In this lesson, we will discover how to say the question word “which” in Japanese. This lesson will be about the “which” used in questions. Although “which” may at times correspond to other things in Japanese, the words you will learn in this lesson cover the fundamental meaning of “which.”
There are three primary words that mean “which” in Japanese: どれ, どちら, and どっち. Generally speaking, they are distinguished in the following manner.
どれ: Used for when pointing out from three or more things.
どちら: Used when pointing out from two things.
どっち: Used when casually point out from two things.
Which is Mr. Kagawa’s bag/briefcase?
Sentence Note: In Ex. 1, there are most likely more than two bags/briefcases present.
Which do you want?
Sentence Note: In Ex. 2, only two options are likely being offered.
Before studying Japanese, I probably wouldn’t have figured out which is the Chinese textbook and which is the Japanese textbook.
I don’t know which to use in this conversation.
Sentence Note: Although どっち is used colloquially, it still works well in polite speech. However, in formal situations, it gets completely replaced with どちら.
Which drinks are low in alcohol?
What we have seen thus far are the forms for “which” when used as a noun. When used adjectivally, you will need to change どれ to どの and add the particle の to どちら and どっち.
I’m wavering on which path to choose.
Which library would it be alright to return (it) to?
Which station should I get off at?
Which team do you support?
I’m really worried about which subjects to choose.
Which color(s) do you think fits me the best?
In the end, which should I go with?
I’m wavering on which to go with.
Grammar Note: しよう is the volitional form of する (to do). If you were to remove what’s after か from the sentence, you would get a sentence that equates to “which shall I go with?”
どれの is seldom possible, but it does exist. For instance, it can be seen in どれのこと. In this case, のこと is added to emphasize ‘what’ is being discussed.
Which thing does login ID indicate?
I don’t know which thing (he/she) is talking about.
Aside from the truly basic sentences we’ve seen thus far, somewhat more grammar needs to be introduced when listing the actual things in a sentence with “which.” Because the underlying grammar is the same across the three ‘which’ words, we’ll use the English word ‘which’ in discussing the grammar patterns used with them.
The basic grammatical pattern used when listing the actual things ‘which’ may refer to is “XとY (と)では.” When listing things with the particle と , it was once the case that Y was always marked by と. In making comparisons, this archaic grammar remains relatively used. Even when there are three or more elements, in which case （と）では would be after the final element, it is still often used.
For a domain, between “.com” and “.net,” which is good?
As for jogging, which is best, morning or night?
Sentence Note: The lack of と before では is largely due to the sentence being more casual. After all, the use of と after the second element is optional and indicative of older grammar.
Both one’s weight and one’s height always differ between day and night.
Sentence Note: Although “which” is not in the sentence, （と）では is still used to create the phrase “between…and…”
(Between same room or) separate rooms, which is better?
Sentence Note: Whenever the first element is deemed to be obvious, it may be omitted from the sentence. In this example, the only thing that could reasonably be compared with別室 (separate room) is the phrase for “same room,” which is 同室. Though rather unrelated, also note that the “which” in “which is” is neither a noun nor an adjective, meaning it doesn’t correspond to the “which” phrases in this lesson.
When listing three or more phrases, you can use ～の中で（は）instead of （と）では. The difference in nuance by using the word 中 is that the translation will usually include “among” rather than “between.”
Between/among dogs, cats, and rabbits, which do you like the most?
Grammar Note: The use of the particle は is to emphasize the choice being made. In effect, it highlights the pool of choices. In the next sentence, は is not used. The reason for this is because the four seasons are quite finite and there is no need to add special emphasis to the options at hand. However, adding は would not make the sentence odd or ungrammatical.
Among spring, summer, autumn, and winter, which season do you like the most?
Grammar Note: Although どちら is almost always used in situations in which there are only two things ‘which’ may refer to, it is sometimes treated as the formal form of どれ. This becomes apparent when clearly formal elements are introduced in the sentence. Here, we see that the prefix お～ is added to 好きだ (to like) to create an honorific expression.
Between Monster Strike and Puzzle & Dragon, which do you like?
Grammar Note: The second/last と may actually be seen as って. As we know, this is not the only instance in which と can be replaced by って. Its use here is to lessen the old-fashioned nature of marking the second element.
Phrase Note: Monster Strike and Puzzle & Dragon are two of the most popular mobile app games in Japan. Colloquially, they are referred to by their contractions as is demonstrated in Ex. 22.
The use of と to mark the second/last element, as mentioned, is grammatically unnecessary. This is also the case when one or both elements are nominalized phrases. When it’s missing, you’ll see that the nominalized phrase essentially connects with the ‘which’ word with the particle の.
As for onions, which is better, they being raw or heating them up?
As for homes, between selling and leasing, which is better?
Between shaving and plucking, which is better?
Another facet of grammar surrounding ‘which’ is the optional addition of ～の方 to the sentence after a ‘which’ word to emphasize “which one.”
Orthography Note: To avoid confusion with its other usages, 方 may be read as ほう.
Between wine and beer, which (one) do you like?
Currently, between Monster Strike or Puzzle & Dragons, which is more popular?
Which would you like, smoking or non-smoking?
The options before the ‘which’ word may alternatively be listed with the particle か. In this case, か is usually stated after the second/last element, although it may be omitted if the following ‘which’ phrase sounds like a separate statement. Regarding difference in nuance, the sense of comparison is lessened to a listing of options which may not be exclusive which may also be emphatically based.
Will you go with chopsticks or fork?
Sentence Note: Although the general options may indeed just be chopsticks or forks, the option of neither is also implied. It is also open-ended enough for the customer to choose something else not explicitly mentioned.
As for gacha, which is better, single shot or 10 shot?
Sentence Note: As mentioned, the sense of comparison is open-ended but is also more subjective and emphatically based. By posing the question this way, the speaker may expect follow-up questions regarding the nature of the options or personal experiences from others with said options.
Word Note: In mobile games, gacha is an internal prize that you get, often by utilizing in-game currency.
Which will you go with, love or money?
Sentence Note: Ex. 31 is a perfect example for the subjective, emphatic nature of か. Clearly, there is more behind “love” and “money” alone, but it is this fact that also drives the emphasis behind the question itself.
Monster Strike or Puzzle & Dragon, which do you recommend?
You mustn’t compare on the lines of like whether renting or owning one’s home is the better bargain.
In addition to what we’ve seen, it is also appropriate and very common for the second/last element of a sentence with ‘which’ to be followed by a conditional phrase.
If it’s the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, which (one) is larger?
Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, which (one) is larger?
Grammar Note: The use of だと adds to the sense that a definitive comparison is being made.
If it’s between being a manager and being a worker, which (one) is better?
Grammar Note: The use of the particle なら is used in order to ask for a suggestion.
If you’re buying a new car, which is a better bargain, a new car or a used car?
In the case of purchasing a vehicle, which is the better bargain, a new car or a used car?
Sentence Note: Ex. 38 is a more formal version of Ex. 37. As you can see, the phrase ～場合は is used to mean “in the case…”
Deceiving Translations from English
At times, the use of the word "which" doesn't correspond to either of the 'which' phrases discussed in this lesson. However, it is almost always the case that the English can be paraphrased into something else, and it will be that something else that translates smoothly into Japanese.
Which/what floor is men’s clothing?
Word Note: The opposite of “men’s clothing” is “women’s clothing,” which is 婦人服.
What/which city would you like to live?
Another word meaning “which” is いずれ. It is the original form of ‘which’ that became どれ over time. It, though, remains as “which,” often in set phrases like いずれにしても, meaning “at any rate/in any case.” You will also see it frequently used as an adverb meaning “sooner or later.”
She will surely forget sooner or later.
Abolishing the death penalty or continuing with it, at any rate, it is a difficult question.