More uses and notes on ‘そう’ (Sou) and usage of ‘だ’ (da)

By | February 10, 2014

I recently wrote a post on usages of ‘そう’ coupled with a few particles, and I decided to write a second article with a few other things I thought of on this subject.

In that post I mentioned the phrases そうだね and そうだよ, but what if you remove the だ from these?

Well, the word だ has slight aggressive or “tough” feeling, which can be felt in the comparison between answering a question like “Who did this?” as ”僕だ” versus “僕”. Accordingly, there are many cases where removing だ makes the phrase softer, even feminine.

These two phrases are a perfect example of this:

  1. そうだね => そうね     [Same meaning, but softer/lighter, less ‘manly’ feeling]
  2. そうだよ => そうよ     [Same meaning, but softer/lighter, even feminine feeling]

I’ve そうね used by typical older men, but have only heard そうよ said by ladies or gay men.

This same pattern also applies to other words where  だ would normally be used but omitted. For example:

  • 僕はあるくんよ (僕はあるくのよ) => 僕はあるくのよ

Again, omitting だ gives a very feminine feel.

I realize I’m getting off track from “そう” but there is one more important thing I’d like to mention here related to the use of だ.

You need to be careful not to omit だ sometimes, however there are some cases when you should omit it, otherwise you end up sounding strange.

You’ve probably learned about the two types of adjectives in Japanese. I’ll summarize briefly here:

  1. i-adjectives: 青い、赤い、怖い , etc.        [can be used immediately before the word they modify]
  2. na-adjectives: すてき、おしゃれ、好き  [require a ‘な’ whenever used before something they modify]

It’s very important to differentiate these two categories, since the necessity or だ depends on the category. Look at these four sentences which all end with よ.

  • 怖いよ
  • 赤いよ
  • すてきだよ
  • 好きだよ
  • お父さんだよ

Note that the first two are i-adjectives and have no だ needed, but the 3rd and 4th are na-adjectives which require a だ when ‘よ’ is used (unless you want to sound feminine). The last is a noun which also requires だ.

Conversely, it would be strange to say this:

  • 赤いだよ

This sounds funny and isn’t a typical way of speaking. The interesting thing about this is that when you use the polite form, you ~do~ use です in all of these cases!

  • 怖いですよ
  • 赤いですよ
  • すてきですよ
  • 好きですよ
  • お父さんですよ

Anyway, back to a few uses of そう。

There are two other uses of そう which I’d like to finish with, both are commonly used and easy to mix up.

  1. Dictionary form of verb + そう => Used when you’ve heard of something (similar to らしい) [ex. 今日、先生がくるそう]
  2. Pre-masu form of verb + そう      => Used when something ‘seems’ like it will happen, based on appearance or your feelings [ex. 雨が降りそう]

Here are the translations of the two above example sentences:

  • 今日、先生がくるそう
  • I hear the teacher is coming today.
  • 雨が降りそう
  • It seems like it will rain (because the sky is cloudy, etc.)

I’ve mixed these up before and got a confused look (or rather a confused tone of voice since it was over voice chat), so practice making a few sentences for each to keep them straight in your head.

You can also use these with na-adjectives and some nouns by adding そう immediately after the word.

  • 君が好きそうなドラマを見つけたよ
  • I found a drama you might like. (I found a drama that seems like you would like it)

Notice here that そう is actually being used like a Na-adjective since it has な before ドラマ which it is modifying.

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