How can you ask Japanese people?

In this article, I’m going to teach you the 5 Ws: What, Who, When, Where, Why.


When we ask “what”, we use “なに”.

Let’s take a closer look at an example.

Japanese:きょうは なにを しましたか。
English:What did you do today?

In this case, you want to ask objective, so we put なに before verb.

Let’s see the second example.

When you ask what it is, we say なんですか.

なに changes to なん.

Japanese:これは なんですか。
English:What is it?

What is ”これ”?

Please check my another article.

Let’s learn Japanese kosoado words

Let’s see the other example of changing to なん.

When we ask numbers, なに changes なん.

For example,

Japanese:いぬが なんひき いますか。
English:How many dogs are there?
Japanese:いま なんじ ですか。
English:What time is it now?


When we ask “who”, we use “だれ”.

For instance,

Japanese:あのひとは だれ ですか。
English:Who is that man?

When we ask subject, we say だれが.

For example,

Japanese:だれが パーティーに きますか。
English:Who is coming to the party?

When we ask whose thing, we say だれの○○.

Let’s see the example.

Japanese:これは だれの かばん ですか。
English: Whose bag is this?

Note: どなた is more polite than だれ.

Japanese:こちらは どなた ですか。
English:Who is that man?


When we ask “when”, we use “いつ”.

Let’s see the example sentence.

Japanese:いつ しゅくだいを しますか。
English:When will you do your homework?

We use “when” as a conjunction, right?

(ex) When I was a child, I often swam in the river.

However, we don’t say いつ in this case.

we say “とき”.

(ex) わたしが こどもだったとき、かわで よく あそんだ ものだ。


When we ask “where”, we use ”どこ”.

Japanese:あしたは どこに いきますか。
English: Where are you going tomorrow?


When we ask “why”, we say ”なぜ”, ”どうして” or ”なんで”.

These are the same meaning and it’s hard to explain the differences.

Which words we use depends on the situation.

Therefore, I’m going to roughly teach you the differences.

Let’s see each phrase.


どうして is more of a feeling word.

It focuses on the speaker’s feeling rather than the reason they want to know.

Let’s see the examples.

Japanese:どうして きのう パーティーに こなかったんですか。
English: Why didn’t you come to the party yesterday?

In this case, he (or she) didn’t come to the party and the questioner is angry (or surprised).

It focuses on the speaker’s feeling.


Like どうして, なんで focuses on speaker’s feeling.

For instance,

Japanese:なんで がっこうに いかなければ ならないのだろう。
English: Why do I have to go to school?

I guess the speaker doesn’t want to go to school.

なんで emphasizes the feeling.

In addition, なんで is more used in casual conversation.

Therefore, I don’t recommend saying なんで to older people.


なぜ is rational.

When we say なぜ, we are asking a reason and there is no speaker’s feeling.

Moreover, なぜ is more for writing.

We rarely use なぜ in conversation.

Let’s see the example.

Japanese:なぜ きのう パーティに こなかったんですか。
English: Why didn’t you come to the party?

He (or she) just wants to know the reason why the person didn’t come to the party.

These example would change depending on situation and you need to understand context.




① (1. )と えいがに いきましたか。

② きのうは (2. )を たべましたか。

③ きのうは (3. )に いきましたか。

④ (4. )、そらは あおいの ですか。

⑤ (5. )、きますか。

① だれ

→Who did you go to movie with?

② なに

→What did you eat yesterday?

③ どこ

→Where did you go yesterday?

④ なぜ(どうして、なんで)

→Why is the sky blue?

⑤ いつ

→When are you coming?

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