The meaning of so desu ne (そうですね) in Japanese

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the Japanese word so desu ne, including its Japanese definition and translation, example sentences, alternative expressions, and more!

What does so desu ne mean?

So desu ne (そうですね) means that’s right or I see. The first meaning is typically used to express agreement with what someone has said (at least at the surface level). The second usage is to simply let someone know that you are listening to them rather than necessarily agreeing.

So desu ne can also act as a filler word that means something like hmm or let me see. I have to say that this is one of my favorite Japanese phrases because of its flexibility and unique vagueness. It allows you to talk a lot without saying much at all!

Note that this versatile expression can also be written as sou desu ne in romaji to reflect the long “soo” sound. Below, we take a look at each meaning in a little more detail.

So desu ne meaning 1: That’s right

The Japanese expression so desu ne means that’s right or I see

The main usage of so desu ne is to express agreement, at least at the surface level. The English equivalent is close to that’s right or yeah, true.

Tanaka San wa purojekuto no tantousha deshou ka?
Mr. Tanaka, are you responsible for this project?

Hai. Sou desu ne.
Yes, that’s right.

Bear in mind that Japanese people are indirect and vague by nature, so you should not take a single so desu ne as complete and total agreement with something you have said! Always consider the context, the person’s expression, and whether this particular utterance could be one of the other meanings we discuss here.

So desu ne meaning 2: I see (I am listening)

So desu ne also functions as a so-called aizuchi (相槌), which is an expression that shows you are listening to the other person.

There is no real meaning being expressed here other than reassuring someone that they aren’t talking to themselves! Though not used nearly as often as in Japanese, English equivalents include I see and uh huh.

The aizuchi terms are quite important for living and working in Japan. I recommend learning what they are and using two or three of them. The simplest aizuchi of them all are hai (polite; はい) and un (casual; うん), the Japanese words for yes.

So desu ne meaning 3: Hmm (filler)

As I mentioned at the start of the article, you can also use so desu ne as a filler that is similar to words like ano or eto. In this context, so desu ne could be translated as hmm, let me see, or any other number of expressions that buy time rather than offering any real meaning.

So desu ne. Sono…nante ieba iin darou.
Erm, it’s…well…how should I put it?

So desu ne or so da ne?

You may have also heard the term so da ne (そうだね). What is the difference between this and so desu ne?

Simply put, so desu ne is a fairly polite term while so da ne is more casual. Both expressions mean the same thing, so which one you use will depend on who you are talking to. I therefore use so da ne with friends and my wife, and so desu ne at work or with strangers.