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In class we've been learning about sickness, so we went over「どうしたんですか。」and「…がいたいんです。」. I asked the teacher and she said the use of 「ん」 is to provide an explanation, but she didn't explain what rules govern it, nor how to use it other than those two examples. Could someone explain how to use it, when to use it, what rules to follow, and what its technical name is, please?

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I study every day with a native speaker at work because I have to speak Japanese to customers, he's a language teacher and he explained it to me like this. When we want to be more assertive, insistent and/or emphasise a question or statement, we use "〜ん". Note, it's unrelated to honorific language(敬語)It can also be used to make rude/offensive sentences.

I made some examples for you, you probably know most of the other sentences, but it's nice to see them together to compare them. I made the ん bold so you can find it easier. When used with a verb, you should use dictionary form or past tense, depending on what you want to say.


Question. What are you doing? :

何をしていますか? < Polite (not emphasized or insistent, just asking)

何をしてるですか? < emphasize and insist (kind of polite)

何してるの? < Casual and impolite

Rude and very informal:

何しての? < more like "whatcha doin'?" and used when angry

何してね? < used more by comedians and Kansai people, more like "what the hell are you doin'?" and used when angry


Explaining. I have a plan:

予定があります < Polite (not emphasized or insistent at all)

予定があるです < emphasized (can be polite)

予定がある < Casual and impolite (only for friends)

Rude and very informal :

予定があるだよ!< angry and assertive (adds power)

It's also used to add power to commands (very rude and informal) For example:


Command : Don't eat! :

食べないで < Polite form often used with ください

食べるな < Rude

食べるじゃねー "Don't eat!" < Used when very angry, sometimes people add よ for more emphasis.


Not sure how useful this is but I hope it helps. But please don't assume it adds a negative meaning in sentences, it just adds emphasis to the speakers speech or desire. Really polite : お休みしたいんです < I'd like to take a rest/day off.

If you're still not sure how it adds emphasis, how about this:

Tom: I want to eat ice-cream.

アイス食べたいです

Jessica: What?

Tom: I want to eat ice-cream.

アイス食べたいです

Jessica: ...What?

Tom: I want to eat ice-cream!! (notice exclamation marks for emphasis)

アイス食べたいです!

(You could take it 1 step further... )

Jessica: huh? I still can't hear you.

Tom: I said I want to eat ice-cream, damn it! (super emphasis + angry time)

アイス食べてーって言っただろうが!

If you watch the anime One Piece, a good example is in Episode 413 when he asks the snake princesses to put the statues down, they ignore him so he screams 止めろって言ってんだろうがー! "だろうが" is really rude, it kind of means "damn it" but it's on the same level as a curse word.

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