My teacher told me the "で" in "それでは" was not the particle "で", would that mean it is the same "では" as in "ではない" (aka the て-form of です)? If, so what is the literal meaning of "それでは"?

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    I am baffled by your teacher's comment. で has many meanings and uses, but で is で is で. The only case I can think of where it's not the particle / copula is when it's the rendaku version of conjunctive verb suffix て. ??? Oct 25, 2022 at 19:12
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi - I assumed they meant それでは in the sense of “then” as in それでは終わりましょう.
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 26, 2022 at 1:22
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    Right, I think he was probably trying not to confuse the other students who are complete beginners (since this is our first year of Japanese), by distinguishing the particle で and the copula だ (made of で + ある), but I agree, he probably shouldn't have said that "it isn't the particle で".
    – Gyabu_7
    Oct 26, 2022 at 9:21

2 Answers 2


I do not agree with your teacher, and can assure you that syntactically, the で of では is 100% the てform of だ, and this では is the same では as in ではない。

Now, both では and ではない are already common expressions, and are usually taught as "one single thing." But let's break them down and see why are they the way they are, shall we?

First, let's take a verb "to run" 走る. This is its terminal form, which is the same as its dictionary form, which should only appear at end of sentences or relative clauses. Ex. He runs 彼は走る The dog that runs 走る犬.

Now, what if I want to make this action of running the subject of my sentence? Well, two options. One is to nominalize the verb using こと, so (the action of) running is not ok would be 走ることはいけない. The second option is to use its てform, which kind of "nominalizes" the verb, and we can use it as the subject now. Running is not ok 走ってはいけない.

This is one of many uses of てform, but is the one we are focusing on to explain では. The terminal form of "(something) is a dog" is 犬だ. What if I want to use this "(something) being a dog" as the subject? Same answer - the てform, which is 犬で. Then, we can say things like

  • (something) being a dog is not ok 犬ではいけない (Not necessarily the listener being a dog is not ok. Maybe you're choosing your favourite animal, and I tell you 犬ではいけない, then your choice being a dog is not ok.)
  • (something) being a dog is scary 犬では恐ろしい (Again, the something here can be a lot of things based on context, could be me being a dog is scary, could be my friend's new pet being a dog is scary, etc.)
  • And classically, not a dog. 犬ではない. Here, it literally means "(the idea of) something being a dog does not exist". Conversely, you might have also heard 犬で(は)ある. It means "it's a dog", but more literally "(the idea of) something being a dog exists"

Sometimes ではない is でない, and である can also be ではある. Same meaning, just sometimes people drop the は particle.

Now, I hope you see that the で of では is exactly the てform of だ, and では in ではない is not anything special. For your example, それでは, or sometimes just では at beginning of sentences, it translates as "that said" or "therefore", but literally it's just "regarding (it) being that", or それ{that} で{being} は{regarding}

So, let's end the meeting.
Regarding it being like that, let's end the meeting.

Japanese is a very structural language, and I often times feel its grammar is taught in an unnecessarily complex way. If we can break down set phrases to trace the grammatical elements behind them then the students can surely get a better understanding of the language, and once the literal meaning is known, some of the nuances and quirks of certain phrases (like what tone does this carry) would come as a natural realization.

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    As an additional note, do you see now why we say 全部食べてもいいよ, instead of 全部食べるもいいよ ? Even 全部食べていいよ is grammatical, but 全部食べるいいよ is not. This is just one of the functions of てform.
    – dvx2718
    Oct 26, 2022 at 5:08
  • Really grateful for the time you took to write this, it is exactly the kind of answer I wish appeared in textbooks! I just have a question concerning the nominalization function of the て-form (which is the first time I hear about this and can't find much info about); I get how "走ることは" means the "thing of running", but how would you literally translate "走っては", or at least the て-form of verbs in general? I used to think "走って..." meant "to run AND ..." (let me know if this should be a whole other question altogether).
    – Gyabu_7
    Oct 28, 2022 at 6:12
  • Hi, you're more than welcome! As for the てform, I mentioned it's "is just one of the functions of てform", because there are mainly two. The first one is to combine 用言, i.e. 彼は走って出かけた。これは綺麗で貴重だね。 By extension, there are also some combination that are common and taught as separate grammar, like していく、している、してください, etc. In essence, these are just てform of verbs + 行く、いる、or 下さる。Aside from the combining feature, てform can also "idea-lize" a 用言, then we can use as subject. てform is special coz there's no 1-to-1 counterpart in English, so how you translate each one is based on usage and context.
    – dvx2718
    Oct 28, 2022 at 17:37

I think you should take it just as a single word それでは. Since it can be では, I don't think it is particularly helpful for understanding because で in では cannot be (perceived as) a particle or a copula.

That said, hopefully the following gives some idea.

で can be a particle or a copula, depending on the usage.

それでは means (The interjection usage omitted):

[接] 1 前に示された事柄を受けて、それに対する判断・意見などを導く。そういうことなら。それなら。では。それじゃ。「―いずれ手にはいるね」「―こうしたらどうか」

2 物事をその時点で始めたり終えたりすることを示す。では。それじゃ。「―私から発言しよう」「―これで打ち切りとします」


So simply, it means (1) then as a conjunction ([接]) and (2) with that as a combination ([連語]) of で and は.

In the sense (1), で is a copula. それでは is equivalent to something like if (things) are so and で works as a copula connecting the omitted subject and それ.

In the sense (2), で is a particle for with,by. Basically, it is the same usage as 箸で食べる=to eat with chopsticks. それでは解決にならない means, at the bottom, It is not resolved by that.

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