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Once in a while, I would encounter "reversed" sentences like this:

お腹が痛くなったのは食べ過ぎたせいです。

In my head, I would translate this to English to

That my stomach hurt is because I overate.

Not the most natural way of saying things, but still acceptable. But recently, I have been seeing sentences like "~のは、〜から・ので・ためです" more often, and it got me thinking, how often do Japanese say things this way? How does this affect the emphasis in the sentence if it is written this way:

食べ過ぎたせいでお腹が痛くなりました。

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    This の isn’t really a pure nominalizer, it’s closer to a placeholder for 理由 or わけ. “The reason my stomach hurt is [...]” Jul 14, 2020 at 2:14
  • Thanks for pointing that out. In other words, お腹が痛くなったのは食べ過ぎたせいです。 is closer to 食べ過ぎたせいでお腹が痛くなったのです。than it is to 食べ過ぎたせいでお腹が痛くなりました。?
    – rebuuilt
    Jul 14, 2020 at 3:07
  • All of those are used in slightly different contexts so it’s hard to say which is closer to which... I was just trying to make a comment on your literal English translation. Jul 14, 2020 at 3:11
  • I see. Here's another question, "Is the explanation of の being a placeholder for 理由 or わけ specific to this sentence structure? Or are there other cases where this explanation holds?" I have a feeling that this explanation also applies to the の in the sentence 食べ過ぎたせいでお腹が痛くなったのです。(and possibly in other sentence patterns as well) but I cannot find it here: dictionary.goo.ne.jp/word/%E3%81%AE/#jn-171157
    – rebuuilt
    Jul 14, 2020 at 4:44
  • @DariusJahandarie After reading naruto's answer, I see now what you mean by の being a "placeholder for 理由 or わけ”. It may not fit in with the dictionary definition of の but in this specific sentence structure, “The reason my stomach hurt is [...]” is a translation that captures the essence of the sentence without sounding stilted.
    – rebuuilt
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:10

1 Answer 1

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Your example sentence is a cleft sentence. It's a very common pattern.

食べ過ぎたせいで、お腹が痛くなりました。
My stomach hurt because I overate.

お腹が痛くなったのは食べ過ぎたせいです。
It's because I overate that my stomach hurt.

Broadly speaking, this の is a kind of nominalizer (that's why you got an "acceptable" translation). But usually you should translate this ~のは~だ pattern using the grammar of English cleft sentences, which look like "It is ~ that ~" or "It was ~ who ~".

How often do Japanese say things this way?

As often as English speakers say "It's because ~ that ~".

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  • Thanks! I was ruminating on Darius's answer today when I got the feeling that I'd be led to the "cleft sentence" link. I forgot the term "cleft sentence" though, so I had no way of looking for the answer. Hmm... so it is common, though not as common as the non-cleft sentence. I think I'll go try make some cleft sentences myself later.
    – rebuuilt
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:02

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