Desu - Descriptions and Facts
"I am a student. You are American. That is a blue car." These are all descriptions and facts, and they use the verb desu in Japanese. The basic sentence structure in English is:
[subject] + [verb] + [complement]
Those who have studied English grammar may note that I separated the predicate in verb and complement. What is a complement? It is everything "else" after the verb. In our examples above, "a student," "American," and "blue car" are all complements. In a longer sentence, such as "We are not happy about the price of the movie," everything after "We are not" is the complement. The reason I separate these is because Japanese uses a different sentence structure. This may seem complicated, but it is not too difficult to master, with practice. The basic sentence structure in Japanese is:
[subject] + [complement] + [verb]
So to use those same examples, the Japanese word order would be "I a student am" or "That a blue car is." While it may seem difficult, just remember that the verb comes at the end of the sentence, and you will be ok. Here are some example sentences in Japanese:
Are wa nihon no eiga desu. (That is a Japanese movie.)
The grammar breaks down to [are ha] as the subject, [nihon no eiga] as the complement, and [desu] as the verb. Keeping the Japanese word order, we have "That a Japanese movie is." Here is another example:
Watashi wa amerikajin desu. (I am an American.)
Breaking down the grammar, [watashi wa] is our subject, [amerikajin] is our complement, and [desu] is the verb.
You may notice that each subject has the word "wa" with it. This is called a particle, and it plays a very important role in Japanese grammar, but is outside the scope of this article. For now, just know that the word "wa" by itself marks the topic of the sentence, which is often the subject as well.