Top 10 Japanese Interrogative Expressions

Imagine how much more enjoyable your holiday in Japan would be if you were able to ask questions like “how much is it”, “what is it” or “where is it” in Japanese.

Let’s learn how to ask these questions in Japanese today.

1. いくらですか。Ikuradesuka?How much is it?
XXはいくらですか。XX wa ikuradesuka? How much is XX?

The top interrogative expression used is probably “ikura desuka”. To ask the price of an item, you can point at the item and say “ikura desuka”. You can also mention the name of the item in front, such as “アイスクリームはいくらですか aisukuriimu wa ikura desuka” (how much is the ice cream?) or “コーヒーはいくらですか koohii wa ikura desuka” (how much is the coffee?).

2. どこですか。Dokodesuka? Where is it?
XXはどこですか。XX wa dokodesuka? Where is XX?

This is another popular expression. You would probably use it to ask the location of the toilet. Try saying “トイレはどこですか toire wa doko desuka” (where is the toilet?).

3. なんですか。Nandesuka? What is it?
これはなんですか。Korewa nandesuka? What is this?

Have you had any experience when you were curious about things in Japan and had wanted to ask your tour guide? Well, you can try using this expression. “これ kore” refers to things that are near the speaker; “それ sore” refers to things that are near the listener; and “あれ are” refers to things that are far from both the speaker and listener. Use “kore/sore/are wa nan desuka” according to the distance.

4. なんばんですか。Nanbandesuka? What number is it?
XXはなんばんですか。XX wa nanbandesuka? What number is XX?

You can use “部屋番号(へやばんごう)は何番(なんばん)ですか heya bangoo wa nanban desuka” when asking about the room number of the hotel. You can also use this expression “電話番号(でんわばんごう)は何番(なんばん)ですか denwa bangoo wa nanban desuka” to ask for a telephone number.

5. どなたですか。Donatadesuka? Who is it?
XXはどなたですか。XX wa donatadesuka? Who is XX?

“だれ dare” means “who” in Japanese but it is disrespectful to ask “dare desuka” to the listener. Use the polite expression “donata”. For example, when you are in a hotel room and the door bell rings, you can ask “donata desu ka” without opening the door.

6. どれですか。Doredesuka? Which one is it?
XXはどれですか。XX wa doredesuka? Which one is XX?

There are various types of ham at a buffet table. If you are a Muslim and you wish to eat chicken ham, you can ask “Chicken Ham wa dore desuka” (which one is chicken ham?).

7.なんじですか。Nanjidesuka? What time is it?
いま、なんじですか。Ima nanjidesuka? What time is it now?

You’ve just arrived in the airport in Japan. Your watch does not show Japan time. Try asking the flight attendant for the time by using the above expression.

8. なんがつなんにちですか。Nangatsunannichidesuka? What day of the month?
XX wa なんがつなんにちですか。XX wa nangatsunannichidesuka?

You can ask your Japanese friend when his/her birthday is with “誕生日(たんじょうび)は何月何日(なんがつなんにち)ですか tanjoobi wa nangatsu nannichi desu ka” (what day of the month is your birthday?).

9. どうですか。Doodesuka? How is it?
XXはどうですか。XX wa doodesuka? How is XX?

You wanted to make a reservation for an optional one-day tour to Atami and Hakone from Tokyo at the hotel concierge but the tour is already full. You can use this expression “明日(あした)はどうですか ashita wa doo desuka” (how about tomorrow?) or “明後日(あさって)はどうですか asatte wa doo desuka” (how about the day after tomorrow) to ask for alternatives.

10. なんさいですか。Nansaidesuka? How old are you?
おいくつですか。Oikutsudesuka? How old are you?

It is rude to suddenly ask an adult for his/her age but you can do so for children using “nansai desuka” or “oikutsu desuka”. It is enjoyable to hold a conversation with the elderly in Japan. If you have become friendly with the elderly on the train at the countryside, you may ask them how old they are using “oikutsu desuka”. For adults, “oikutsu desuka” is better than “nansai desuka”.

Some of you may hesitate over asking questions in Japanese because you think that you won’t be able to understand the reply anyway because it’s in Japanese. However, the person being asked would be happy to help. Communication is thus achieved and this may turn out to be a memorable holiday for you. Take courage and ask away.