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!

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    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. Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


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:




[[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.

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    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
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 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.
    – ithisa
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 14:05

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.

  • 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
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 8:19

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