So Desu Ne – What does it mean in English

So desu ne (そうですね) is a common Japanese phrase that translates roughly to That’s right, or Indeed, depending on the context. I first heard it during my trip to Japan when Japanese people would sometimes reply to a statement with So Desu Ne.

It wasn’t until I actually started learning Japanese with a Japanese native that I learned more about this very common phrase. Chances are, when you visit Japan, you will hear it all around you too.

So Desu Ne is a versatile expression used in everyday conversation to show agreement, confirmation, or to reflect thoughtfully on what someone else has said.

Where does So Desu Ne comes from

The phrase so desu ne has a long history in the Japanese language, reflecting the cultural emphasis on polite communication. Over time, this phrase became a key part of everyday speech. It represented the societal norm of seeking consensus and agreeing gently.

Broken down into pieces, here are the rough translations:

So means so or that way.
Desu is a polite form of the verb to be meaning is or are.
Ne is a particle used at the end of a sentence to seek agreement, similar to saying right? or isn’t it? in English.

The particle ne is used at the end of a sentence in Japanese, as a way to check if the listener agrees with you.

Cory and Greg practicing So Desu Ne expression in Japanese
Cory and Greg practicing So Desu Ne expression in Japanese

Usage in Daily Conversation

So desu ne is used in a variety of situations in daily life.

To seek agreement

Your friend says, “It looks like it’s going to rain.”
The reply So desu ne suggests you agree or acknowledge the possibility of rain.

For reflection

Someone asks you, “Do you think it’s a good idea to start this project now?”
So desu ne… as you take a moment to think about the timing and implications of starting the project.

For confirmation

You’re discussing a plan and say, “We should probably check the weather before we go hiking, right?”
So desu ne, confirming that checking the weather is a good idea and softly agreeing with the suggestion.

Two business colleagues using So Desu Ne in business context
Two business colleagues using So Desu Ne in business context

Contextual Usage

The context in which so desu ne is used can vary from formal to casual, though it generally maintains a level of politeness.

In business meetings, it is used to show agreement or thoughtful consideration of a point.

In casual conversation, among friends, it is less about agreement and more about acknowledging the other’s statement.

For customer service, it is used to confirm and politely respond to customers’ statements or requests.

Variations of So Desu Ka used by two friends
Variations of So Desu Ka used by two friends


There are several variations of the phrase that slightly alter its meaning or the level of formality:

So da ne (そうだね) is a more casual version, used among friends or in less formal settings.

So desu ka? (そうですか?) translates to Is that so? or Really? and is used to express surprise or to confirm something intriguing or new.

So da yo ne (そうだよね) is also informal and emphasizes agreement with a bit more assertion, using “yo” for emphasis.

Learn more Japanese

This phrase is a staple in the Japanese language and now you know how it’s used and how you can use it when you visit Japan. Would you like to know more about how this phrase is taught to Japanese learners, or perhaps some common mistakes to avoid when using it? Check out my review on Japanese with Aimee, the first course I’ve taken in Japanese.

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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