What is the と in なんだと?

I hear this phrase often enough in the animes I’ve watched, but while I understand なんだ to be “What is it?” (correct me if I’m wrong), I don’t know what the と does.

When I hear this in anime, it’s usually someone really pissed and has the feeling of “what the hell did you say?!”, so I believe this is short for 「なんだと言ったのか?!」.


Some extra examples:


Thanks for the responses, but I knew what it meant - I’m just in the dark about what the と is doing for it.

But the person just said it’s an abbreviation for なんだと言ったのか


Yeah, i guess it’s an abbreviation (ellipsis), there are many in anime.
Sometimes you hear いったい?, short for いったいなに? (一体何) or a different question word.

Proverbs are also often abbreviated, e.g. instead of
皮算用 (かわざんよう).

Meaning: Counting raccoon dog skins before they’ve been caught.

But there’s no と in the sentence you gave, is there?

Let me try breaking it down a different way…

なん(なに) = “what”
だ = copula, “is”
と = particle, used to quote the previous word/phrase
言った = verb “say” conjugated to “said”
の = particle, emphatic, looking for an explanation
か = particle, question marker

You could go into a more lengthy explanation of each of these but I’m just giving a general sense of how it’s used here.

なんだ = this by itself is “what is”, usually translated as “what is it?”
なんだ と 言った か = literally “what is, quoted, [you] said, ?”, usually translated as “what is it that you said?”
なんだ と 言った のか = same as above but more emphatic, like “what the hell did you say?”
なんだ と = shortened, same implied meaning, in English we might say “what the?” to shorten our full thought

One more difference…
なにと言った? = this is more like “what did you say? I didn’t hear you”
なんだと言った? = this is more like “what did you say that it is? I heard you but I want a better explanation”

(my two cents, how I understand it, open to other explanations)


All the sentences use an ellipsis, which means leaving out words that are clear from context, the と isn’t special here.
FredKore explained the original sentence already.

Thanks, it sounds like it’s doing the job of English “that”, then (or something similar, at any rate).

1 Like

Oh, i remembered a better example of a similar ellipsis:
かもしれない means maybe, but it is often abbreviated to かも.
来年らいねんアメリカに行いく かもしれない
来年らいねんアメリカに行いく かも
I might go to America next year.

I hear かも in anime all the time.


Here, doesn’t have any special meaning either, it’s simply part of a phrase that was abbreviated (in which it probably means “too”, but that’s beside the point).

1 Like

No, it’s doing the job of と which is to mark a quote.

Forget how you’d phrase things in English it isn’t going to help you especially not with particles which can’t be translated.

1 Like

But it isn’t marking a quote…

Yes it is. The full phrase is なんだと言ったのか as mentioned earlier. The translation for which is “You said, what?”

Let’s break it down…

なん what
だ copula
と quote particle
言った (you) said
の explanation request
か question marking particle

The words なんだ are being quoted because the speaker is asking the listener what they said.

1 Like

Maybe think of how と is used like this. (Using polite form to focus on と)

You said, what?

You said, I’m what? (or, You said, it’s what?)

Maybe the confusion is that と is not literally quoting in this case, but a marker that everything before is something that was said.

1 Like

I think the definition on Wiktionary explains it pretty well, actually: “a particle following a phrase or clause describing the detail, content or manner of the action, similar to a complement.”
Should have checked it in the first place, I guess.

1 Like