Wild Nihongo!
~は~だ

~は~だ

~は~だ Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Structure

Essential Meaning: As for X, it’s Y

Construction: 

  • (Topic + は) + (Noun Phrase + だ)
    • E.g. これはペンだ [As for this, it’s a pen.]

Notes:

  • ~は~だ is a perhaps the most basic and fundamental sentence structure in the Japanese language. You may be temped to translate a sentence such as XはYだ as “X is Y.” For example, it is common to translate a sentence such as これはペンだ as “This is a pen“. Beware of falling into this habit. A better translation would be “As for X, Y” or “Speaking of X, it’s Y.” The reasoning is that in this structure does not indicate a subject / object relationship between X and Y. It simply indicates that X is the topic of discussion, and Y is some statement that pertains to that topic. As an illustration, consider the sentence: 家内かない紅茶こうちゃ[As for my wife, it’s green tea.] It would clearly make no sentence to translate this sentence as “My wife is black tea“. What the speaker is really doing is introducing his wife as the topic of discussion and then making a statement that pertains to her. The context may be that the speaker is making an order at a cafe on behalf of his wife, or he may be talking to someone about his wife’s favorite drink.
    • E.g. 家内かない紅茶こうちゃ[As for my wife, it’s green tea.]
  • Generally speaking, the copula だ can be used in place of a predicate if the predicate can be understood implicitly from context.
    • E.g. わたし毎朝まいあさコーヒーをむ。家内かない紅茶こうちゃだ。[As for me, I drink coffee every morning. As for my wife, it’s tea (that is drunk every morning).] In this example, the copula だ is taking the place of the predicate む in sentence 2 since it is clear from prior context that the speaker is discussing the drinking of beverages.
    • E.g. A: わたしはハワイへきます。B:わたしはフロリダです。[A: I’m going to Hawaii. B: As for me, it’s Florida (where I’m going).] In this example, the formal copula です replaces the predicate く in sentence 2.
    • E.g. このレストランは寿司すし美味おいしい。あのレストランはてんぷらです。[As for this restaurant, the sushi is delicious. As for that restaurant, it’s the tempura (that’s delicious).] In this example, the formal copula です replaces the predicate 美味おいしい in sentence 2.
    • E.g. ディックはスケートが上手じょうずだ。ポールはスキーだ。[As for Dick, he’s good at skating. As for Paul, it’s skiing (that he’s good at).] In this example, だ replaces the predicate 上手じょうずだ in sentence 2.
    • E.g. みつこはおかあさんが病気びょうきだ。つとむはおとうさんだ。[As for Mitsuko, her mother is ill. As for Tsutomu, it’s her father (who is ill).] In this example, だ replaces the predicate 病気びょうきだ in sentence 2.
  • The copula だ in XはYだ usually appears in the non-past tense regardless of the tense of the main predicate that it replaces.
    • E.g. A: ぼく病気びょうきんだ。B: ぼく怪我けがでだ。[A: As for me, I was absent due to illness. B: As for me, it was an injury.] Note that the predicate in sentence 1 is in the past tense, but the copula in sentence 2 is nonpast.
  • In the structure XはYだ, Yだ may be a standalone noun or noun phrase (e.g. ほんだ) or it may be a noun phrase with a particle attached (e.g. 8からだ). In the latter case, the following particle rules must be applied:
    • (1) , , , に (Time), and に (Direction) must be dropped before the copula.
      • E.g. : わたし毎朝まいあさコーヒーをむ。家内かない紅茶こうちゃだ。[As for me, I drink coffee every morning. As for my wife, it’s tea.] In this case, drops after 紅茶こうちゃ in the 2nd sentence.
      • E.g. : A: わたしはハワイへきます。B: わたしはフロリダです。[A: As for me, I will go to Hawaii. B: As for me, it’s Florida.] In this case, drops after フロリダ in the 2nd sentence.
      • E.g. : このレストランは寿司すし美味おいしい。あのレストランはてんぷらだ。[As for this restaurant, the sushi is delicious. As for that restaurant, it’s the tempura.] In this case, drops after てんぷら in the 2nd sentence.
      • E.g. : ティックはスケートが上手じょうずだ。ポールはスキーだ。[As for Dick, he’s good at skating. As for Paul, it’s skiing.] In this case, drops after スキー in the 2nd sentence.
      • E.g. : みつこはおかあさんが病気びょうきだ。つとむはおとうさんだ。[As for Mitsuko, her mother is ill. As for Tsutomu, it’s her father.] In this case, drops after おとうさん in the 2nd sentence.
      • E.g. : ぼくはうなぎだ。[As for me, it’s unagi.] In this case, drops after うなぎ (assuming that the speaker is referring to eating unagi).
      • E.g. に (Time): A: ぼく八時はちじきる。B: ぼく十時じゅうじです。[A: I get up at 8. B: As for me, it’s 10.] In this case, に (Time) drops after 十時じゅうじ in the 2nd sentence.
    • (2) に (Indirect object), に (Passive / Causative), に (Surface), で (Location), and で (Means / Instrument) may drop optionally.
      • E.g. に (Indirect object): A: ぼくはけんにたのんだ。B: ぼくはアンディー(に)だ。[A: As for me, I asked Ken. B: As for me, it was Andy.]
      • E.g. で (Location): A: ぼくはアパートで勉強べんきょうする。B: ぼく図書館としょかん(で)だ。[As for me, I study at my apartment. B: As for me, it’s the library.]
      • E.g. に (Passive / Causative): A: ぼくはガラガラヘビにべられた。B: ぼくはサメ(に)だ。[A: I was eaten by a rattlesnake. B: As for me, it was a shark.]
      • E.g. に (Surface): A: わたしかべいた。B: わたしはゆか(に)だ。[I drew a picture on the wall. As for me, it was the floor.]
      • E.g. で (Means / Instrument): A: ぼくはおはしべる。B: ぼくはフォークとナイフ(で)だ。[A: I eat with chopsticks. B: As for me, it’s a fork and knife.]
    • (3) で (Cause), と (Reciprocal Relationship), から, and まで usually do not drop.
      • E.g. で (Cause): A: ぼく病気びょうきやすんだ。B: ぼく怪我けがでだ。[As for me, I was absent due to illness. B: As for me, it was an injury.]
      • E.g. から: A: わたしはアメリカからきました。B: ぼくはオスとラリアからです。[I’m from America. B: As for m, I’m from Australia.]
      • E.g. と (Reciprocal Relationship): A: わたしはいちろうとおどりました。 B: わたしはのぶたとです。[A: As for me, I danced with Ichiro. B: As for me, it was Nobuta.]
  • In the structure XはYだ, Xは may drop if the topic can be understood clearly from context.
    • E.g. A: それはなんですか。B: (これは)辞書じしょです。[A: What’s that? B: It’s a dictionary.]

Example Sentences:

これはほんだ。[As for this, it’s a book.]

コンサートは八時はちじからだ。[As for the concert, it’s from 8 o’clock.]

あのひと先生せんせいだ。 [As for that person, he’s a teacher.]

わたしはジョーンズです。[As for me, my name is Jones.]

授業じゅぎょう四時よじまでだ。[As for class, it’s until 4 o’clock.]

今度こんど試合しあいはワシントン大学だいがくとだ。[As for this match, it’s against the University of Washington.]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line from 2:06: たったひとたしかなことがあるとするのならば、きみ綺麗きれいだ] [If there’ on thing that I know for certain it’s that you are beautiful.]

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