Grammar Info
N3 Lesson 2: 15/23

~ known as ~ is, ~called ~ is, ~ means ~, because

Phrase + という(1) + (Definition) Phrase(2)

(1) って
(2) (Reason) Phrase
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使用域 一般
というのは is a phrase that combines the 格助詞(かくじょし) (case marking particle) と, the う - Verb 言(い)う, and the nominalizing particle combination のは. Together, they are usually translated as ‘the ~ known as ~ is ~’, or ‘the ~ called ~ is ~’. Sometimes, it can even simply be ‘~ means ~’. In essence, というのは is just a way to turn an entire phrase into a noun, before explaining that noun further. This explanation of (A) will either be to give a definition of it, or to give a reason for it.
To use というのは, attach it to the end of a phrase that you would like to indicate as being something that will be explained further ‘(A)’, and then follow it with your definition/reason, ‘(B)’.
  • 筋肉(きんにく)と言(い)うのは、鍛(きた)えないとすぐになくなる。
    (The thing known as) Muscles need to be trained, or you lose them quickly.
  • 警察(けいさつ)というのは市民(しみん)犯罪(はんざい)から守(まも)らなければいけません
    (Things known as) Police need to protect the citizens from crime.
というのは is sometimes used at the beginning of a new sentence, when the speaker wants to add extra information about what has already been said. In these situations, the translation is similar to ‘what I mean to say is ~’, or ‘because of that, ~’.
  • 差別(さべつ)になること言(い)ってはいけません。というのは、私達(わたしたち)はみんな同(おな)じ人間(にんげん)だからです
    You shouldn't say anything that could be taken as discriminatory. What I mean to say is, we’re all human.
  • あなた言(い)った事(こと)否定(ひてい)するつもりで言(い)っていませんというのは、私(わたし)はそれ間違(まちが)っていると思(おも)っから言(い)ったのです
    I don't mean to disprove what you just said. What I mean is that, I said what I said because I personally thought that it was wrong.
というのは is regularly abbreviated as とは, or って. This can be a little bit hard to identify in casual speech, but the ‘(B) explains (A)’ concept will still almost always apply, so should be identified that way.
  • おかずとはなんですか。
    What are side dishes?
  • あの人(ひと)70歳(さい)とは信(しん)じられない
    I can't believe that person is 70. (70 years old, as I know it)
  • 夢(ゆめ)って簡単(かんたん)に諦(あきら)められないね。
    Dreams are so hard to give up. (Dreams as we know them)
  • 法律(ほうりつ)ってほんとうに必要(ひつよう)なのか。
    Are laws actually necessary? (Laws as we know them)
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Jihanki (vending machine) means jidouhanbaiki (vending machine).
Foreign language means a language other than Japanese.
(The thing called) Snow is a natural phenomenon.
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Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
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