Commonly Asked Questions
Whether you enjoy being the center of attention or shy away from the limelight, be prepared for a barrage of questions regarding your background.
And You Are …
Two things people will want to know right away is who you are and where you are from.
These examples follow a common pattern with their -doko desu ka endings. Note the two question words nan and nani. In the previous examples, nan means “what” and nani means “which.” Use nani when the answer involves choosing from a class or group.
The question Amerika no nani shuu desu ka asks which state — of all 50 — that the respondent is from. Dochira also means “which.” It can stand alone, whereas nani is accompanied by a noun.
O-namae wa nan desu ka.
What is your name?
Go-shusshin wa doko desu ka.
Where were you born?
O-sumai wa doko desu ka.
Where is your home?
O-kuni wa dochira desu ka.
Which country are you from?
Amerika no nani shuu desu ka.
Which state in the U.S.?
Sore wa doko desu ka.
Where is that?
Once it has been determined that you are definitely not from Japan, people will wonder why you are there.
Nihon ni kita no wa ryokoo desu ka.
Did you come to Japan to travel?
Nihon de wa o-shigoto o shite imasu ka.
Are you working in Japan?
Nihon ni wa dore gurai imasu ka.
How long will you be in Japan?
Nihon ni wa itsu kimashita ka.
When did you come to Japan?
Nihon ni iru no wa moo nagai desu ka.
Have you already been in Japan for a long time?
Nihon ni iru no wa nan nen gurai ni narimasu ka.
How many years have you been in Japan?
Look at the use of de and ni in these examples. Do you notice the difference in the way that they are used? In the second question, de is used because Nihon is a site of action (shigoto suru). In the first question, ni is used because the action is moving towards Nihon (kuru). In the third question, ni is used because Nihon is the site of a state of being (iru).
Look at the last two questions. In those questions, iru is followed by no wa. This construction turns the verb into the subject of the sentence, somewhat like a gerund in English. The literal translation of the last question is: “Living in Japan, how many years has it been?”
Determining Categorical Preferences
Another way to get to know people is by finding out what they like.
Depending on who is doing the asking, you may be asked to decide on a favorite color, animal, food, and season, among other things. You may also be quizzed on other preferences.
Nani iro ga suki desu ka.
What color do you like?
Doobutsu no naka de wa dore ga suki desu ka.
What kind of animal do you like?
Furuutsu wa suki desu ka.
Do you like fruit?
Kisetsu no naka de wa dore ga ichiban suki desu ka.
Which season do you like the best?
Pan to gohan wa dotchi ga suki desu ka.
Which do you like, bread or rice?
The first and third questions establish the basic pattern:
(Object of question) wa (or ga) suki desu ka.
The question words dore and dotchi are very useful when asking about preferences. Dore is used in cases where there are three or more things to choose from. Dotchi is a more casual form of the word dochira. It is usually used when there are only two things to choose from, or when the speaker wishes to make the question more focused.
In the second and fourth questions, the phrase no naka de wa identifies a group or class of things as the object of the question. Doobutsu no naka de wa means something like “of all the animals,” and kissetsu no naka de wa means “of all the seasons.”
Using this pattern, you can replace doobutsu or kissetsu with any other class or group, such as iro (“colors”), dezaato (“desserts”), nihon-ryoori (“Japanese food”), or hana (“flowers”), to name just a few.