I have been having trouble wrapping my mind around ”という” which seems to be very widely used in Japanese. I think I understand when it means "saying that" or "it is called", but sometimes it seems to have another nuance.

This morning i stumbled on another sentence where this ”という” completely throws me off :


Is the ”という” here used to put emphasis? How does it work? Every time I come across it and even if I understand the rest, this ”という” makes me miss the whole meaning of the sentence.


2 Answers 2


There is indeed a nuance to という, in that it can be used to equate two nouns, as if in apposition. You can view this as an extension of the "it is called" translation that you have internalized. More specifically,


can hyper-literally be parsed as "the form that is called regret". But in the more nuanced sense, it can be translated as "the form, regret", or "the form that is regret", or most idiomatically in this context, "the form of regret".

Additionally, if you're having trouble parsing this sentence, it might be because the nouns that という equates are separated by 切実な:

悔という形: "The form called regret" "The form that is regret" "The form of regret"

悔という切実な形: "The serious form of regret"

後悔という切実な形をとることもなく: "... without taking on the serious form of regret"


Yes, it's very widely used. Hence many possibly related posts out there, but since this question is focused on a specific point, here is an answer tailored to this question:

it means "saying that" or "it is called"

Exactly. And for this question we focused on the "it is called" version.

but sometimes it seems to have another nuance.

In this case, it's not that a third nuance was added. It's more like "you have to open your eyes to increase the scope of the it is called". The key is, "called" can be used for a wide array of nuances. See following example:

でも, それは 後悔 という 切実な 形を とる ことも なく

Let's trim this poetic phrase down to: 後悔 という 切実な形.

It's saying: "切実な形 of which I am talking about 後悔". Not the best translation, but it may help you notice talking about is interchangeable with the word call in English too:

  • You committed a crime called robbery
  • You committed a crime BTW I'm talking about robbery
  • You committed a robbery という crime

In conclusion, という here is still basically "it is called", and "called" has many nuances in its own. They may be interpreted as:


  • 切実な形 which is called 後悔
  • 切実な形 known as 後悔
  • 切実な形 i.e. 後悔
  • 切実な形 which I describe as 後悔
  • 切実な形 - BTW I'm talking about 後悔

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