Japanese Essentials: How to Ask Where Something Is?

Posted by on August 2, 2017 – Japanese Study

We are continuing our Essential Japanese series with a look at being able to ask where something is. Very similar to English, Japanese language has interrogative words and they’re easy to remember. Even with a limited vocabulary, you can ask simple questions.

Let’s learn this short key-sentence and asking the location of things will be very easy!

Sample sentence:

トイレ、(は)どこですか。(Where is the restroom?)

  • は: topic marker
  • です: copula, “to be”
  • か: question marker

どこ is an interrogative word and translates as “where”. You can use どこ alone in a casual context, but to be polite it’s preferable to add the copula です and question marker か.

Sample sentence:

Bob: すみません、レジ(は)どこですか。
店員てんいん: こちらです。

Bob: Excuse-me, where is the cash register?
Clerk: This way.

Replies will most of the time be one of the following words:

ここ (こちら)です。Here (This way)

そこ(そちら)です。There (That way)

あそこ(あちら)です。Over there

ここ refers to something close to the speaker. そこ refers to something close to the listener. Finally, あそこ refers to something neither close to the speaker nor close to the listener. こちら, そちら and あちら have the exact same meaning but are more polite.

If you’re asking directions inside a building, people might tell you which floor what you’re looking for is.

Sample sentence:

Bob: すみません、トイレはどこですか。
店員てんいん: 2階にかいです。

Bob: Excuse-me, where are the restroom?
Clerk: On the second floor.

Japanese language uses different counters depending on what you’re counting and very often some numbers will be irregular. When counting floors, you will use 階 (かい). Pay attention as 階 can be read かい or がい for the third floor such as when asking the question 何階なんが(/か)いですか (which floor is it?).

  • 1階いっかい
  • 2階にかい
  • 3階さんがい
  • 4階よんかい
  • 5階ごかい
  • 6階ろっかい
  • 7階ななかい
  • 8階はっかい
  • 9階きゅうかい
  • 10階じゅっかい

Now you know how to ask on which floor is something with the key-sentence: は何階なんがいですか.

Bob: すみません、本屋は何階なんがいですか。
受付うけつけ4階よんかいでございます。
Bob: え?もう一度いちどいいですか。
受付うけつけ4階よんかいです。

Bob: Excuse-me, on which floor is the bookstore?
Reception desk: It’s on the 4th floor.
Bob: Pardon? (Would you say that ) one more time?
Reception desk: It’s on the 4th floor.

  • でございます:’to be’, ‘it is’.  でございます is the highly polite form of the copula です.
  • え:’Eh?’, expresses surprise
  • もう一度いちど: once more, again
  • いいですか:’is it/ that okay?’; in this context, is a polite way to ask the clerk to repeat their answer.

Vocabulary:

  • エレベーター: elevator
  • 階段かいだん: stairs
  • コインロッカー: coin locker
  • ぐち: entrance
  • 出口でぐち: exit
  • 本屋ほにゃ: bookstore

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