある is often written as 在る (for existence) 有る (for possession). The special ある, though, is written 或る, and this is what you'll see in the dictionary entry for this word. It may also appear in texts as just 或, without any accompanying hiragana.
If you are familiar with Chinese, you'll instantly recognize this character from the common word 或 (pronounced huò), which means "or". In fact, this sense of the kanji actually exists in Japanese too, in the form of the expression あるいは, which is spelled 或いは or 或は (and confusingly enough, can also mean "perhaps" in addition to "or").
Here's an example of how this special ある is used in context, in Akutagawa Ryunosuke's short story Playing Tag (featured in Reajer 11 – learn more about it on Amazon and iBooks).
On the outskirts of a certain town, he was playing tag with her—a younger girl.
As the hiragana annotations reveal, 或町 is actually two words: first the verb 或る written in its abbreviated form 或, and then 町, "town". It generally takes some experience to be able to identify where adjacent characters in Japanese are actually separate words, but it's pretty straightforward with 或, since there are no common compounds that use this kanji. Wherever you see it on its own, it's safe to assume it should be read ある (either the standalone verb or as part of 或いは).
However, all three types of ある are just as likely to be written in hiragana, without the 或 that would have helped you to tell exactly which ある it's supposed to be.
The rule is that the special あるis always used on its own and qualifies a noun that immediately follows it, just like in the example sentence. This ある is used more like a descriptive adjective than as a verb, and it never appears at the end of a sentence or clause. When you remember these identifying features, it becomes fairly simple to tell this ある apart from its more conventional relatives.
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