Meaning of のです/んです

Hey, guys I’ve seen this bit of grammar a lot and I’m still not really sure about it’s meaning. If you could recommend a good article, or explain it yourself that would be awesome. Thanks in advance!

3 Likes

My notes (mind that they’re still not as I want them):

and
How to add an explanatory tone in Japanese

The particle 「の」as previously mentioned, serves to connect/substitute nouns. However, it has one more function where it’s frequently used. It allows you to give an explanatory tone to your sentence without necessarily turning it into a justification. A lot of the times, it is translated as “It is that”, meaning that the explanation is being given/asked by the speaker.

Conjugation:

  • Noun + な + の/ん + だ/です
  • Verb + の/ん + だ/です
  • I adjective + の/ん + だ/です
  • Na adjective + な + の/ん + だ/です

You look at your friend and it looks like he got hurt.

何があった?(1.1)
What happened?

事故があった。(1.2)
There was an accident.

何があったの?(2.1)
What (is it that) happened? (+ looking for further explanation).

事故があったの。でも、安心して!僕は大丈夫だから。(2.2)
(It is that) there here was an accident. Don’t worry though! I am okay.

While the question (1.1) could just imply that you’re asking about what happened and nothing more, (2.1) indicates that there’s an information deficit and that the speaker is looking to know more about what’s being talked about. On the answer side, while (1.2) was simply a description of facts, (2.2) was said with the intention of revealing the missing information. The speaker in this case, could choose to add extra information (or not), compared to a mere description of facts (1.2).

Of course, this information deficit can be added by the speaker anytime, both in a question or in an answer format.

Examples:

早く歩いてください!時間がないんです。
Please hurry up! (It is that) there’s no time.

In this case, the speaker used this to justify the lack of information that might have occurred in the first affirmation.

Using 「のだ」 and 「んだ」 as a way to ask for reassurance:

Sometimes in a question format, you’ll see 「のだ」and 「んだ」being used in yes or no questions. In this case, it’s not necessarily about making an information deficit. I mean, the answer will be a yes or no, so there isn’t much to explore unlike the examples given above. In these cases, you’re actually asking for reassurance/confirmation from the listener.

Examples:

いい?
Is it okay? (More factual, less emotional – “Okay?”).

いいの?
Is it okay? (More about seeking for reassurance, more emotional – “Is it okay?”).

Order of formality:
「の」can be substituted by its casual form 「ん」.

日本に行きます。
I will go to Japan.

for

日本に行くのです。
日本に行くんです。
日本に行くのだ。
日本に行くんだ。

(It is that) I will go to Japan.

In speech, you’ll find 「ん」being more frequently used compared to 「の」. This is simply because the former gets better integrated in the flow of speech, compared to the later. Read both these two sentences out loud and see which one rolls on your tongue better:

明日友達と遊びたいのだ!
明日友達と遊びたいんだ!

(It is that) I want to hang out with my friends tomorrow.

11 Likes

https://www.bunpro.jp/grammar_points/17 and A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar p.325.

2 Likes

I guess that makes sense, it’s probably one of those things that don’t have a clear cut English equivalent. I guess native material is really the way to learn the nuances of its meaning.

1 Like

I made sure to translate the English sentences with “it is that”, so you could have a similar wording to associate with の/ん :v: So I advise you to use that until you start getting a grasp of it.

2 Likes

But these aren’t even equivalent sentences, so you really shouldn’t have them together.

1 Like

They are, you’re just thinking of the other function of の (行くの - the thing that goes). Using の for this grammar point is not as common (like I wrote), but it’s still worth mentioning imo since it’s not ungrammatical, as far as I know.

How would they be equivalent? 行きます is just neutral, no added nuance.

2 Likes

The first one doesn’t use の or ん, so it’s not using the explanatory at all. That’s why I said they’re not the same.

1 Like

Ohh, I understand what you guys mean now. Yeah, that sentence is there for “comparison”. The way it’s structured isn’t ideal, I agree xD

EDIT: Fixed it.

An example I had recently was in a manga I’m reading, the one guy says こ-これは?(talking about the demons that were frozen in the ice). Then the ice shatters and he says, にげるんだ!!!

So since it’s for further explanation would I be correct in saying that it’s like saying something like let’s escape, but adding further explanation implying they should escape because of what had just happened?

1 Like

There are actually a bunch of different scenarios where のだ / のです can be used.

1 Like

One of which is as an imperative. Instead of saying 逃げろ or 逃げて you can say 逃げるんだ to be like (keeping the previous translation) “it is that you will escape”

Grammarically it feels similar to when you very forcefully in English say “You will do this,” in that it’s not phrased as a request or order, but it semantically is one. Though I’m not suggesting the nuance is 1 to 1, because this is a lot more common in Japanese.

1 Like

Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide also has an article about の used when giving / asking for explanations:

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/nounparticles#The_particle_as_explanation

1 Like

Hi guys, been studying this grammar point all afternoon through everything available on the internet, but I’m still shaky with how to use this with verbs and can’t really find a good explanation. I’m specifically looking at the のです/んです form (Bunpro girl here), and here’s what I’m retaining on how to use this with verbs:

Affirmative present/future: verb in dictionary form + のです/んです
Negative present/future: what I’m confused about :slight_smile:
Past: verb in past casual form + のです/んです
Past negative: verb in past casual form + の/ん+ ではない/ ではありません

I feel like I should be able to infer the answer to my question from the info I have but for some reason my brain is running in circles panicking around this form. I’ve been Googling for an hour but for even the more in depths pages jump straight from affirmative to past/past negative, skipping entirely the present negative…
Any clarification and examples of this used with action verbs in negative form greatly appreciated!

What are confused by specifically?

I don’t know how to create that specific form… Where should the の/ん go? Sorry if this is a stupid question…

I think you can always use regular conjugation + んだ.

行くんだ
行かないんだ
行ったんだ
行かなかったんだ

EDIT Check this out (specifically the tables):
http://www.guidetojapanese.org/particles3.html#part5

Thanks! I went to the link above *and now I know why I was confused: there are two ways of using the form:
飲まないんだ vs 飲む んじゃない
学生だったんだ vs 学生なんだった
etc…

I couldn’t understand why from one example to the next, things looked much different. Is there actually a difference in meaning between whether you conjugate the verb or the copula?

I personally use, and hear people use, the negative conjugated copula for questions.

行くんじゃない?
Won’t you go?

I would never say 行かないんだ for a question. That’s a response.

But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you can only use the んじゃない version for questions, but that just seems like the most useful application to me.

This is also not the only way you can ask a question using some kind of negative.

2 Likes