~んです・のです - Grammar Discussion

explains or indicates, asking for reassurance

Structure

  • Statement + んです
  • Statement + のです

View on Bunpro

I’m really having a tough time differentiating between this ([~んです) and でしょ. Both seem to be asking for reassurance/confirmation. Any suggestions on how to keep them straight?

3 Likes

When you ask with ん・の like
どうしえそこに行ったんですか?
It means that you ask for explanation, you do not want simple yes/no/very short answer. You want more details.

When you use でしょ/でしょう(it differs in tone from でしょう - probably in intonation!) in questions it is something like tag questions in English. Asking for confirmation. De facto, English “right?”.

きみは車を持っているでしょ?
You have a car, right?

3 Likes

I also still struggle with this difference between んです and でしょう. As a beginner, I still am not sure I understand the explanation you gave and more than that I have a very hard time getting it right on the Bunpro grammar Reviews :frowning:

1 Like

No worries!

I will try my best explaining. Which parts of my previous post do you find unclear?

Let’s go step by step:
A: どうして そこに 行ったんですか。
Why did you go there?
Why - どうして
there - そこに
did go? - 行ったか。
ん - adds the nuance of explanation and since it is a question, it will be a nuance of asking for an explanation(seeking explanation), if we wanted to put this into words, it would be something like "explain it"or “explain what is going on”.

So if we want literal translation:
“Why did you go there, explain what is going on?” (it may sound a bit rude/negative in English, but there is no such nuance with ん/の)

In an affirmative sentence it could be translated as:
“the explanation is…”, “the reason is…”, “the situation is”, “it is that”.

Answer would be:
B: ともこさんに会わなければならなかったんだ。

ともこ - Tomoko
に - with
会わなければなかった - had to meet
んだ - explanatory nuance, “the explanation is”

Literal translation:
“The explanation is, I had to meet with Tomoko.”

You can think about it that way: children like to ask their parents many questions about everything around.
This is the core of ん/の construction. Wanting to know something and seeking information about things you see/hear etc. The child’s role.
And explaining. The parent’s role.


Let’s go to でしょう.

As it is explained in nuance section, でしょう(and だろう) it is an expression that expresses guess/conjecture. In other words not being sure about something, guessing it. There is nothing like that in の/ん.
Unlike other conjecture/guess expressions, when using でしょう you do not need any basis. It can be pure guess.

でしょう can be translated as “probably”, “I think that…”, “I wonder” etc.

これは彼の車でしょう。
It is probably his car./ I think it is his car.

Therefore it can also be used to soften your sentence.
When you say that phrase instead of:
これは彼の車だよ。
This is his car. (statement)
You appear less direct to the person you are conversing with. Since you are not stating it as a fact.
And being less direct means being more polite.

It also works that way in questions, makes them less direct and more polite.

窓を開けてもいいでしょうか?
Is it alright to open the window, I wonder?

Like I said in the previous post, another function of でしょう(often shortened to でしょ) is asking for confirmation of your interlocutor. Similar to particle ね。

彼はポーランドにいるね?
He is in Poland, isn’t he?
彼はポーランドにいるでしょ?
He is in Poland, right?

Do you understand the difference now?

14 Likes

Well in the first place, it is difficult for me to see the difference when the question is asked in the reviews to use the correct one.

I do understand now that there sure is quite a subtle difference between the usage. Probably even more.

While the でしょう is more used for asking confirmation or keeping something uncertain to not come across as rude, んです is more or less to ask for a concrete explanation of something. です is just stating a fact and だよ making it even more to the point that this statement is a fact.

Now is ね then just a more rude way to ask for confirmation than でしょう? Or another nuance of asking for confirmation, since we already got だろう.

I think this is what makes the Japanese Grammar difficult, those subtle differences in usage of some part. But maybe it’s just me as a German trying to learn Japanese via the English language :wink: Tho I do trust my English to be pretty good.

Thank you again for the very lengthy explanation. This sure brings me another step forward in better understanding all those difference.

1 Like

I have trouble too with のです and でしょう. Like why is it “いいのですか。” and not “いいでしょうか。”?

1 Like

I think the nuance was misleading so I have changed it. There should be no more confusion.

Hey :grin:
Have you read this?

Now that you know the difference, we can move to your question.

Both are correct, even combination is correct but they mean different things.

First of all, でしょ/でしょう with rising intonation asks for hearers confirmation, similar to ね。 It is used in casual language.

でしょうか is used to make questions more polite instead of ですか (more details in the post above).

So:

彼はポーランド人でしょ?
He is Polish, right? (asking for confirmation)

窓を開けてもいいでしょうか?
Is it alright to open the window, I wonder? (very politely phrased question)

いいのでしょうか?
(combination, very politely asking about explanation whether something is goos)
Is it good, could you say a bit more about it?


Is it a bit more clear now? :grinning:

3 Likes

Japanese Ammo just released a video for this:

Could explanations or examples be added for なんです? I had trouble recognizing it since I didn’t realize it was the same thing, just for nouns/na-adj.

1 Like

I will take care of this :+1:

1 Like

Did you ever add this? I just looked at んです・のです for noun/na-adjective examples since I just learned they have their own structure, and it still isn’t in the structure or example sentences.

1 Like

Hey :bowing_man:

Done!

Sorry for the inconvienience :bowing_man::bowing_man::bowing_man:

1 Like

Hello, this might be a stupid question, but I can’t seem to find out when I have to write のです or んです. Does it matter at all?

1 Like

Hey and welcome on the community forums :grin:

There are no stupid questions!
In this case, the only difference is that ん is casual, and の is polite.

So if you are talking to friends etc, you can use んだ, and when to unknown people, you should stick with の。Women and children often use の in casual speech too.

Casual:
man/woman: どうして遅れたの?
Man: バスが遅れたんだ。

man/woman: Why are you late? (asking for explanation)
man: The bus was late. (explaining)

man/woman: どうして遅れたの?
woman/child: バスが遅れたの。
man/woman: Why are you late? (asking for explanation)
woman/child: The bus was late. (explaining)

Polite:
everybody: どうして遅れたのですか?
everybody: バスが遅れたのです。
everybody: Why are you late? (asking for explanation)
everybody: The bus was late. (explaining)

As you noticed, when asking の is used by everybody, both in casual and polite speech.

2 Likes

Hey 2:grin:

I added some additional explanation. You should check it out again :+1:

Feel free to ask about everything, we will try to answer :grin:

Cheers,

1 Like

Hey guys, I am having some issues trying to understand why 覚(おぼ)える marks it wrong with no desu but it is OK with ndesu? Any explanations :)?

1 Like

Hey and welcome on community forums, sorry for the super late answer :grin:

覚える, 覚えます by themselves are also OK, but do not have the “explanation” nuance that is the focus of this lesson.

Cheers!

I didn’t quite understand the comment to the grammar section for ~んです・のです, which says “Versions without ん/の are also acceptable but sound old-fashioned.” But versions without ん/の will just be the straightforward sentences like “Verb + だ/です,” right? Which are used all the time, just don’t ask for/give an explanation. Why are they old-fashioned? What exactly is old-fashioned?

Could somebody please help me understand this? Thank you.

1 Like

Hey and welcome on the community forums :partying_face:

It was written in an confusing way. We will replace it.

Basically, the idea is that の is more formal and polite than ん (ん evolved from の due to being easier to pronounce, and became the colloquial variant.)

So, if you use のだ/のです in a declarative sentence in speech (instead of んだ/んです), for some people it might sound “old fashioned” (a bit unfortunate expression), or rather “stiff”/ “formal”/ “overly polite”. There is no rule banning it, and many don’t see anything wrong with that (especially with のです).

I hope it helps,
Cheers!

PS
There are some other nuances of の・ん, for example
in casual speech women and children often use の by itself in declarative sentences, but men rarely do that (or rather do not do that at all). Though, all groups use it in questions just fine.

行くの。 ← children/women, but not men
行くの? ← everybody (though children and women more often)