Expressing Who, What, When, Where, Why and How in Japanese!

Posted by on January 25, 2019 – Japanese Study
Who What When Where Why How Questions in Japanese

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Questions in Japanese:


How to Ask Fundamental Questions in Japanese: Who, What, Where, and More


More commonly known as the 5W’s and 1 H, these are words there are more or less the essentials to almost every language when it comes to asking questions. In this blog, we’ll cover just that on how you can express who, what, when, where, why and how in Japanese!


First up, let’s take a look at how to express “Who” in Japanese! The word 誰 (だれ, Dare), can more commonly be used in the Japanese language to express “Who”. Below is a sample sentence in which how 誰 (だれ) can be commonly used!



Romaji: Dare ga suki?


English: Who do you like?



Next, let’s take a look at expressing “What” in Japanese. The word 何 (なに/なん, Nani/Nan), is commonly used to express “What” in Japanese and can be used in a variety of situations. From anime, television dramas to even popular culture, this has got to be one of the most popular words that non-native speakers know about! Let’s now take a look at how we can go about using this!



Romaji: Nani ga okashii no?

English: What’s so funny/weird?



Romaji: Sore wa nani?


English: What is it?



Now, let’s take a look at how to express “When” in Japanese with the word “いつ (Itsu)”. Unlike 誰 (だれ, Dare), attaching a “か (Ka)” to “いつ” makes it “いつか”, a word that indicates “Some time (in the future)”. If you’d like to ask a question, do take a look at the sample sentence later! As for attaching “も (Mo)” to “いつ”, the word “いつも” can be more or less translated to “Always, Usually or All the time”.



Romaji: Itsu kara manga ga suki na no?


English: Since when did you like manga?



Moving on, we look at expressing “Where” through the use of the Japanese word “どこ (Doko)”! More often than not, this word may come across as familiar for those out there who absolutely love Doraemon! Why? Well, he has a door known as the “どこでもドア (Doko demo doa)” that can bring him anywhere of course!



Romaji: Doko de sono hanashi wo kiita no?


English: Where did you hear that from?



Lastly, let’s take a look at expressing “Why” and “How”. In the Japanese language, there are some words with overlapping meanings where some can mean both “Why” and “How at the same time. As such, it can be really hard to differentiate between the two sometimes. Nevertheless, here are some of the more common words of which can be used interchangeably to mean both “Why” and “How”!


The first word, なぜ (Naze) can be used in various contexts to refer to “Why” or “How”.



Romaji: Nande (Naze) otousan ga koko ni iru no?

English: Why is dad here?

Note: なんで is used in a more Casual Setting.


The second word, どうして (Doushite) can be used in certain contexts to express “How/Why did that happen?”, “Why?”



Romaji: Doushite sou itta no?

English: Why did you say that?


Last but not least, we have どう (Dou) which is specifically used to refer to “How”. When used as a question, it can also mean “In what way/How was it done?” or “How was it?”.



Romaji: Sono donaatsu wa dou?

English: How was the donut?


As confusing as it sounds, some Japanese words tend to have overlapping meanings. When to use them can largely vary and would often depend on the context. Once you are able to familiarise yourself with when to use the word, we’re sure you’d definitely be able to ask questions in Japanese like a pro!

Let’s watch an animated video to revise on what you have learned!


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