Most of us don’t want to sound like a jerk. Especially when we’re doing something like rescheduling an appointment with someone last minute. It happens to the best of us, so let’s make sure we know how to do so and still sound respectful.
Observe these messages I got from friends trying to reschedule something:
My friends hedged by using emoticons (>_<), apologizing (ごめん！), and most useful for us… by using the word でも！
OK but what does でも actually mean?
＝ て-form of です/だ ＋ も
＝ verb meaning “to be” ＋ particle meaning “even”*
⭐ *も means both “also” and “even”.
Thus the sentence 日本語の本も読める can be interpreted as
(1)”He can also read Japanese books” AND (2) “He can even read Japanese books”.
Here, though, it means “even.”
If this looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s the grammatical pattern 〜てもいい, which we use when asking for permission to do things. By putting the verb です/だ in its て-form, we can then ask if the thing itself (a noun) is permissible.
お手洗い行ってもいいですか？/ May I go to the bathroom?
[literally: Is even going to the bathroom OK?]
お手洗いでもいいですか？/ Is the bathroom OK?
[literally: Is even it being the bathroom OK?]
You’d say this if you’re doing something and asking if it’s OK to do it in the bathroom.
This got me thinking about another meaning of でも：”but”. I’m sure we all use it to say “but”… but why??? Since で means “to be” and も means “even”, でも actually means “even if this is so” or “even so” … that’s why it means “but”!!! 😲 😲 😲 😲 😲
Which means that the questions 水曜でもいい？ (from Exhibit A) and 9時半でもいい？(Exhibit B) has the nuance of “Is even Wednesday/9am OK?” Really softens the request, don’t you think?
⭐ Make sure you don’t confuse this with the other kind of でも. That’s:
でも ＝ the particle で ＋ も meaning “also”
- 携帯でも写真とれる。You can take pictures by phone as well.
- アフリカでも雪が降る。It snows in Africa as well.
→ で is that super versatile particle that we use to indicate a tool (phone) we’re using to do something, a place (Africa), etc.
Now back to でも！
Keep in mind that even if you’re not rescheduling something, you can still use でも to sound a bit more polite. In fact, many people also say ご飯でも行こう.
Say you’re planning to meet a friend for dinner sometime. Obviously, you wouldn’t use でも in every sentence, but let’s get some practice by replacing all the は particles in the following questions with a でも:
- 火曜日はどう？(How’s Tuesday?)
→ 火曜日___どう？(How’s, say, Tuesday?)
- 新宿はどう？ (How’s Shinjuku?)
→ 新宿___どう？(How’s, say, Shinjuku?)
- 7時はどう？(How’s 7?)
→ 7時___どう？(How’s, say, 7?)
Next time you (re)schedule a meal with someone, or just suggest anything in general, try using でも！ Maybe you need to turn in a paper one day late? (明日___いいですか？) Or you want to buy a red couch for your living room but your housemates might not agree? (赤___いい？) Or you have friends over and the best drink you can offer them is instant coffee? (インスタントコーヒー___どう？) Whatever the request or suggestion, if you want to sound less like a jerk, でも is your best friend.