807 - のですか
Before reading this lesson, I recommend reviewing the N4 lesson we just had about using のだ：[NDL #803] - JLPT N4: のだ ([explanation]).
のですか (or, conversely, んですか) can be used when asking certain types of questions.
One such type of question is one that is intended to confirm what the speaker thinks is true.
For example, let's say you work with a guy named Harold. You notice that he has been coughing. Because he's coughing, you think that maybe he has caught a cold.
Seeking to confirm this, you ask him...
ハロルドさん、 かぜ ひいた んですか。
Have you caught a cold, Harold-san?
Literally: “Harold-san, + caught a cold + んですか.”
There would be nothing wrong with simply asking Harold-san the following:
ハロルドさん、 かぜ ひきました か。
Have you caught a cold, Harold-san?
Literally: “Harold-san, + caught a cold + か.”
...however, this phrasing removes the nuance that you are confirming a suspicion that he has caught a cold.
Long story short, のですか deals with nuance... which makes it one of the more difficult grammar points to master.
Let's try another example.
You're a Japanese person, and you see your coworker from the US biting into an apple. This is not common in Japan. Most people cut apples before eating them.
Maybe you've heard about American's biting into apples like this before. Or maybe you've seen some other gaijin doing this before.
In any case, you suspect that perhaps this is normal behavior in the US, so you ask...
アメリカ で は りんご を まるかじり して たべる の が ふつう な のですか。
In the U.S., is it normal for people to bite into entire apples?
Literally: “America + で + は + apple + を + fully biting into + do (and) + eat + の + が + normal / usual + なのですか.”
You are confirming what you believe might be true.
👷 Construction 👷
This isn't too complicated:
Plain-Form Word ＋ のですか／んですか
Be careful when the word before のですか is a NOUN or na-adjective because you also need to insert な in this case:
NOUN / na-adjective ＋ な ＋ のですか／んですか
Starting to feel pretty confident?
Well, I have some bad news for you, then.
のですか isn't only used when confirming things. It has other uses as well.
In particular, のですか is also used when seeking an explanation for something.
I always had a hard time understanding のですか because it seemed to me that just about all questions are seeking an explanation. I mean, isn't that the whole purpose of questions?!
Now that I'm a bit better at Japanese, I think I understand why I didn't understand when I was told "のですか is used when seeking an explanation for something."
When I was taught that, I didn't realize that there is an emphasis on the "for something" part of the equation.
In other words, のですか isn't just used for questions that come out of the blue. It is used when there is some situation that is causing you to seek more information.
For example, let's say your coworker is grinning about something. You want to know why he is grinning. His grinning is the "something" that you want an explanation for. Accordingly, you ask:
なんで ニヤニヤ している んですか。 ぶきみ です よ。
What are you smiling about? It’s creepy.
Literally: “why + grinning + are doing + んですか. + weird + です + よ.”
He then explains...
きのう ユーチューブ で みた おもしろい どうが の こと を かんがえていた んです。
I was thinking about a funny YouTube video I saw yesterday.
Literally: “yesterday + YouTube + で + saw + interesting / funny + video + の + thing + を + was thinking + んです.”
↑ Note that the んです on the end of Person B's sentence was covered in the last lesson.
Wait. There's more.
In certain situations, のですか can have an accusatory ring to it.
Take the following, for example:
こんな じかん に どこ に いく んですか。
Where are you going at a time like this? // Where are you off to? Don't you know what time it is?
Literally: “this kind of + time + に + where + に + go + んですか.”
そんな ところ で こそこそ なに を している んだ。
What are you doing sneaking about over there?
Literally: “that kind of + place + で + sneakily + what + を + are doing + んだ.”
Note: んだ can potentially have a blunt, forceful ring to it. So I would advise using it with some caution.
That's all for this one.
Only a few N4 lessons left!