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I have read that the volitional form expresses the intent to do or not do an action. Afterwards I found a case where this doesn't seem to apply when conjugating the です verb.

I read a sentence where a series of images of flowers are shown to the reader. I believe they are asking which one is the flower of an eggplant. It goes like this:

なすの花どれでしょう?

The question uses the volitional form but it doesn't seem to match the definition that I read before.

  • How should どれでしょう? be translated?
  • Is there a difference between using there どれでしょう? and どれですか?
  • Are there other possible interpretations? Which are other sentences that use どれでしょう and how is this expression interpreted in them?
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The volitional form is also used to make a mild suggestion or draw a vague inference about something (particularly if the verb in question is nonvolitional in nature).

なすの花どれでしょう

is a question asking, “which of these [flowers] is that of an eggplant?”

Depending on the context, the person could be thinking out loud. Or, perhaps someone informed them there was the flower of an eggplant on a display table covered with various flowers, the individual approached the table and is looking, doesn’t see the flower and so asks the person in charge of the display. It could be an adult or teacher teaching a child various flowers and as a quick review asks, “which is the eggplant?”

どれですか wouldn’t work in all the scenarios outlined above. Or, it might come across as rather brusk. でしょう has a very soft feel to it. But take the case of someone approaching a display table of flower. どれですか really seems to presume there is an eggplant flower there. どれでしょう is less certain and leaves the possibility that there is no such flower there.

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  • Thanks for the answer! I took a look at the jisho entry and it mentions that one translation may be "I wonder". I think that its what translates most nicely to English given this context, "I wonder which of these is the eggplant flower". – Aridez Aug 17 at 0:12

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