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The sentence in question is

それはとってもいい話【はなし】だ。

Which is translated as "That's a really nice story". I don't understand what だ is doing at the end though. 話 seems to mean story with or without it and Google translate gives me the same translation for the full sentence regardless. だ doesn't seem to be a particle either. So what does it mean here and does it act on just the noun or the whole sentence?

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    だ means "is". It's kind of a special verb and usually called the "copula". This is the plain form, you might be more familiar with です. – hippietrail Apr 5 '14 at 7:17
  • だ is not a particle. Isn't it a 助動詞(auxiliary verb?)? – user1016 Apr 5 '14 at 7:21
  • It's not a particle but it's easy to see why a learner might think it is. In any case the question is still about whether it is a particle so the particles tag is warranted. – hippietrail Apr 5 '14 at 12:04
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    I wouldn't call it a "verb" either, since it isn't like any Japanese verbs. – snailboat Apr 5 '14 at 13:59
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This だ is a copula. It's a plain form of the copula - copula has similar forms as verbs. You may know its polite form as well - です (warning though - です is not only a copula, it may also be just a marker of polite speech level). それはとってもいい話です。 is the polite version of the same sentence.

Copula doesn't really act on the noun, rather it links the subject それ with the predicative expression とってもいい話 and gives it a meaning of equivalence (in this case): This is a very good story. Japanese copula has similar meaning to the English verb "to be" (as in X is Y meaning X = Y or Y describes X).

それはとってもいい話 on its own is not a regular sentence in Japanese as it doesn't have a predicate.. Copula can be used as a predicate to finish off sentences as in this example. You could change this sentence to use いい as a predicate and not use copula as in

その話はとってもいい。

Just to clarify: there are sentences (minor sentences) without predicates that are used commonly in casual speech, newspapers, titles, etc. Predicates, including copula, can be omitted in those kinds of sentences but cannot be in a regular (major) sentence.

  • Thanks! Regarding using いい as a predicate, a predicate has to contain a verb, right? Is いい a verb either way? Was だ only needed in the first form because of the sentence structure, or was it an adjective in the first sentence and became a verb in the second by merit of moving to the end? Or is it something else entirely? – Ryan Jenkins Apr 5 '14 at 21:12
  • Predicate can be a copula, verb, or い-adjective. いい is a predicate on it's own. だ is needed in the first sentence because some sort of predicate is needed. – Szymon Apr 5 '14 at 21:16
  • @Szynmon: You've over generalized in the last paragraph. Just saying that the sentence is not proper without a predicate works in the early stages of study but can cause problems later. The following question usefully explains why if だ is dropped a sentence is not necessarily ungrammatical (Newspapers do it all the time): japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/14178/… – Tim Apr 6 '14 at 4:13
  • @Tim Thank you for the comment. I added clarification to my answer. Regular sentences need a predicate. In casual speech, newspapers, etc. you can use minor sentences where quite a lot of "regular" grammar rules can be omitted or bent. – Szymon Apr 6 '14 at 4:50
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    Not sure what you mean by regular or minor sentences. (BTW, you also see it in novels.) I wish I could explain better myself but there is a bit more to it than omitting/bending "regular" grammar rules otherwise guides such as Tae Kim would say that. The best I can manage is the explanation in the answer to the previous question and to fully address is probably beyond the scope of the this OP, but nevertheless it worth mentioning for future reference. – Tim Apr 6 '14 at 9:25

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