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.


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 '18 at 13:06
  • @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 '18 at 14:03
  • @kandyman That の/ん is a formal noun, so it takes a normal copula that conjugates (e.g. 高いんでした). And 高くはあります + ん = 高くはあるんです.
    – naruto
    Nov 29 '18 at 14:50
  • 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 '18 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. Nov 29 '18 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 '18 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. Nov 29 '18 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 '18 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. Nov 29 '18 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. Nov 29 '18 at 20:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.