When are なんて and なんか used as emphasis in casual speech? Are they used when you're surprised, angry or can it be both? What sort of feeling does it convey to the listener compared to a normal sentence without it.

For example, in the following 3 sentences I'm not entirely sure what the "なんて” and ”なんか” are expressing.

こんな[所]{ところ}におばけなんていねーよ。 There are no ghosts in a place like this.

[彼女]{かのじょ}が[結婚]{けっこん}したなんてちっとも[知]{し}らなかった。 I had no idea she got married.

[私]{わたし}なんか3[枚]{まい}のレポートも[書]{か}けない。 I cannot even write a 3 page report.


3 Answers 3


They are basically "weak" form of は in this context. My grammar book says 「〜を大切ではないと考えている(軽視する)時の言葉」. Basically when you're kind of ignoring the importance of, or even slightly putting down, the topic of the sentence. 愛なんか要らない。(I don't need love!)

So like for your first example to me sounds like, "There's no stupid ghosts around here" (like almost taunting any that might be there). Or the second one has the tone of "Well, I had no idea she got married, but whatever."

The usage is [微妙]{び・みょう}. Don't overuse it, or you'll sound like you're better than everyone/everything. Especially don't use it if something needs to have importance placed on it.

  • 14
    About 彼女が結婚したなんてちっとも知らなかった, I do not think that the speaker considers “her marriage” unimportant. It sounds more like expressing surprise in the same was as the use of ちっとも (at all). But I agree with your grammar book in the first and the third examples in the question. Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 14:39
  • Right. Not unimportant, just not important.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 14:56
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    Can this be used in a positive sense too, though? I received this in an email recently: ぜんぜん帰りたい気がしないほど日本の暮らしに馴染んでいるなんて嬉しい事です。 The なんて in this sentence seems to have nothing to do with importance, nor is the person 大切ではないと考えている。
    – phirru
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 11:53
  • 2
    yes. I think "なんて" can be used to emphasis a negative feeling (like: 彼なんて大嫌い!I hate people like him) or to emphasis an unexpected feeling (like: 彼女大人っぽいね、まだ10歳だなんて、信じられへん!She acts like an adult, I can't believe she's 10 YEARS OLD!). Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 21:36

@istrasci's answer is well-formed from the grammar perspective, but a little history of the words themselves:

なんて is actually a contracted form of 等(など)という.

So in your example:


There are no ghosts (or anything similar to ghosts).

I can see how that's a "strengthener" because you're not only talking about おばけ specifically, but any sort of おばけ-like things :).

なんか, on the other hand, is a contracted form of 何か, meaning "something". I see なんか as more of a filler than なんて, but I do agree that they're often used interchangeably, despite being different words.

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    Yes, my textbook shows all three words (など、なんか、なんて) in this grammar pattern, noting that the latter two are more often spoken.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 23:08
  • 3
    Thank you for the further information. Especially the history of the word. I find knowing the history actually gives me a better "feel" of the words.
    – phirru
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 8:14
  • Is なんて just 何て「なんという」in the cases above? dictionary.goo.ne.jp/word/%E3%81%AA%E3%82%93%E3%81%A6/…
    – user1602
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 5:06

I make a whole reply, but this is somehow a comment to @makdad's own answer.

First, you shouldn't grammatically be able to interchange なんて and なんか, since they have different grammatical functions.


なんて goes before a noun since "AなんてB" is "the A which is a sort of B". So the correct sentence would rather be

There are no such things as ghosts!


なんか goes before a verb, adjective… and is rather an interjection.
This thing, eh, weird isn't it?

Ghosts? Here? You must be crazy!

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