Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I understand the concept of でしょう. All my books say that it is like saying "probably". I have also been told that it is more accurately a means of adding doubt to a statement to seem less assuming and confrontational...

If this is the case however, why would a statement like "うそでしょ!" be possible? It sounds as strange to me as emphatically yelling "PROBABLY!" as an answer

I need more details. For example, it stems from であろう/でありましょう doesn't it? If you interpreted that literally would it give any clues to how to understand the phrase in the same way Japanese understand it? Furthermore, how is it different to 多分 or かもしれません?

Please provide your insight!

share|improve this question
1  
Trying to find a single "most accurate" translation for any word or phrase is usually a bad idea for any language, but it's especially harmful in Japanese which is highly context-sensitive. –  Igor Skochinsky Sep 2 '13 at 11:44
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

でしょう is basically the [丁]{てい}[寧]{ねい}[語]{ご} of だろう, which in turn comes from であろう.

The entry for だろう in デジタル大辞泉 says:

[[連語]{れんご}]《[断定]{だんてい}の[助動詞]{じょどうし}「だ」の[未然形]{みぜんけい}+[推量]{すいりょう}の[助動詞]{じょどうし}「う」》[不確]{ふたし}かな[断定]{だんてい}、あるいは[推定]{すいてい}の[意]{い}を[表]{あらわ}す。

「[彼]{かれ}はきっと[成功]{せいこう}する―◦う」

「むこうの[山]{やま}が[南]{みなみ}アルプス―◦うか」→のだろう

[[補説]{ほせつ}] [現代語]{げんだいご}では、[主]{おも}に「う」「よう」が[話]{はな}し[手]{て}の[意志]{いし}を[表]{あらわ}すのに[対]{たい}し、「だろう」は[広]{ひろ}く[用言]{ようげん}に[接続]{せつぞく}して[推量]{すいりょう}を[表]{あらわ}すのに[用]{もち}いられる。「だろう」を[一語]{いちご}の[助動詞]{じょどうし}とみる[説]{せつ}もある。

This is telling us that だろう is the irrealis/imperfective form of with the conjecture auxiliary , and that it can express conjecture/presumption/hypothesis (uncertainty).

The two example sentences mean (roughly):

  • I assume that he will be successful.
  • Those mountains over there are Minami-alps, aren't they?

You can see that there is a certain amount of conjecture/presumption going on.

In weather reports, for example, you will hear [明日]{あす}は[雨]{あめ}が[降]{ふ}るでしょう ("it will rain tomorrow"), which is a conjuncture/presumption/hypothesis.

Your question sentence ([嘘]{うそ}でしょ!) means roughly "you're kidding!", "you don't say!", or "no way!"—one might think of it as an idiom. And, by the way, shortening でしょう to でしょ can sound a little feminine.

[多分]{たぶん} can be used in conjunction with でしょう, e.g. 多分そうでしょう ("that is probably true"). It just adds a bit more uncertainty to the sentence.

かもしれない means simply that one cannot say for certain but that there is a possibility.

share|improve this answer
1  
AHHH! So you are stating your conjecture or unproven hypothesis yeah? So saying "UUso deshou!" is like you stating your presumptions... so when you add "多分雨が降るでしょう" you are not saying "It is probably going to rain probably" you are roughly saying (in an overly literal way to serve my purpose only) that, "it is my hypothesis that it will probably rain tomorrow". Am I on the right track? I never knew what the う was that came after the irrealis form and presumed it was just to turn the phrase into a verb. So is it the same for things like およごう? Does it become (Will we swim?) –  Nathan Aug 30 '13 at 8:29
    
I'm not sure that だ can be analyzed as having a 未然形, as it is highly irregular and does not follow the 活用形 system as usual verbs do linguistically. であろう is definitely で+あら+う. There is no *だらない though, so だら or だろ does not seem to be a 未然形 of だ. –  user54609 Sep 5 '13 at 14:05
add comment

There's no literal translation, and a proper translation will always depends on context.

In the case where it's meant to add some doubt, note that it doesn't mean you fling your hands up in the air and accept any posibility. You've made your guess about something. Surely you can relate to saying something with some degree of conviction while not being completely sure. This is in contrast to かもしれない where you have little (no?) conviction either way and 多分 which is an adverb/noun.

I don't think understanding the nitty gritty details of where it stems from will help you gain a native's appreciation of it, in this case anyhow. But yes, afaict regarding your explanation of where it comes from, そうでしょう.

share|improve this answer
    
Understanding the nitty gritty has helped me so far... I already knew 多分 was an adverb but I wasn't quite sure on what extra information it added to being in a sentence alongside でしょう. If it added nothing or served no purpose it wouldn't be there right haha? –  Nathan Aug 30 '13 at 8:19
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.