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Ask Me Why | Basic Japanese Question Words (and Grammar)| 基本的な疑問詞 | PART 2 || Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Japanese Language Learning Essentials

 皆様みんなさま、こんにちにゃあぁ!Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online! You trekked out into the dark of night with nothing but the coat on your back and a yearning in your soul. You were in search of something. And that something wasn’t just anything. It was answers. You found yourself at a wall, but not for long. Your two helpful assistance guided you through a door—a door through the wall of uncertainty clouding any possibility of understanding, and you found yourself falling. You were falling down a rabbit hole into a new realm. But, there’s no need to worry, as that was precisely your necessary destination. As you find yourself amidst a sea of new words and concepts floating around in what seems to be a white void, you’re not alone. It’s still us, your guides to Japanese language and culture, Kiki and Koko! And, we’re here to help take all of the ambiguous concepts you have sailing around you, break them down one-by-one, and help build you a ladder out of this place and up to a place where you can find answers. That’s right, we’re teaching you more 疑問詞, gimonshi, or question words along with examples of how to actually use them!

We’re going to take this step-by-step, as these words are going to build upon each other and will make much more sense if you’re sure to focus on each of the 疑問詞, gimonshi. Japanese question words build upon each other in a much different way in comparison to English. By learning these next 疑問詞, gimonshi, you’ll actually be learning part of some other 不定称の代名詞, futeishou no daimeishi, indefinite pronouns, as you’d think of them in English. Some of these are words like ‘someone’ or ‘anyone,’ ‘something’ or ‘anything.’ Words like ‘anywhere’ and ‘somewhere’ sort of follow a similar method to Japanese. However, the main difference is particles! You’ll definitely need to be well-versed in a couple more particles in order to fully understand the way these words are created. But, that’s just a quick preview into what we’ll be delving into!

Kiki Koko and Quizbo Survival Photo Making Questions 何This lesson, we’re keeping it simple as these are much less complex in comparison to our novel concerning 「何」. But, after reading it, hopefully, you’ll have realised its necessity and also, hopefully, would have found yourself much more in-the-know! You’ll notice that in a simple vocabulary list, it would be impossible to pick up all of the usage and nuance as well as rules for reading. We usually don’t like to bog anyone down, but if it’s a focus on one topic, it’s extremely helpful to give you all that you need of the basics so that you can come back at a later time to reference it. You never have to expect yourself to have every aspect of every lesson memorised in one sitting, that’s the beauty of the blog! You can come back as many times as you like and reference it or revise / study~!

kiki koko nihongo essentials - basic questions ka + noBut, that being said, you’re definitely going to want to know how to create basic Japanese sentences and go back to our previous lessons, if you haven’t already. Those are found in our ‘Essentials’ lessons, which we’ll link to below. You’ll want to have a good look at the ones concerning the magical 「です」as well as the particles. But, when it comes to building upon that, you’ll want to make sure you have a general grasp on the particle(s) you’ll need for interrogative sentences. And, no need to worry about keeping us waiting. We’ll be right here when you’re ready to jump into this lesson!

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Quick Introduction

So, as we go through each of these words, we’re going to provide some example sentences in Japanese. Though these may or may not be as complex as 「何」, depending on how you look at it, we’re still going to keep things a little more simple on this front. There are some cases where different translations are used to express a certain concept. Though Japanese does have many parallels and direct-feeling translations, there are also many occasions where the Japanese way of saying a phrase or expressing a concept is very different to the English concept. But, many times, this will follow a similar thought process to other phrases, so once you start to get into the swing of things, you will start to feel a pattern. Though, the only way to truly know and feel what is natural is through more exposure and revision/study. These should be a good starting point to show a few of the ways these 疑問詞, gimonshi, are used.

Particle が

If you’ve had a good look at the lessons regarding particles, you may have picked up on something that we think is important to highlight here. So, there are many times where は and が are interchangeable based on various factors, however when you’re using a question word and you have the option of は or が, you have to choose が. But, remember, this is only in a scenario where it feels like it’s the topic of the sentence, but it’s not actually the topic because it’s an unknown. By nature, a question word would be the subject of the sentence, not the topic. You can use a topic marker to specify ‘as for so-and-so’, what is XYZ, so to speak, such as:

晩御飯は 何が 食べたいですか。
ばんごはんは なにが たべたいですか。
bangohan wa nani ga tabetai desuka.
What do you want to eat for dinner

This illustrates how you could technically take off the topic entirely and still have the question intact. The topic marker simply serves as a way of specifying the scope of the question. Instead, you may want to look at it as, ‘as for dinner… what do you want to eat?’ Many Japanese questions are worded in a way where it can be separated this way. Otherwise, the subject is still going to be the question word.

We hope that helped a little! It will definitely be more helpful for those who already understood the previous lessons, though, so be sure to refresh your memories.

But, without further ado, we should get started with these new vocabulary words.
Let’s NihonGO!!

Basic Question Words| 基本的な疑問詞

何【なに】nani /【なん】nan

(There is MUCH more to 何, so be sure you’ve read part 1)

‘What’

週末に を しているのか。
しゅうまつに なにを しているのか。
shuumatsu ni nani wo shiteiru no ka?
What are you doing at the weekend?

一番行きたい国は ですか。
いちばん いきたい くには なんですか。
ichiban ikitai kuni wa nandesuka?
What country do you want to go to the most?


誰【だれ】dare

‘Who/whom’

がボクのサンドウィッチの上に車を駐車したのか!?
だれが ぼくの さんどうぃっちのうえに くるまを ちゅうしゃしたのか!?
dare ga boku no sandouicchi no ue ni kuruma wo chuushya shitanoka!?
Who parked their car on my sandwich!?

と 話していますか。
だれと はなしていますか。
dare to hanashiteimasuka?
With whom are you speaking?

So, when you’re using 誰, just like the pronouns we’ve seen in lessons like I Me Mineyou needn’t worry about the grammatical differences of who and whom as the grammar works a bit differently in comparison to English, which is explained a little earlier and a bit more in other lessons. But, just know that you don’t have to worry about differentiating those two as they’re both simply one word.


何処【どこ】doko

(usually written in hiragana)

‘Where’

道は どこですか。
みちは どこですか。
michi wa doko desuka?
Where is the road?

どこで 手に 入れたのですか。
どこで てに いれたのですか。
doko de te ni ireta no desuka?
Where‘d you get it?

眼鏡は どこに ありますか。
めがねは どこに ありますか。
megane wa doko ni arimasuka?
Where are my spectacles?

カルメン・サンディエゴさんは 世界の どこに いますか。
かるめん・さんでぃえごさんは せかいの どこに いますか。
karumen sandeiego-san wa sekai no doko ni imasuka?
Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

So, the nature of どこ lends itself to being used with a location indicator particle. But, there are other cases where it will also be used as an indefinite pronoun with a subject marker such as in phrases like:

どこが 痛みますか。
どこが いたみますか。
doko ga itamimasuka?
Where does it hurt?

Just as in English, it can serve as a replacement for a location, so naturally, it would fit in as the subject of the sentence. But, you can just as easily switch it around, and despite the change in grammar and verbiage, it expresses the same meaning in translation. However, ‘hurt’ is a verb, therefore when it’s changed to the topic of the sentence, it has to be changed into a noun clause which is ‘hurt place’.

痛いところは どこですか。
いたいところは どこですか。
itai tokoro wa doko desuka.
Where does it hurt? (lit. Where is the hurt place?)

So, basically, there is a similar grammatical pattern to the previous sentences, but hopefully these show proper examples of the different ways these question words can be used in conjunction with the proper particles.


何時【いつ】itsu

(usually written in hiragana, as 何時can be read「なんじnanji, for ‘what time’)

‘When’

家賃は いつ 払わなけらばならないの?
やちんは いつ はらわなけらばならないの?
yachin wa itsu harawanakereba naranai no?
When‘s rent due?

雛祭りは いつですか。
ひなまつりは いつですか。
hinamatsuri wa itsu desuka.
When is hina matsuri?

In this second example, you can see that this follows the same pattern of the other question words along with their placement within the sentence. This is definitely due to the magical です and the previously mentioned grammatical implications that come with a question word. And, again, the topic of the sentence could be taken away or implied and it would still be a viable and normal sentence.

いつから ローファイ・ヒップホップを 聴き始めたの?
いつから ろーふぁい・ひっぷほっぷを ききはじめたの?
itsukara roofai hippu hoppu wo kiki hajimeta no?
Since when did you start listening to lofi hiphop?

Above is just one example of when the Japanese way of saying something is quite a bit different than the English way. The ‘since’ could be taken away in translation, but this should help in grasping the meaning. Instead of saying ‘since when’ it’s ‘from when’. If it was from a start time, even if it’s not translated that way, you’ll use ‘from’. But, if it’s asking until, or the end of something, you’ll see an example below.

雨は いつまで 降り続くの?
あめは いつまで ふりつづくの?
ame wa itsumade furi tsuduku no?
(Until when / How long) will it rain?

When you combine ‘when’ and ‘until’, it creates a new translation that is usually ‘how long’ or ‘until when’. You don’t have to worry about memorising things like this quite yet, but we figured it was important to touch on these times you’ll encounter these words with a different translation and usage. This is definitely a lesson to keep bookmarked for when we get to words such as these in future.


That nearly covers all of the basic who, what where, when, why of English in Japanese, however we’re going to have to leave why and how for another lesson, as there are actually a few ways to express these concepts in Japanese. We’ve definitely already included quite a few, here, but again, remember you can return as many times as you like, whenever you fancy a study session. A great way to learn is by passively looking back at lessons. You don’t have to sit down and have an entire dedicated time if you don’t have the time. You can just as easily inundate yourself with learning passively. If you simply give it a look a few times in a day, it’s better than avoiding your studies and learning nothing.

Of course, we want to continue to facilitate a comfy, cozy, relaxed learning environment. Realistically, this is all a journey, and not everyone will immediately absorb vocabulary and be able to use it perfectly. So, embrace the pace! If you rush things, you might miss important information, and if you set unrealistic goals, you may become discouraged. Rather, set realistic goals, ones that you’re comfortable with, then try to challenge yourself little by little. Soon, you’ll know how far you can test your learning limits. Teachers can instruct you and give you the most information possible, but at the end of the day, everyone should try to improve their ‘self-study’ habits. The only one who knows what goes on inside your mind is you, and you’re the only one who truly knows what you do and don’t know. So, be realistic with yourself, and be willing to make mistakes in order to improve. We know that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything and enjoy the experience.

We hope this further assisted you in your quest for answers!! The only way to get answers is to ask questions, and step-by-step, stride-by-stride, we’re getting closer to giving you the tools you need to help you understand the basics of an interrogatory Japanese sentence. But, maybe going through this was a bit difficult to suss out the pronunciations with the hiragana used. Well, we’ve got you covered! Just take a look at our Reading and Writing sections to revise / review / study. It will help your pronunciation, and it’s essential to learning any language. If you want to make sure your Japanese language survival kit is stocked with the latest tools, you can make sure you stay up to date by subscribing to the Electronic Mailing List of Tomorrow, today, found usually at the bottom of the site page or the sidebar on desktop. You’ll get the latest tools and resources to surviving in Japanese language in straight to your inbox. That’s articles, videos, podcasts, and more.

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Categories: 話し方|Talk!, Japanese Language Essentials, Kiki+KoKo: Let's NihonGO!!, SpeRaToBo, 文法|Grammar!

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