Japanese Sentence Emphasize Structure -
Intermediate Lessons: 17

In this lesson, you will learn to form Japanese sentence that makes use of the emphasize structure or 強調構文 (kyouchou koubun - emphatic sentence construction).

Japanese Sentence Emphasize Structure

What is emphasize structure? It is a structure that indicates new, important information by placing it between のは (nowa) and です (desu).

Let's take a look at the sentence patterns...

Verb plain-form のは です
い-adj plain-form のは です
な-adj plain-form(~ → ~な) のは です
Noun plain-form(~ → ~な) のは です

This pattern is used when a noun representing a thing, a person, a place, a time, etc, is replaced with の (no) and then taken up as the topic of the sentence. Sometimes it can be a reason instead of a noun that put between のは (nowa) and です (desu). You will see that in the examples later.

Let's use an example to show how the emphasize structure works in a normal Japanese sentence. 

  • 田中さんは来年日本へ行きます。
    tanaka san wa rainen nihon e ikimasu

    Meaning: Ms Tanaka will go to Japan next year.

This is the fact that you know - Ms Tanaka will go to japan next year. Let's say your friend knows that someone is going to Japan next year but doesn't know who is the person. He will ask the following question...

  • 誰が来年日本へ行きますか。
    dare ga rainen nihon e ikimasu ka

    Meaning: Who will go to Japan next year?

From what you have learned so far, you will probably answer with the following...

  • 田中さんが来年日本へ行きます。
    tanaka san ga rainen nihon e ikimasu

    Meaning: Ms Tanaka will go to Japan next year.

There is nothing wrong with the above answer. However, your friend already knows that someone is going to Japan next year. He only wants to know who the person is. In conversation, you can simply answer 田中さんです (tanaka san desu - It is Ms Tanaka).

Who?

Alternatively, you can use the emphasize structure to stress on the person that your friend would like to know.

  • 来年日本へ行くのは田中さんです。
    rainen nihon e iku nowa tanaka san desu

    Meaning: It is Ms Tanaka who will go to Japan next year.

In this Japanese sentence, you want to emphasize what your friend wanted to know most - 誰? (dare? - who?). Therefore this information "田中さん" is placed after のは (nowa). All other information is placed before のは (nowa).

When?

Assuming that now your friend wants to know when Ms Tanaka is going to Japan, he will ask...

  • いつ田中さんは日本へ行きますか。
    itsu tanaka san wa nihon e ikimasu ka

    Meaning: When will Ms Tanaka go to Japan?.

For short answer (conversation), you can simply answer 来年です (rainen desu - It is next year). If you make full sentence emphasizing the information that your friend wanted to know most, you can say...

  • 田中さん 日本へ行くのは来年です。
    tanaka san wa ga nihon e iku nowa rainen desu

    Meaning: It is next year that Ms Tanaka is going to Japan.

The information your friend wanted to know most "来年" is placed after のは (nowa) and all other information is placed before のは (nowa). Note that since one sentence cannot have two topics, 田中さん (tanaka san wa) has to be changed to 田中さん (tanaka san ga).

Where?

Assuming that now your friend wants to know where Ms Tanaka is going to next year, he will ask...

  • 田中さんは来年どこへ行きますか。
    tanaka san wa rainen doko e ikimasu ka

    Meaning: Where will Ms Tanaka go to next year?.

For short answer (conversation), you can simply answer 日本です (nihon desu - It is Japan). If you make full sentence emphasizing the information that your friend wanted to know most, you can say...

  • 田中さん 来年行くのは日本です。
    tanaka san ga rainen iku nowa nihon desu

    Meaning: It is Japan that Ms Tanaka is going next year.

In this Japanese sentence, the information that your friend wanted to know most "日本" is placed after のは (nowa) and all other information is placed before のは (nowa).

More Examples on Japanese Sentence with Emphasize Structure

Let's practise how to use emphasize structure on the following examples.

1. マイクさんは日本語が上手です。
maiku san wa nihongo ga jouzu desu
Meaning: Mike is good at Japanese.

  • Question A: 誰? (dare? - who?)

    日本語が上手 なのはマイクさんです。
    nihongo ga jouzu da na nowa maiku san desu
    Meaning: It is Mike who is good at Japanese.

  • Question B: 何? (nani? - what?)

    マイクさんが上手 なのは日本語です。
    maiku san ga jouzu da na nowa nihongo desu
    Meaning: It is Japanese that Mike is good at.

2. お腹が痛かったから、昨日学校を休みました。
onaka ga itakatta kara, kinou gakkou wo yasumimashita
Meaning: I had a stomach-ache, therefore I was absent from school yesterday.

  • Question: どうして? (doushite? - why?)

    昨日学校を休んだのはお腹が痛かったです。 X
    昨日学校を休んだのはお腹が痛かったからです。 O
    kinou gakkou wo yasunda nowa onaka ga itakatta kara desu
    Meaning: It was because I had a stomach-ache therefore I was absent from school yesterday.

In the above example, you were asked about the reason why you were absent from school yesterday. In this case it's the reason that you want to emphasize. Take note that when emphasizing reason, you cannot omit から (kara), otherwise you cannot show that this is a reason.

So for どうして (doushite - why) question, the sentence pattern is...

plain-form のは plain-form から です

Another Example on Japanese Sentence with Emphasize Structure

私は英語が下手ですから、「Berlitz」で英語を勉強しています。
watashi wa eigo ga heta desu kara, "Berlitz" de eigo wo benkyoushite imasu
Meaning: I am poor in English, therefore I am studying English at "Berlitz".

  • Question A: あなたはBerlitzで 何を 勉強していますか。 - What?

    私がBerlitzで勉強しているのは英語です。
    watashi ga Berlitz de benkyoushite iru nowa eigo desu
    Meaning: It is English that I am studying at Berlitz.

  • Question B: あなたは どこで 英語を勉強していますか。 - Where?

    私が英語を勉強しているのはBerlitzです。
    watashi ga eigo wo benkyoushite iru nowa Berlitz desu
    Meaning: It is Berlitz where I am studying English.

  • Question C: どうして あなたはBerlitzで英語を勉強していますか。 - Why?

    私がBerlitzで英語を勉強しているのは英語が下手だからです。
    watashi ga Berlitz de benkyoushite iru nowa eigo ga heta da kara desu
    Meaning: It is because I am poor in English therefore I am studying English at Berlitz.


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