Japanese colloquial expression: “sorya sou desho” (そりゃそうでしょ) and related phrases

By | November 26, 2018

In this post I’d like to talk about the colloquial Japanese expression “sorya sou desho” (そりゃそうでしょ).

This expression is made up a handful of fundamental words in Japanese which have multiple purposes and shades of meaning. So the end result can be a little hard to guess if you just try to put together things mechanically.

“sorya sou desho” is comprised of these words:

  • “sorya”: an abbreviation for “sore wa” (それは)
    • sore”:  literally “that”, but in this case refers to something that was just said
    • “wa”: the topic particle, here it works with “sore” to put the focus on what comes after it (“As for that…”)
  • sou“: this word has a variety of uses and nuances (it probably deserves a separate post), but in this case it means “that”
  • “desho”: another word with various nuances, but in this case it represents a strong opinion or feeling on the speaker’s part, like “…,right?”. See this post of mine for more details on this word. Note that technically the word is spelled “deshou” (でしょう) but when spoken the final “u” sound is often dropped, hence it is sometimes written that way.

If we put these words’ meanings together we get something like this in English:

  • That is that, right?

This sounds like a machine translation, and probably won’t help you understand the real meaning of this phrase much.

The actual meaning (which you can see hinted at in the above translation), is that the speaker is expressing how something is obvious to him or her. Often the phrase is followed by one or more reasons. Let’s look at an example to help clarify.

  • Person A: 日本語って難しいかな。 (I wonder if Japanese is difficult)
  • Person B: そりゃそうでしょ! 漢字いっぱいあるし、発音も英語と全然違うし、文法も。。。  (Of course it is! There’s so many kanji, the pronunciation is totally different from English, and the grammar…)

The second sentence utilizes the word “shi” to express several reasons for something, see this post for an explanation of its usage and examples. Also, while I didn’t use it in the above example, you can precede the reason(s) that what someone said are obvious with the word “datte” (だって), which means something like “that’s because…”

One important thing about the word “deshou” is that while it is technically in the desu/masu form, indicating more polite language, you will often hear people using it in the context of more casual language. I feel that this is probably because the dictionary form of the word (“darou“, or sometimes “daro“) can sound pretty harsh, whereas the “deshou” is a little softer. You will still hear some people say “sorya sou daro”, however.

I should also mention that the nuance of “deshou” changes depending on the spoken intonation. In this phrase, it generally should have more of a rising intonation.

If you want to make your statement more definitive you can say “sorya sou da yo” (そりゃそうだよ), or the slightly more polite “sorya sou desu yo” (そりゃそうですよ).

 

 

 

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