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What’s the difference between “tabun” (たぶん) and “desho” (でしょう). Both mean “probably”, but when would you use one over the other? Please explain by referring to the following examples:

Example 1

たぶん、黒とグレーです。
Tabun, kuro to guree desu. (It is probably black and gray.)

Example 2:

私たちがうわさをしているのではと彼女が心配するでしょう。
Watashi tachi ga uwasa o shite iru no dewa to kanojo ga shinpai suru deshou. (She will probably worry if we are gossiping about her)

Please note: I am a beginner and so would appreciate a simplified explanation. Thanks!

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    Is "She will probably worry if we are gossiping about her" your own translation? It seems a little off. – user3856370 Mar 20 at 19:55
  • @user3856370 What would the correct one be? Thanks! – big_smile Mar 21 at 11:19
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    That と is the quotative particle rather than the conditional. The では is a bit subtle for me to translate, but these links should help: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/29971/… and japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/29121/… – user3856370 Mar 21 at 19:59
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    I think this のでは refers to possibility so it is in agreement with でしょう. But, as @user3856370 points out, if is not the proper word here. In translating to English, the possibility of gossiping can be given in an implied tone, or it can be directly stated. I translate this as: She's worried that we are probably gossiping about her. or She's worried that we could be gossiping about her. – psosuna Mar 23 at 0:49
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    Yes, the と is quotative... You can rephrase the sentence as: 「"私たちがうわさをしているのでは(ないか?)"と、彼女が心配するでしょう。」 "She will be worried that we might be gossiping..." – Chocolate Mar 23 at 16:28
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I am a native speaker of Japanese but not of English. So my English may not be natural but I hope to be helpful.

たぶん and でしょう have similar meanings but are different parts of speech.

たぶん(=おそらく)'s definition is:

たぶん
1 〔おそらく〕probably; perhaps; possibly; maybe

So たぶん is an adverb like probably, perhaps, or possibly. And たぶん’s meaning varies from probably to possibly according to contexts.

でしょう(=だろう)’s definition is:

だろう
1 〔推量〕
(1)〔話者を主語にして〕I think [suppose/guess] (that).... [...]
(3)〔推量の助動詞を用いて〕

推量の助動詞 means can be, may be, could be, will be, etc.

So でしょう is an (auxiliary) verb like think, suppose, guess, will be, or may be.

Therefore you can say:

明日はたぶん雨だ。 (It probably rains tomorrow.)
明日は雨でしょう。 (It will rain tomorrow.)
明日はたぶん雨でしょう。 (It will probably rain tomorrow. Or I think it probably rains tomorrow.)

(I quoted the definitions from プログレッシブ和英中辞典)

  • @suzuki Thanks! So you would only use deshou でしょう to clarify that it is your thought? Whereas “tabun” (たぶん) is supposed to be less of a guess and implying an element of facts? – big_smile Mar 21 at 11:21
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    Yes, exactly! As more examples, “彼は勝つ” is “He wins”, “彼は勝つでしょう” is “He will win”, and “彼は多分勝つでしょう” is “Probably he will win”. – suzuki Mar 21 at 17:21
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たぶん and でしょう belong to different word classes, and it's hard to directly compare them. たぶん is an adverb, and でしょう is a "form of です" that inherently has a speculative/inferential meaning. Asking about the difference between them is like asking about "probably" and "I suppose". Actually, you can safely use both たぶん and でしょう in one sentence:

たぶん彼は心配するでしょう
He will probably worry. / I suppose he will worry.

The English word "probably" is an adverb, so you can say たぶん is closer to "probably". You can think でしょう is a way to express a similar idea without using an adverb. Finally, でしょう has various functions, so you may want to review the use of でしょう in a longer article like this.

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