第8課: Da & Desu: だ & です

Up to now, you have seen a few sentences in Japanese. A lot goes into a sentence, but perhaps the most fundamental kind of sentence is "X is Y." In Japanese, though, just a bit more has to be considered. If you want to say "is," you have to think about politeness. 

Vocabulary List


・犬 Inu – Dog

・時間 Jikan – Time

・ネコ Neko – Cat 

・日本人 Nihonjin – Japanese person

Copula Verbs 

・だ/です Da/desu – Is/are/to be


・明日 Ashita – Tomorrow


・えっと Etto – Um 

・あ A – Ah 

The Copula Verb: Non-Past 

Japanese has two basic tenses: non-past and past. Non-past refers to the present or future depending on context. What usually determines whether you're referring to the present or the future are time words like "tomorrow" that could only be interpreted as the future, distinguishing the sentence from that of the present. As far as appearance is concerned, the non-past form will always be the base form of anything that conjugates.

To make a "to be" sentence, in other words, to say "X is Y" and Y is a noun, you'll need what is called a copula verb. This word simply refers to what in English is the verb "to be." In Japanese, the main forms of this verb are da だ and desu です. The first is used in plain speech whereas the latter is used in polite speech.

 Plain Speech Polite Speech
 Da Desu です


In this lesson, all examples will be in the non-past tense so that you get used to using だ & です. We'll then learn how past tense and other forms work later. All example sentences will be "There is" or "It is" kind of "X is Y" sentences. Absolutely no additional grammatical items will be added to them. This allows us to avoid any grammar we haven't seen yet. 

1. 明日あした。(Plain)
     Ashita da.
   It('ll be/'s) tomorrow.

2. 犬です。
     Inu desu.
    That is/it is a dog.

3. 時間(じかん)です。
    Jikan desu.
     It's time.

4. あ、ネコだ!
    A, neko da!
  Ah, (it's) a cat!

5. えっと、日本人(にほんじん)です。
    Etto, Nihonjin desu.
   Um, I'm Japanese. 

Meaning Note: Conceptualizing the word "to be" in all its facets with da/desu だ・です will not work. In harder sentences like "I like being a doctor," the correct Japanese would not necessarily have da/desu だ・です . Always pay attention to how Japanese phrases things. This is more important than just learning individual words and hoping it'll be correct once you do an appropriate rearranging. As for "there is.../it is" sentences, hardly anything will differ between English and Japanese.  

Next Lesson → 第9課: The Particles が & は