804 - というのは

JLPT N3: というのは

というのは is used when explaining the definition or meaning of a word.

The pattern is:

new wordというのは... [meaning of new word]

The new word will be a NOUN, by the way.

An example:

愛犬家というのは、犬が大好きな人のことです
あいけんか というのは、 いぬ が だいすきな ひと の こと です。
Aikenka is a name for a person that loves dogs. // A “dog-lover” is a person that loves dogs.
Literally: “lover of dogs + というのは, + dog + が + loved / greatly liked + person + の + thing + です.”


See how the sentence ends with ことです?That's pretty common with sentences using というのは.

You'll also see a lot of sentences ending with ものです and という意味です (といういみです) (意味 [いみ] means "meaning," by the way.) Depending on the situation/formality, don't be surprised if you see instead of です.

Here's a second example:

菜箸というのは何に使う物ですか。
さいばし というのは なに に つかう もの です か。
What are long chopsticks [saibashi] used for?
Literally: “long chopsticks + というのは + what + に + use + thing + です + か.”

 

A grammar pattern that is essentially identical to というのは is とは, which we saw in this lesson: [NDL #752] - JLPT N2: とは ([definitions]).

For example, we saw this sentence in that lesson:

四季とは、春・夏・秋・冬の四つの季節のことである
しき とは、 はる・なつ・あき・ふゆ の よっつ の きせつ の こと である。
Shiki refers to the four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Literally: “four seasons + とは, + spring + summer + fall / autumn + winter + の + four (things) + の + season + の + thing + is (=である).”

 

In informal spoken language (i.e. what you encounter the most in everyday conversation), you're more likely to hear っていうのは or just って. None of my grammar books mention this, but people also say ってのは, leaving out the いう part. We saw って being used the same way in the とは lesson mentioned earlier.

Another example:

 A:
水菓子って何?
みずがし って なに?
What's mizugashi? // What are “water sweets?”
Literally: “fruit (lit. “water confectionery”) + って + what?”

 B:
水菓子っていうのは、果物のことだよ。
みずがし っていうのは、 くだもの の こと だ よ。
Mizugashi means “fruit.” // “Water sweets” are fruit.
Literally: “fruit (lit. “water confectionery”) + っていうのは, + fruit + の + thing + だ + よ.”
Note: 水菓子 is an old-fashioned word for "fruit."

 

I said that the word coming before というのは will be a NOUN.

That's true, but it's also OK to include a phrase that is acting as a NOUN (e.g. because it's in quotation brackets).

Like this:

「足が早い」というのは、食べ物が腐りやすいという意味です
「あし が はやい」 というのは、 たべもの が くさり やすい という いみ  です。
Ashi ga hayai means that a food spoils quickly. // When we say that a food “has fast legs,” it means that it spoils easily.
Literally: “be quick to spoil (=legs + が + fast) + というのは, + food + が + spoils easily + という + meaning + です.”

 

I always have trouble translating Japanese sentences that are explaining Japanese words.

I never know if I'm supposed to use the Japanese word (e.g. mizugashi) or a weird literal translation (e.g. "water sweets," "water confectionery"). In either case, the English translation ends up seeming a bit awkward to me.

The joys of translation... *_*
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