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Understanding the Meaning of だ (da) and です (desu) in Japanese

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Understanding the Meaning of だ (da) and です (desu) in Japanese'

Anna Baffa Volpe

Understanding the Meaning of だ (da) and です (desu) in Japanese

The copula だ is at the center of the Japanese language and grammar. だ is a notoriously complicated grammatical construct, but it's also an essential part of understanding a sentence in Japanese.

Whether you're just starting out in your Japanese language journey or you're a seasoned learner, understanding the ins and outs of だ is crucial for clear communication.

In this post, we'll take a deep dive into the world of だ, exploring its meaning, usage, and conjugation rules.


What does だ mean in Japanese

The verb だ/です (da / desu) means to be, is, or are. だ is the copula in Japanese and it is one of the first elements that one learns at the beginning of the study of the language.

The plain form we find in the dictionary is and its polite form である.

です is often considered a polite form of だ; it actually belongs to Sonkeigo (そん)(けい)(), the honorific language of respect.

Let's see the meaning of だ taken from an original Japanese dictionary:

1断定する意を表す。

In the definition we see the term (だん)(てい)する, which means conclusion, statement, affirmative. だ is generally used at the end of a sentence to affirm and emphasize what said.

Grammar rules for だ in Japanese

だ/です is placed as for all verbs at the end of the sentence and follows nouns and adjectives.

Noun+だ/です

あの(たて)(もの)(ぶん)()センター

That building is a cultural center.

Adjective in な without な+だ/です

Adjectives ending in な behave like nouns.

親切な
親切
親切
親切

あの(かた)(しん)(せつ)

That person is nice.

The plain form だ is not used with adjectives ending in い.

(うつく)しい。

It's beautiful.

With adjectives ending in い you can use です instead.

だ and です can be followed by exclamation particles and .

とても(たか)ですよ。

It's very expensive!

サンキュは(えい)()ですね。

'Thank you', is it english right?

How to use だ in Japanese

だ/です is an auxiliary verb and is used to determine and state something. It expresses that a thing, person or situation is a certain way.

だ/です are also defined verb to be of identification, compared to the verbs ある and いる which instead translate the verb to be of existence (there is, there are).

()(しょ)

It's a dictionary.

(えい)()(うた)

It's an English song.

フランスの(くるま)

It's a French car.

()(じゅつ)(かん)です

It's a museum.

Using だ in interrogative form: ですか and なの

The interrogative form is obtained with:

  • です polite form and the interrogative particle
  • instead of だ and as an interrogative particle, generally only in a confidential and informal context

この(りょう)()()(まえ)はなんですか?

What is the name of this dish?

A

あなたのバッグですか。

Is that your purse?

B

はい、そうです

Yes.

Expressions using だ in Japanese

The copula だ is part of many expressions which are also very useful and used in the Japanese language.

だ is often found after a noun at the end of a sentence. An example is the expression つもりだ:

つもり+

The term つもり indicates an intention or plan. When だ follows つもり the expression indicates the intention is.

Let's see an example:

Where do you think you're going.
Example of つもりだ in the sentence どこへ()かうつもりだ, which translates as 'Where do you think you're going.'

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どこへ()かうつもりだ

Where do you think you're going.

Using だ at the end of the sentence adds a lot of emphasis and makes the sentence direct and strong. To make the sentence less direct, the polite form です can be used.

Another example is the expression とおりだ:

とおり+
That's enough! It's just like Krilin says!
Example of とおりだ in the phrase もういい!クリリンの()うとおりだよ!, which means 'That's enough! It's just like Krilin says!''

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もういい!クリリンの()とおりだよ!

That's enough! It's just like Krilin says!

Combining the copula だ with the particle よ at the end of the sentence adds extra emphasis.


Usage of だ in Japanese: examples and translations

この(まち)(しず)

This city is quiet.

(わたし)(とも)(だち)です

He is my friend.

(ふる)いお(てら)

It is an ancient temple.