Home » 100 Grammar Points » 2.です, the Copula

100 GRAMMAR POINTS

2. です, the Copula

です desu is a copula (a word used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate).

  • It shows that something is or isn’t something else.
  • It is one of the very few irregular forms in Japanese.
  • です can act like the English “to be” (you know; is, am, are…) in the sense that です is used to explain who or what something or someone is.
  • It is also used when equating one thing with another.

Examples of the Japanese Copula

ゾウ は 大きい です

Romaji: zou wa ookii desu.

Literal:
  • elephants (topic particle)
  • big
  • are

Natural: Elephants are large.

これ は ねこ です

Romaji: kore wa neko desu.
Literal:
  • this (topic particle)
  • cat
  • is

Natural: This is a cat.

Most of the time you want to use the “to be” verb you will use です.
Later, we will learn other forms to show existence.

だ as the plain copula

As a beginner, you will want to use です in speech. However, a less formal version, the plain copula, is だ. It is often used among friends and in informal situations.

これ は ねこ です。 (This is a cat)
Is the same thing as:
これ は ねこ だ。 (This is a cat.)

Main Points

  • is, are, am
  • always at the end
  • it doesn’t change like its English cousin (is, are, am) in the present tense
  • usually pronounced like “dess
  • the plain form is だ and is used in informal situations or among friends.

100 GRAMMAR POINTS

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2 Comments

  1. Pasi Rahko

    There is also “Da” word meaning exactly the same “to be” as “Desu”. “Da” is more familiar and casual and not so formal or literary, and it’s used mostly by male speakers.

    Reply
    • clay

      Thank you, Pasi. I’ll add that to the page.

      Reply

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