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This is going to be a bit lengthy so please bear with me. I'll start with an excerpt from a game that has sparked this whole fiasco and sent me on a wild goose chase:

ゼロス「しかしリフィルさまとがきんちょがハーフエルフだったとはなぁ
ロイド「何だよ、おまえまで差別するつもりか
ゼロス「・・・そういうけどな。生まれたときからこっちはそういう教育を受けてるんだぜ
ハーフエルフは 愚かで野蛮で汚らわしい生き物だって
ロイド「おまえっ!
ゼロス「怒るなよ。一般論だ
まあ、まだちょっとしか一緒にいないけど、俺たちと変わらないいい奴だってことは分かるぜ
ロイド「・・・なら、いい
ゼロス「分かってても、割り切れないのが差別って奴の根本なんだよなぁ・・・

The background is that half-elves are generally being discriminated against in this world, with the character Lloyd not caring about any of that and seeing everybody for who they are regardless of race while the character Zelos was brought up being told that half-elves are bad. The 割り切れないのが part is what concerned me and initially what I got out of the statement was "what I can't come to grips with is the source (foundation?) of discrimination". Now obviously that doesn't make a lot of sense and after some more thinking, I've come to the conclusion that it probably should be read as 分かってても割り切れないのが as one whole unit leading to "not being able to come to grips with it even though I do understand where you're coming from is what causes discrimination (leads to? is the source of?);" I assume the の here is こと as in "the thing of not being able to shake the feeling" as opposed to もの, refering to what comes after. That is the comma threw me off here and led me to seperate those two statements. The following comparison should make it clear what I'm trying to get at:

分かってても割り切れないのが彼の意見だ。 What I can't agree with, even though I do understand where he's coming from, is his opinion.

vs.

分かってても割り切れないのが普通のことだ。 Understanding it from a logical standpoint but still not being able to agree with it is normal.

Now this has lead me on a whole googling spree regarding のは/のが and I'd like to touch on that and get some concrete answers if possible.

From what I understand, のは is mainly used in three different ways:

  1. 今持っているお金で買えるのはこの一品だけだ。ー> 買えるのは refers to what can be bought; here の is essentially the same as もの
  2. この一品を買えるのは彼だけだ(何故なら彼以外十分にお金を持っている人がいないとか)。ー> 買えるのは refers to the person who can buy the item
  3. この一品を買えるのは特権を持っているということだ。ー> this is 'explaining/defining' (for lack of a better term) the action of buying (I hope this sentence makes sense grammatically, what I wanted to say is "Being able to buy this item means that you're enjoying a special privilege.") Maybe as an alternative I'll offer the sentence この一品を格安で買えるのは普通。to drive the point home. Here の is essentially こと

Now if all that above is correct, here's the next question: Is it possible to substitute のは with のが in all three cases and if yes, how do they differ in meaning and if not, why?

  1. 今持っているお金で買えるのがこの一品だけだ。
  2. この一品を買えるのが彼だけだ。
  3. この一品を買えるのが特権を持っているということだ。

In the above excerpt if I were to say 割り切れないのは, would the meaning still be the same?

Googling sentences containing the phrase 割り切れないのが gave me following examples:

割り切れないのが人生なんです。 だったら割り切れないことをするのがいいんだな。

How would I go about interpreting the first part? "What I can't come to terms with/accept as a fact is life itself?" "Not being able to come to terms with things is just life?" Obviously this isn't refering to a person so I can only see these two possibilities fitting in here.

簡単に割り切れないのが恋愛にまつわる悩みでしょう…。

"What I can't easily come to terms with are the worries that come with loving somebody?" I can't see how else this could be translated.

If somebody could give me a little tour on the whole のは/のが phenomenon based on my example sentences I'd be forever grateful. Please also excuse my shoddy attempt at translating 割り切る; I feel like I know what it means and when it's used but at the same time I also still can't quite wrap my head around it enough. I've already refered to this thread regarding the word and I think it has given me a good enough idea on what nuance the word is trying to convey but I'm still not 100% confident.

As always thanks a lot in advance for every bit of help!

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In general, AがBだ would sound natural as a response to a question about B to which A is the answer. This means A is new information for the listener. If it is a sentence, it needs to be nominalized somehow in order to take the subject’s spot in a cleft sentence. の serves this purpose. In your case, the hidden question and answer could be something like 差別って奴の根本とは(どういうものだ) and 分かってても割り切れない (ものだ). The cleft sentence structure puts the new information 分かってても割り切れない into focus. (I wouldn’t put a comma there if I were the author.)

In contrast, AはBだ is a straightforward statement about A. Since A is the topic, it is assumed to be already known to, or easily identifiable by, the listener. It may just happen to be a nominalized sentence referring to either a particular thing or person (の) or a general concept (こと).

Whether your examples sound natural after は is substituted with が depends on the context. The meaning, or the focus of the sentence, would not be the same because of the difference explained above.

(This question also discusses the difference between が and は in a cleft sentence.)


[EDIT]

In their most straightforward interpretations, the three sentences with 割り切れない in them all answer the question “How is B?” or “What is B like?” (差別って奴の根本とは(どういうものだ) is just one such question, isn’t it?)

The の could be understood as referring to a particular “something” as opposed to all other things in the world. In the case of the last sentence, it may be more specifically referring to a particular kind of worry, as opposed to all other worries.

For the last sentence to (unambiguously) mean what you thought it meant, the の should be replaced with こと to refer to a general act. In this case, what is described as 割り切れない (i.e. what cannot be explained by logic) must be clear from the context. (In addition, 恋愛にまつわる悩み should probably be rephrased to something like 恋愛における悩み.)

This is based on the understanding I got from your comments below about how you interpreted the last sentence. The original translation with “what” somewhat blurs the crucial distinction between particular and general.

In any case, all this has little to do with the difference between のが and のは, which I thought was the focus of the question, and a lot more to do with the difference between の and こと.

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  • That sort of clears up a few things, though to be honest I'm still quite unsure on the whole thing. Guess I'll just have to pay more attention to it in the future. What about the last two example sentences, how would I interpret those?
    – Boolicious
    Jun 30 at 10:26
  • @Boolicious: To be honest, I don’t quite understand what you are seeing in those two that is different from the first sentence. They all match the AがBだ pattern and A is the same. Is your doubt about が or 割り切れない?
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 30 at 11:04
  • For the sentence 割り切れないのが人生なんです。I've offered two translations; judging from your answer, I assume the first one is correct while the second one is nonsense? With this construction I can't say something like "Not being able to come to terms with things is just life (is how just life is)?" If you compare the example from my excerpt at the beginning of my post 分かってても割り切れないのが with the last example sentence I've given 割り切れないのが恋愛にまつわる悩みでしょう, the usage of the pattern seems a little different to me. > see next comment
    – Boolicious
    Jun 30 at 19:40
  • 分かってても割り切れないのが > refers to the act of not being able to come to grips with it - 割り切れないのが恋愛にまつわる悩み > refers to 悩み itself, as in not the act of doing something but an actual noun. Do you see what I'm trying to get at here?
    – Boolicious
    Jun 30 at 19:43

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