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I asked a female Japanese friend to translate a sentence for me and it ends in "nano" which I took to be either an alternative question particle to -ne or -ka; or possibly two particles I don't know which could come together.

But just now I looked it up in wwwjdict and it tells me it's a "feminine copula". So does this mean "なの" (nano) is a synonym of "です" (desu) that only female speakers use? Assuming it's not very formal, what should I use instead as a noun?

Also does this mean it's a verb and if so what kind of conjugation or other forms does it have?

EDIT

Since this has turned out to be quite subtle and even controversial, here is my sentence:

(Original English: Why must life be so difficult?)

Japanese translation: なんで[人生]{じんせい}はそんなに[大変]{たいへん}なの?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Everyone's done a great job of answering this one, so I'm just going to add a quick answer. The なの that you're asking about is really just の. The な is only there if you use it after a noun or a na-adjective (きれい, 大変, 非常). The most common way of using this の is as a question marker.

そうなの - Is it really?

This is the same as そうなんですか but less formal.

何をしているの? What are you doing?

The same as 何をしているんですか. Or even less formally, 何してんの?

仕事は大変なの? - Is your work difficult?

More formally as 仕事は大変なんですか。

元気がないね、。どうしたの? - You don't seem well. What happened?

どうしたの is really common as a way of asking "What's wrong" or "What happened?"

You can use it to answer a question too (高いのよ! - It is expensive), but I think the form you were asking about was the question form.

So for your question phrase, なんで人生はそんなに大変なの?, the の is making it a question (although it would be a question without the の) but also making it more emotional (in much the same was as のですか adds emotion). I think that women might use it without the な, even after a noun or na-adjective: 仕事は大変の?

Note here that you should only use this with kids or good friends, and that there's a rising intonation at the end.

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heys cool =) btw does it mean that the な after の is optional? or is it actually required but in speech usually taken away because of laziness? what may be the difference between なんで人生はそんなに大変なの and なんで人生はそんなに大変の ? what about if its not a noun, will this be fine: 何をしているなの –  Pacerier Jun 21 '11 at 3:28
    
As far as I know, dropping the な is a feminine speech form. It makes it sound softer. It's the same as dropping a だ at the end of a sentence. But adding a な like in 何をしているなの sounds strange. –  nevan king Jun 21 '11 at 12:34
    
仕事は大変の? is ungrammatical. You might be confusing things, since you mention 高いのよ without saying that this is mainly feminine speech. –  dainichi Aug 14 '12 at 1:14
    
Ah, and also 大変よ and 大変ね are used, mainly in feminine speech. Yeah, I realize it's confusing. –  dainichi Aug 14 '12 at 1:16

EDIT:As per Derek's comment, I have misunderstood the meaning of copula. My examples here were all ending particles (jp: 終助詞).

The {Noun/なAdj}-なの or {いAdj/Verb}-の ending particle has various usage, and according to くろしお出版's 日本語文型辞典, the primary users are different according to usage.

Question

Used to indicate inquiry. Inclining intonation.
User: Children as general, or ordinary people towards their close ones (friends, family).

てつお:明日どこか行くの?
Tetsuo: Are you going somewhere tomorrow?

Explanation

To explain a circumstance. Declining intonation.
User: Children, female people. Light mooded.

かなこ:うん、町内会でちょっと用事なの。
Kanako: Yeah, I've got something up with the neighbourhood association.

Assent

Confirmation expression. Intonation can be either inclining or declining.

てつお:へえ、かなこちゃんってよく町内会に参加してたの。
Tetsuo: Wow, Kanako's quite active in the association, huh. You can see that it implies a certain degree of surprise of unexpectedness.

Light volition

To express volition, either an order or a prohibition, in a light manner. Declining intonation.
User: female, towards someone of lower rank (e.g. younger people).

かなこ:そうよ。てっちゃんもいい加減町内会をサボらないの。そんなんだからいつまでたっても人見知りなんだから。ほら、明日一緒に行くの。いい?
Kanako: That's right. And Tec-chan, you ought to stop skipping association meetings. That's why you are always shy of other people. Come on, you should go together tomorrow. Oorah?


See how the の ending particle can be replaced with similar ones. I'll be using polite form for each:

  1. 明日どこか行きますか。 (の→ですか)
  2. (a) はい、町内会で少し用事があります。(の→です)
    (b) はい、町内会で少し用事があるからです。(の→だからです)
  3. そうですか、かなこちゃんはよく町内会に参加していましたか。(の→ですか)
  4. てつおさんももう町内会をサボらないでください。({verb}ないの→{verb}ないでください
  5. さあ、明日は一緒に行きなさい。({verb}の→{verb}なさい)
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2  
Wait, since when did の become a copula? If anything, it's a particle, or perhaps an unspecified noun. But the copula is still だ; it's just often omitted in informal speech. Telling people to think about の as an alternate form of だ (regardless of what WWWJDIC says) will only lead to confusion. –  Derek Schaab Jun 3 '11 at 20:20
1  
@Derek: There's more than one の. Eleanor Jordan expands on the various forms of 'no' in her JSL series. But the particle の, the nominal-replacement の and the copula の are all distinct. Each one undergoes slightly different changes in different contexts. –  jkerian Jun 3 '11 at 20:41
3  
@jkerian: Yes, I realize の has multiple functions based on the context, but I find the idea of calling の a copula unreasonable. How then would you classify のだ? A double-copula? A third copula separate from の and だ? This just makes it more difficult for the student who's trying to learn what the の actually does. –  Derek Schaab Jun 3 '11 at 21:33
1  
The vocabulary I've usually heard is to call "のだ" the "extended predicate". I suppose I haven't worried too much about taking it apart beyond understanding its various forms as a unit. –  jkerian Jun 3 '11 at 21:54
1  
FWIW, the relevent line in JSL introducing the extended predicate is "Though clearly related to the nominal no 'one(s)' that was introduced previously, its overall patterning requires that it be treated seperately." –  jkerian Jun 3 '11 at 23:22

なの relates to the ~のだ construction, and as such provides explanatory, secondary, or supporting information (which could be a reason, a cause, or other fact the speaker feels would aid in the listener's understanding). Note that the な is only used if the preceding word is a noun or な-adjective. Following a verb or い-adjective, only の is used:

あの公園はとてもきれいなの。 That park is beautiful.

よく見たら、その動物はどうやら猫なの。 When I took a closer look, that animal turned out to be a cat.

その後、ちょっと買い物に行ったの。 After that, I went shopping for a bit.

この宿題は本当に難しいの。 This homework is really difficult.

These sentences have a feminine sound to them; to make them more masculine, change の to んだ, or のだ in written form. んです, or のです in written form, is a polite equivalent which is also gender-neutral.

Also, while this doesn't come through in the English, the use of の implies that the preceding sentence plays a supporting role in the surrounding context. It's still important, but the role it plays is more like that of a framework which buttresses the speaker's main point. This is a somewhat delicate inflection, the complete treatment of which is beyond the scope of this question.

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The の in なの feels a lot like the の which can be used to replace から. –  Kdansky Jun 3 '11 at 23:40
    
is it possible to include な even if the preceding word isn't a noun? as such: この宿題は本当に難しいなの (possible.., weird.., or completely wrong and never used?) –  Pacerier Jun 21 '11 at 3:36
    
@Pacerier: 難しい, being an い-adjective, can't be followed by な, so 難しいなの is incorrect. –  Derek Schaab Jun 21 '11 at 12:17
    
You are correct that (な)の in the affirmative is feminine speech, but you might want to mention that in questions, it is neutral (at least in standard (Kanto?) Japanese, western speakers might feel differently). –  dainichi Aug 14 '12 at 1:23

なの is kind of a conclusion used at the end of explanation with a calm/quit sense. Example.,

彼女は大学生なのよ She is university student, you know.

It is just combination of two particles な and の.

なのです is polite form, and なの is same with なのだ just omitting だ after that.

sometime it is used as 〜なんです。

なの is used by females most of the time, but なんです may use by males too.

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And 〜のです (whether or not preceeded by な) is used to explain reasoning. どうして行けないか? (Why can't you go) 宿題なのです。(Because I have homework). So for YOU's example above, "She is a university student, you know." implies that there was some previous questioning/discussion about her. –  istrasci Jun 3 '11 at 18:26
    
@istraci: 宿題なのです would be better expressed as 宿題があるんです. However, if you were asked これ、本当にやらなくちゃいけないの? ("Do you really have to do this?") you could say うん、宿題なんです ("Yes, it's homework [and that's why I have to do this]."). –  Derek Schaab Jun 3 '11 at 18:48

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