How Do You Use The Japanese Phrase そうです(Sou Desu)?

Last Updated on 25.10.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

There’s a running joke among foreigners living in Japan: when they encounter something they don’t understand in a Japanese conversation, they will say “そうです (Sou desu)!” But why is that? Think of そうです and its other variations as sort of a safety net. The concept here is that sou desu expresses affirmation, so it goes along with almost all statements.

今日、めっちゃ暑い!
Kyou, meccha atsui!
It’s really hot today!

そうですね!
Sou desu ne!
That’s right!

あの子はお母さんに怒鳴っていた。失礼ですね。
Ano ko wa okaasan ni donatte ita. Shitsurei desu ne.
That boy was shouting at his mom. He’s rude, isn’t he?

そうですよね…
Sou desu yo ne…
You’re right…

In other words, to say that we use そうです (sou desu) in a lot of situations is an understatement. It’s definitely on the top list of phrases that Japanese people — and learners — like to say, falling just behind hai (はい) and sumimasen (すみません). It has a lot of variations too, ranging from formal to casual forms. In terms of use, the different endings of そうです and intonations affect the implication of this phrase. Generally, however, they’re used to confirm or ask about the way things are.

When someone says “sou desu ka” or “sou desu” as a response, what exactly does it mean? Let’s look at some examples. At the end of this article, we hope you know how to use them — and understand why sou (そう) in Japanese will be one of the most useful words you’ll learn. 

This article will use hiragana. If you’re still learning them, don’t worry. Take a look at our hiragana chart to review them.

Jump to:

  1. そうです (Sou Desu): That’s right. 
  2. そうですか (Sou Desu Ka): Is that so?
  3. そうですね (Sou Desu Ne): That’s Right/Let Me See…
  4. そうですよ (Sou Desu Yo): That’s Right!
  5. そうですよ: That’s right (Strong)

1. そうです (Sou Desu): That’s right. 

Let’s start with its most basic form: そうです. The expression is used to give affirmation to a statement said by your conversation partner. It can both be a fact or an opinion. そうです (sou desu) means “It is so” or “That’s right.” Sometimes, it can also mean a simple “yes”. 

In this case, そうです is used for a positive affirmation to express that you agreed what your partner said. You’ll find that as this article progress, そうです and its variation can often e a subtle way to disagree. 

In casual speech, you can leave off です (desu) and just say そう (sou). Generally, you’ll hear people partner this word with other ways to say “yes” in Japanese, like hai (はい) or un (うん).

Let’s take a look at the example below. 

田中さんは学生ですね。
Tanaka-san wa gakusei desu ne.
Tanaka-san is a student, right. 

はい、そうです。
Hai, sou desu.
Yeah. That’s right. 

Sometimes, we can also use そうだ (sou da). This is also the informal version of そうです. だ (da) is the informal copula です (desu). 

昨日雨が降ったから、洗濯物が濡れちゃった。
It rained yesterday, so the laundry got wet. 

そうですか。残念ですね。
Sou desu ka. Zannen desu ne.
That’s right. It’s such a shame!

When you’re talking with your friends, you can also omit the desu and da and repeat the word そう. This is usually to show excitement.

このコーヒー、めっちゃおいしいよ!
Kono koohi, meccha oishii yo!
This coffee, it’s really good! 

そうそうそう!
Sou sou sou!
Yeah, yeah, yeah!

2. そうですか (Sou Desu Ka): Is that so?

The か addition is a question particle you would often hear, like お元気ですか. This is partially true.  However, you need to know that the interpretation of そうですか depends on the intonation. 

The first one is a falling intonation at the end. This one indicates an understanding of a situation as if you are saying, “Is that so,” in a flat tone.  Basically, with flat intonation, it’s closer to “I see.”

部長が、明日までに報告書を出すようにと…
Buchou ga, ashita made ni houkoku-sho o dasu you ni to…
The manager wanted you to submit the report by tomorrow… 

そうですか。わかりました。
Sou desu ka. Wakarimashita.
Is that so. I understand. 

Said with rising intonation, sou desu ka means closer to “Is that so?” The rising intonation makes it a question, which is often used in sentences to indicate doubt or ask for assurance. It can also be a response to something surprising, like saying, “Really?”

聞きましたか?田中さんが会社を辞めるそうです。
Kikimashitaka? Tanaka-san ga kaisha o yameru sou desu!
Have you heard? Tanaka-san quit the company!

えぇ?そうですか?
Ee? Sou desu ka?
What? Really?

 In casual Japanese, you can use そうか (sou ka) instead.

Because of this, そうですか can be used to indirectly express a different opinion or disagreement. Because you are not explicitly rejecting their statement, Japanese people will often find that this is a more polite way to keep a conversation going. 

今日の試験、簡単だったよ!
Kyou no shiken, kantan datta yo!
Today’s exam, was easy!

そうですか。難しかったと思うんですけど。
Sou desu ka. Muzukashikatta to omoun desu kedo.
Is that right. I thought it was hard, though…

“Sou desu ka?” is a general response to any new information, and doesn’t have to necessarily imply any doubt about what was just said.

3. そうですね (Sou Desu Ne): That’s Right/Let Me See…

When said with a neutral intonation, the ね (ne) at the end of そうですね adds a layer of assurance to the confirmation.

雪の日は、温かいお茶が一番ですね。
Yuki no hi wa, atatakai ocha ga ichiban ii desu ne.
When it’s snowing, warm tea is the best, right?

そうですね。私もそう思います。
Sou desu ne. Watashi mo sou omoimasu.
That’s right. I think so too. 

You will also notice that Japanese people will say sou desu ne with a long intonation. This is usually to show that they are considering how to respond to your comment. Generally, そうですね (sou desu ne) is used when agreeing with a statement.

In casual speech, そうだね can be used instead of そうですね, such as between friends.

最近、暗くなるのが早いね。
Saikin, kurakunaru no ga hayai ne.
Recently, it’s been getting dark fast. 

そうですね。もうすぐ冬ですね。
Sou desu ne. Mou sugu fuyu desu ne.
That’s right! It’s going to be winter soon!

4. そうですよ (Sou Desu Yo): That’s Right

Adding よ (yo) to yield そうですよ also adds a layer of affirmation of the fact to the listener. Unlike そうですね), which can sometimes be a way to express consideration,  そうですよ can also give authority to the speaker.

そうだよ is the casual form of そうですよ and can be used among friends and people of equal status.

ケーキには大量のカロリーが含まれています。
Keeki ni wa tairyou no karorii ga fukuma rete imasu.
The cake contains high amount of calories. 

そうですよ。食べ過ぎてはいけません。
Sou desu yo. Tabesugitehaikemasen.
That’s right. You can’t eat too much.

One thing to note is that the combination of そう and よ softens the way of affirmation. For example, if you replace the example sentence above with そうでね, you’ll find that it sounds more masculine (in this case, it doesn’t mean strictly men use them). 

5. そうですよ: That’s right

If そうですね expresses a firm agreement and そうですよ shows softer agreement, then the combination of ね and よ is a gentler way to show strong agreement. In conclusion, the variants including yo and ne all express agreement with what the other person just said.

ね and よ are added onto the sentence そうです to create a feeling of “Don’t you think so?” and “Definitely!” or “Absolutely!”  It’s more economical in Japanese to convey the sentiment with そうですよね or more informally: そうだよねー.

Conclusion

“Sou desu” is a very versatile Japanese phrase, but like Japanese culture, we’re just scraping the surface. Learning the Japanese language that you can actually use in real life can be tricky. If you want to earn more, Coto Academy offers lessons from beginner to advanced.

What is Sou Desu?

そうです (sou desu) means “It is so” or “That’s right.” Sometimes, it can also mean a simple “yes”. 

How do you use "Sou desu ne"?

When you agree with what the speaker said, the best way to show your agreement is by saying, “Sou desu ne”.

What is the casual form of そうです (sou desu)?

The various forms of そうです (sou desu = (things are/in) that way) are used in many ways, in formal and casual forms. In casual register, you can simply say “Sou” or “Sou da”.

How do you use "Sou desu"?

Sou desu is used to give affirmation to a statement said by your conversation partner. As a question with a rising intonation, it also means “Is that so?”

If you are interested in learning with us, contact us here or fill out the application form.


Would you like to study Japanese in Japan?


Realize your dream of moving to Japan and becoming fluent in Japanese.

Move to Japan