Explaining the explaining の

Here’s how I typically explain the explanatory 「の」 when I teach it to my students.

Question: I don’t understand the difference between the two:
1. 今日は授業があります。
2. 今日は授業があるんです

I fire back with another question: How would you say, “Isn’t there class today?”

「今日は授業がありませんか?」 simply means “Is there no class today?”

“Isn’t there class today?” sounds like the speaker is expecting to have class today and is surprised that that may not be the case. That’s what we call seeking an explanation, which requires using 「の」.

So the answer is:
「今日は授業がない?」
or
「今日は授業がないんですか?」

The simple answer to such a question would be:
「はい、今日は授業がないんです。」

Similarly, 「今日は授業があるんです。」 is saying that there is class today as an explanation for something. For example, maybe you want to explain why you can’t go to lunch.

A-san: 昼ごはんを一緒に食べませんか?
B-san: すみません、今日は授業があるんです

It helps to figure out the difference by looking at a situation where you have to use 「の」 to say something. There is no way to say things like, “Isn’t there class today?” without using 「の」.

6 thoughts on “Explaining the explaining の

  1. Hi! Thank you for the explanation. :D But I have a question for example I would rather say “Isn’t it there is no class today?”, is 「今日は授業がないじゃないの?」correct?

  2. I’ve only recently been able to use の and んだ correctly on Lang-8, and I still can’t use んじゃない properly. It’s an important and fun part of Japanese, but it isn’t easy.

  3. I don’t understand the comparison between the English and Japanese versions you’re making here:


    I fire back with another question: How would you say, “Isn’t there class today?”

    「今日は授業がありませんか?」 simply means “There is no class today?”

    “Isn’t there class today?” sounds like the speaker is expecting to have class today and is surprised that that may not be the case. That’s what we call seeking an explanation, which requires using 「の」.

    …is there a difference between “There is no class today?” and “Isn’t there class today?” To me, functionally speaking, those are the same question. The first one sounds a little stilted but the question asked is exactly the same: “Is there class today or not?”

    Or maybe you’re not comparing these two English phrases at all, and I’m completely misunderstanding…could you explain a bit further?

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