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As the Weblio entry for the thing is explains, it is an idiomatic and colloquial expression used to introduce the main point or issue. It gives a translation of ということです, but I am not entirely sure about that.

The Denshi Jisho entry for nda gives the translations for the four expressions as “The expectation is that...”, “The reason is that...”, “The fact is that...” and “It is that...”. Logically, “The thing is that...” would qualify as a translation.

Am I wrong here?

  • Can you come up with a sentence in English with "The thing is that..." and then a corresponding Japanese sentence using のだ that you think correctly captures the nuance of your English sentence. Currently it is hard to figure out your exact problem. – Flaw May 8 '18 at 19:55
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You seem to understand the idea behind the のだ format quite well. The difference I think you are seeking is between のだ and ということ.

The first is much more close and personal is used to give an explanation of some sort (this one is also harder to translate directly but I think your description of the thing is is very close).

The latter is a much more literal, informational, and impersonal It is that....

Examples:

日本語がわからないんです。

vs

日本語がわからないということです。

The first one sounds like an explanation provided the explains the speaker's situation. In this case it sounds like their friend is having trouble because he/she does not speak Japanese and is seeking understanding.

The second one sounds more impersonal and to the point. The speaker may have nothing at stake with the situation, like they are describing it as an observer.

Both, however, serve to give some reasoning and extra information and can be easily translated as The thing is... or It is that.... The question is the feeling behind it.

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