Forming questions 


Asking questions is a vital communication skill in any language.

In Japanese, the structure of questions may differ slightly from English, but with a few key principles, it becomes straightforward.

This guide aims to help you understand and master the art of forming questions in Japanese.

Basic Question Structure

To form a basic question in Japanese, you typically add “か” (ka) at the end of a sentence. This particle transforms a statement into a question.

For example:

  • Statement: “これは本です” (Kore wa hon desu – This is a book)
  • Question: “これは本ですか?” (Kore wa hon desu ka? – Is this a book?)

Using Question Words

Japanese question words, known as 疑問詞 (gimonshi), are essential tools for asking specific types of questions.

Each question word targets a different aspect of the inquiry, allowing for a range of questions from simple to complex.

  • “誰” (dare – who): Targets individuals or groups in questions.
    Example: “このプロジェクトを誰が担当していますか?” (Kono purojekuto o dare ga tantou shite imasu ka? – Who is in charge of this project?)

  • “いつ” (itsu – when): Asks about time or dates.
    Example: “彼はいつ帰国しますか?” (Kare wa itsu kikoku shimasu ka? – When will he return to his country?)

  • “どこ” (doko – where): Used to ask about places or locations.
    Example: “最寄りの郵便局はどこにありますか?” (Moyori no yuubinkyoku wa doko ni arimasu ka? – Where is the nearest post office?)

  • “どうして” (doushite – why): Seeks reasons or explanations.
    Example: “どうして日本語を学び始めたのですか?” (Doushite nihongo o manabi hajimeta no desu ka? – Why did you start learning Japanese?)

  • “どのように” (dono you ni – how): Asks about methods, means, or manners.
    Example: “どのようにしてその問題を解決しましたか?” (Dono you ni shite sono mondai o kaiketsu shimashita ka? – How did you solve that problem?)

These question words can be combined with other sentence elements to form a wide variety of questions, making them indispensable in daily communication.

Understanding how to use them correctly will open up many opportunities for engaging in meaningful conversations in Japanese.

Politeness and Tone in Questions

The tone and level of politeness in your questions can vary greatly depending on the context and who you are speaking to.

Using the “ます” form makes your questions polite and is generally preferred in formal situations.

Conversely, using the plain form is more casual and suitable among friends.

Examples in Different Contexts

  • Formal: “明日の会議は何時に始まりますか?” (Ashita no kaigi wa nanji ni hajimarimasu ka? – What time does the meeting start tomorrow?)
  • Casual: “明日の会議、何時から?” (Ashita no kaigi, nanji kara? – What time does the meeting start tomorrow?)

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mixing informal and formal language inappropriately can lead to misunderstandings.

Be mindful of the situation and the person you are speaking to.

And Ensure the question word is correctly placed in the sentence for it to make sense.


Mastering the art of forming questions in Japanese is not only about learning grammar; it’s also about understanding the culture and nuances of the language.

By practicing different forms of questions and being mindful of the context, you can significantly enhance your communication skills in Japanese.