Forming questions

Forming question sentences using the particle か

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Outline

KanjiVocabularyForming questions

Kanji

One

Two

Tea

Vocabulary

はい

Yes, Understood, Ok

うん

Uh-huh, Yes

いいえ

No

そうです

That's right., That is so.

パーティー

Party

One

Two

お茶

Tea

Forming questions

In this lesson, we will now learn how to ask questions. This can be done by using the particle at the end of a sentence. In English, a question sentence must end with a question mark, however in Japanese this is optional. The particle at the end explicitly makes the sentence a question. Take a look at the examples below:

Non-past affirmative

  • それはおちゃですか?
  • Is that tea?

Non-past negative

  • あなたは日本人にほんじんじゃないですか。
  • Are you not Japanese?

Past affirmative

  • あなたは学生がくせいでしたか?
  • Were you a student?

Past negative

  • パーティーは一月いちがつじゃなかったですか。
  • Was the party not in January.

In English, when a sentence becomes a question the order of the words can change: 'That is tea' vs 'Is that tea?'. In Japanese, the order of the words stays the same: 'これはおちゃです' vs 'これはおちゃですか'.

To answer the yes/no questions that we have made above, we can use はい to say yes, and いいえ to say no. You can repeat the sentence after saying はい or いいえ. For example:

  • Q: それはおちゃですか?
  • Q: Is that tea?

When the answer is yes:

  • A: はい、おちゃです。
  • A: Yes, it is tea.

When the answer is no:

  • A: いいえ、おちゃじゃないです。
  • A: No, it is not tea.

In a casual setting, the word はい can be replaced with the word うん. Also, when the answer is yes, the phrase そうです which means "that's right" is often used instead of repeating the sentence:

  • A: はい、そうです。
  • A: Yes, that's right.

Answering a negative question is tricky and different from English. In Japanese, negative question sentences answer with はい (yes) when you are confirming the negative statement, and いいえ (no) when denying the negative statement. Let's take a look at the example sentence:

  • あなたは日本人にほんじんじゃないですか?
  • Are you not Japanese?

When the statement "You are not Japanese" is true:

  • A: はい、日本人にほんじんじゃありません。
  • A: Yes, I am not Japanese.

When the statement "You are not Japanese" is false:

  • A: いいえ、日本人にほんじんです。
  • A: No, I am Japanese.
Complete Lesson
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