In another forum, someone said the difference between




is that the former has more emphasis on the verb 盗む. Another person said that that's not the case. And that they are the same, but he couldn't explain why.

I was wondering what the significance of the is in the sentence 誰が盗んだのか、誰か知りませんか。? Is the particle in that sentence also the same as the particle の for explanation?

3 Answers 3


I’m not a specialist, but let me show my fearless explanation. I think two sentences have different constructions but both have the same meaning.

When it comes to their constructions, I would put them this way.


誰が盗みましたか?(ask for information)

→誰が盗んだ(change the form in order to implant in an indirect question)

+ (それを)誰か知っていますか



誰が盗んだのですか?(ask for an explanation)...1)

→ 誰が盗んだのだ(change the form in order to implant in an indirect question) 

+ (それを)誰か知っていますか


1) I agree with your guess that the 「の」 particle is for explanation.(at this stage)

You say that someone said that 「のか」sentence has more emphasis on the verb. I can understand his feeling to some extent. He might feel that way maybe because 「のだ」is used to express the speaker’s strong opinion or decision in some cases. But I would take「の」as a particle for explanation rather than for emphasis, in this case.

2) At this stage, I would take「のか」as a tool to implant the first direct question 「のですか」into the final stage. I think it's similar to the function of 'that' conjunction in English.

Anyway, I would use both of them with little awareness of the difference. Also, if someone asks me those questions, my answer will be the same. It might be better to think they’re the same and「の」exists only in order to express the construction.

EDIT: I added 1) 2) to my answer. I'm very sorry to confuse you. But I hope what I'm saying will still be your help.

  • Heys I think this is an amazing breakdown, thanks alot!
    – Pacerier
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 19:27
  • This answer is based on my experience and 日本語文型辞典(くろしお出版). The dictionary is written all in Japanese and I don't know if its English version exists. I think it will be a big help for you. If there's no English version, I believe you can read the Japanese version perfectly. I'm really sorry for confusing you.
    – user364
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 3:13
  • heys np =) I can't really read Japanese well but anyway, were you referring to this: nihongo.9640.jp/73
    – Pacerier
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 16:40
  • Yep. But here's one review in English. I’m sure the book will give you valuable building blocks for thinking. It provides examples with furigana but explanations without it. An absolute must for Japanese enthusiasts. Please don’t tell anyone else. Mottainai!
    – user364
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 5:51

Is the 「の」 particle in that sentence also the same as the particle の for explanation ?

Seems like that's the case. My lecturer in college explained that this usage of の transforms the predicate into a nominal clause, something similar to using "the fact that" to wrap your statement in English.

A: なぜケーキを食べませんでしたか? (Why did you not eat the cake?)

B1: もうご飯を食べました。 (I already ate rice.) -- weird
B2: もうご飯を食べたのです。 ([Due to] the fact that I already ate rice.)

As you can see from my example above, の especially with です has the same connotation of reason as から, that's why ので can be used (sometimes?) to replace から:

もうご飯を食べたからケーキは食べませんでした。 (Because I already ate rice, I didn't eat the cake.)
もうご飯を食べたのでケーキは食べませんでした。 ([Due to] the fact that I already ate rice, I didn't eat the cake.)

So, your sentence 誰が盗んだのか、誰か知りませんか translates to "Does anyone know about the fact that somebody stole [something]?", which is different from 誰が盗んだか、誰か知りませんか -- "Does anyone know who stole [something]?". In the latter, the asker is sure that somebody has stolen something, but in the former, the asker is not sure so he's asking for confirmation first. By asking it this way, the asker is being tactful by showing that he's trying to confirm if the theft did happen or not first instead of asking directly who did it. EDIT: seems like my translation of the sentences in the question is a bit off, so I'll have to rethink and come up with a revision later. Sorry about that; I'm also learning here >_<

  • 2
    as a side note, ので is used for objective causality. ので can't always replace から. It can't if the clause after から expresses a conjecture, command, request, suggestion or invitation.
    – Flaw
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 16:40
  • @Lukman thanks for the example sentences =D Btw do you mean to say that 「もうご飯を食べたのです。ケーキは食べませんでした。」 is the same as「もうご飯を食べたのでケーキは食べませんでした。」 ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 16:59
  • @Flaw btw how do we form a sentence with からexpressing a command ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 17:01
  • 1
    @Lukman I think if we could translate 「誰が盗んだの?」, then we would be able to translate 「誰が盗んだのか、誰か知りませんか。」
    – Pacerier
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 19:17
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure it's definitely not the の that turns into a nominal clause.
    – Axioplase
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 5:10

"だか" sounds very harsh. I've already discussed it a bit in situations like 行くかい.

I just believe that inserting の here allows to soften the sound without changing the meaning.

  • the nasal "n" sound symbolises tactuality, warmth and softness. (Taken from Seiichi Makino's and Michio Tsutsui's grammar dictionary)
    – Flaw
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 5:33

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