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I was told that 'そうですか’ has two basic meanings according to the speaker's accent. One is 'Really? I understand', the other meaning is 'Yes, it is, I know that'.

But what about 'そうですね'? Does 'そうですね' have the same meaning with the second meaning of 'そうですか'? What is the accurate meaning of these three sentences?

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A:君の妹はきれいだよ。(Your sister is beautiful). B:そうですか?(I don't think so.)

A:君は、試験に落ちました。(You failed an examination.) B:そうですか.(I see.)

A:どんな食べ物が好き?(What foods do you like?) B:そうですねぇ, 魚が好きです。(Well, I like fish.)

A:日本語は難しいよ(Japanese language is difficult.) B:そうですね(That's correct.)

I feel そうですか in affirmative sentence is often used in pessimistic consent and そうですか in question means "I don't think so" rather than "Really?".

そうですね means "I agree with you", "Right", "That's correct".

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  • Very helpful answer! English doesn't have exact equivalents, but for French speakers it seems like そうですか is a bit Iike "n'est-ce pas?" (uncertain or hesitant) and そうですね is more like "c'est ça" (more agreeing, more certainty). – Dan Lenski Aug 25 '17 at 20:21
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Ive always felt that an easy way to both explain and remember "そう” is to compare it to one version or way in which we use the english "so"

Basically if you you have ever heard the star trek line "make it so", this matches exactly to "make it そう”

another example to illustrate my point:

"do so immediately" and "いますぐ そう する" (immediately so do)

Disclaimer though, even though "so" and "そう" are exactly the same meaning conceptually, the usage does differ between languages.

for example: "Is that so" vs "それ は そう です か"

even though these two sentences have the same meaning conceptually, first, japanese dont even use this sentence as far as im aware... PLUS in the english usage of the sentence there is typically an implied doubt or surprise(depending on the tone) when we say "is that so"... its not typically used in a neutral way.

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  • I'm still amazed at this parallelism between the english "so" and the Japanese そう. It helps a lot to retain the word. – jarmanso7 Aug 1 at 10:23
  • Yeah, it noticed that early on. It surprises a lot of people when I point out this parallel. Ive found things where i can draw a parallel are so easy to remember... such as: "n" vs "ん” or "name" vs "なまえ” (i strongly suspect that this one is not a coincidence) – Myler Aug 1 at 18:14
  • Yes, I noted the なまえ thing, too. But it is indeed a coincidence. It is formed by the kanji 名 (な) and 前 (まえ), so it kind of means the "front 前 name 名", i.e. the first name. – jarmanso7 Aug 1 at 22:27
  • I'm Spanish, and I love the parallel between あした (tomorrow) and the Spanish word "hasta" used in the expression "hasta mañana" (see you tomorrow). – jarmanso7 Aug 1 at 22:30
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No in french, そうですか means "Ah bon" like 'really!' But "そうですね means 'n'est ce pas' like 'that's right' or something like 'is that Right ?'

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The internet is surprisingly devoid of an accurate explanation of this, so let me try to break it down. First you need to know that "sou desu ne" (そうですね)is WEIRD to hear...it should be "sou desu nee" (そうですねえ)basically always.

You'll notice when I write Japanese in Romanji I put spaces in, which is important because the words don't always delineate themselves without writing actual Japanese (Katakana + Hiragana + Kanji). "Desu" and "nee" are both sentence particles, which is a concept that English simply doesn't have. "Sou" means something to the effect of "this (conceptual) thing here," "kou" is "this (conceptual) thing near me," and "ano" is "that (conceptual) thing over there." That pattern happens a few times, for example with "koko" ("here"), "kono" ("this physical thing here [description of object]"), and "kore" ("this physical thing here" [no description required, inferred from context]).

I know that's a lot of information just to define "sou," but it's important to understand that while it translates to "this," it specifically means "this conceptual thing we're both aware of right now." So what does that refer to? It's just whatever you said right before that. Let's try introducing one word to start making meaningful sentences. "atsui" (あつい)means "hot", but when spoken it's important that the intonation of the "tsu" be high, otherwise you've just said "thick." Now I can start to construct actual sentences talking about the weather (of course).

There are three conversational patterns to walk through in order to answer your question: "desu nee", "desu ne?", and "desu ka?" Those question marks I added on purpose to identify the two phrases that are questions, but of course Japanese doesn't have that punctuation.

  1. "atsui desu nee" (あついですねえ) means "it's hot [expecting agreement]" and is basically always followed up by the other person in the conversation saying "sou desu nee!" which just means "it sure is!" It's very important to note that the particle "nee" (ねえ) does not make the sentence a question, so the appropriate response is just to agree. "desu" doesn't have any particular translation to English, it's just the Distal style (polite) particle that connects the words on either side.

  2. "atsui desu ne?" (あついですね) means "it's hot-right?" The particle "ne" makes the sentence a question where the speaker is seeking confirmation. Disagreeing would get awfully complicated, but the answer should just be "hai. atsui desu yo" (はい。あついですよ), which means "yes. it's hot!" "Hai" is the Distal form of "yes," and "yo" is another particle with no translation, but it makes the statement a little more emphatic (hence the exclamation mark). To your point about the effect of how this is said, it's not the accent that you need to get right per se, it's the pronunciation. The "ne" at the end should be said with a rising intonation, very similar to English actually. Think of how we say "right." vs. "right?", it's exactly the same. The rising intonation at the end of the sentence makes it a question. Also notice that there's only one "e" here unlike the two before. Japanese doesn't have syllables, it has "moura" (もうら)which is a unit of sound, and every moura gets the same amount of time when spoken. So the "nee" before is two moura, "ne (ね)" then "e (え)," which you'll often see written online as nē. This particle "ne" is only one moura, which changes the meaning and pronunciation.

  3. "atsui desu ka?" (あついですか)means "is it hot?" Ending with the particle "ka" makes the sentence a question without the presumption of agreement. A typical response would simply be "hai. atsui desu" (はい。あついです) which of course means "yes. it's hot." I left off the "yo" to drop the emphasis on the sentence because the question was not presuming agreement like before.

That's an awfully long answer to a short question, but you did ask for an accurate translation :) Hope this helps.

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As for the usage "ne" ive always found it (being canadian) matches up really nicely with times where i might use "eh?"

"The weather is nice eh" and "てんき は いい です ね"

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  • 3
    You should probably add this to your first answer or it might get moved for you or deleted or something. – By137 Aug 1 at 4:38
  • I wanted to completely separate it to avoid it being too cumbersome. If it gets removed then whatever, hopefully the original remains as it's more useful. – Myler Aug 1 at 5:38
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    I think your two answers make sense as a single answer, since you answer different parts of the question. You can draw a horizontal line (with ___) if you want to separate different parts of your answer visually. – Earthliŋ Aug 1 at 7:27

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