For example



Is the の here used as nominalizer meaning "one" or is it used as explanatory/emphasizing のです?

I assume the sentences translate to "Amongst these (courses) which is the most difficult one? Math is the most difficult one."

Therefore I think the の here is a nominalizer, but I rememberer reading that nominalizing の cannot be used before です and we should use こと instead. For example:




Usage of の devides into (1) pronoun and (2) nominalizer.

  1. 難しいのと簡単なやつ、どっちがいい? Which do you like, difficult one and easy one?
  2. それが難しいのは知っている I know that it's difficult.

And, when the nominalizer appears in the position of the predecate of the sentence, we call it "explanatory/emphasizing の".

Speaking of your examples, you can regard この中でどれが一番難しいのですか and 数学が一番難しいのです as either pronoun or explanatory の.

As you say, you can't use nominalizer の in the position of the predecate unless it's explanatory/emphasizing の. In other words, の can be used before です when it's a pronoun or explanatory/emphasizing の.

  • そのメガネは映画を見るのです Those glasses are one to watch movies
  • 何するんですか? → 映画を見るんです

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