“Desu”「です」 is a tricky word.
It is one of the first words that most Japanese language students encounter, yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. Far too many people are mistakenly led to believe that it just makes a sentence polite, and although that is effectively all it does in some cases, it is so much more than that.
The truth is that much of the time, “desu”「です」 is actually a verb.
That alone doesn’t tell us the whole story, though, and ultimately, what we call it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is knowing what “desu”「です」 does in different situations.
Understanding the role of “desu”「です」 will make it much easier to determine when we should (and shouldn’t) use it, and in what form.
Perhaps more importantly, a proper understanding of “desu”「です」 will also give us a more complete picture of Japanese grammar as a whole.
In this article, I’m going to explore in depth the practical uses of “desu”「です」 and its underlying purpose in different situations.
By the end, you should have a fairly clear understanding of what “desu”「です」 is, when you should use it, and, perhaps most importantly, how it fits into the overall Japanese grammar system.