How to use なんか ( = nanka)

「てか、なんか、最近忙しいんだよね。」
 
= Teka, nanka, saikin isogashiin dayone.
 
= I don’t know why but I’ve been busy, you know.

「ほら見て!私、飛んでるよ!」
 
= Hora mite! Watashi, tonderu yo!
 
= Look! I am flying!
 
なんか、変!」
 
= Nanka, hen!
 
= Something is strange…
 

Hi everyone!
 
Today’s guest teacher is Conchita Sensei.
 
She volunteered to be our guest teacher a long time ago.
 
お待たせしました!= Omatase shimashita. = Sorry for making you wait!
 
****
 
Hi I am Conchita!
 
I occasionally work for 宅急便(たっきゅうびん)= takyuubin = door-to-door delivery service and deliver fish to the cats in my neighborhood.
 
I will teach you how to use なんか ( = nanka) today.
 
1) The casual form of  何か = なにか ( = nanika ) something / anything
 
Ex. 何(なに)かお手伝いできることはありませんか?
 
= Nani ka otetsudai dekiru koto wa arimasen ka?
 
= Is there anything that I can do to help you?
 
(casual speech)
 
何(なん)か手伝うことない?
 
= Nanka tetsudau koto nai?
 
 
 Note: Since the kanji can be read both なに ( = nani) and なん ( = nan), I will use hiragana from here on out.
 
Ex. 今、なんか言った?
 
= Ima, nanka itta ?
 
= Did you just say something?
 
Ex. なんかあったの?
 
= Nanka atta no?
 
= Has anything happened?
 
= What is wrong? / What happened?
 
Ex. なにか食べるものはありませんか?
 
= Nani ka taberu mono wa arimasen ka?
 
(casual speech)
 
なんか食べるものない?
 
= Nanka taberu mono nai?
 
= Is there anything to eat?
   
Ex. 京都に行くけど、なんか欲しいものある?
 
= Kyoutou ni iku kedo, nanka hoshii mono aru?
 
= I am going to Kyoto. Do you want anything (from there)?
 
Ex. あそこになんかいる*よ。
 
= Asoko ni nanka iru yo.
 
= There is something over there.
 
(* いる ( = iru) is for living things but なんか ( = nanka) is rude to use for people.  You say 誰か ( = dare ka) )
 
2) to express unexplainable feelings / somehow / kind of / a little ~ / for some reason (being ambiguous/ when you try to find the right word
 
★From the picture above
 
なんか、変!」
 
= Nanka, hen!
 
= Something is strange…
 
Ex. 彼女、なんか綺麗になったね。
 
= Kanojo, nanka kirei ni nattane.
 
= She looks pretty these days for some reason.
 
Ex. なんか、感じ変わった?髪型かなあ。
 
= Nanka, kanji kawatta? Kamigata kanaa.
 
= You look different somehow. I wonder it’s your hairdo.
 
 
Ex. 彼が最近なんか冷たいんだよね。
 
= Kare ga saikin nanka tsumetain dayone.
 
= I don’t know why but he (or my boyfriend) is kind of cold towards me.
 
Ex. 来月、大学を卒業するって考えただけでなんか、悲しくなってきた。
 
= Raigetsu, daigaku wo sotsugyou surutte kangaeta dake de nanka, kanashiku natte kita.
 
= Just thinking about going to graduate from the university next month makes me feel sad for some reason.
 
Ex. 今日はなんかウケないなあ。
 
= Kyou wa nanka ukenai naa.
 
= Nobody is laughing at my jokes today for some reason.
 
★From the picture above:
 
「てか、なんか、最近忙しいんだよね。」
 
= Teka, nanka, saikin isogashiin dayone.
 
= You know I’ve been busy for some reason.
 
 
Note: てか ( = teka) is a very colloquial word which came from と言うか ( = to iu ka)
 
You also say つうか ( = tsuuka) /  つーか( =tsuuka) in casual Japanese speech.
 
It originally means “in other words” / ”How should I put it…”/ “I mean” /My point is…
 
Casual usage: You often start a sentence without any connection to one’s previous speech. →“You know”
 
なんか  ( = nanka) here means “I don’t know why but…. / for some reason”
 
 
Ex. なんか、気持ち悪くなってきた。
 
= Nanka, kimochi waruku natte kita.
 
= I am getting a little sick.
 
Ex. なんか、お腹すいた。
 
= Nanka, onaka suita.
 
= I am getting a little hungry.
 
Ex. なんか、疲れた。
 
= Nanka, tsukareta.
 
= I’m kinda tired.
 
Ex. なんか、ムカつく!(colloquial)
 
= Nanka, mukatsuku!
 
= It’s kinda annoying. / I’m kinda pissed off.
 
Ex. なんかごめんなさい。(conversational)
 
= Nanka gomennasai.
 
= I am kind of sorry/ I kind of feel bad.
 
Note: Sometimes you say that when you don’t think it is all your fault but you want to say “sorry” anyway.
 
「今、Conchitaのためにサプライズパーティーの支度をしているんだよ。」
 
= Ima, Conchita no tame ni sapuraizu paatii no shitaku wo shiteirun dayo.
 
= We are working on a surprise party for Conchita now.
 
なんか、すごいことになってるね。」
 
= Nanka, sugoi koto ni natterune.
 
= Wow… It kinda looks amazing, isn’t it?
 
Note: The translation of すごいこと ( = sugoi koto) changes depending on the context. It could be used negatively as well.
 
Ex. 「あの二人、最近、あまり一緒にいるの見ないね。」
 
= Ano futari, saikin, amari issho ni iru no minaine.
 
= I don’t see them together lately.
 
なんか先月、別れたみたいだよ。」
 
= Nanka sengetsu wakareta mitai dayo.
 
= (I am not sure but) it seems that they broke up last month.
 
3) noun + なんか ( = nanka) : When you belittle something, someone or express your strong emotion, emphasize what comes before in a negative way
 
(It is usually used in a negative sentence or negative words.)
 
Since it also has a belittling function to it, be careful how you use it.
 
Ex.あんな高いレストランなんか行かない。
 
= Anna takai resutorann nanka ikanai.
 
= There is no way that I would go such an expensive restaurant.
 
It shows your strong negative emotions and it might hurt someone’s feelings.
 
Ex. 彼氏なんかいらない。
 
= Kareshi nanka iranai.
 
= I DON’T need/want a boyfriend.
 
(You can also say 彼氏なんて = kareshi nante)
 
Ex. 言い訳なんか聞きたくもない。
 
= Iiwake nanka kikitaku mo nai.
 
= I don’t want to hear your excuses.
 
(You can also say 言い訳なんて = iiwake nante)
 
Ex. 誕生日なのにラーメンなんか食べたくない。
 
= Tanjoubi nanoni raamen nanka tabetaku nai.
 
= It’s my birthday. I don’t want to eat ramen.
 
(You can also say ラーメンなんて = ramen nante)
 
Ex. いい歳してアニメなんか見ないよ。
 
= Ii toshi shite anime nanka minai yo.
 
= I am an adult. I do not watch anime.
 
(You can also say アニメなんて = anime nante)
 
Ex. 浮気なんかしないよ。
 
= Uwaki nanka shinai yo.
 
= There is no way that I would cheat on you.
 
(You can also say 浮気なんて = uwaki nante)
 
Ex. たかし君なんか知らない!
 
= Takashi kun nanka shiranai!
 
= I don’t care about you anymore, Takashi!
 
(You can also say たかし君なんて = Takashi kun nante)
 
Note: 知らない (= shiranai) means “I don’t know” but in this case, the speaker obviously knows him and feds up with him.
 
Ex. もう弟と喧嘩なんかしちゃだめだよ。
 
= Mou otouto to kenka nanka shicha dame dayo.
 
= Don’t fight with your little brother anymore, OK?
 
(You can also say 喧嘩なんて = kenka nante)
 
Note: Mitsu-Sensei made a lesson on なんて( = nante) before.
 
As it is mentioned in the lesson, なんて ( = nante) and なんか ( = nanka) are sometimes interchangeable when it comes after a noun. (なんか( = nanka) expresses stronger emoion than なんて ( = nante))
 
 :i: The difference: You can’t use なんて( = nante) after a particle.
 
 
Ex. こんなに忙しいのに、友達の家なんか行って遊んでいる時間はない。
 
= Konnani isogashii noni, tomodachi no ie nanka ni itte asonde iru jikan wa nai.
 
= I am so busy that I have no time to go visit my friend.
 
( X You can’t use なんて ( = nante)
 
 
Ex. この木は、はさみなんか切れないよ。
 
= Kono ki wa,  hasami nanka de kirenai yo.
 
= You can’t cut this tree with scissors.
 
( X You can’t use なんて ( = nante)
 
Ex. あいつなんか負けてたまるか(male speech/rough)
 
= Aitsu nanka ni makete tamaru ka.
 
= I am not going to lose to him (her).
 
( X You can’t use なんて ( = nante)) Note: たまるか ( = tamaruka) Check this lesson. たまらない
 
4) and so on, for example (giving examples) / something/someone like~ / like ~
 
The conversational form of など ( = nado)
 
You also use this form to soften the sentence avoiding the straightforward expression.
 
 
Ex. そのシャツにはこのネクタイなんか合うんじゃない?
 
= Sono shatsu niwa kono nekutai nanka aun janai?
 
= I think this necktie goes well with that shirt. What do you think?
 
(You can also say このネクタイなんて= kono nekutai nante) )
 
Ex. これなんか彼女のプレゼントにどう?
 
= Kore nanka kanojo no purezento ni dou?
 
= How about this one for a gift to your girlfriend?
 
Note: こちらなんか ( = kochira nanka) → Polite way: こちらなど ( = kochira nado)
  
 Ex. 「誰か、いい人紹介してよ。」
 
= Dare ka ii hito shoukai shite yo.
 
= Set me up with someone nice.
 
「隼人君なんかどう?」
 
 = Hayato kun nanka dou?
 
= How about (a boy like) Hayato-kun?
 
( You can also say なんて ( = nante) )
 
 * noun +  ( = ka) + なんか ( = nanka)
 
Ex. ビールかなんかある?
 
= Biiru ka nan ka aru?
 
Do you have some beer or something?
 
If you say ビールある? ( =  Biiru aru? ) You are specifically asking for beer but by adding なんか ( = nanka), you can give the listener more choices.
 
5) to use なんか ( = nanka) after a subject or main topics: like ~
 
When you talk about something related to the topics.
 
Ex. 「新しいイタリアンの店、入るまでに30分かかったんだ。」
 
= Atarashii itarian no mise, hairumade ni sanjuppun kakattanda.
 
= I had to wait thirty minutes to get in the new Italian restaurant.
 
 
「私なんか一時間も待ったよ。」
 
= Watashi nanka ichijikan mo matta yo.
 
= (As for me) I waited good one hour.
 
(You can also say なんて ( = nante))
 
 
Ex. 「寒いね。」
 
= Samui ne.
 
= It’s cold, isn’t it?
 
「本当!昨日なんか窓が凍ってたもん。」
 
= Hontou! Kinou nanka mado ga kootteta mon.
 
= You can say that again. Like yesterday, the window was frozen.
 
Note: 凍っていたもの ( = kootte ita mono)
casual contraction 凍ってたもん ( = kootteta mon) 
 
(You can also say なんて ( = nante))
 
6) to start a conversation with なんか ( = nanka) putting your thoughts together.
 
Ex. なんかさあ、最近、彼女とうまくいっていないんだよね。
 
= Nanka saa, saikin, kanojo to umaku itte inain dayone.
 
= You know, things are not working so well with my girlfriend.
 
Ex. なんかさあ、遠距離恋愛って大変だよね。
 
= Nanka saa, enkyori ren’ai tte taihen dayone.
 
= You know, long distance love is hard, isn’t it?
 
Ex. 「どうしたの? 元気ないね。」
 
= Doushita no? Genki naine.
 
= Are you OK? You seem kind of down.
 
なんかねえ、いろいろあってね。」
 
= Nanka nee, iroiro attene.
 
= Well, I have been through a lot, you know.
 
 
Ex. 「どう?今日のお味噌汁、美味しい?」
 
= Dou? Kyou no omisoshiru, oishii?
 
= How’s today’s miso soup? Is it good? (Do you like it?)
 
なんかなあ。」
 
= Nanka naa.
 
= Hmm how should I put it..
 
 
******
 
マギー先生より = Maggie Sensei yori = From Maggie Sensei
 
Conchita 先生ありがとう!
 
= Conchita sensei arigatou!
 
= Thank you, Conchita Sensei!
 
次はうちにお魚を届けてね。
 
= Tsugi wa uchi ni osakana wo todokete ne.
 
= Please deliver fish to my house next.
 
 
みなさん、日本語の勉強にマギー先生のサイトなんかどう?
 
= Minasan, nihongo no benkyou ni Maggie Sensei no saito nanka  dou?
 
= How about a site like Maggie Sensei’s site to study Japanese, everyone?

 ****

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10 Comments

  1. hi sensei
    the boyfriend first asked if she was really listening to him and she said she was. Then he said this
    だってすごくどうでもよさそう. 君は余裕ある. うふふ
    Then she says those sentences
    余裕なんてない. どうでもよくなんかないよ
    is it a bit clearer now?

    1. Ah I see. Then どうでもよくなんかないよ means “It is NOT true that I don’t care.”
      Either way, they both negate what her boyfriend said expressing her emotion.

  2. Hello sensei!
    I have a question about the function of なんか and なんて in these sentences. I’ll explain the context briefly.
    A girl is talking to her boyfriend over the phone. He then tells her that her voice sounds too quiet and monotonous and says that she sounds like she doesn’t care about what he’s saying. Btw he’s not angry, he’s just teasing her and being playful. Then we see her, she looks pretty happy and nervous and she replies to him by saying these sentences. I translated them like this:
    余裕なんてない (I’m not calm at all)
    どうでもよくなんかないよ! (There’s no way that I don’t care!)
    I think なんか and なんて are used to emphasize the negative sentences even more, is it right? Or is she trying to belittle the words that come before なんか and なんて? Or do なんか and なんて have another function here? My doubt is over the fact that she says these sentences while being happy indeed, so I know she’s not emphasizing negative feelings (like disgust).
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Chii

      余裕なんてない
      In this case, there is no negative meaning but it emphasizes what comes before, 余裕 
      The literal translation →There is no such a thing as 余裕 
      余裕がない
      = I am too preoccupied with something/ too busy and there is no “headspace” to think about other things.

      どうでもよくなんかない This なんか emphasizes どうでもいい
      I don’t know the context but the person who the speaker must have said
      どうでもいい = I don’t care.
      or
      どうでもいいと思っているんでしょ = I bet you don’t care.

      So the speaker strongly negate what he/she just heard.
      That is not the case!

      1. Sensei sorry to bother one more time, it’s the last one
        You said 余裕 would be “headspace” right? Looking on a dictionary I knew that 余裕 refers to “space” or margin/resource, but when it comes to emotions, does it mean something like “composure” ? The dictionary says that, and in the context I showed I think it means lack of composure (since she looks flustered) rather than lack of headspace to think about sth?/

        1. lack of composure means “落ち着きがない・冷静さを欠く”
          It’s true that the original translation, “I am not calm” fits that translation better.

          I think it is the result of someone is 余裕がない.
          If you are too preoccupied with something and can’t think of other things/deals with other things, they may ends up losing composure.

  3. Hello Maggie-sensei
    I’m new to your site but not new to studying Japanese, and I must say you’re awesome for making the lessons fun and enjoyable! They’re also really easy to understand and make me persevere in learning!

    I have a question though if it’s okay, regarding the ‘mo’ particle, like in your example above:

    言い訳なんか聞きたくもない
    If the ‘mo’ is removed and becomes
    言い訳なんか聞きたくない
    Does the context change? Because I think it’s still the same or does it just add nuance to the expression? Truth is I’m still quite confused with how the ‘mo’s particle is used.
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Summer! Welcome to my site!
      Good question.

      も has many functions but in this case, it emphasizes the meaning.
      ~たくもない is much stronger than たくない and も here can be translated as “even”.

      聞きたくない
      = I don’t want to hear ~
      聞きたくもない
      = I don’t even want to hear ~

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