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6. Question Words

Oni's picture

By mastering these question words, your conversational skills will be much stronger!

いつ (itsu) - when

いつ きました か?

  • itsu kimashita ka?
  • When did you come? [literally "when came?" Notice the "you" is understood.]
どこ (doko) - where

どこ から きました か?

  • doko kara kimashita ka?
  • Where did you come from? [literally "where from came?"]
どうして (doushite) - why

どうして きました か?

  • doushite kimashita ka?
  • Why did you come? [literally "why came?"]
なぜ (naze) - why


  • naze?
  • Why? [used in the same way as doushite]
だれ (dare) - who

だれが きました か。

  • dare ga kimashita ka?
  • Who came?
何 (nani) - what

なに を 買いました か。

  • nani o kaimashita ka.
  • What did you buy?

You can do a lot more with 何, see here.

Main points
  • Even with the question word a か ka is used. (Except in casual spoken Japanese.)
  • The question word is at the beginning, but after the は wa if there is one.

あなた は だれ です か?

  • anata wa dare desu ka?
  • Who are you? (the question word dare is after the wa)

For more on this please see our "Questions and Question Words" guide.

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Ongakuka's picture

Difference between 'naze' and 'doushite'

'naze' is the formal version. 'doushite' is the informal version. Both mean 'why?'


ItzWizz's picture

naze and doushite

Naze and doushite, are basically the same... Naze is used more frequently though as Doushite usually means what's wrong? When used alone.


So what is How?

Please see this page

Attempting basic grammar


Pianogirl123's picture


なに Is fine here, I think なん Would sound weird in your sentence. you could add が to both sentences like so:
わたしはねことたこ が すきです。 なに が すきですか。

It is ok to leave them out, but understand you are abbreviating, which sounds more casual, and maybe a little cute/cool. Stylistic points: since you changed the subject it wouldn't hurt to add あなたは. And maybe its just me, but it sounds a little weird to say you like cats and octopus... do you like them both as pets or do you like to eat both of them? ;)


Shouldn't it be 'nan' in the example you've given? I thought that was the form it took in a sentence.

Re: なに

Technically all speech should be within "sentences" so to change the end of the word simply because it's being "used" doesn't make a whole lot of sene, since that would be the actual word!

何 is pronounced either なん or なに depending on the usage.

何か なにか
何で 何で can be read なにで if you're asking by what, and なんで if you're asking why.

There are many more examples, and it's just a matter of memorizing when to use each form.

I though when 何 was with Desu

I though when 何 was with Desu it can only be pronounced as Nan. I mean 何で pronounced as Nanidesu doesn't even sound right.

It is always pronounced なんです

It is always pronounced なんです when it's followed by です. You can say both 何で(なにで) and 何で(なんで) though. They have different meanings. I usually write なんで in hiragana to avoid confusion, but writing it with kanji technically isn't wrong.

ok thanks, I'll have to get

ok thanks, I'll have to get used to that one.

phreadom's picture

The best answer I can give

The best answer I can give for now is that it depends on how it's being used.

I'm hoping that someone can give a better explanation of how the usage differs based on the grammar etc... but I don't know enough to give a better answer than that for now. :(


なに vs  なん

This is probably a generalization, but a textbook I have gives the following:

なん before words that begin with d, t, k or n and for quantities.

なに for the rest

Could be many exceptions.


Are there any situations in which naze is specifically used over doushite?

Naze, nande, doushite

I was wondering too, what's the difference between "why" words?