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"desu"

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"desu"

Postby Jim » Sat 02.18.2006 3:08 pm

Hello.

This may be a really stupid question but I see it a lot on English/Japanese intergraded websites and to be honest I haven't a clue what it means and the dictionary I use doesn't give a very good explanation, either.

For example: "Watashi wa Nihongo ga amari jouzu ja nai desu". I know that watashi means "I am/do" (or I think it does), so where does desu come into play? :)
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RE: "desu"

Postby Christian_ » Sat 02.18.2006 3:20 pm

今日は、(こんにちは)

です(Desu) Is used at the ends of sentences to mean something like: is, am. In the Sentence 私の名前はクリスチャンです。(わたしのなめはクリスチャンです)(Watashi No Namae Wa Kurisuchan Desu.) The Desu means is or am, some people say to think of it as =. The Sentence goes like this I (possesive) name wa Christian is. I Hope that helps.
By the way
私=わたし= Watashi=I
です=Desu= Is, Am, Equals.
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RE: "desu"

Postby Jim » Sat 02.18.2006 3:55 pm

Thank you! I sort of understand it a bit better.:D
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RE: "desu"

Postby mandolin » Sat 02.18.2006 6:38 pm

Jim wrote:

For example: "Watashi wa Nihongo ga amari jouzu ja nai desu".


watashi = I
wa = topic particle
nihongo = japanese language
ga = identifier particle
amari = not very
jouzu = skillful
ja nai = particle + negative verb
desu = auxilliary polite suffix

As for me, japanese not very skillful isn't (polite word).

Amari doesn't make sense here, it's an adverb in the sense of "not very", and skillful is a adjectival noun.

in your sentence, it's hard to see the function of 'desu' because it is NOT your copula here. In this case, it is the "magic word" function of desu that makes your sentence polite.

ja nai is a contraction of "dewa arimasen", which is very formal. arimasen is our verb here, but ja nai is not very formal/polite. Stick desu to the end of the sentence, and it -becomes- polite.

In many cases, it is the copula (the = sign). But not in this case.
Last edited by mandolin on Sat 02.18.2006 6:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: "desu"

Postby Jim » Sat 02.18.2006 7:27 pm

Thank you for breaking it down a bit more for me, really helps understand it completely.
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RE: "desu"

Postby Oracle » Sun 02.19.2006 6:30 am

mandolin wrote:

Amari doesn't make sense here, it's an adverb in the sense of "not very", and skillful is a adjectival noun.


Mandolin: I'm not quite sure what you meant by the above comment - あまり上手じゃない is an extremely common phrase.
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RE: "desu"

Postby richvh » Sun 02.19.2006 10:49 am

Amari only means "not very" when used with a negative verb (like ja nai), so it does make sense here. Ja nai isn't a contraction of dewa arimasen, it's a contraction of dewa nai, the plain form of dewa arimasen. Ja nai is the negative copula (the not-equals sign), and adding desu to it makes it polite, in a colloquial way. In formal circumstances, you'd use dewa arimasen rather than ja nai desu.
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RE: "desu"

Postby mandolin » Sun 02.19.2006 11:19 am

I'm still not used to double negatives... it doesn't make sense to me to say "isn't not very <something>"

I was taught that "nai" was the contracted form of arimasen... either way, "ja nai" is exactly the same as "dewa arimasen" only less formal, right?
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RE: "desu"

Postby Jim » Sun 02.19.2006 11:40 am

Well I actually understand the double negative because that part seems a bit similar to Gaeilge. "Nach ní tú abalta?", for example, a transliteration of that is "No not you able?"B)

But thank you for clearing it up, I also found a page that describes the word pretty well.
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RE: "desu"

Postby AJBryant » Sun 02.19.2006 12:48 pm

I'm still not used to double negatives... it doesn't make sense to me to say "isn't not very <something>"


Actually, many languages use double negatives. Their grammatical view, apparently, is that two negatives clarify, emphasize, or finalize a negative -- rather than the English approach which seems, after all, mathematical rather than strictly grammatical.

Still, I must provide a joke from Russian class. In Russian, "nichevo ne znayu" means "I don't know" (lit: "I not know nothing"). The Russian prof was pointing out while two negatives were still negative in Russian, in many languages two negatives turned positive. He then pointed out that there was no language where two positives converted to a negative.

Said one student in the back: "Yeah. Right."

:D

I was taught that "nai" was the contracted form of arimasen... either way, "ja nai" is exactly the same as "dewa arimasen" only less formal, right?


Correct.

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RE: "desu"

Postby Oracle » Sun 02.19.2006 5:21 pm

mandolin wrote:
I'm still not used to double negatives... it doesn't make sense to me to say "isn't not very <something>"


Mandolin: I can see where your confusion comes from now.

*There is no double negative*

あまり is positive and means "to exceed"/"be more than". For example: 百円余り means "more than 100 yen".
So the あまり上手 part of あまり上手じゃない means "very/extremely good", not "not very good" (Of course, あまり上手 usually only exists as part of this negative construction, and can't be used by itself. I just pulled it apart to illustrate the point.)

So when you say あまり上手じゃない it means "not 'あまり上手' "  = "not very good"

either way, "ja nai" is exactly the same as "dewa arimasen" only less formal, right?


Yes, that's right.
Last edited by Oracle on Sun 02.19.2006 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: "desu"

Postby Harisenbon » Sun 02.19.2006 9:31 pm

Just want to jump in on the negatives comment.
The Japanese language really loves it's double negatives. I think it helps to soften the meaning of the sentence, and allow people to not insist their opinion too strongly. It's really hard to read at first, but once you get used to it, it can be really fun.

My favorite example was always
納豆を食べないわけではないじゃない?
It's not the case that you don't eat natto, isn't it?
Last edited by Harisenbon on Sun 02.19.2006 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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