第???課: Who & Where: 誰, どなた, どちら, どいつ, & どこ

In Lesson 39, you learned that the basic word for “what” is 誰. In addition to this, there two additional words for “who” that become important when speaking in more formal/politer situations. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at these words. The words we will look at are 誰, どなた, どちら, and どいつ.  

After we learn about the words for "who," we will go over the two words for "where," どこ and どちら. 

Who's Who?

The basic word for “who,” 誰, may be used in casual, plain, and polite speech. It is for all intended purposes, the generic word for asking “who” someone is.

1. それは(だれ)がやったの?
Who did that?

2. これを(だれ)(わた)せばいいの?
Who should I pass this to?

3. (だれ)()けばいいでしょうか。
Who should I ask?

4. これって(だれ)のものですか。
Whose is this?

5. (きみ)(だれ)
Who are you?

Sentence Note: This sentence would likely be spoken by a guy in an extremely informal, abrupt fashion, most likely to someone who he views to be inferior to himself.

6. 世界(せかい)一番美(いちばんうつく)しいのは(だれ)だい。
Who is the fairest of them all?

Sentence Note: The use of だい at the end of the sentence indicates a rather coarse, abrupt, masculine question. It is rather bombastic and isn’t used so much anymore, but you will hear it frequently used in anime, music, etc.


どなた is the respectful version of 誰. Its purpose is to ask who someone is. However, it is normally not used at someone directly. For instance, you might ask your boss about who someone is by using どなた, but you wouldn’t walk up to someone and say どなたですか. However, if you were to ask someone who happened to just appear to you and are perplexed as to how that person is, you could respond with Ex.7

Who are you?

8. お(はな)(くだ)さったのはどなたですか。
Who is it that gave the flowers?

9. (つぎ)(かた)は、どなたですか。
Who is it that’s next?

Sentence Note: In Ex. 9, the speaker is merely asking for whoever is next to point himself/herself out. It is almost undoubtedly the case that the speaker knows who the person next is, and it’s also likely that the case that the person next is physically near the speaker.

10. すみませんが、責任者(せきにんしゃ)(かた)はどなたですか。
Excuse me, but who is the person in charge?

11. どなたか、このお()さんをご存知(ぞんじ)(かた)はいらっしゃいませんか。
Anyone, is there someone who knows who this child is?


When used to mean “who,” どちら is almost used asどちら様. This is used to ask not just who someone is, but also who they are affiliated with. This is because it comes from a kosoado which literally means “where?”  

Say if you were to receive a phone call from someone you don’t know. The natural response in Japanese to this is どちら様ですか. Perhaps you’re at work and there is a visitor waiting to see your boss. As a secretary who is in a hurry to tell his/her boss who has come by, you may ask Ex. 12.

12. どちら(さま)でいらっしゃいますか。
May I ask who you are?

As you can see, this variation is more respectful. At times, though, it’s not always appropriate to ask “who are you?” to a client or someone you should be giving the utmost respect/courtesy. In such a situation, you may wish to use something like in Ex. 13a or 13b.

13a. 失礼(しつれい)ですが、お名前(なまえ)頂戴(ちょうだい)できますか。
Excuse me, but could I have your name?
13b. 失礼(しつれい)ですが、お名前(なまえ)(うかが)えますでしょうか。
Excuse me, but could I ask your name?

どちら様, nevertheless, plays an important role in “who” questions in respectful speech. This is because of how it is nuanced towards asking for affiliation and not just one’s personal name.

14. あちらのお(がた)はどちら(さま)でしょうか。
Who is that person over there (from)?

15. (おそ)()りますが、本日(ほんじつ)のご来店(らいてん)はどちら(さま)のご紹介(しょうかい)ですか。
Pardon me, but who was it that introduced you to come to our store today?

16. どちら様までご連絡差(れんらくざ)()げればよろしいでしょうか。
Who should I get in contact with?

“I apologize, but I will need to call you back because I’m on the phone.” “Oh, ok.” “To whom am I speaking? Just in case, may I have your phone number?”

18. 「(おそ)()りますが、お名前(なまえ)とご連絡先(れんらくさき)をお()きしてもよろしいでしょうか。」
“Pardon me, but may I ask your name and contact information?”

どなた様ですか is also a thing. As you can see from the examples below, it’s used as the respectful form of 誰 in very honorific yet indirect circumstances.

19. どなた(さま)(ぞん)じませんが、先程(さきほど)親切(しんせつ)道案内(みちあんない)をしていただいた(かた)にお(れい)(もう)()げたいのですが。
I don’t know who it was, but I would like to show my appreciation to the person I had kindly show me the way a moment ago.

20. どなた様にお送りいたしますか。
Who should I send it to?

21. どなた様をお訪ねしたらよろしいですか。
Who should I visit?

22. どなた様でもお申し込みいただけます。
Anyone can apply.

23. どなた様もご利用OK!
It’s OK for anyone to use!

Sentence Note: Ex. 23 is indicative of an advertisement.

In Humble Speech 

When it’s necessary that you humbly ask who in one’s company someone wishes to speak to in a business situation, you may wish to useどちらの者.

24. どちらの(もの)にご(よう)でしょうか。
Who do you have business with?

In reality, you might wish to ask the following question, but there are certainly situations in which asking whom one has business with is appropriate. In Ex. 19, you also implicitly ask about the department of the company the person you are speaking to who has business with.

25. どのようなご用件(ようけん)でしょうか。
What sort of business do you have (with us)?

When asking someone who you need to call, you could just use 誰. どの者 may also be used, but some speakers find this to be stiff. Because this is a humble setting, there is no grammatical need to use anything more than 誰.

Who shall I call for you?

Rude Language: どいつ 

Although outdated outside of certain set expressions, another word for "who" is どいつ. If you think this sounds like ドイツ (Germany), you'd be right. You would be far from the first person to recognize this. Japanese people also love making puns with it because of this!

27. (うわさ)(おんな)はどいつだ。
Who's the rumored woman?

28. どいつでもいいんじゃない!
Just anyone's not alright! 

29. どいつもこいつもドイツじんだ!
Every last one of them is a German! 

Grammar Note: This word creates a kosoado series, as is indicated by こいつ. We will look more into these pronouns later in IMABI. 


The basic word for "where" is どこ. Aside from just meaning "where," it can also mean "what part?" or ask about to "what extent" something has gone. You can see how these nuances relate to each other in the examples below. 

30. トイレはどこですか。
Where is the bathroom?

31. 三上(みかみ)さんはどこですか。
Where is Mr. Mikami?

32. どこに()んでるの?
Where do you live?

33. どこが(わる)いの?
What (part) is wrong about (that/it)?

34. どこも(いた)くありません。
It doesn't hurt anywhere.

35. どこの職場(しょくば)でも人間関係(にんげんかんけい)がうまくいかない。
No matter the work place, my relations with people don't go well.

36. どこまで(すす)んでいるか(おし)えてくれない?
Could you tell me how far you've progressed?

37. iPhoneのどこがいいですか。 
What part of the iPhone is good?


As mentioned, どちら literally refers to "where." This is seen in respectful language.

38. どちらへお(とま)りでしょうか。
Where will you be staying?

39. どちらへ()かれますか。
Where are you going?

40. どちらへおかけですか。
Where will you sit?

41. ご出身(しゅっしん)はどちらですか。
May I ask where you were born?

42. ご住所(じゅうしょ)はどちらですか。
May I ask for your address?

43. エスカレーターはどちらですか。
Where is the escalator?

44. 制服ってどちらで買えるんですか。
Where can you buy uniforms?  

45. 「王さんのお(くに)はどちらですか。」「台湾(たいわん)です。」
“Mr. Wang, what is your country of origin?” “Taiwan.”

Reading Note: 王 is a Chinese surname. When read the Japanese way, people will read and refer to someone with this surname as オウ. If using a Mandarin rendition, people will refer to that person as ワン. If using the Cantonese rendition, people will refer to that person as ウォン.