「そう」 is a very simple word in Japanese that is used extremely often for a variety of situations.
It’s meaning is similar to the English “so”, as in the sentence “I told you so”. It’s a mix of the concepts “that” and “true”.
This word is commonly used as a light acknowledgement to a question. For example,
- Today, you have off work?
This word can also been seen used in writing for dramatic effect by implying the reader’s guess is correct about something.
- That terrible monster has arrived. Thats right, its Godzilla!
そう can also be used to lightly doubt something was said.
- This bicycle cost $3000 dollars
Let’s build upon そう and see how it’s meaning changes.
「そうだ」is made by adding だ、which means ‘is’ and is called the copula. です is the polite form of this.
The phrase そうだ is typically used when saying to yourself that you remembered or realized something.
- そうだ! 今日はパーティーの日だ！
- Oh yeah! (I just remembered that) today is the day of the party!
Now let’s try adding some particles you are probably familiar with: よ and then ね.
よ’s primary meaning is to reveal new information or to exaggerate something. It’s commonly used when you want to communicate something special that you think the listener doesn’t know.
However the そう here refers to something they said, so this phrase is like you are taking what they said and re-emphasizing it back to them.
- I heard french is difficult.
- That’s right! French is even more difficult than Japanese。
ね is a tricky particle that its tough to translate into English. It has the feeling that you are talking to someone about a topic understood by them, or that you are making sure they are listening to something you said. This is a pretty rough explanation though, and I may write a separate post on ね to discuss it in more detail.
Fortunately, the meaning of そうだね phrase is pretty straightforward. It a light acknowledgement of what someone said as being true, or at least an acknowledgement that you are listening (as an ‘aizuchi’).
I use this phrase very frequently, especially when I am not sure how to add constructively to the conversation but I generally agree on what was said.
- There’s a lot of movies lately with half-assed stories.
- Yeah, thats true.
The particle combination よね is generally used when eliciting a confirmation or agreement by the other party. For example,
- You (John) are a vegetarian, right?
However there is a second way to use よね which is when you aren’t really asking for verification. Rather, you’re saying something is obvious or an established fact. In this usage you typically lengthen the ね as ねー.
- Japan has so many fun things and is great.
- Of course (or “true, true”)
そうだよね can occasionally be used when verifying something as well (“そうだよね?”), but that isn’t as common because it would be easier to just tag on ”。。よね？” to the statement you are trying to verify.
- 先生は来ないって言ってたよね。 (more concise)