In today’s free online lesson, I’m going to explain to you the exact meaning of the Japanese word nanda (なんだ, 何だ) and what it means in English. It is an extremely common expression that I have heard countless times in daily life, anime, and manga. I’m pretty sure you have also come across “Nanda yo!”, “Nanda to?“, “Sou nanda“, or “Nanda kore (wa)?“. So let’s take a look at what nanda means in Japanese and how to translate it into English.
Nanda (なんだ, 何だ) is a Japanese exclamation that is used when something unexpected happens and translates to “Oh?” or “What?”, the colloquial form of nan desu ka (なんですか) which means “What is…?” in English, or the spoken, informal form of na no da (なのだ) which conveys emphasis or an explanatory tone.
That is quite a handful of meanings and use-cases, isn’t it? And that’s not all. There are actually even more like for example expressing frustration or asking someone to repeat what they have just said. But don’t worry, I have all of that covered for you down below.
Let’s start with a detailed explanation of what nanda (なんだ, 何だ) means in Japanese before moving on to the English translations of some of the most commonly found phrases in anime and tons of example sentences to help you understand its meaning and usage.
What Does the Japanese Word “Nanda” Mean in English?
Nanda (なんだ, 何だ) consists of two words, nan (なん, 何), which is the Japanese word for “what” and da (だ), the casual or plain form of the copula desu (です) which translates as “be” or “is” in English. It is most commonly written using kana only and every now and then you can also find it written as naanda (なあんだ). It can be used to:
- express feelings of disbelief, disappointment, dismay, or frustration
- ask in a casual way what something is (e.g “What is this?”)
- add emphasis or speak in an explanatory tone
One important thing to mention before we move on is that da (だ) is often just added at the end to make the sentence sound more empathic and declarative (source). You can think of it as an exclamation mark, especially when it is followed by the particle yo (よ).
“Oh?”, “What (the…)?” – Nanda Expresses Disbelief or Dismay
When nanda (なんだ) is used as a stand-alone expression or exclamation it usually means “Oh?“, “Oh, my!“, “Huh?“, “No way!“, or “What?” and expresses disbelief, disappointment, or dismay about something that’s been said, heard, or seen. So you can use this phrase when you hear some bad news from your friend, when someone does or says something you don’t like, or when you notice something strange or unbelievable.
Let’s look at some concrete examples.
When your friend promised you to bring his camera but forgot it at home, or when he tells you that he can’t make it to the baseball game you planned to watch together this weekend, you can express your disbelief or disappointment by using nanda (なんだ).
Nanda? Sugoku tanoshimi ni shita noni…
What? But I was really looking forward to it…
In case your friend does or says something you don’t wanna hear or you dislike, you can show your displeasure or dismay by snapping at him growling nanda (なんだ) in a slightly angry or annoyed voice.
Do you have anything to say?
Nanda!? Jiro jiro miru na!
What the hell? Stop staring at me!
What do you want? Don’t stare at me!
Nanda? Kitanai kutsu jan…
What the… Those are some dirty shoes…
However, when said in a normal or softer voice it can also just be a playful or curious “What?“, “What is it?” or “What do you want?“. Especially when said twice it makes you sound very inquisitive, curious or concerned and can also be translated as “What’s up?“, “What’s the matter?“, or “What’s going up?“.
Nanda? Hen na oto kiita…
What (was that?) I heard a strange noise…
What’s the matter?
What’s going on?
Depending on the situation and intonation it can also be used to vent your frustration or anger about something, though. Especially in the expression “Nanda yo!” (なんだよ) which we are going to talk about in more detail later.
2. “What is …?” – Casual Form of “…Nan Desu ka?”
In formal Japanese when you want to ask what something is you use the phrase “(Kore wa) nan desu ka?” aka (これは)なんですか？ or (これは)何ですか？ which translates as “What is (this)?“.
Kore wa nan desu ka?
What is this? (formal)
As we have already discussed da (だ) is the informal version of desu (です). Furthermore, in casual Japanese, the question particle ka (か) is usually omitted. So “(Kore wa) nan da?” (これは)なんだ？ also translates as “What is (this)?” in English but is the phrase that is commonly used in casual situations.
Kore wa nanda?
What is this? (informal)
3. Conveying Emphasis or an Explanatory Tone – Spoken Form of “Na no da”
Nanda (なんだ) can also be added at the end of a sentence to add emphasis or an explanatory tone. In written Japanese, this is usually done by adding no da (のだ) or na no da (なのだ). However, in spoken Japanese, nda (んだ) and nanda (なんだ) are usually used instead. Probably just because it is easier to pronounce.
Here are a few examples that will show you how adding nanda (なんだ) will add emphasis to what you are saying.
Oh, there it is!
Semai heya desu.
This is a small room.
Semai heya nanda!
What a small room this is!
In situations where you have to explain yourself, you can also use nanda (なんだ) to convey an explanatory tone or a slightly apologetic undertone when, for example, you tell your friends the reason why you have to decline their invitation. It can be translated as “The thing is that…“, or “But the thing is…” or also “Because…“.
Ashita wa isogashii.
I’m busy tomorrow.
Ashita wa isogashii nanda.
The thing is that I’m busy tomorrow…
But I’m busy tomorrow so… (explanatory tone)
Daisuki na kashi da!
My favorite sweets!
Daisuki na kashi nanda!
Because they are my favorite sweets!
How to Use Nanda – Common Phrases & Example Sentences
After the detailed explanation of what nanda (なんだ, 何だ) means in Japanese and English, let’s take a look at a few more examples. You will find the meaning and translation of some of the most commonly used expressions in anime and manga such as “Nanda yo“, “Nanda to“, “Nandatte“, and “Sou nanda“. Last but not least you will find 15 example sentences that you can immediately use in daily life.
Nanda yo – Means “What?” or “What the Heck Do You Want?”
Nanda yo (なんだよ, 何だよ) is a Japanese exclamation that means “What?“, “What is it?“, or “What the heck do you want?” and usually expresses frustration, displeasure, or dismay. However, sometimes when said in a calm voice or with a joking undertone it can also be used in a playful or funny way.
When a phrase or sentence ends with da yo (だよ) it adds a lot of emphasis and force and usually indicates a rather masculine expression. In combination with a question word like nan (なん, 何) or nande (なんで, 何で) which means “why” it often but not always has a negative nuance or meaning.
What is it?
What do you want?
What the heck/hell do you want?
Ittai nanda yo?
What the hell?
What the hell is that?
What the heck do you want?
A very similar phrase is nanda yo ne (なんだよね). The ne (ね) at the end makes the phrase a bit softer. It also adds the nuance that you agree with what the other person or sounds like you are looking for affirmation. It could be translated along the lines of “What is it, huh?“, or “Yeah, I wonder what it is?“.
Nanda to – Means “What!” or “What Did You Just Say (to Me)?”
Nanda to (なんだと) can be translated as “What!“, “What did you just say (to me)?“, “What the hell did you say?“, or “What do you mean (by that)?“. You can use this phrase when you are surprised, shocked, or upset about what the other person just said. While not always it often expresses displeasure.
What…what do you mean?
Nanda to? Shine!
What did you just say to me? Die!
Nandatte – Means “What!” or “What Did You Just Say?”
Nandatte or nanda te (なんだって) translates as “What!” or “What did you just say?” and is the casual version of nanda to (なんだと). The particle tte (って) is used in spoken Japanese but works just like to (と) is the formal quoting particle. So both phrases have the same meaning but nandatte is more casual.
What…what do you mean?
What did you just say to me? Die!
Sometimes it is also used when you couldn’t entirely catch what the other person was saying.
Sou Nanda – Means “Is That So?”, “Really?”, or “You’re Right”
Sou nanda (そうなんだ) is a basic response that means “Is that so?” or “Really?” and expresses slight surprise. However, it can also be used when you agree with what the other person said and be translated as “You’re right“, “That’s correct“. Or just as “I see” to acknowledge that you understood it.
Oh, I see!
Is that so?
Nanda Kore (wa) – Means “What the Hell is This?” or “What’s This?”
Nanda kore wa (なんだこれは) means “What is this?”. When you want to know what something is or when you are surprised or astonished by something in a causal situation you can use this phrase to express your feelings. It can also be translated as “What the heck (is this)?” or “What the heck is going on?“
E? Nanda kore wa?
Huh? What is this?
What the hell is this?
What the f*** is this? (very strong)
Instead of kore (これ) you can also use kono + noun (この + noun) to ask “What’s this…” or “What’s (wrong) with this…“.
Nanda kono nioi?
What’s this smell?
Ittai nanda kono pen?
What the hell is (wrong) with this pen?
Nanda Sore (wa) – Means “What the Hell is That?” or “What’s That?”
Nanda sore wa (なんだそれは) means “What is that?”, “What the heck is that?” or “What the heck is going on (over there)?“. Sore (それ) is used instead of kore (これ) when the thing or matter that is talked about isn’t something close to the speaker, but close or related to the listener.
E? Nanda sore wa?
Huh? What is that (in your hand)?
What the hell is that (thing near you)?
Nanda sono kanashii kao?
What’s up with that sad look on your face?
Examples of How to use Nanda in a Sentence
|Nanda!?! Uso deshou?|
What?!? You’re lying, aren’t you?
|Nanda, nanda? Ii nyuusu da?|
What’s up? Do you have good news?
なんだ、なんだ？いい ニュース だ？
|Hoshii no wa kimi dake nanda.|
Because the only one I want is you!
ほしい の は きみ だけ なんだ。
|Nanda to? Baka!|
What did you (just) say? Idiot!
The thing is that I’m broke so…
|Soko nanda! Mitsuketa!|
Oh, there it is! I (finally) found it
|Nandatte, kau no?|
What did you just say? You’ll buy it?
|Are wa nanda?|
What was that?
|Ittai nanda yo koitsu?|
What the hell is wrong with this guy?
いったい なんだよ こいつ？
|Nante boku wa baka nanda!|
What a fool I am!
|Kimi wa ore ga kirai nanda ne.|
You hate me, don’t you?
きみ は おれ が きらい なんだ ね。
|Sore dake nanda! Hontou ni|
That’s all! Really!
それ だけ なんだ！ほんとう に！
|Sono koto wa dame nanda!|
Because that’s wrong!
|Kirei na hana nanda!|
Oh, wow what a pretty flower!
きれい な はな なんだ！
|Kawaii ko nanda ne!|
Yeah, she is so cute!
かわいい こ なんだ ね。