The Japanese copula ‘Desu’

The Japanese copula ‘Desu’


Desu, written as です, is a Japanese copula that is usually translated as ‘to be’ and it is almost always at the end of a sentence. When です is used at the end of a sentence, it makes the sentence in its polite form. The only exemption is if the sentence is an interrogative sentence. Though there is a difference in the level of politeness in a Japanese sentence, for today’s blog, we will only focus on です.

Even though です is written as ‘’ and ‘’, the ‘u’ in is silent. です is read as ‘des’. Though, there are people who include the ‘u’ in ‘desu’ when reading it, usually the lyrics of a song, to emphasize the word.

For foreigners like me, です is safe to use in almost all situations, except if we have a chance to talk to anyone in the Imperial family.

The common pattern in using です in a sentence is ‘X Y です’, meaning X is Y. If you want to learn about the Japanese particle , you can click this link.

For example:

(Watashi ha gakusei desu.)

I am a student.

In this sentence, ‘I’ is equal to ‘Student’ (I = student). わたし ()is a Japanese pronoun meaning ‘I’. がくせい (学生) means ‘Student’.

(Anata ha utsukushii desu.)

You are beautiful.

 This sentence is ‘Beautiful’ = ‘You’. あなた is a Japanese pronoun and translated as ‘You’ while うつくしい (美しい) means ‘Beautiful’.

(Yuto-kun ha nihonjin desu.)

Yuto is Japanese.

 にほんじん (日本人) means Japanese person.  くん () is a masculine honorific suffix, mostly used by boys, young and adult men.

Now let’s check other sentences which are not ‘X Y です’.  Subjects are often omitted in a Japanese sentence especially when the speaker thinks that the listener already knows what they are referring to.  


(Sanjuusai desu.)

(I am) 30 years old.

さんじゅう (三十) means 30 while さい () is a counter for age.  If we will complete the sentence, it will: 私は三十歳です。(わたしはさんじゅうさいです。)

もしもし, わたしです。
(Moshi moshi, watashi desu.)
Hello, it’s me.

もしもし means ‘Hello’ in English and usually used when answering a call.

If you are not sure what to use at the end of a sentence, you can always use です. Or for foreigners like me, we could always use the がいじん (外人) card. But it is always better to learn and study the Japanese language more to know how to create polite sentences.


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