In the previous article Properly Use 'What,' 'Why,' and 'How' in Japanese, we learned the differences between the particles (は, が, を, で and に). Now, in today's article, I'll show you how to use “Where," "When," "Who" and “Which.”
In the Japanese language, “where” is written as どこ. This can be expressed in one of two ways. Either:
- A wa doko desu ka
- A wa dochira desu ka (very formal)
Both of these mean “Where is A?” However, as indicated above, the second expression is very formal. Therefore, you wouldn’t use it unless you were working in Japan and talking to customers.
- Tori no mimi wa doko
- Where are birds' ears?
- O-te-arai wa doko desu ka (formal)
- Where is the bathroom?
You should note that while お手洗い (otearai) literally means "hand-washing," it is used to refer to the "bathroom." In addition, people can useトイレ (toire) to say the “bathroom.” However, this is more informal.
When used with the が particle
Here is a general example using the が particle:
- Doko ga itai no (informal)
- Where does it hurt?
However, this sentence would be expressed differently if said by a Doctor. Instead, they would ask about pain using the verb 痛む (itamu), which is very formal:
- Doko ga itami-masu ka (formal)
- Where does it hurt?
Now take a look as these different examples using the が particle:
- Kono geinin, saikin ninki dakedo, doko ga omoshiroi no
- This comedian is popular recently, but which part of him is funny? (Nothing is funny about him.)
- Watashi no doko ga suki?
- What do you like about me? (literally: My where of me do you like?)
From these two examples above, you can probably see that どこが translates to “where / which part” So, let’s take a look at one more example, this time in the form of a dialogue:
Person A: たかしくん、本当にかっこいいよね...
Person B: え？！あのたかし？！どこが？！
Person A: takashi kun, hontou-ni kakkoii yo ne...
Person B: E?! Ano takashi?! Doko ga?!
Person A: Takashi really is handsome… don't you think?
Person B: What?! That Takashi?!
When used with the を particle
The construction どこを is used to indicate "where" as an object. So, let’s have a look at some examples using this form of "where":
- Doko wo mite-iru no
- Where are you looking?
If you watch tons of anime, you've probably heard:
- Doko (wo is omitted) mite-n no yo, hentai!
- Where are you looking, you pervert!
- Doko wo sagashite mo mitsukara-nai
- I cannot find it anywhere! (literally: Even though I am looking for it everywhere, it cannot be found).
When used with the で particle
Here are some common examples of the construction どこで, used with a verb:
- Doko de sono kutsu wo katta no
- Where did you buy those shoes?
- Okusan to wa doko de atta n desu ka
- Where did you meet your wife?
- Doko de machi-awase shiyou
- Where shall we meet up?
- Doko de sore wo kiita no
- Where did you hear that?
When used with the に particle
The construction どこに can be translated as "(to) where" and is used with verbs such as "to go" and "to come."
- Doko ni iki-masu ka
- (To) where are you going? / Will you go?
- Kono nimotsu wa doko ni okuri-masu ka
- (To) where will you (would you like to) send this package?
- Doko ni okeba ii desu ka
- Where should I put it?
Note: In Japanese, we use におく to say “to put it (where)."
We can also say ＡからＢまで, which means “from A to B.” For example:
- From where to where
You can use these expressions on their own as well.
- Doko kara kima-shita ka
- Where did you come from?
- Kono densha wa doko made iki-masu ka
- How far does this train go?
- Doko made hanashita kke
- Where was I / were we?
This last example literally means “Up to where did I talk?” and refers to where one was in a conversation.
When used with に (in / at)
This construction is only used with verbs that express where one is or where one exists.
Examples of such verbs are:
- ある / いる: to exist / there is ...
- 住む sumu: to live
- 泊まる tomaru: to stay (such as in a hotel or at a friend's house)
- 滞在する taizai suru: to stay (such during a visit to a country or city)
- 座る suwaru: to sit
- 立つ tatsu: to stand
- Doko NI ari-mashita ka
- Where was it? / Where did you find it?
- Kono mikka-kan doko NI ita no
- Where were you for the last three days? / Where have you been for the last three days?
- Doko NI sunde-imasu ka
- Where do you live?
- Eiga-kan no seki, doko ni suwarokka
- As for the seat in the movie theatre, where shall we sit?
“When” is expressed as いつ and it is mainly used on its own. In addition, it is important to remember that いつ can only be used as a question. In a sentence such as "when I was a child,” you should use the word とき (toki). Here is how it is used in a sentence:
- A wa itsu desu ka
- When is A?
- Tanjou-bi wa itsu desu ka
- When is your birthday?
- Toukyou no orinpikku wa itsu
- When are the Tokyo Olympics?
Saying “when” without a particle
- Nihon ni wa itsu ki-masu ka
- When will you come to Japan?
- Itsu asobu
- When should/will we hang out?
- Nihon-go wa itsu benkyou shi-hajimeta no
- When did you start learning Japanese?
When used with から and まで
- itsu kara itsu made
- From when to when
- Obon wa itsu kara itsu made desu ka
- From when to when is obon?
Obon is a Japanese traditional custom to honor the spirits of one's ancestor.
When used with が
When you use the construction いつが plus an adjective, it indicates "when" as a subject.
- Itsu ga ii
- When is good (for you)?
- Nihon ni iku no wa itsu ga ichi-ban ii desu ka
- When is the best (time) to go to Japan?
- Koukuu-ken wa itsu ga yasui desu ka
- When are the flight tickets cheap?
何時 (Nan-ji, What time)
If you want to ask about a specific time, you should use 何時 (Nan-ji), which means “what time.” Precisely speaking, 時 means "time" or "when," but as a suffix, it basically is the same as "o'clock." Examples of these on their own are:
- 一時 ichi-ji: 1 o'clock
- 二時 ni-ji: 2 o'clock
- 三時 san-ji: 3 o'clock
- 四時 yo-ji: 4 o'clock
Examples of these used in a sentence are as follows:
- (ima) nan-ji desu ka
- What time is it (now)? / Do you have the time?
- A wa nan-ji desu ka
- What time is A?
- Chekkuin to chekkuauto wa nan-ji desu ka
- What time is check-in and check-out?
- Ａは何時に ~
- A wa nan-ji NI ~
- What time does A ~?
Please note that when a verb is used along with the phrase "what time…," you need to add the に particle.
- Nan-ji ni oki-masu ka
- What time do you wake up?
- Nan-ji ni machi-awase suru
- What time shall we meet up?
- Kyou wa nan-ji ni kaette-kuru
- What time are you coming home today?
- Shiai wa nan-ji ni haji-maru
- What time does the match start?
Just like いつ, you can use this construction with から and まで.
- Nan-ji kara chekku-in deki-masu ka
- From what time can we check-in?
- Nan-ji made-ni chekku-auto wo shina-kereba-nari-masen ka
- Until what time do I need to check-out?
For expressing a length of time, you should use どのくら, which means “how long.”
- Donokurai nihon ni taizai shi-masu ka
- How long will you stay in Japan?
Now let’s look at “who,” which is expressed by 誰 (dare) in Japanese:
- A wa dare desu ka
- Who is A?
- Ano hito wa dare desu ka
- Who is that person? (he / she)
- Nihon no souri-daijin wa dare desu ka
- Who is the Japanese prime minister?
When used with が
- Dare ga
- Who is the one that is …
Notice that here we are putting emphasis on “who.”
- Dare ga sekinin-sha desu ka
- Who is in charge? (literally: Who is the one that is responsible for this?)
The example above is used when looking at a group of people.
- Dare ga suki
- Who do you like?
This could also be understood to mean "who likes you?" However, when it's not clear from the context, you should clarify it by using one of these two phrases:
- Misa wa dare ga suki
- Who do you like, Misa?
- Misa no koto ga suki-na no wa dare
- Who is the person that likes you, Misa?
If someone calls you a bad name (“stupid” or “short” for example), a lot of people may jokingly say:
- Dare ga A da to
- Dare ga A ka
- Dare ga chikin da to
- Who are you calling a chicken!? (literally: Who is a chicken?!)
In fact, there is a famous quote by Ed from the anime "Fullmetal Alchemist"
- Dare ga mame-tsubu do-chibi kaa
- Who are you calling a pea-sized runt!! (literally: Who is a pea-sized runt!)
誰が + verb
- Dare ga mado wo watta n desu ka
- Who broke the window!
- Dare ga nan te itta no
- Who said what?
When used with を
The basic construction for this is:
- Dare WO
- Whom ("who" as an object)
- Puromu ni dare wo sasotta no
- Who did you ask out to the prom?
Note: The prom is not a thing in Japan. However, people who know American culture well are aware of what it is.
- Dare wo nagutta no
- Who did you hit?!
When used with に
- Dare ni
- TO whom
This construction can be translated to mean “to whom,” “from whom” or “by whom.” It is used with a passive verb or a word such as くれる
- Barentain wa dare ni choko wo ageru no
- Who will you give chocolates to for Valentine's day?
Note: In Japan, girls give chocolates or sweets to boys who they like. They usually make these sweets themselves.
- Dare ni tanomeba ii kana
- Who should I ask (a favour)...
- Dare ni kiita n desu ka
- Who did you hear it from? / Who told you that?
Note: someone + に 聞く means “to hear from someone.”
Here is another example of this construction, this time with a passive verb:
- Dare ni sareta no
- Who did this to you? (literally: By whom was this done?)
When used with と
The basic construction is:
- Dare TO
- With whom
- Dare to denwa de hanashite-ita no
- Who were you speaking with on the phone?
- A chan wa dare to tsukiatte-iru no
- Who is A chan going out with?
When used with の
The basic construction is:
- Dare NO
- Kono kasa wa dare no desu ka
- Kore wa dare no kasa desu ka
Both of these translate to “whose umbrella is this?” However, the first one is more common.
- Dare no nooto wo karita no
- Whose notebook did you borrow? / Who did you borrow the notebook from?
“Which” is translated as both どれ / どの (dore / dono) and どっち / どっちの (docchi / docchi no).
When choosing from more than two choices:
- どれ means “which one.”
- どの + noun means “which (noun).”
- Aはどれですか。/ どれがAですか。
- Which one is A? (out of more than two things)
- Which A is B?
Examples in a sentence:
- Misa sensei no pen wa dore desu ka
- Which one is Misa sensei's pen? (formal)
- Dore ga ichi-ban omoshiroi?
- Which one is the most interesting? (informal)
- Dono hito ga nihon no souri-daijin desu ka
- Which person is the Japanese prime minister? (Looking at more than two people)
When used with the を particle
- Dono hon wo kariru no
- Which book will you borrow?
When choosing out of just two choices:
- どちら (formal) and どっち (informal) mean “which one.”
- どちらの + noun (formal) and どっちの + noun mean “which (noun).”
- Aはどちらですか。(formal) / Ａはどっち？ (informal)
- Which one is A?
Note: These last ones can also refer to a direction. Therefore, it can also mean "where is A?"
- どちらがAですか。(formal) / どっちがＡ？ (informal)
- Which one is A?
- どちらのAがBですか。(formal) / どっちのAがB？ (informal)
- Which A is B?
Examples of these used in a sentence:
- Seikai wa docchi
- Which one is the correct answer? (out of two choices)
- O-te-arai wa dochira desu ka
- Where is the bathroom? (formal)
- Docchi ga osusume
- Which one would you recommend?
- Docchi no pen ga watashi no da kke
- Which pen was mine? (I forgot.)
When comparing two things, use のほうが.
- ＡとＢと どちら / どっち のほうが...
- Which one is more... A or B?
- Nihon to kankoku to dochira no hou ga chiisai desu ka
- Which one is smaller, Japan or Korea? (formal)
- basu to densha to docchi no hou ga yasui
- Which one is cheaper, buses or trains? (informal)
When adding か
When you add か to the constructions below, you get the following:
- なに + か: something
- どこ + か: somewhere
- だれ + か: someone
- いつ + か: someday/sometime (future)
- どうして + か / なんで + か: for some reason
- Nani-ka nomi-masen ka
- Would you like to drink something (with me)?
- Doko-ka de kagi wo otoshi-mashita
- I dropped my key somewhere.
In informal speech, we often use どっか (dokka) instead of どこか (doko-ka).
- Shuumatsu dokka (ni) dekake-you
- Let's go out somewhere on the weekend!
The particle に is often omitted from informal speech when it means "to (direction)."
- Dare-ka ga kowashita n da
- Somebody broke it.
- Itsu-ka hariuddo no eiga ni de-tai
- I want to be in a Hollywood movie some day.
- Doushite-ka namida ga deta
- For some reason tears came out.
I hope this article has been helpful to you! Leave an example sentence in the discussion!
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