I know that you can use ka, no, and noka as question markers. But what is "na" in "hontou na no ka" . is it another form of question marker altogether or what does it mean the "na" in that sentence?

1 Answer 1


な is not part of the question marker because the same な can appear in non-question sentences. This な is an attributive form of the copula だ. (Chart: Conjugations of the Japanese Copula)

の here is a special "noun" known as explanatory. Thus だ before it needs to be turned into な to modify a noun. As you can see in the link, all predicative expressions in their attributive form can precede の.

  • 赤いのか。 Is it that it's red? (i-adjective)
  • 簡単なのか。 Is it that it's easy? (na-adjective)
  • 動くのか。 It it that it moves? (verb)
  • 本なのか。 Is it that it's a book? (noun + copula)

本当 is a noun which is also categorized as a no-adjective, but we always say 本当なのか, not 本当ののか.

  • so the literal translation of hontou na no ka it would be is it that it's true?
    – Pablo
    Apr 2, 2017 at 20:42
  • btw, do you have an example of the same na conjugation of the copula in non-question sentences? do I open another question for it?
    – Pablo
    Apr 2, 2017 at 20:47
  • 1
    This attributive form mainly appears between an ordinary noun and の/のに/ので/こと/はず/わけ/etc. (e.g., それは猫なはずだ。犬なわけがない。彼が学生なことを知った。) Colloquially, people often say 学生な人, リンゴな味, 本な場合, etc., instead of 学生の人, リンゴの味, 本の場合. And yes, 本当なのか means "Is that true?" Saying "Is it that it is true?" is not wrong but too wordy.
    – naruto
    Apr 2, 2017 at 21:10

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