でしょう / だろう (deshou/darou) in Japanese

By | February 19, 2014

でしょう is one word I remember reading about in a Japanese textbook and not quite grasping it’s meaning immediately. だろう is it’s less-polite counterpart but to simplify things I’ll be focusing on でしょう for most of this article.

I’ll try to explain their usage and nuances in as simple a way as possible, without resorting to any other websites or books for my explanation. I’ll just rely on my experience actually using and hearing these words, as I typically do when writing blog posts about Japanese.

でしょう, in a nutshell, represents a possibility felt by the speaker or someone else. Depending on the tone of voice used and context, it can be a mild hunch, a simple “maybe”, or a strong feeling about something. As usual, descriptions like this only go so far, so let’s get to some example sentences.

First, I’ll talk about when でしょう is used with a neutral intonation, meaning that the end of the word is flat and without much emotion. Like take this line which could come from a weather report.

  • 明日は晴れでしょう。
  • Tomorrow will probably be sunny.

You might be curious about what sort of probability this represents. Is it 5o/50? Or more like 75/25? It’s hard to say that for all cases, you just have to go by context. But I would say generally でしょう represents something that is over 50% likely, as perceived by the speaker.

If you want to connect this type of sentence to another thought, you can use けど.

  • グーグルはすごくいい会社でしょうけど、完璧ではありません。
  • Google is probably a great company, but it is not perfect.

If you want to express you feel strongly about a supposition, you can raise the intonation at the end of でしょう, as if you were asking a question aggressively. The end of the word can get cut off so it sounds closer to でしょ.

  • このケーキは美味しいでしょう?
  • This cake is tasty, right?  (with a feeling of “I told you so!”)

The sentence here has the connotation that the speaker told the listener that this cake was tasty previously, and now the listener is actually trying it out. In a sense you could say the speaker is bragging about the cake, as if he/she made it him/herself.

Because of this strong connotation, you should be careful to not overuse this word and sound like you are over-pushy. One expression I substitute when I want to sound less aggressive is (~ですよね?).

On the other hand, I have also heard “でしょう?” used when someone is enumerating a list of things, and doesn’t necessary have an attachment to the items. Imagine someone asked which animals are commonly at a zoo:

  • えっと〜像さんでしょう?そして、キリンでしょう?
  • Let’s see… Elephant, right? And then giraffe, right?

Combining でしょう with the question particle か (discussed here) gives the opposite impression, that you are doubting something. The intonation is also different and closer to the neutral “~でしょう。”.

  • テレビは勉強になるんだって?それは本当にそうでしょうか?
  • You say that television is educational? Is that really true?

Another useful combination with a particle is でしょう + ね. Here it gives the impression that the speaker is sort of thinking out loud, or agreeing to something without necessarily having a strong feeling about it. Oftentimes I think of this in terms of the english expression “I bet”.

  • ハワイに旅行したい人はたくさんいるんでしょうね。
  • I bet there are many people who want to travel to Hawaii.

だろう technically means the same thing as でしょう, but it has a much stronger nuance and I’ve heard it most often used by men. In order to avoid rubbing someone the wrong way I usually use でしょう, even when I am speaking in non-polite Japanese. For example:

  • 僕は一日仕事しててすっごく疲れてる。君もそうでしょう?
  • I’ve worked all day and am super tired. You are too, right?

One expression which younger people tend to use that has a similar feeling is “じゃん”, which is a shortening of “じゃない”。

  • どうしてプレーステーション4買わないの?
  • Why don’t you buy a playstation 4?
  • だって、高いじゃん!
  • Because they’re expensive!
(Visited 7,153 times, 16 visits today)

7 thoughts on “でしょう / だろう (deshou/darou) in Japanese

  1. Pingback: Ways to express probability and possibility in Japanese | Self Taught Japanese

  2. Pingback: Japanese Grammar – What’s it all about? | Self Taught Japanese

  3. 1994sunshine

    Hey! This is a really useful explanation. I hadn’t realised that でしょう had so many uses! Anyway, I have a question. I’ve just started reading the 今日から俺は!manga, and on the first page(!) someone says 「そこに財布あんでしょう」 I was wondering what it meant…”There’s some (money) in my purse” is what I came up with, but what does あんでしょう mean? Thanks ^^

    Reply
    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comment! The あんでしょう you mention is an abbreviation for あるんでしょう or あるのでしょう.

      It’s a bit hard to explain the の particle in a few words (I have a post or two on it but don’t have the link off hand, sorry), but in short it has the sense of a “fact” or something that is true.

      This phrase is hard to translate exactly to English to convey the same nuance, but I would go with “You’re wallet is there, isn’t it?”. Of course without the context of the scene my translation might be lacking in some way.

      Reply
      1. 1994sunshine

        Hey, thanks for the reply! That’s really helpful. I kind of get the の particle (I read some articles on it, but I find it a bit…varied in it’s usages?). I was reading a manga and this phrase was used and I was totally stumped…^^

        Reply
  4. Pingback: The Japanese volitional form (~しよう、〜しましょう): much more than just “Let’s” | Self Taught Japanese

  5. retra

    Nice explanation! I liked how you illustrated all different kinds of uses for deshou. Thanks 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *