The identifying ‘shì’ sentence pattern: ‘NPloc (Reference object) + shì + Located object’ This sentence pattern is similar to the existence ‘yǒu’ pattern in word order. The NP of place occurring in the sentence-initial position is definite in the sense that its existence has already been established in the discourse context either linguistically or extra-linguistically. The basic function of the copula ‘shì’ is to identify or characterize a thing, so in the sentence encoding spatial relationship, the copula ‘shì’ is to identify or characterize the located object that occurs at the end of the sentence. This pattern differs from the ‘yǒu’ sentence in that the speaker is aware that the hearer knows about the existence of a located object in a certain place, and he believes that the hearer is interested in the object. Therefore, the speaker wants to tell the hearer what that located object is which exists in the reference object. Thus this sentence pattern is pragmatically different from the ‘yǒu’ sentence, so they are used in different discourse contexts, which will be further explained in the following examples.
Zhuōzi shàngbian shì wǒ gěi mèimei mǎi de xīn zìdiǎn.
(On the table is the new dictionary that I bought for my younger sister.)
Dàlóu duìmiàn shì/yǒu yījiā Sìchuān fànguǎn.
(Opposite the building is a Sichuan restaurant.)
Wǒmen de jiàoshì zuǒbian shì èr bān de jiàoshì.
(To the left of our classroom is the classroom of Class 2.)
*Wǒmen de jiàoshì zuǒbian yǒu yī gè èr bān de jiàoshì.
Shān xiàbian yǒu yī piàn xiǎoshùlín.
(Down the hill there is a wood).
For (1a) to be appropriate, the speaker believes that the existence of the located object ‘a book’ is evident to the hearer, but what is unknown to him is the identity of the object, and the speaker also has reason to believe that the hearer has an interest in knowing about the object. In (1b), if ‘yǒu’ sentence is chosen, the speaker simply informs the hearer of the existence of a Sichan restaurant in a certain place as a piece of new information, there is no assumption that the hearer has any knowledge of the restaurant. The ‘shì’ sentence, on the other hand, is appropriate only under the condition that the speaker believes that the hearer has some knowledge about the existence of restaurants nearby, and he wants to identify which one is a Sichan restaurant. But (1c’) is unacceptable, because in a certain school and for a certain grade, there is only one ‘Class Two’, it is definite, so it cannot be preceded by an indefinite noun marker ‘yíge’ (one). Please compare sentence (1) and (2), we see that the verb ‘yǒu’ introduces a located object totally unknown to the hearer, its existence is not presupposed. Thus the ‘yǒu’ construction is often used for description of a place.
 Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.