I understand that である is the "written" form of だ/です. Because it's a "written" form, doesn't that already imply a certain level of formality? So when would one use であります as opposed to just である? If you can, please give examples.

  • である is formal, but not polite

  • であります is formal and polite, but not humble

  • でございます is formal and polite and humble

  • だ is informal, but not polite

  • です is informal-* and polite
    *- compared to である

A politician giving a speech on TV:

我々は日本国民である - We are Japanese citizens

A lawyer speaking to a judge: (I think this usage is rare though...)

この通りであります - It (happended) this way

A waiter speaking to a customer:

ざるそばでございます - (This) is zarusoba

One friend to another:

ケチなやつね - That guys is really stingy, huh?

One coworker to another:

すみません今ちょっと忙しいです - I'm sorry, I'm busy just now

  • Thank you, but could you explain the difference between formal and polite? Jun 30 '16 at 6:01
  • 2
    "Formal" is like for when you are in a public setting (like a speech or writing in a book or newspaper), "polite" is when you specifically want to show deference to the person you're addressing.
    – sazarando
    Jun 30 '16 at 6:08
  • Wow, that is such a Japanese distinction. Thank you for the explanation, though I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it. I suppose that's just something I'll get used to over time, haha. Jun 30 '16 at 6:25
  • There is also a practical, not-necessarily-formal use of である, unless I'm mistaken and everyone thought it would be rude to correct me when I use it (always a struggle). When I want to say I didn't know that something was something, I'll say something like this: トンカツは豚肉であることを知らなかった(I didn't know tonkatsu was pork). If that's not a valid use, here's a good chance to correct me :p
    – Nick O.
    Jun 30 '16 at 10:59
  • 4
    @Nick Overacker Using である when talking about the meaning of a word like that sounds natural to me because dictionary definitions and other written explanations often use である as well. I might suggest 「トンカツは豚肉のことであるとは知らなかった」(sounds a bit formal) or「トンカツって豚肉のことだったって知らなかった」(sounds very informal) as perhaps another natural-sounding way to say it.
    – sazarando
    Jun 30 '16 at 12:32

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