How to Ask Questions in Japanese: Casual & Formal Ways

You’re here because you want to ask questions in Japanese, right?

Well, it’s easy. For the most part, all you need to know is “ka.” What’s “Ka?” You’ll find out below.

This quick guide is broken up into the following parts.

  • Part 1: The Most Common Way to Ask Questions
  • Part 2: How to ask questions in Japanese (formal)
  • Part 3: How to ask questions in Japanese (casual)
  • Part 4: Asking embedded questions
  • Part 5: Japanese question words
  • And more.
Want to Learn Japanese?I recommend JapanesePod101. They have quick and easy lessons teaching everyday Japanese conversations. Perfect for anyone of any age to learn Japanese. Just get your free Lifetime account. Click Here to Sign Up for Free JapanesePod101

Part 1: The Most Common Way to Ask Questions

The easiest way to ask Japanese questions?

Add か (ka) at the end of a phrase.

This “ka” is a Japanese particle for questions and can transform almost any phrase into a question. For example…

  • Phrase 1
    • 公園に行きます (Koen ni ikimasu)
    • Meaning: “I go to the park”
    • Add “ka” to turn it into a question
      • 公園に行きます? (Koen ni ikimasuka?),
      • Meaning: “Do you want to go to the park?”
  • Phrase 2
    • だいじょうぶです (Daijoubu desu)
    • Meaning: “It’s okay/I’m okay/You’re okay/etc.” (depending on the context)
    • Add “ka” to turn it into a question
      • だいじょうぶですか? (Daijoubu desu ka?)
      • Meaning: “Are you okay?” “Is it okay?” etc. (depending on the context)
  • Phrase 3 
    • マイクです (Maiku desu)
      • Meaning: “I’m Mike”/”It’s Mike”/”He’s Mike”, etc(depending on the context)
    • Add “ka” to turn it into a question
      • マイクですか?  (Maiku desu ka?)
      • Meaning: “Are you Mike?” “Is it Mike” “Is he Mike?” (depending on the context)

How does this “Ka”particle sound like? Well, it’s not complicated at all. It’s like the “ca” in “car.” But here, listen to this free lesson from JapanesePod101 (click here for more easy & free lessons.)

  • JapanesePod101 Top 25 Questions – Lesson #3 – Where do you live?”

Press play above and you will hear this question:

  • どこに住んでいますか。
    • Doko ni sunde imasu ka?
    • Where do you live?

Now, you know the easiest way to ask questions in Japanese.

So,  by using か (ka) and/or question words you can ask a wide variety of questions in Japanese. Keep in mind that there are differences in how you form questions depending on whether you’re asking formal or informal questions.

Part 2: Do Japanese use question marks?

So, do Japanese use question marks?

Yes and no.

Well, it’s optional.

You see, Japanese itself does not have a question mark symbol. It’s just how the language came about to be. Hence why “Ka” became the Japanese question particle…

And why you don’t often see question marks in Japanese.

Most Japanese questions just end with a “ka” and a period.

So, if you hear a “ka,” you instantly know it’s a question.

Like here:

  • どこに住んでいますか。
    • Doko ni sunde imasu ka?
    • Where do you live?

The “ka” is the question mark.

However, in creative work, modern casual text and manga, you will see question marks.

But, formal writing, including what you’ll see on tests will just be a か。


Now, onto asking Japanese questions….

Part 3: Formal questions

So, how do you make formal Japanese questions?

Well, it depends a lot on the conjugation of the verbs or the “desu.”

And of course, you’ll need to add the か(ka) particle.

So, let’s take a look at some common questions endings. Keep in mind these questions are formal based on the grammar structure. But, I decided to toss in the question mark anyway for you… because this is not formal or educational writing. This is just my blog.

how to ask question in japanese

1) Desu ka
A standard ending for formal Japanese questions is desuka. This is used when you’re taking the desu couple and turning it into a question with the ka particle.

  • アメリカ人ですか?
    • Amerikajin desuka?
    • Are you American?

2) Deshou ka
This is another formal question ending that can be more formal than desuka. You’ll hear this used in the service industry.

  • ご注文はお決まりでしょうか?
    • Gochuumon wa okimari deshouka?
    • Have you decided on your order?

3) Mashou ka
Mashouka can be a polite way to say “Shall we…?” in Japanese. If you learned some Japanese grammar, you’ll know that this “mashou” is the volitional form that expresses an invitation or a proposition.

  • そろそろ行きましょうか?
    • Sorosoro iki mashouka?
    • Shall we go soon?

4) Mashita ka
If you want to ask if someone has done something already, you can use this formal question ending. Grammar-wise, this is just the ending of verbs in past tense like “tabemashita – I ate, kimashita – I came, shimashita – I did.” And, you add a “ka.”

  • 勉強しましたか?
    • Benkyou shimashitaka?
    • Did you study already?

5) Masen ka
This is similar to mashouka and can mean something similar. It is also a way to say “Shall we…?” Grammar-wise, the “masen” is the polite negative of a verb. So, “ikimasen – I will not go, tabemasen – I will not eat,” and so on. Except of course, when you add the “ka” and use it as a question, you’re asking in a positive way instead of the literal negative way.

  • 昼ごはん食べに行きませんか?
    • Hirugohan tabe ni ikimasenka?
    • Shall we go out for lunch?

6) Masu ka
When asking someone if they want to do something, you can use masuka. This is like “would” in English. Grammar-wise, this is just the “masu” or polite form ending of a verb. Like, “ikimasu – to go, tabemasu – to eat, shimasu – to do.”

  • お酒を飲みますか?
    • Osake o nomi masuka?
    • Would you like to drink sake?

Part 4: Informal/casual questions

Now, how do you ask questions in Japanese… and sound casual?

Remember the か (ka) ?

Of course, you do. Well… You don’t always need to add か (ka) with informal Japanese questions. Casual Japanese is all about dropping various words and particles.

You will see some examples below.

1) Change your tone of voice — No “Ka”
The most common way to form informal questions is by changing the tone of voice. By raising your voice’s pitch towards the end of a sentence — like you do in English — you can change it to a casual form question. In this case, you don’t have to add any question words or ka.

  • 映画見る?
  • Eiga miru?
  • Wanna watch a movie?

2) “Ka” but no  “desu”

For informal questions, you can make question phrases by taking a casual form sentence and adding ka at the end. However, this can sometimes sound rude or masculine so be careful to know the right situations.

  • ご飯食べるか?
  • Gohan taberu ka?
  • ou wanna eat food?

3) Nai form verbs
This can be a friendlier way to form casual questions than simply changing the tone of voice. All you have to do is change the verb to the nai form. It’s a way to ask if someone wants to do something.

Like the polite examples above using negative verbs, this is similar. The verb is in the negative but when used as a question, you’re more so using it in the positive like…

  • カフェ行かない?
    • Kafe ikanai?
    • Wanna go to a cafe?
    • And NOT “Don’t want to go to a cafe?” Grammar’s weird, I know.

4) No or Nano
A feminine way to ask informal questions is by adding “no” or “nano”. This can emphasize and show more interest in the question you’re asking.

  • 明日暇なの?
    • Ashita hima nano?
    • Are you free tomorrow?
  • パーティー行くの?
    • Paatii iku no?
    • Are you going to the party?

Part 5: Asking embedded/indirect questions

What’s an embedded question?

A question or a statement that contains a question word.


  • I don’t know when I’ll go.
  • Do you know what time is it?
  • Do you know why this happens?

To make an embedded question in Japanese…

You take the “embedded question” and add a “ka.”

So for…

  • I don’t know when I’ll go.

“When I’ll go” is the embedded question.

Let’s break it down:

  • I don’t know – Wakarimasen
  • When I’ll go – Itsu iku
    • this is the embedded question.

So, add a “Ka” after the embedded question and you get…

  • “Itsu iku ka wakarimasen.”

Let’s try “Do you know where this is?” Let’s break it down.

  • Do you know – Wakarimasu ka?
  • Where this is – Kore wa doko

So, add a “ka” after the embedded question and you get…

  • Kore wa doko ka wakarimasu ka?

If you want to learn more about asking embedded questions in Japanese and listening to conversations using this grammar pattern, I suggest this JapanesePod101 lesson below. Click below to play the lesson (you’ll need to sign up for a free account for their learning program).

But, you’ll get to HEAR how it’s used by real people instead of just reading about it.

Part 6: Japanese question words

If you’re going to how to ask questions in Japanese…

Then you should learn Japanese question words.

Question words are a great way to add more than simply asking yes or no questions. You’ll often add these to the beginning of a phrase or in the middle depending on the situation. Even when using question words, you’ll still use “ka” at the end especially with the formal questions. With informal questions, you can often omit the “ka” and still use question words.

1) Dare
This is a word that means “who” and can be used as a question word. It’s good for asking questions when the answer you’re looking for is a person.

  • 誰の靴下ですか?
    • Dare no kutsushita desuka?
    • Who’s sock is it?

2) Dore
Dore is a general word that means “which”. It can be used in a wide range of situations.

  • どれが欲しい?
    • Dore ga hoshii?
    • Which do you want?

3) Dochira
This is a special word that also means “which”. However, dochira only works when you have two distinct choices.

  • どちらを食べたいですか?
    • Dochira o tabetai desuka?
    • Which would you like to eat? (out of two choices)

4) Dono
Another word that means “which” is dono. This must always be followed by a type of object you’re referring to.

  • どの本が好き?
    • Dono hon ga suki?
    • Which book do you like?

5) Doko
Doko means “where” and it’s great when you’re trying to find out about locations or making plans.

  • どこに行きましょうか?
    • Doko ni iki mashouka?
    • Where shall we go?

6) Itsu
A useful question word when finding out about time is itsu, or “when”.

  • いつ日本に行きましたか?
    • Itsu nihon ni iki mashitaka?
    • When did you go to Japan?

7) Dou
Dou is a versatile word that can be used to create different phrases that mean “how”, “why”, or “what”.

  • 日本語の勉強はどうですか?
    • Nihongo no benkyou wa dou desuka?
    • How are your Japanese studies going?

8) Nani/Nan
This is how you say what in Japanese.  And, it can appear with two different pronunciations — “nani” or “nan”. Depending on the way that it interacts with other kanji characters the kanji 何 can be read either “nan” or “nani.”

  • 昨日何時に寝ましたか?
    • Kinou nanji ni ne mashitaka?
    • What time did you go to sleep yesterday?


Now you know how to ask questions in Japanese — formal and informal questions.

Now, if you’re looking for a list of Japanese questions and answers… just click the link to go to my other guide.

Do you have any questions of your own?

Leave me a question.

Either way, thanks for reading and for learning Japanese with Linguajunkie.

– The Main Lingua Junkie

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