I recently tried machine translated the following:

This is amazing. This is amazing.

And was surprised when the result was:


I kind of expected the second example to come out as


Since "is" and "です" serve the same function in the sentence. Similarly I would expect,

This was amazing.

to become


Is there any kind of general consensus on whether formatting like bold should follow the topic marker or the copula in this case?

  • 3
    です actually does not serve any grammatical role in your sentence, because the word 素晴らしい doesn't need a copula. It only makes the sentence polite. Additionally, でした after 素晴らしい is ungrammatical. It would need to be 素晴らしかったです. It's probably worth spending some more time familiarizing yourself with the grammar fundamentals before delving farther into nuanced sentences. I also don't really understand what the bold is supposed to be in the Japanese sentences.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:22
  • 1
    How did you add emphasis in Google Translate?
    – Blavius
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:35
  • Hello, I'm the OP. I'm not sure how to claim an unregistered account. @leebo nice catch on my mistake, could you help me improve my question? My goal is to know whether, when translating emphasis, it is more acceptable to keep the emphasis on the topic-marker or the copula. I'll take a stab at using a sentence that does not involve an い-adjective
    – Ziggy
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 2:42
  • @Blavius I'm using google's API directly, so I'm sending HTML and receiving translated HTML. You can play with this in your brower by clicking "translate a document" and uploading a file. translate.google.com
    – Ziggy
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 2:43
  • 1
    It might help if you explained a bit more about what you mean by emphasis. In English, we tend to literally give these words more "oomph" when we say them. But in Japanese, if you want to emphasize これ as the thing that is 素晴らしい over other things, something like これが素晴らしい is used. が instead of は. So that's why clarification might help.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 2:46

1 Answer 1


It's not that simple. Machine translation often makes mistakes, and it's particularly bad at grasping the subtle nuances expressed by emphasis.

This is amazing.

This English sentence usually implies "This is the one that is amazing, nothing else.", right? In Japanese, you usually use exhaustive-listing が to express this nuance, and that's the equivalent of this "emphasized this". If you want to emphasize the sentence rally strongly, you can actually pronounce が with a stress, but that's not necessary.


This is amazing.

This English sentence usually implies "(Despite your statement) This one is actually amazing, not bad.", right? Unfortunately, in Japanese, this is not something that is easily expressed by simple stressing. To convey the same nuance in Japanese, you have to do something else, like using an ordinary adverb, choosing a suitable sentence-end particle, or use explanatory-の.


Likewise, it's often difficult to directly translate English sentences with emphasis such as "I do like him", "I was there", "He did kill her", etc.

Stressing です is actually something I sometimes hear from children or childish characters in fiction, but I don't remember when I spoke like this last time.


  • Thanks! Great answer, I feel enriched ;) We offer automatic machine translation as a service to users to get them started, but encourage and enable them to use a real translation service. I'm just trying to decide whether I should strip the markup first, and say "watch out, rich text is not preserved" or leave it in as "good enough". Either way, the machine translations will be replaced with professional translations later (its just, most of our users need like 15 languages all at once).
    – Ziggy
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 5:06
  • Oh crap, I can't accept the answer as I registered as an unregistered user and haven't been able to claim the account :(
    – Ziggy
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 5:06
  • 2
    @Ziggy You can merge your accounts japanese.stackexchange.com/help/merging-accounts
    – chocolate
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 5:19

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