I just came across this sentence while studying verb する

山田さんは英語の先生をしている - (As per the book it translated to " Yamada-san is an English Teacher)

  • My question is why did not we use です instead of する and make the sentence into 山田さんは英語の先生です (which also has the same meaning)?
  • Further, is there any difference in the nuance between the two sentences?
  • 5
    +1 but it would make more sense to compare either している and だ or しています and です. Commented May 3, 2020 at 12:44
  • In the book is this an answer to a question or just a stand alone statement?
    – katatahito
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 20:11
  • It is a stand alone statement
    – APK
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 21:53

3 Answers 3


です is a statement that A is B, while している is a denotation of being so.

  • 山田さんは英語の先生をしている -- has been an English teacher.
  • 山田さんは英語の先生です -- is an English teacher.

On the first one, we surely understand she is doing now. The latter one is a general phrase and also might 山田さん retired some time ago, but she is still a teacher. In case of this, 先生をしていた would fit perfectly.

  • Thanks for the answer, I got what are you trying to say. Can this be used to signify the permanency, wherein the をする is showing less permanency, and there is a chance that he might change his job. Whereas, です is showing that is he intending to be as it is
    – APK
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 9:18
  • In written form, している sounds less stating in any case. But in oral, it's not much different unless speaker stress です intentionally.
    – user34216
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 20:37

It's close to "Yamada-san works as an English teacher".

  • Can you give examples, please, to highlight the nuance
    – APK
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 22:16

Here, we are comparing two options:

a) 山田さんは英語の先生をしている。/ しています。

b) 山田さんは英語の先生だ。/ です。

Let's focus on (a) first. If you check this link, you'd see that it says:


This roughly translates to "to play a role." In other words, you can translate (a) as "Yamada-san plays the role of a teacher." He may or may not be professional/licensed teacher in the strictest sense of the word, but he acts as a teacher.

Now, let's look at (b). From this link, です has this definition


This translates "to express a conclusion or decision." We see that だ or です is used in presenting that something--a concrete or abstract fact--is. This is actually a conclusive statement (as opposed to expressions such as でしょう・だろう or かもしれません・かもしれない) and therefore shows certainty. In other words, this is the most direct translation of "Yamada-san is an English teacher."

Now, why did the book's authors choose the translation "Yamada-san is an English teacher." for "山田さんは英語の先生をしている." I think this is because "Yamada-san is an English teacher." sounds more direct and natural than "Yamada-san plays the role of a teacher."

  • Could this be more like the difference between 仕事をする and 働く, wherein the 先生をする is 仕事をする wherein, he is currently playing the role and he is not considering it as permanent (not referring to movie role or something) of a teacher and he is stating what is he presently doing, as compared to 先生です wherein, he is signifying the fact that he is a teacher which is more sort of showing permanency
    – APK
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 9:14
  • I agree that です gives some sort of permanency compared to をしている. But can you explain or provide reference that led you to conclude that there's a difference in permanency between 仕事をする and 働く?
    – rebuuilt
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 9:51
  • 1
    はい, 4friendsnihongo.com/blog/hataraku-vs-shigoto
    – APK
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 11:30
  • In that case, then yes, it's a reasonable analogy.
    – rebuuilt
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 13:36

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