Day Four: Desu

It is

Desu. If you have had any experience with Japanese, it is extremely likely that you have come across desu in one way shape or form since it is one of the most common words in Japanese. Desu です, or the informal da だ, are the same thing and they both play a very important role in sentence formation. That is, they actualize what is marked as the topic by は. です is often translated to mean 'is' but be careful with direct translations. The feeling/meaning behind 'is' is correct in this instance, however. In other situations, です can be translated as 'are' and 'am'.  


だ/です at it's core, is a state of being or existence. This is used in place of a verb or adjective when a verb or adjective isn't used to end a sentence. There are a handful of ways in which a sentence can be completed properly in Japanese, one of them being だ/です. 

Examples of this include:


"I am John - わたし は ジョン です。

"He is 2 years old" - かれ は にさい です 。

"I am Japanese" - ぼく は にほんじん です。 

"This food is sushi" - この たべもの は すし です。


This can be somewhat tricky to get used to at first, but it's one of those things that makes more sense the more you see it. On top of this, a common method of using は is in conjunction with です. 


A は B です 

A is B.


*While Japanese does not typically include spaces, I am added them for clarity. 

*Desu is often pronounced 'dess'; the is unvoiced in general speech, but is sometimes heard in more feminine speech. 


**Having trouble? Maybe you need a little edge? Try our Field Guide!

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Daily Vocabulary

The Japanese method of counting is kind of odd to native English speakers. There are, in fact, two different ways of counting. The first set provided below is the first and most important method of counting. We will address the alternate method of counting later, and we'll go into the differences and usage at that time as well. It's important to note that the two alternate readings for 4 and 7 are both used quite a bit in Japanese, so you'll need to memorize them both. 


You'll also need to learn 'counters' in Japanese before you can really go about counting things in Japanese, but we'll cover than in a later lesson (see the vocabulary and explanation for day 27 for more on counters). 


  1. one 
  2. two 
  3. three 
  4. four 
  5. five 
  6. six 
  7. seven 
  8. eight 
  9. nine 
  10. ten 
  11. but
  12. today
  13. car
  14. bus
  15. house
  16. secret
  17. thousand
  18. *years old
  19. hundred
  20. number


*Counter - see the vocabulary lesson in day 27 to learn about counters. 


  1. ichi 
  2. ni 
  3. san 
  4. shi/yon 
  5. go 
  6. roku 
  7. nana/shichi 
  8. hachi 
  9. kyuu 
  10. jyuu 
  11. demo 
  12. kyou 
  13. kuruma
  14. basu
  15. ie 
  16. himitsu  
  17. sen 
  18. -sai 
  19. hyaku 
  20. bango 


*Counter - see the vocabulary lesson in day 27 to learn about counters. 


  1. いち 
  2. さん
  3. し/よん
  4. ろく 
  5. なな/しち
  6. はち
  7. きゅう
  8. じゅう
  9. でも 
  10. きょう
  11. くるま 
  12. バス
  13. いえ 
  14. ひみつ
  15. せん
  16. -さい 
  17. ひゃく
  18. ばんご


*Counter - see the vocabulary lesson in day 27 to learn about counters. 


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