How to Ask Basic Questions in Japanese

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Japanese Words and Phrases for Traveling

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)
Dôshite (dohh-shee-tay) (Why)
Dô (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?)

  • Tanjôbi 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?)

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