Imasu Vs. Desu

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by guyper, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. guyper Senior Member

    French Creole
    Imasu Vs. Desu

    "kare wa ima nani o shite imasu ka"

    When do you exactly use imasu instead of desu? I might be wrong but aren't they both the verb "to be"?

    Thank you
  2. divisortheory Senior Member

    San Francisco, CA USA
    United States, English
    desu is sort of like the english word "is", but it is only used when neither iru/imasu or aru/arimasu are used.

    By itself, iru/imasu assert the existance of something that is alive.

    aru/arimasu are similar to iru/imasu except the assert the existance of something that is not alive.

    The number one rule in Japanese is that you should not learn the meaning of Japanese words by trying to put an English word to them. Instead, you should learn them by trying to put situations to them. Here's some situations, and which word you would use in each one.

    That book is blue. <--- desu
    That book is here. <--- arimasu
    He is here. <--- imasu

    The example you gave in your original question is actually a bit more complicated. When imasu or arimasu come right after shite, the meaning is different, and in fact it might help to think of shiteimasu and shitearimasu as totally separate words.

    shiteimasu describes an action that someone or something has been doing and is still doing.

    shitearimasu is similar, but I wouldn't worry about it until your Japanese is a bit more intermediate level.

    In short, the sentence you posted means "What is he doing right now?"
    suru is the word that means "to do".
    shite is the ~te form of suru.
    Verb~te+imasu is the ~ing part of Verb.
  3. AT84 New Member

    USA, English and Japanese.

    I think you hit most of it on the spot, except for your relevance in the words he's been comparing and has provided. Mainly because I have never heard any native, friends or myself say:

    "Kare wa ima nani wo shite arimasu ka?"

    It's not a correct sentence form, as there are correct sentence structure in any other language. To further clarify this, "Arimasu" is past tense, "to have done", as I will put into an example for you:

    "Kyampu no shitaku wa mou *shite arimasu*"

    translating into:

    "The camp's preparation has already been done."

    If you wanted to use a past-tense form of the thread starter's sentence, you would eliminate the word "ima" which means "now", and it would become:

    "Kare wa nani o shima shita ka?"

    "What did he do?"

    Now, getting back to the original question, the only time and way I would use "desu" in your sentence is in an alternative/slang way. I will tell you straight off now that "Shite imasu" is a polite way of proposing the question, and if possible should be used most of the time. The following is an example of how your sentence would look like with "desu":

    "Kare wa ima nani o shite irun (or, to be even more slang, 'shite run', prounounced a bit like "loon" or "lun") desu ka?"

    Hope that helps.
  4. linguist786 Senior Member

    Blackburn, England
    English, Gujarati & Urdu

    I have literally just started learning Japanese (since a few days!) through some videos on the net, so if I say something wrong, put me straight natives! I'm just responding since I thought I could possibly help you.

    "imasu" and "arimasu" is exactly the same thing (in this context anyway), except the former is used for people and animals (ie, living things) and the latter for things/objects.

    To put it very simply, "imasu/arimasu" is used to show the presence of something/someone, whereas "desu" is used to show that something is something. For example:

    Mamiko is in the kitchen
    = Mamiko daidokoro no naka ga imasu
    = used to show presence of Mamiko in the kitchen

    compared to:

    This is Mamiko's kitchen
    = Kore wa Mamiko no daidokoro desu
    = used to show that the kitchen is Mamiko's


    The cat is in the kitchen
    = Neko wa daidokoro no naka ga arimasu
    = used to show presence of cat in the kitchen

    compared to:

    Is that your baggage?
    = Sore wa anata no nimotsu desu ka?
    = used to ask whether the baggage is yours
  5. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Moderator Note:
    The discussion about teimasu vs. tearimasu (iru vs. aru as tense/aspect augments) has been moved to a new thread.
  6. AT84 New Member

    USA, English and Japanese.

    For watching a few vids online and getting the concept right is amazing, keep it up! I found that watching videos or reading materials helps me maintain and build upon my japanese a lot, in my case those media being anime and manga, as well as playing video games.

    Just a minor correction of your examples though:

    Mamiko is in the kitchen.
    = Mamiko (wa) daidokoro no naka (ni) imasu.
    = used to show presence of Mamiko in the kitchen.

    The cat is in the kitchen.
    = Neko wa daidokoro no naka (ni) imasu.
    = used to show presence of Mamiko in the kitchen.

    I wish japanese was an easier language to translate...

    "ga" would be used for objects/things, where as "ni" would be for refering to places. At least that's what I think it is right off the bat, I could be wrong, but I know for sure using "ni" instead of "ga" is the right way... hope that helps!
  7. Captain Haddock Senior Member

    日本 名古屋
    Canada, English
    I think I got some recent insight from the book Making Sense of Japanese.

    "to be" in English is overly broad, with many meanings, including:
    1. "existence"
    2. "to equal something"

    Japanese いる, ある, and です sort of fulfill those different functions.

    ペンです。 It's a pen.
    友達でいようね! Let's be friends!

    いる is sort of an active being/existing, and ある is for inanimate things. This logic sort of extends to the ている and てある forms too.

    Chances are that'll make no sense without a lot more explaining. :)
  8. Minlen New Member

    Hey, I just started learning Japanese using the website livemocha.

    One sentence I've seen is:
    Watashi wa sega takai desu. (I am tall.)

    Another sentence is:
    Watashi wa yasete imasu. (I am thin.)

    What is the reason for the using desu/immasu here?
    I've read some of the reasons given in this forum and am not sure how they apply in this case. I'm guessing it has something to do with takai/yasete, but I'm not sure. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
  9. horangi Member

    English - America
    "Watashi wa sega takai desu. (I am tall.)

    Watashi wa yasete imasu. (I am thin.)

    What is the reason for the using desu/immasu here?"

    There are 2 ways in Japanese of expressing what are considered adjectives in English: There are Japanese adjectives, such as takai, which means tall, and there are Japanese verbs that act as predicate adjectives in English, such as yaseru, which means "to be (or become) thin". Generally speaking, for any English adjective, there will either be a Japanese verb or adjective (but not usually both) that corresponds to it. Adjectives are easily distinguished from verbs, so you shouldn't have trouble remembering whether a given word is one or the other.

    Japanese adjectives are used with desu, the way one uses "is" with an English verb: "I am tall". Se ga takai (literally, "my height is tall"). The ending imasu in yasete imasu, however, has nothing to with the fact that yaseru is acting like an adjective in English. Instead, this is is just the progressive tense that is commonly used in Japanese, with many different kinds of verbs. The progressive tense in Japanese is used when an action is continuing (similar to the progressive tense in English) or when a state or condition of something is continuing, as applies in this case, where being thin is not an instantaneous property.

    BTW, there is another kind of Japanese adjective, so-called na adjectives, which also uses desu.
  10. horangi Member

    English - America
    You're starting to get it, but you've made a bunch of mistakes, and there are a number of exceptions.

    First of all, in Japanese, although "technically" imasu/arimasu is used to indicate existence or location, desu is often substituted in the exact same sentences, with the same meaning. For example, "Where are you now?" is ordinarily translated by ima doko imasu ka?, but in reality ima doko desu ka? is a more common expression. Another example would be in the phrase hitsuyou (ga) arimasu, meaning "(something) is necessary" - you often hear hitsuyou desu instead. (I've put the subject particle in parentheses because it is optional in this case and generally omitted.)

    [BTW, Korean has equivalent verbs to desu and imasu/arimasu but the usage is much cleaner - these kinds of (mis)uses of the equivalent of desu never occur.]

    As for your examples, they've already been corrected by AT84, but I'll add a few more comments:
    ga could've been used instead of wa in the first 2. (i.e., Mariko ga daidokoro ni imasu.)
    It's unnecessarily to say no naka in your 2 sentences. If someone is in a room, obviously that person is inside the room.
    It is more common to use koko (here) or kochira (this way) for a place than kore (this, used as a noun), which generally refers to a thing. koko wa Mariko daidokoro desu. Or even, kono heya wa Mariko daidokoro desu ("This room is Mariko's kitchen.")

    "Sore wa anata no nimotsu desu ka?
    = used to ask whether the baggage is yours"

    Don't think of it this way, or you're likely to make mistakes with possessives. Think of the translation of sore wa anata no nimotsu desu as, "this (thing) is your baggage", i.e., "this" = "your baggage". That is why desu is being used. OTOH, if one were to ask, do you have any baggage, one would say, anata wa nimotsu ga arimasu ka?, which literally means, "As for you, does baggage exist?"

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