Book, Origin, True
です, tense and plurals
Take a look at the following sentences, what do they have in common?
- This is a TV.
- I am a student. / They are students.
The general structure of all of these sentences is the same: X is Y. We can form this structure in Japanese by using the word です (read as des, not desu). In the Japanese sentences above, you'll notice that there is no subject or topic (this, that, I, you). This is because in Japanese, the subject/topic of a sentence is often omitted when it is implied through context.
In English, the verb "to be" changes forms between "am", "is" or "are" depending on the subject of the sentence. However in Japanese, it is always です regardless of the subject of the sentence.
In English we have past, present and future tense. In Japanese there is only past and non-past. The grammar point です is the non-past form of the word "to be" which is used to express present and future events.
Future events such as "I am going to school tomorrow" can be expressed more specifically with the addition of certain phrases. They are covered later on in this course.
Plurals of nouns
Japanese nouns do not have the concept of singular/plural the way English nouns do. The English sentence "That is a book" explicitly refers to a singular book. If we wanted to refer to multiple books, we would say "Those are some books".
In Japanese, these two sentences can both be written the same way: 本です. This sentence refers to an ambiguous amount of books, either one or more depending on the context.
You are still able to refer to a specific amount of books, but this concept is covered in a later lesson.
- It is a book.
- This is water.
- I am a person. / That is a person.