Japanese Lesson 12 – Yes-no question and interrogative pronouns

How to make interrogative sentence in Japanese

In English, interrogative sentence differs from declarative sentence in the order of words.

He is a teacher. ⇔ Is he a teacher?
She loves him. ⇔ Does she love him?

But when you make Japanese interrogative sentence, that is very easy.
You only have to add “ka?” to the end of the declarative sentence.

jp-frame-Q

Let’s look at some examples. (DS=Declarative sentence, IS=Interrogative sentence)

I eat sushi in Tokyo. [DS]
Watashi wa Tookyoo de sushi o tabe masu.
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Do you eat sushi in Tokyo? [IS]
Anata wa Tookyoo de sushi o tabe masu ka?
jp-12-ex0-2

I’m a nurse. [DS]
Watashi wa kangoshi desu.
jp-12-ex0-3

Are you a nurse? [IS]
Anata wa kangoshi desu ka?
jp-12-ex0-4

Of course, you answer “hai” (yes) or “iie” (no) to the question.

Sentence with interrogative word

Another case is the sentence with interrogative word.
In English, the interrogative words are “what”, “who”, “when”, “how”, etc.

Basic Japanese interrogative words are the following.

jp-gimonshi

In English, interrogative word is put at the head of the sentence.
Therefore, the order of words is changed for the interrogative word.

But, in Japanese, interrogative word is treated exactly the same way as pronoun you have ever learned.
So, it is OK that you put the word at the position of the case in the frame.
In that sense, you can make a interrogative sentence with clear structure by the frames of Japanese sentence.
Of course, remember that you must put “ka?” at the end of the sentence.

In this page, I introduce the interrogative pronoun shown in the the upper half of above list.
These words are basically put into any part in the frame.

What

Japanese words equivalent to “what” in English are “nani” and “nan”.
“Nani” is used as subject and object, and “nan” is used as complement before “desu” in Frame-B.

When “nani” is used in subject, “ga” is always used as the particle because the interrogative word is highlighted in the sentence. You can never use “wa” and “mo”.

And “nani” can be used in the other additional phrases such as adverbial phrase with “de”, “ni”, “kara”.

(Ex.1) What is the answer of this question?

“Answer”, “question” in English are “kotae”, “shitsumon” in Japanese.

1) The case putting in subject part
Nani ga kono shitsumon no kotae desu ka?

2) The case putting in complement part
Kono shitsumon no kotae wa nan desu ka?
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(Ex.2) What do you eat?

In this sentence, the object is the interrogative word.

Anata wa nani o tabe masu ka?
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(Ex.3) What do you use to go to Tokyo?

In this sentence, the speaker asks the method to go to Tokyo.
If you use “nani” in adverbial phrase showing method, you can use Frame-A.

Anata wa nani de Tookyoo e iki masu ka?
jp-12-ex3

Who, whom, whose

These are the interrogative pronouns about person. It is the same as “nani” to use them.

In English, “who” is changed to “whom” as objective case and “whose” as possessive case.
But particles determine the case in Japanese. Therefore, you only have to learn “dare”.

However, there are a few different words to respect others’ feelings in Japanese.

“Dare” is a basic word but has no respects.
It is used among family, friends, colleague. And it is also used for a person in the conversation about a topic unrelated to you.

Instead of “dare”, “donata” is a safe word with respect.
I recommend to use this word.

(Ex.4) Who is a nurse?

1) At subject
Donata ga kangoshi desu ka?

2) At complement
Kangoshi wa donata desu ka?
jp-12-ex4

(Ex.5) Which person do you choose?

English verb “choose” is “erabu” in Japanese, and it changes to “erabi” before “masu”.
Your friend asks you person in your mind at an election.

Anata wa dare o erabi masu ka?
jp-12-ex5

(Ex.6) Whose book is this?

You ask others the owner of the book.
In Japanese, “no” is used when possessive case is made as you learned in the page of Lesson-11.

Kore wa dare no hon desu ka?
jp-12-ex6

Which

“Which” is the interrogative pronoun to select more than one thing.
In Japanese, “dochira” and “docchi” are used.

“Docchi” is a little more colloquial-sounding than “dochira”, but both are OK.
These are used as subject, object, complement and adverbial phrase.

When “which” is used, optional phrase such as “A or B” is often added.
In Japanese, English “or” is “ka”, and “and” is “to”.
“Or” is generally used in English, but both “ka” and “to” are used in Japanese because the logicality of Japanese is not so high.
The patterns are the following.

> A ka B ka dochira
> A to B to dochira
> A ka B no dochira
> A to B no dochira

(Ex.7) Which is a nurse, Yumi or Haruka?

Yumi to Haruka no dochira ga kangoshi desu ka?
jp-12-ex7

(Ex.8) Which do you eat, sushi or sukiyaki?

Sukiyaki is a famous Japanese food boiling sliced beef and vegitables in a pot.
The interrogative pronoun is at the part of object.

Anata wa sushi ka sukiyaki ka docchi o tabe masu ka?
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(Ex.9) Which way do you go?

You came to an intersection.
You ask your friend the direction he goes.

Anata wa docchi e iki masu ka?
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Which + noun

When you select in the same kind of things, this combination of interrogative pronoun and noun is used.
It seems to be the demonstrative pronoun such as “this book” or “that book”.

You learned “kono”, “sono”, “ano” in the page of Lesson-11.
As the interrogative pronoun, “dono” is used. After “dono”, noun is put.

(Ex.10) Which nurse is Yumi?

Dono kangoshi ga Yumi desu ka?
jp-12-ex10

(Ex.11) Which bus goes to Tokyo?

Dono basu ga Tookyoo e iki masu ka?
jp-12-ex11

(Ex.12) Which dish do you eat?

Anata wa dono ryoori o tabe masu ka?
jp-12-ex12


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