This interesting thread got me thinking about the various forms of the copula and how です is a contraction of で(は)あります. I am wondering why the standard X は Y で(は)あります does not seem to work for certain words, like i-adjectives. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the following examples show what I mean:

(1) これは高いです。 O

(2) これは高いではあります。 X 

(3) 彼は元気です。 O

(4) 彼は元気ではあります。O

(2) is the only one that feels unnatural to me but I'm not sure why.

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This is because an i-adjective does not require だ (or its te-form で) in the first place. です at the end of a sentence like これは高いです is not a copula but a politeness marker which never conjugates.

  • Why should I use つかれました and not つかれたです:

    Usually, です is a polite copula, similar to だ but more polite. But です can also be a politeness marker added to adjectives. When it's a politeness marker, です doesn't inflect for tense.

  • です after some verbs

    In Japanese, there's no need for a verb like be to show tense on adjectives. Adjectives can indicate tense all on their own, using the endings -い and -かった. In this case, です doesn't have its usual grammatical function. Instead, it's functioning as a politeness marker.

Instead, you can say これは高くはあります without using だ/で at all.

  • 1
    あっ!「The です in #3 in a copula, but the です in #1 is a politeness marker rather than a copula. You can see this from the fact that you say これは高い, but not これは高いだ」まで書いたところだったww またおんなじになるとこやったかもww – Chocolate Nov 29 at 13:06
  • Awesome, thanks! – kandyman Nov 29 at 14:01
  • @naruto How about if I add ん to 高い?これは高いんです。Is this still a politeness marker or does the ん・の introduce a copula? And how would you add the ん to 高くはあります? – kandyman Nov 29 at 14:03
  • 1
    I see. By the way, if これは高い doesn't need a copula or a verb, how can we categorize this as a sentence? It isn't a verbal phrase nor a noun phrase. How is are these structures analyzed in Japanese linguistics? – kandyman Nov 29 at 17:14
  • 1
    @kandyman, various languages have a part of speech described in English as a stative verb. Some analyses of Japanese treat ~い adjectives as stative verbs, since ~い adjectives can be used as predicates. – Eiríkr Útlendi Nov 29 at 20:09

Addendum: derivations and grammar

Adding onto naruto's answer.

One additional way of looking at this that might help explain why で[は]あります cannot be used with ~い adjectives, is that で (not だ nor です) evolved from earlier にて. This is a hint -- the に is essentially the same as the adverbial に added to な adjectives. Examples:

  • 元気な [NOUN]
  • 元気に [VERB]
  • 元気だ (where the だ is the copula "is")
  • 元気です (where the です serves as both the copula "is", and as a politeness marker)
  • 元気‍ある → older form 元気‍にて‍ある

The corresponding grammatical structures for an ~い adjective:

  • 高い [NOUN]
  • 高く [VERB]
  • 高い (where the ~い adjective all on its own already forms a complete predicate -- we don't need a copula. Saying 高い‍ is a bit like saying "it is is tall".)
  • 高いです (where the です serves just as a politeness marker)
  • 高‍‍ある
    The く here aligns with the に particle in the older form にてある for ~な adjectives.

To modify ある, both ~い and ~な adjectives must be in the adverbial form, although this is obscured by the contraction にて → で.

(As for why ~な adjectives also require the connecting auxiliary ~て before ある, whereas ~い adjectives do not [*高く‍‍ある is incorrect], I haven't found any cogent explanation, so if anyone can add that, I'd be most grateful.)

  • So what was the old form for i-adjectives? If 元気にてある was the old form for na-adjectives but there was no 高くてある then when was actually used? – kandyman Nov 29 at 19:39
  • The にてある for な adjectives matches the くある form for い adjectives, as I tried to show using the parallel bulleted lists. Was that unclear? Should I edit to clarify? Historically, this construction stretches back to Old Japanese ~くあり, equating to modern (though archaic / formal) ~くある. See various instances in the Man'yōshū, for instance. – Eiríkr Útlendi Nov 29 at 19:45
  • You mean that にてある became である and that くあり became くある? Is that correct? – kandyman Nov 29 at 19:58
  • A similar search reveals that にてあり was not used. However, the 形容動詞 (in modern Japanese, the ~な adjective) didn't really exist in the language until the Heian Period, some time after the Man'yōshū was written. – Eiríkr Útlendi Nov 29 at 20:02
  • @kandyman, yes, にてあり in classical and older Japanese becomes modern である, while くあり in classical and older becomes modern くある. – Eiríkr Útlendi Nov 29 at 20:03

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