疑問詞 are question words. The grammar for these words is a little different. So, don't assume that Japanese questions are constructed similarly. This lesson will go over the words for who, what, when, where, and why.
In English interrogatives should be sentence/clause initial, but there is no such rule in Japanese. They may be at the beginning of an utterance, but this is not obligatory. They're in the same place as their non-interrogative counterparts. You will also see sentences with more than one interrogative. Below are the equivalents of who, what, when, where, and why based on politeness level.
|Respectful||Polite|| Plain |
1. "Why" sentences normally end with a form of ～んですか to seek reasoning.
2. なぜ may have a harsh tone, especially by itself. It is still seen in more honorific language, but the overall tone would be ceremonious. It is often overused by learners. When in doubt, it is best to choose どうして.
3. 何で may also mean "how" as in means. Here, 何 replaces a noun otherwise used with で.
What newspapers do you get?
What did Smith break and where?
He gathered several pieces of firewood in the snow.
There were some dictionaries on that shelf.
Who is the bank president?
When is the first/last bus to X?
Where is your address?
Depending on context this may "Where are you from in Japan?" or "Where is Japan?". In reality, it really only has the latter to the average person because everyone is Japanese and live there.
Who is that person?
Who is the company president?
Usage Note: Ex. 11 would be used to ask about the company president, not asking who the company president is out of a group of people near you.
Where is the bus information booth?
When did you come to America?
Who ran away where and when by using what?
Where is the restroom?
When did the accident occur?
When does the ship sail for Hawaii?
What time is it now?
Why did you go to town for?
Meaning Note: どうして may mean "how" in some contexts.
21. どうして行かないの？ (Casual)
Why won't you go?
22. どうして彼は膝を擦り剥いたのか。 (Rough)
How did he scrape the skin on his knees?
Why did you miss the train?
Where is the check-in counter?
How do you know?
What's the check-out time?
Word Note: 時刻 is "time" as in a certain "instant" and should not be confused with 時間. Aside from these instances like in 時刻表 meaning "timetable", it is hardly used in speech.