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How to make Questions and a few common Question words

10 MINUTE LESSON RULES: 

  1. Read each example out loud several times. 
  2. Pay close attention to the notes.
In this lesson, we will look at how to make a question in Japanese. There are two main ways of doing so. 
  1. Add a か ka to a statement, or
  2. Use a question word (who, what, why, where, who) + か

If you need help, see here for an introduction to basic Japanese sentence structure.


1) Using か ka

NOTE: か is a very useful little thing. Think of it as a ? question mark.

KEY SENTENCE: Please repeat several times:

あなたは 日本人(にほんじん) です か?

anata wa nihonjin desu ka?
Are you Japanese?

Note: When it is obvious you are asking the person the question, the あなたは can be dropped. Dropping the topic when the context is clear is more natural in Japanese.

Let’s start with a statement:

あなたは 日本人にほんじん です。

anata wa nihonjin desu.
You are a Japanese person. [statement]

[now without changing any word, add the ka and see what happens]

あなたは 日本人にほんじん です か?

anata wa nihonjin desu ka?
Are you Japanese?  [question]

Note: All we did was add the ka. The overall sentence structure didn't change like it does in English.

Statement + か = Question

QUESTION

ANSWER

おいしい です か?
oishii desu ka?
Is (it) delicious? 

おいしい です。
oishii desu.
(It) is delicious.

おもしろい です か?
omoshiroi desu ka?
Is (that) interesting? [The topic could be a book, a movie, or anything]

おもしろい です。
omoshiroi desu.
(It) is interesting.


2) Using question words

NOTE: The second way is to use question words (why, who, how…) just like in English.

THE MOST COMMON QUESTION WORDS:

どこ doko – where

どこ です か?
doko desu ka?
Where is it?

えきは どこ です か?
eki wa doko desu ka?
Where is the (train) station?
[simply use this format: ~ wa doko desu ka? Where is ~ ?


だれ dare – who

だれ です か?
dare desu ka?
Who is it?

かれは だれ です か?
kare wa dare desu ka?
Who is he?


いつ itsu – when

いつ です か?
itsu desu ka?
When is it?

いつ いきます か?
itsu ikimasu ka?
When are you going?


どうして doushite – why

どうして です か?
doushite desu ka?
Why?


なに nani - what

なに nani [when used as a stand-alone question word or as the last word in a sentence] & なん nan [when used together within a sentence] 

Insert Audio

なん です か?
nan desu ka?
What is it?

なに?
nani ?
What?

なんじ です か?
nan ji desu ka?
What time is it?


Going through sentence breakdowns is a great way to get a feel for Japanese sentence structure and learn vocabulary. Our Makoto+ membership has weekly sentence breakdowns as well as many other perks. 


()た、()た、()った。

kita, mita, katta
“I came, I saw, I conquered!”

Get the "I came, I saw, I conquered" in Japanese t-shirt:



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