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How to Ask Basic Questions in Japanese

How do you ask basic questions in Japanese? Well, Japanese interrogative words mean the same as they do for English: who, what, when, where, why, and how. By knowing basic Japanese interrogatives, you'll be able to express your questions, even without an extensive vocabulary. For example, say you're at a street market and you want find a shirt that you like. You could ask the vendor "Kono shatsu wa ikura desu ka?" ("How much is this shirt?"). But if you don't know enough vocabulary, you can simply point to the shirt and say "Ikura?" and the seller will understand that you want to know the price.

Dare (dah-reh) (Who) Nani (nah-nee) (What) Itsu (ee-tsoo) (When) Doko (doh-koh) (Where) Dshite (dohh-shee-tay) (Why)

D (dohh) (How) Ikaga (ee-kah-gah) (How) Polite form. Ikura (ee-koo-rah) (How much? How many?) Dore (doh-reh) (Which one?)

In Japanese, all questions Japanese end in the particle ka. Here's a look at some different ways to put these question words into a variety useful phrases.

Ano hito wa dare desu ka. (Who is that person over there?) Kore wa nan desu ka. (What is this?) Are wa nan desu ka. (What is that over there?) Are wa Fujisan desu ka. (Is that Mount Fuji?) O-namae wa nan desu ka. (What is your name?) Otearai wa doko desu ka. (Where is the restroom?) Dochira kara kimashita ka. (Where are you from?)

Tanjbi wa itsu desu ka. (When is your birthday?) Itsu ikimasu ka. (When will you go [there]?) Nan-ji ni shimarimasu ka. (What time do you close?) Densha wa nan-ji nidemasu ka. (At what time does the train leave?) Chekkuauto wa nan-ji desu ka. (When is checkout time?) Kore wa ikura desu ka. (How much is this?)

Interrogative pronouns
Kana nan; nani dooyatte doko dochira Kanji Meaning what how, in what way where where politely Comments and examples

dare donata nande naze dooshite itsu ikura ikutsu donogurai

who who very politely not very politely why, what for moderate politeness level politely when how much how many how much how long (money) (years, objects) uncountable nouns)

Apart from those basic interrogative pronouns, we can use combinations of or with a word we're asking about: Kana Kanji nan'nin nanji nanko nankai Meaning Comments and examples pay attention to pronunciation "n": nan'nin

how many people

what time how many pieces how many times (about small objects)

Japanese Pronouns and Interrogatives


When building a basic vocabulary in Japanese, pronouns and question words are not only essential, but quick. Even if you don't know the name of the thing you want to be able to indicate and to ask. This chart is organized by question words (what, where, who, when, which, why, how) as they are used in Japanese. Again, we'll avoid too much grammar because Japanese and English just aren't the same, but the HOW of using them and recognizing them is here. If you are still learning the kana, the chart on the right is for reference. Right clicking the link below will download this as a worksheet so that any notes may be added.

Question Words

Interrogative Pronouns: Question word + possessive

Indefinite Pronouns: When you dont quite know. some Something Somewhere Someone Some time One of these/those For some reason () somehow

TotallyIndefinite Pronouns: When you know nothing

TotallyIndefinite Pronouns: When anything works

: What? Huh? Duwhut?;) Where Who When Which Why How

What one? Which place? Whose Which time/one? Which one? ***really...NObody says why one*** ***OR How one***

Nothing Nowhere Nobody, no one always none (of them) No reason... ***rare and freakyweird usage***

whatever, anything wherever, anywhere anyone, whoever any time, whenever any, whichever for whatever reason anyhow, however

These are usually pretty dismissive in tone. So jokingly with friends, yes. To use them well with anyone not a close buddy...you need a lot of polite cushion words to explain. As in I dont believe there is any real reason that we need to go quite that far... instead of Mm. No reason... or It doesnt matter (Duh!!) Remember...pretty please...the difference between English and Japanese is what makes some of the explanations so odd. Just using the somewhat strange, non-traditional definitions here to give you a sense of how to use words rather than just giving a definition.