When to use HA and when to add NAN before DESU KA

I’m having a hard time understanding when to only use DESU KA and when to add NAN before it. For example I’m on GENKI 1 right now and it asks me to translate “Are you a student?” And I wrote “GAKUSEI HA NAN DESU KA” when the correct answer was “GAKUSEI DESU KA”

学生は何ですか means “What is a student?”
学生ですか means “[Are you/Is he/Is she/Are they/Am I] a student?”


なん can also be the short version of なの, so if the choice is between 学生なんですか? and 学生ですか?the nuance is different, as both mean “[Are you/Is he/Is she/Are they/Am I] a student?”

@GnomeBoi which of these cases did you have trouble with?


It is important to note that the topic of this sentence is not the student, but you!
In Japanese you can often omit the わたしは in normal sentences, and the あなたは in questions. It gives a bit more efficiency.
If I say “I ate a sandwich” and “Ate a sandwich”, both most likely mean that I was doing the eating.

Now back to your sentence. The topic of this sentence should be you.
So what you want to ask is:

  • あなたは学生ですか

However, since you are allowed to omit the あなたは part, the simplest version of this sentence becomes:

  • 学生ですか

I feel like if OP’s at the point in Genki where he’s still translating lines like 学生ですか, he’s not yet at the point where he’s actually been taught the んです structure. :stuck_out_tongue:


Yea I haven’t gotten there yet :stuck_out_tongue: although I think I kinda understand how I messed up, thanks for the pointers anyhow :slight_smile:

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Yeah nan means what. You use it in what questions.

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Exactly thanks for double checking the one with 何 is asking what/which/how many the one with nothing is asking if you are that specific thing「student」 :hugs: Also the なん/なの its just a tone of explanation right? 例えば:
これが好きなんです/これが好き=Both “I like this” but one has more of explanative taste? Thanks🙂


One thing I thought I’d correct that no one’s mentioned: は is pronounced “wa” when it’s a particle.


Yeah, that’s basically it.

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