In this lesson, we’ll let you know the Japanese question words to help you ask questions in Japanese.
Learning a new language is challenging but fulfilling. Learning question words is not only essential but also a key to start a fun interaction.
In this lesson, we first learn some of the basic Japanese question words and see their uses in context. You’ll be able to manage simple conversations in no time!
- 1 Japanese Question Words
- 2 7 Japanese Question Words
- 3 7 Japanese Question Words and Examples
- 4 Other Japanese Question Words
- 5 Tips For Question Words in Formal or Casual Form Japanese
- 6 It Leads You Somewhere New
Japanese Question Words
The Japanese question words are similar to the WH questions in the English language. These questions are very useful when engaging in conversations. These Japanese question words are great conversation starters.
As you read on, you’ll learn the basic question words in Japanese. But we’ve also included other question words that you’ll find handy when learning Japanese.
What is the Japanese for the word “question”?
The Japanese word for “question” is 質問 (しつもん | shitsumon). You can express the following question “Do you have a question” and the sentences “Yes, I have a question.” and “No, I don’t have a question” as:
(しつもんはありますか | shitsumon wa arimasu ka)
Do you have a question?
(はい, しつもんはあります | hai, shitsumon wa arimasu)
Yes, I have a question.
(いいえ, しつもんはありません | iie, shitsumon wa arimasen)
No, I don’t have a question.
7 Japanese Question Words
Most of our daily conversations involve a lot of the 6W1H question words such as What, Where, Who, When, Why, Which, and How. We’re spontaneously using these words to express our curiosity, to ask simple questions, or just to have casual conversations.
Below are the 7 Japanese question words.
7 Japanese Question Words and Examples
Certainly, it’s more helpful to learn question words in context. Once you start understanding the use of each question word in everyday life, you’ll quickly learn them by heart. Let’s take a look at the common question phrases in Japanese.
What in Japanese
The question “what” can be expressed in 2 ways. It can be なに (nani) or なん (nan). Although, they both mean “what”, there can be a difference in usage.
なに (nani) can be used without being attached to other Japanese words and it can’t be used with ですか (desu ka). On the other hand, なん (nan) can’t stand alone so it needs to be attached with ですか (desu ka). Let’s take a look at the examples below:
(あなたのなまえはなんですか | Anata no namae wa nan desuka?)
What is your name?
(なにかこまっていますか | Nanika komatte imasuka?)
What is the matter? May I help you?
Where in Japanese
どこ (doko) is used to ask “where”. It is written as 何処 in Kanji. Here are some examples:
Dokokara kima shitaka?
Where are you from?
(どこ に すんでいます か？ | Doko ni sunde imasuka?)
Where do you live?
When in Japanese
If you’re going to ask for time or date, you can use the Japanese word いつ (itsu). Here’s how to use the question word いつ (itsu):
(いつ から にほんご を べんきょうしています か？ | Itsu kara Nihongo wo Benkyou shiteimasuka?)
Since when have you been studying Japanese?
(つぎ の れっすん は い つ です か？ | Tsugi no ressun wa itsu desuka?)
When is our next lesson?
Why in Japanese
The question word “why” can be expressed in 3 ways. なぜ (naze), なんで (nande) and どうして (doushite) are used to say “why”. The difference among these words is based on emotions and rationality.
なぜ (naze) is used when asking about reason or motive and cause. どうして (doushite) can also be used for asking about reason or motive but is also used to ask for method or process. なんで (nande) can be used as なぜ (naze) and どうして (doushite) are used. However, it’s important to note that なぜ (naze) and なんで (nande) are commonly used in conversations as they are less formal. どうして (doushite) is less used since it is a formal word for “why”.
(なぜ にほんご を べんきょうしている の です か？ | Naze Nihongo wo benkyou shiteiruno desuka?)
Why do you study Japanese?
(どうして にっぽん に きた の です か？ | Doushite Nihon ni kitano desuka?)
Why did you come to Japan?
Who or Whom in Japanese
When asking for the questions who and whom in Japanese, you’ll use だれ (dare). Here are some examples:
(あの ひと は だれ です か？ | Anohito wa dare desuka?)
Who is the person over there?
(だれ と いっしょ に きました か？ | Dare to isshoni kima shitaka?)
With whom did you come with?
Which in Japanese
There are 3 ways to say which in Japanese. You can say it as どれ (dore) or どちら (dochira) or どちらの (dochira no) or どの (dono).
どれ (dore) and どちら (dochira) both mean “which” but どちら (dochira) is the polite form. However, in usage, どれ (dore) is used when there are 3 or more options to choose from. どちら (dochira), on the other hand, is used when there are 2 things to choose from.
どの (dono) is also used when there are more than 2 choices, but it functions as an adjective. It is used when asking which noun. It follows the form “どの (dono) + noun”. どちらの (dochira no) can mean “whichever”.
(どの えき に いきたい です か？ | Dono Eki ni ikitai desuka? )
Which station do you want to go?
Dochira ga anata no kaban desuka?
Which is your bag?
Whose in Japanese
The word だれの (dareno) is used when you’re asking for the who the owner of an object. Here are sample sentences for だれの (dareno).
(これ は だれ の ほん です か？ | Kore wa dareno Hon desuka?)
Whose book is this?
Dareno pasupo-to wo nakushimashitaka?
Whose passport did you lose?
How in Japanese
There are 3 ways to ask “how” in Japanese. You can say it as どう(dou), どうやって (dou yatte), or どのように (dono youni). どう(dou) can simply be used when asking how are things.
On the other hand, どのように and どうやって are both question words used to ask “how” to do something. The only difference between the two Japanese phrases is in their formality level. どのように is more formal (and polite) than どうやって.
Kore wa dou desu ka?
How is this?
Kokomade dou yatte kimashitaka?
How did you get here?
(どの ように たべます か？| Dono youni tabe masuka? )
How do I eat this?
Other Japanese Question Words
At this point, you now know the basic Japanese question words. These questions also have different variations. Let’s learn about them below to help add to your vocabulary:
|What kind of||どんな |
What kind of in Japanese
There are 2 ways you can ask “what kind of” in Japanese. You can use the questions どんな (donna) or どのような (dono youna) to ask. Here are some examples:
(あなた の こきょう は どんな ところ です か? | Anata no kokyou wa donna tokoro desuka?)
What kind of place is your hometown?
(どの ような おんがく が すき です か? | Dono youna ongaku ga sukidesuka? )
What kind of music do you like?
How much in Japanese
Asking “how much” in Japanese can be expressed in 2 ways. You can ask how much by saying いくら (ikura) or どのくらい (dono kurai).
How much does this cost?
(どの くらい にほんご が わかります か | Dono kurai Nihongo ga wakari masuka? )
How much Japanese do you understand?
How many in Japanese
When asking “how many” in Japanese, you can say いくつ (ikutsu) or どのくらい (dono kurai). Here is an example:
(いくつ の ことば を はなせます か？ | Ikutsuno kotoba wo hanase masuka?)
How many languages can you speak?
How many, How much, How long, How often in Japanese
Earlier, we learned the Japanese word どのくらい (donokurai). This word can be used for asking both “how many” and “how much”. This word is quite versatile as it also can be used to ask “how long” and “how often”.
Another way of asking the questions “how many,” “how much,” “how long,” and “how often” is by saying どれくらい (dorekurai). Take a look at each of the example for どのくらい (donokurai) and どれくらい (dorekurai).
(どの くらい よく オーストラリア に かえります か？ | Dore kurai yoku O-Sutoraria ni kaeri masuka? )
How often do you go back to Australia?
(どれ くらい ながく にっぽん に いました か？ | Dore kurai nagaku Nihon ni imashitaka? )
How long did you stay in Japan?
Which one in Japanese
The Japanese words used for asking “which” are the same words used for asking “which one”. You’ll say どれ (dore) or どちら (dochira).
Dore ga oishikatta desuka?
Which one did you like the most?
(この しゃしん の なか の どちら が あなた です か？ | Kono shashin no naka no dore ga anata desuka? )
Which one are you in this picture?
Tips For Question Words in Formal or Casual Form Japanese
Japanese formal question sentence ends with ですか(Desuka) or ますか(masuka) quite often. Also, there are some changes like どのような(donoyouna) to どんな(donna), なぜ(naze) to なんで (nande) , and どちら(dochira) to どっち(docchi). Sometime they do sound a little confusing. However they don’t change the actual meaning of a question sentence, so you can relax. Just focus on the context instead of picking up every details precisely.
It Leads You Somewhere New
Asking questions and answering them are probably the most common way to start a friendly chat. Question words will open up an opportunity for getting to know people, making new friends, traveling, and more. Anyone who has Japanese friends, why don’t you start asking a question?