In my understanding, でしょう is used to represent probability, for example,

  • 明日は雨でしょう。It might be raining tomorrow.
  • あの人は先生じゃないでしょう。That man might not be a teacher.

Now, consider the following conversation in a station.




What does マリーさんはどこでしょうか。mean? Is there any difference when I change it to 

  • マリーさんはどこですか。or

  • マリーさんはどこにいますか。


Depending on what you mean by "meaning", all three would translate naturally to:

Where is Mary?

But the difference is the degree of politeness.


is a polite way of asking questions. As indicated in a different question on this site, What's the difference between でしょうか and ですか at the end of a question?, でしょうか can be used to ask a question that expresses uncertainty. でしょうか is the polite version of だろうか.

So it's not quite the same in literal meaning as ですか and cannot be used in every context where ですか is used.

いますか for 敬語 changes to いらっしゃいますか or perhaps better いらっしゃいませんか

ですか for some 敬語 changes to でしょうか

マリーどこ? < マリーさんはどこですか。 < マリーさんはどこにいますか。 < マリーさんはどこでしょうか。 < マリー様はどちらにいらっしゃいますでしょうか 

And for the more polite ones, depending on relationship you might want to use [様]{さま} instead of さん

  • The phrase マリーさんはどこにいらっしゃいませんか sounds unusual. I think the most politest one is マリーどちらにいらっしゃいますでしょうか.
    – Tsukasa
    Aug 17 '15 at 8:15

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