When can one use the sentence ender ぞ? I've only ever heard it anime, so I'm unsure of it's actual usage in the real world. Is it not used that often or limited to specific age/gender groups?
- express strong intent (そうはさせないぞ),
- persuade someone to go along with your action (そろそろ行くぞ), or
- (directed at yourself) indicate your judgment or resolution (うまくいったぞ).
なあ can usually substitute for ぞ in the third category. (This is covered in the same section as ぞ in the abovelinked Google Books preview.) Note that when using ぞ in the second category, ぞ follows the dictionary form of the verb. This is in contrast to ぜ, which often follows the volitional form when the intent is to get someone to participate in an action with you:
行くぞ。 I'm going [and so should you].
行こうぜ。 Let's go. (More emphatic than よ.)
ぞ never follows the polite form, and is only used toward friends and persons of lower status.
Yes, it is a very emphatic sentence-ending particle. Also ぜ. They seems stronger than よ (in my opinion). I think they (ぞ／ぜ) are very informal though, so where you could use よ for emphasis in a polite and/or formal way, you probably shouldn't use these.
I think their usage must be a regional or demographic thing. When I lived in Osaka, I never heard it at all, and sometimes another gaijin friend of mine would use it around our Japanese friends (mostly young people in their 20's), they would always give an amused laugh. Maybe I'm over-generalizing it because of the somewhat limited group I was around, but it doesn't seem to be a Kansai thing. Maybe other places use it more commonly?
I often heard this particle used in the Yakuza games where lots of Yakuza characters would use the ぞ／ぜ ending particle to to indicate dominance, masculine and pretty much what Derek Schaab said.
Thus, it is recommended to not used it so casually, even if some Japanese relative is a friend. Unless , of course, you're both into role playing tough guys and such. I know the source isn't usually trust worthy, but Wiki pretty much explains it in short