Conjugation in Japanese is carried out with bases plus endings. This is just a fact of life. So, because we are now looking at our first conjugatable word, the copula verb, you will now have to start learning about the bases. This is no different than learning them through other indirect names in other courses. You're just learning the actual terms for the actual system. That's all.
Copula(r) verb may be a new word for you, but all it really refers to is the "to be" word. Although it doesn't always actual like the English word, it is the basic element in making a standard declarative sentence (X is Y). We start with this kind of sentence because is the most basic sentence structure found in most languages.
There will only be two bases introduced to you in this lesson. This accounts for a third of the bases that exist. The two that we learn now are the only one's necessary to make basic sentences for "is" as well as negative and past tense phrases, which are not hard to make in Japanese.
The Japanese equivalent of "to be" is である, which normally contracts to だ. It's an auxiliary verb, so it can't be by itself in most situations. Japanese cares about politeness, so である and だ both have polite forms. We'll learn learn more about when to use polite speech, but for now know that Japanese has these different styles. The polite form of だ is です, which is a contraction of であります, the polite form of である.
We are focusing on just four words--である, だ, です and であります-- that all mean "is", but they are used in different situations. Two terms to learn is not that much, and the names are broken down below. Forget the names and read the description. The second is just the word itself. The other is used for the actual conjugations in this lesson. だ may look more complicated, but you won't be left hanging.
|連用形||Used with tense, politeness, etc. items.||であり-||だっ・で||でし-||でありまし‐|
|終止形||The sentence final form.||である||だ||です||であります|
連用形 is simple. 連, which is read as れん, gives a sense of "connecting" and "going along". 用, which is read as よう, means "usage". Together, 連用 refers to "continuous use". Most endings attach to this form because most things deal with things being/about to be carried out or has already taken place. 形, which is read as けい here, means "form".
The 終止形 is the easiest base as it is the form you use in dictionaries and relates to the "to..." form in English. 終 means "finish and is read as しゅう in this word. 止 means "end/stop" and is read as し in this word. Together, 終止 means "stop/termination". Most importantly, it notes the stop of a sentence or clause.
Though not a perfect explanation, Japanese has two basic tenses: non-past and past. Non-past is equivalent to present or future tense depending on context. Aside from this, Japanese also conjugates for making negatives and what not. So, we use endings rather than separate words.
The non-past is the base form: the しゅうしけい. Anything you see at the end of a sentence is in it. The other base just helps us make everything else. You are not expected to take the bases above and figure things out. All of that is down for you below the chart. You can just memorize the phrases if you want, but knowing how things work is not going to hurt you.
The chart below shows the past, negative, and negative past for the copula verbs. It may seem a lot with the different speech levels, but it really isn't. For one, である going to だ in everyday speech is not a big deal. The stiff column is literary and you likely won't encounter these forms often for now. The slang column only has one thing in it, and this as you can imagine should only be used among friends. And, the form is clearly a contraction of what's in the plain column.
What about plain versus polite? Are you with friends or are you with people whom you should be polite too? Choosing the right speech level is not extremely easy, but it also isn't rocket science. The forms themselves are not that different from each other. For now, equate plain speech for when you're with people who are close to you. Be polite when the people you are talking to are not close to you, and be more polite with superiors.
|Negative: (isn't)||じゃねー|| ではない|
|Negative past: (wasn't)|| ではなかった|
1. Past tense is made with 連用形 ＋ -た. The construction method is detailed below.
|だ → だっ ＋ た ＝ だった||です → でし ＋ た ＝ でした|| ではない → ではなかり ＋ た ＝ ではなかった|
じゃない → じゃなかり ＋ た ＝ じゃなかった
2. じゃ is a contraction of では and is less polite. で is a れんようけい of だ and は is a particle. じゃ should not be used in formal writing. Even though this contraction shows up in the more polite column as well, じゃ only appears in the spoken language. Using the full form では in these conjugations is always politer.
3. The polite columns are more complicated. In the polite column, です attaches to the end of everything, and でした attaches to ｛では・じゃ｝ありません. です just can't attach to anything. Here, its function is to add politeness. Broadly speaking, adding the copula to something other than nouns may not be OK. Only certain forms may be OK. The meaning may also not be what you expect it is OK. Just because it is translated as "is" does not mean you should run with it.
4. To show how です can be wrong as a polite ending, consider であります. It comes from である by adding ～ます.The れんようけい goes with the politeness marker ～ます. You use ～ます with actual verbs. である comes from a particle plus an actual verb. あるです would just be wrong. です is used only with nouns and adjectives. The ない is actually an adjective meaning "not". If you were paying attention to Bulletin 1, you would have seen that ない’s れんようけい is なかり. But, we don't say なかります. We also don't say なかりです. We say ないです. So, you just add です to the しゅうしけい only with adjectives. Adding it to nouns is OK because they don't conjugate.
5. Remember ～ませんでした? ある in である is a verb. We know that ますattaches to make it polite. If we use ました to make ます past, then ～ます has its own bases. So, ます’s れんようけい is まし‐. This doesn't mean you can do everything with it. For instance, ～まします would be wrong because you don't add the same thing again to be politer. Returning to ～ませんでした, ～た is at the end. The ordering of things is "politeness + negative element + です + た. Actual verb conjugation is more complicated. So for now, know that this pattern is for polite negative past for verbs only.
You may be wondering why you had to learn so much about the phrases themselves. Believe it or not, all of these points about what is wrong all stem from the fact that students do say these things. If you don't get told of patterns explicitly, you'll still notice them. But, because you're not native, you don't know how far they take you. We all also want to know "why" things are the way they are. You were told to just skip it all if you didn't want to know, but if you persevered, you should now have no problem understanding the grammar of the sentences below.
I'm (an) American.
Particle Note: We are lucky that most of these sentences in this lesson have no subject because "it" doesn't exist. Well, it's equivalent is nothing most of the time. For this sentence and Ex. 8, we'll need to use は to make the sentence complete. For now, that's all you need to know as the next lesson will be about it.
It('ll be/'s) tomorrow.
3. 水だった。（Plain past)
It was water.
4. 寺でした。（Polite past)
It was a temple.
5a. オレじゃねー。（Vulgar; masculine; negative)
5b. 私じゃねー。 X/△
It's not me.
Pronoun Note: Remember from Lesson 7 that a lot of pronouns exist in Japanese, and they are all different in politeness, and your gender may also decide which ones are OK for you to use. Since we are now looking at sentences in various styles, we can see this variation in action. So, 5b would just be weird to say the least.
6. ブタじゃない。(Plain negative)
It is not a pig.
7. 虫じゃないです。(Polite negative)
It's not a bug.
Subject Note: If we can drop the subject if it's obvious in context, who says "it" is actually the subject for Ex. 6 and 7? It certainly doesn't have to be the subject. So, if you used Ex. 6 to mean "I'm not a pig", that would be fine too.
8. リーさんは学生ではありません。(Polite negative)
Mr. Lee isn't a student.
9. いいえ、そうじゃありません。(Polite negative)
No, it isn't.
10. 雨じゃなかった。(Plain negative past)
It wasn't rain.
Meaning Note: Conceptualizing the word "being" in all its facets in English with the Japanese copula will only result in unnatural sentences. Here we are looking at very simple declarative sentences, but if you were to want to say something like "I like being a doctor", ”いしゃであることがすきだ” would be really strange Japanese, at least in a general situation. The correction for this would be いしゃ｛で・になって｝よかった. As you can see, there are several new things in these two phrases. What this is meant to show is that you cannot assume anything is the exact same as the English translation. You must always pay attention to how Japanese phrases things. This is more important than just learning individual words and hoping it'll be correct Japanese once you do an appropriate Japanese rearranging.
Practice: Translate the following.
1. It's not a dog. (Polite)
2. It's a flower. (Plain)
3. It wasn't a country. (Plain)
4. It wasn't rain. (Polite)
5. It's not the moon. (Plain)