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.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

でしょう can usually be understood to mean "probably." But does it sometimes mean the same thing as ですね? What other meanings can it have? Can it mean "you know?"

share|improve this question
I've never heard it mean "probably". – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jun 27 '11 at 13:10
Well it doesn't mean that exactly, but the English sentence usually has that word in it when translated. – language hacker Jun 27 '11 at 14:08
In beginning language classes, it is often taught as "probably", as in the example: 雨が降るでしょう = It might/will probably rain. – rintaun Jun 27 '11 at 22:46
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Aside from the meaning of "probably", I've heard でしょう (だろう) used in the following manners:

  1. In polite speech, でしょうか can replace ですか. でしょうか sounds "softer" and a little less direct:

    この色【いろ】はいかがですか。 How about this color?

    この色【いろ】はいかがでしょうか。 How about this color? (slightly more polite)

    ちょっと分【わ】かりにくいですかね。 Do you suppose it's somewhat hard to follow?

    ちょっと分【わ】かりにくいでしょうかね。 Do you suppose it's somewhat hard to follow? (slightly more polite)

  2. でしょう and だろう can be used like ね to form tag questions, primarily when the speaker knows something to be true and is using it to prove a point to or convince the listener of some fact. This use of でしょう often has a rising intonation:

    で、帰【かえ】ったときに携帯【けいたい】はかばんに入【はい】ってなかっただろう? So when you got back, your cell wasn't in your bag, right?

    言【い】ったでしょう?明日【あした】、東京【とうきょう】に行【い】くって。 I told you, didn't I? That I'd be going to Tokyo tomorrow.

    The question particle か is omitted in this use. In my experience, you're more likely to find だろう being used by men and でしょう by women here, but the split is not well defined, as both are fairly gender-neutral.

share|improve this answer
In the second sense, でしょう/だろう seem to be more analogous to よね than simply ね, e. g. 言ったでしょう seems to be closer to 言ったよね than simply 言ったね. Also, it may be worthwhile to mention contractions such as 言ったろ. – rintaun Jun 27 '11 at 22:42
@Derek btw does でしょう means "probably" in the sense of たぶん ? or is it simply just a polite way of saying i'm certain (compared to です) ? – Pacerier Jun 28 '11 at 16:04
@Pacerier: That use of でしょう is for when you're fairly (70-90% or so?) certain something is true. It's often paired with たぶん or きっと, but these two can be paired with です as well. As far as the level of certainty, でしょう ranks above (more certain) than かもしれない and below です. So if you have plans to go to Tokyo tomorrow, you could say 明日の今ごろ、東京にいるでしょう。 ("Come this time tomorrow, I'll [almost certainly] be in Tokyo."). でしょう is better than います here because although something (very unlikely) might happen along the way, it's still almost a fact that you'll reach Tokyo. – Derek Schaab Jun 28 '11 at 16:20
@Derek heys btw just in case i've misunderstood it, do you mean that it is in this order: きっと, です, でしょう, たぶん, かもしれない (from certain to uncertain) ? – Pacerier Jun 28 '11 at 16:33
@Pacerier: きっと and たぶん shouldn't be in that list, since they're adverbs (like かならず and おそらく), but the rest of the list is correct. – Derek Schaab Jun 28 '11 at 16:36

There is another slightly different use that takes some getting used to. Weather reporters frequently use でしょう to indicate likely weather:


At first it always seemed like they were asking me for confirmation:)

To agree with previous posters, ですね and でしょう are pretty different. The former is sort of a neutral comment, but can imply a question, whereas the latter is more implicitly asking for some kind of confirmation.

味が変ですね。-This tastes odd (wouldn't you agree?) 味が変でしょう。 - Doesn't this taste odd?

share|improve this answer

でしょう is like です, but with less certainty. It's used when someone is pretty sure something is that way, but not entirely.

So yes, it's a bit like 'probably', but that's not actually what it means.

It's often used when someone wants to see if someone else agrees with them before committing to it, too.

share|improve this answer
So how is that different from ですね? It's almost the same thing, right? – language hacker Jun 27 '11 at 14:09
I would say they're close, but ですね is more looking for agreement after deciding, where でしょう is hedging your bets by not deciding absolutely until you see the opinion of those around you. – William Jun 27 '11 at 17:42
i thought でしょう was the more formal version of です – Mark Hosang Jun 28 '11 at 7:02
It's more polite than です but であります is the polite copula. – William Jun 28 '11 at 10:59
@Mark isn't でしょう the formal version of だろう ? – Pacerier Jun 28 '11 at 16:01

Your Answer


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.