In this lesson, you’ll learn how to ask “how much?” in Japanese. This question covers not only situations when you’re talking about money. We’ll teach you ways to use this phrase in different situations!
- 1 Different ways to ask “how much” in Japanese
- 1.1 How to ask how much something costs in Japanese
- 1.2 How to ask the price when the item is not obvious
- 1.3 How to ask for the price of an item in a more polite way
- 1.4 How to ask “how much” if someone paid for something
- 1.5 How to ask how old someone is in Japanese
- 1.6 How to ask “how much” when not talking about money in Japanese
- 2 Wrap Up
Different ways to ask “how much” in Japanese
Though the Japanese language has some words that are used in many situations, at other times, you’ll find that each situation requires a specific word. A good example is asking how much of something there is. While “How much do you have?” and “How much does it cost?” use the same phrase in English, in Japanese, they are quite different.
The same is true when you’re trying to say how many of something you have. “Two plates” and “two people” use different Japanese words. When you’re learning how to say “how much” in Japanese, it’s a good idea to memorize phrases for different situations. We’ll discuss each of them below.
How to ask how much something costs in Japanese
If you’re at a store and want to know the price of an item, you can point to it and ask the clerk いくら です か? (Ikura desu ka?) which translates to “how much does it cost?.”
This is the simplest way to ask, “how much does it cost?” However, this sentence does not say what the item in question is. If it isn’t obvious what you’re talking about, you’ll need to add more words.
How to ask the price when the item is not obvious
If you want to know how much is the price of a certain item, pointing and asking will not be a problem since you’re obviously a foreigner and won’t be expected to know the exact term for each item. You can point to an item and ask these questions:
これはいくら です か? (Kore wa ikura desuka?)
How much does this cost?
この [X] は いくら です か? (Kono [item] wa ikura desu ka?)
How much is this [item]?
However, if the clerk doesn’t speak English, you’ll need to understand what they’re saying when they respond, which is why learning Japanese numbers can be useful.
How to ask for the price of an item in a more polite way
There are two variations on いくら です か (ikura desu ka) that add a greater degree of formality:
おいくらですか？ (O-ikura desu ka?)
How much does it cost?
いくらでしょか？(Ikura desho ka?)
How much will it be?
Adding “O” to the beginning of the question makes it more formal, while adding “desho” signifies that this is in the future. For example, if someone is ringing up many items, it makes more sense to ask, “how much will it be” rather than just “how much.”
Both of these are more polite than the simple form and are useful in situations where you’re talking about the price of an item that is greater than a convenience store purchase or a small souvenir.
How to ask “how much” if someone paid for something
The previous sections only work for something you are buying or you plan to buy. If someone you know has purchased something and you want to know how much they paid for it, here is how you ask:
あなたのくるまはいくらでしたか？ (Anata no kuruma wa ikura deshitaka? | あなたの車はいくらでしたか？)
How much did you pay for your car?
にほんへのこうくうけんだいはいくらでしたか？ (Nihon eno koukuukendai wa ikura deshitaka? | 日本への航空券代はいくらでしたか？)
How much did your plane ticket to Japan cost?
[X]はいくらでしたか？ ([X] wa ikura deshitaka? | [X]はいくらでしたか？)
How much was it for [X]?
These phrases are slightly more complicated and will be used more when conversing with friends than with store employees. If you’re talking to hotel staff about your bill or with a taxi driver about how much the ride is, you can stick with the simplest phrase you know, “ikura desu ka?”
How to ask how old someone is in Japanese
You may also want to ask an acquaintance how old someone is. Here is the way to ask a person’s age in Japanese and how to answer when you are asked:
あなたはなんさいですか？ (Anata wa nansai desuka? | あなたは何歳ですか？) –
How old are you?
わたしは[X]さいです。(Watashi wa [X] sai desu. | 私は[X]歳です。) –
I am [X] years old.
Notice that both of these involve the word “sai,” which means “years old.” There is a more polite way to ask this question that is less complicated:
おいくつですか？ (Oikutsu desuka? | おいくつですか？) –
How old are you?
No matter how you ask, the other person will almost always answer with a number followed by “sai desu.”
How to ask “how much” when not talking about money in Japanese
The way to say “how much” when not talking about the price of something is as follows:
どのくらい (Dono kurai) – How much
This is useful in many situations, such as:
とうきょうまでのきょりはどのくらいですか？ (Tokyo madeno kyori wa donokurai desuka? | 東京までの距離はどのくらいですか？)
How far is it to Tokyo?
おおさかにはどのくらいすんでいますか？ (Osaka niwa donokurai sunde imasuka? | 大阪にはどのくらい住んでいますか？)
How long have you lived in Osaka?
そのえいがのながさはどのくらいですか？ (Sono eiga no nagasa wa donokurai desuka? | その映画の長さはどのくらいですか？)
How long is the movie?
In all of these cases, the response will likely be a number, followed by a counter and “desu.” Counters are a big part of the Japanese language and something you’ll learn more about in future lessons.
Not only are there different words for “years old,” “minutes,” and “days,” but individual counters for items depending on their shape. The way to say “seven books” differs from the way to say “seven bottles.”
Things like counters are what make the Japanese language challenging because they aren’t obvious to native English speakers.
This is just one of the few question words you can use in Japanese. The more you practice, the easier it will be to grasp why these phrases are used and in what situations. More than anything, the best way to learn is to engage with Japanese speakers and listen to what they say!
がんばっ てください (Ganbatte kudasai!)! ^^