1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. "どれを食べますか?"


Translation:Which one will you eat?

June 5, 2017



Based on the content, you don't need to use 私(watashi) or any other pronouns. The reason why they are odmited is politness so using them unless is realy necesary, would put you on the wrong spot. If you asked the queation and it has been cleared that it was from your point of view, then the pronoun is not needed.


Yep. Common mistake. Don't make Japanese conform to an English way of thinking. The results can be really bad...


Can you give an example of when it becomes bad?


It is not that is is wrong, but it sounds redundant. If you can ommit the subject (あなた in this case), then do it. It would be like in English "I eat fish and drink tea", rather than "I eat fish and I drink tea". You will be surprised how many things Japanese ommit in a sentence.


It seems like it's this:

It's Christmas morning. Your parents give you a present with your name on it and they say it's from them. You open it, to reveal an Iron Man toy. Immediately after you open it, your parents ask "Do you like the Iron Man toy that we got you for Christmas?" 'It' would've made the sentence shorter and less of a burden to say. That's my understanding of omitting pronouns; like the old saying goes: why use many words when few do trick?


Still trying to figure out sentence structure, since Duolingo for Android doesn't explain this.

どれ (which) を (indicating subject - in this case 食べ?) 食べ (eat) ま(eat.. Again?) です (copula) か (question).

Now, why is ま there?


The sentence structure is like this: どれ (which) を (indicating OBJECT - In this case どれ) 食べます (verb meaning "to eat") か (indicates question).


食べます is the polite form of 食べる. Just like です for nouns, we use ます for verbs.


This is [mostly] incorrect, 食べる is the dictionary form of the verb, in English, it would be "to eat." 食べます is the conjugated form of the verb (at this level of learning, politeness doesn't really have anything to do with it). 食べます indicates the present or future conjugation of the verb, in other words "eat" or "will eat" in English. 食べません is the negative form, "do not eat" or "will not eat." (This is oversimplified, there's a bit more to it, but this is the basic idea.)


You're going to really confuse people when they learn the short form.

Keith Wong is correct, but let's just think of it like this: for this lesson, Duo is teaching you the polite not-past form, which is that ます endings (for example, たべます or 食べます) mean "eat" or "will eat."


Wait... 食べる and 食べます are basically the same thing, just one forme politier than another?


Hopefully Duolingo will be able to go into more details about how Japanese verbs function. You answer your question, 食べる is the familiar version while たべます is the polite version. In other words, words ending in - る or -う are the plain, familiar, or dictionary form and verbs ending in -ます are the formal versions. Like I mentioned, there are so many ways to discuss how this system work and I'm sure that Duolingo will provide a great way of describing this once the desktop version of Japanese Duolingo is released.


correction To answer your question...


U are right.食べますshould be more polite than 食べる.They are just the same thing.どれを食べる is also right,but the かhere should be omitted.


Where does the pronoun "you" come in with all this?


Unless I'm mistaken, 'you' is understood by the context. All other pronouns should work here too depending on context.


It's like in spanish, you frequently just drop it


Basically in japanese the subject is assumed from the text. Usually the phrase refers to yourself therefore: omizu wo nomi masu ( [I] drink water). However while making questions it is assumed to be to the person you are talking to. So "どれを食べますか?" will be: which one will [you] eat?.


My question is where is this you here. Its just which one to eat. There is no i or you or someone else defined there in sentence


Answer is literally just above your comment!


And what if I wanted to ask "which one can/may I eat?"? How would that question look like?


So, I'm going to be that guy and insist on the pedantic distinction between "can" and "may", because it's actually quite important for this translation.

If you take "can" to mean "physically/conceptually possible to do", then you would change the verb 食べます into its potential form: 食べられます. Since we're now talking about being able to eat something, rather than about actually eating it, we can't use を as the particle; we use が instead. (NounをVerb means the verb is done to the noun, e.g. "I eat the apple"; NounがVerb means the noun does the verb, e.g. "The apple is able to be eaten.") So, the sentence would look like this : どれが食べられますか?

On the other hand, if you use "may" to mean "have permission to do", you would have to use a different grammar structure: て-form + いい. The て-form of a verb has a few different grammatical roles, but in this case, it's sort of like "and" for verbs so you can think of 食べていい as "eat and it's good/OK", which becomes "it's okay to eat it" in normal English.

It's also common to add も in here as well 食べてもいい, to emphasize your request for permission and make it sound more deferential. も means "too, also" but it can also mean "even" as in: "it's even okay to eat it."

So, the sentence would look like this: どれを食べて(も)いいですか?


tabe is the root word, tabemasu is the full verb.


食べる (taberu) is the full verb, 食べます (tabemasu) is the conjugated form of the verb.


wait, i thought tabemasu was the polite form of taberu. am i wrong?


たべる is the dictionary form (辞書形 or 終止形) and たべます is the polite form(丁寧形). た is the root (語幹)and べる is the inflection(語尾). たべ is the renyou form(連用形) and たべます is たべ+auxillary verb ます


How is the future tense marked here?


Japanese had no future tense. It's implied from context.


what context? there is nothing else. Cant this be "Which one are you eating?"


That would use 食べています instead, of 食べます.


Because that's how Japanese conjugates their verbs.

食べます (non-past) = eat/will eat

食べています (present progressive) = is/am eating


〜ている refers to an action in progress


The context with this sentence being a question asking "which one" to the listener. Generally speaking, it could also refer to the habit of what you eat in general but because of どれ that is quite unlikely, except for a few scenarios. And as pointed out by other comments, it cannot be "present progressive" in this form.


I think that would be present progresive, not non-past which this sentence is in.


Is を for verbs and は for describing things?


を is for the direct object of the sentence and は is the topic particle (which is omitted in this sentence)


Yes, like [neko wa kuroi] (the cat is black), [omae o shinjiru] (believe in yourself).


Does this really mean "WHAT do you want to eat?" Because it sounds funny to use the word Which in that question. Maybe if you were presented a box of chocolates, sure, but I'd like to know for certain on the what/which meaning here


I think that's precisely the point of this exercise.

In Japanese, どれ is used when you have a finite selection to choose from, whereas 何 is used in more broad and general situations where the possible answers are unbounded by what is in front of you.

You're exactly right that, in particular situations, they could be used interchangeably for what/which, but generally speaking, "which" tends to better convey the idea behind どれ, and "what" is better for 何


So, どれを食べますか for which of these (dishes, or menu items) do you want to eat, and 何が食べますか for what (do you feel like for dinner) do you want to eat?


It would be 何たべますか。Aside from that, this is correct.


So i said "which one am i eating" instead of "which one are you eating", and it was wrong. How do i know which is which?


I'm still learning, but I think "ing" verbs are usually treated differently. Like "eating" =/= "eat" or "will eat." Aren't "ing" verbs usually expressed in Japanese using て form + いる? Again, still learning...


Generally speaking, you're right. Present progressive tense in Japanese is expressed using て-form + いる, but in English, "ing" verbs are used in other ways too.

The main usage which is different from Japanese is that "ing" verbs are used to show future tense in English. For example, "we're eating chicken for dinner tonight" would not use ている because it doesn't express what we are currently doing.


Good point, I hadn't considered yet.


I typed "which one will we eat?" and it was correct. I think it doesn't matter as long as it's more than one person. Duolingo tends to count "I" incorrect if "Watashi" is not used in the sentence. In the real world, it would depend on what was said earlier to know the definite meaning of the sentence. I think you're techinically also correct, but I'm not a native speaker so I can't be entirely sure.


How do we know if its you or me or someone else from that phrase?


It is from context. If there is no context, most probably "you" if it is a question, and "I" if it is a plain sentence.


I answer "which one you eat" and was wrong! Why? Where is "will" in the sentence????


To form a complete sentence in English, either "which one do you eat" or "which one will you eat." Japanese simple tense can mean present or future tense depending on context.


which one you eat would be あなたは食べるどれが which is a noun clause as it is also in english. "which one you eat" / ”あなたは食べるどれが“ is a noun clause and would be followed by "is the best?" / "was the most expensive?" / "一番ですか?" / "値段が最も高いでしたか?"


No, "which one you eat" is just incorrect English. I'm a native English speaker, and I can't think of any situation where "which one you eat" would make sense. The closest noun phrase would be "the one which you eat".

Your suggested Japanese noun phrase is also incorrect. You can't use a question word (どれ) in that way. I found a good explanation of how to use questions words here: https://www.wasabi-jpn.com/japanese-grammar/how-japanese-question-words-work-outside-of-wh-questions/#3. For the noun phrase "the one which you eat", you actually don't use a question word at all in Japanese: あなたが食べるのは or あなたが食べる一つは (replacing は with the appropriate particle, depending on what role the noun phrase takes).


Isn't the word "which" supposed to be docchi [どっち], and not dore [どれ] ? Someone please explain..


"Which" itself is どの and it is followed by a noun, e.g. どの本= which book. (この/その/あの/どの this/that/which something)

"Which one" is どれ (これ/それ/あれ/どれ this/that/which one)

Which direction is どっち or どちら (こちら/そちら/あちら/どちら this/that/which direction) This is also used as a polite substitution of どれ, so you can say どちらをたべますか


Why do they use the 食 kanji for た? What's the point of the kanji if it's only one syllable?


Kanji represent meanings to words while Hiragana represent sounds (like English, the alphabets represent how to pronounce, but not telling the meaning). This is how people communicate in Japan and you can't just ask why on this question. There are pros and cons of using kanji. e.g. stated here https://www.fluentu.com/blog/japanese/learn-japanese-romaji/. In theory Japanese can drop all kanji just like what Korean did but ultimately it did not happen in history.


Why can't I use "which to eat?" Whenever I read/hear this sentence that is what I see as the meaning. That is literally what it says. Or at least "which one to eat?" Or "which one should I eat?" Why are we automatically assuming I'm talking to another person here? I understand that there is not a lot of pronouns used in Japanese but these inferences we have to make that are based on no info are getting annoying. And I'm a fluent English speaker and "which to eat" is perfectly fine to me, it's not quite proper but it's valid.


Yes, I can understand your frustration. Unfortunately because this course doesn't seem to be fully finished yet, there isn't any good explanation of a lot of the unspoken things in Japanese. The problem is that a huge part of Japanese language is tied up with Japanese culture.

The reason we can assume you are not asking a question to yourself is because the sentence uses ます. ます, and です for that matter, are forms used to show politeness and showing politeness to yourself is considered incredibly self-absorbed and somewhat faux pa in Japanese culture. Also due to this politeness factor, "which to eat" or "which one to eat" are, while not incorrect, not good translations.

Also, "which one should I eat" has a slightly different meaning, even in English, from "which one will I eat" and likewise has a different translation.


Can this sentence also mean What do you want to eat?


No. どれ is a question word where the speaker is asking the listener to choose one of the several choices. Therefore "which one" is a more appropriate translation over "what."

Edit: To say "want to eat," it would be 食べたいです


Does japanese use thr question mark? i thought that questions ends with か instead


Yes, it's very common, although it's generally avoided in formal writing. As you pointed out, か is used to indicate a question, but in my opinion, it does this mainly grammatically. From my experience, the question mark is used to show question-like intonation, particularly in informal writing, where using か can sound blunt or harsh.


Isn't this more like Which one do you want to eat? or What do you want to eat?


That's usually the intention behind saying this sentence, but it doesn't actually mean that.

Compare this sentence with a simpler yes/no question version, for example ごはんを食べますか? which means "Do you eat rice?" or "Will you eat rice?" The former asks about whether rice is eaten, as a general principle or a habit, and the latter asks about whether rice will be eaten, at some unspecified time in the future. Neither of these ask about whether eating rice is a preference or a desire, which is what "want" refers to.

Sure, "Will you eat rice?" usually has the implication of "because I will make it for you, if you want", but that implication is not the same as actually saying "Do you want rice?"

Exactly the same rules apply to the case of どれを食べますか? which becomes either "Which (one) do you eat?" (as a habit or on general principle) or "Which (one) will you eat?" (whether you want to or not).


Could it be "Which one are you going to eat?"?


Yes, it can. As has been mentioned many times before, 食べます can mean "eat" or "will eat", so since "going to eat" in this case is synonymous with "will eat", it should be fine.


What would be a basic response to this? I.e. "this one" or "i will choose this one"


これ (this one)


これを食べます (I will eat this one)


Is it actually "Which one will you eat ?" or also/rather "Which one are you eating ?" If that's not the case, how should we say the latter ?


It depends on the situation. We often use "are eating" when we actually mean "are going to eat." In this case, this is similar to "will eat" and we use 食べます or 食べるつもりです. If we mean "already eating," then the correct form is 食べています.


I cant tell what rules i should apply when choosing to use を or は


は is used for promoting a part of a sentence to the topic. を is for indicating a noun is the direct object of a verb.

All question words cannot be promoted to a topic, so it is wrong to use は in this sentence.


in previous lesson it said that question word (and negative meaning), in this case どれ, will not be marked by を。は will be used instead. Why it's not following the rule now can anyone please tell me?


Where was that rule? Can you send a screenshot? I would like to know and change it. は cannot follow question words, is what I have been telling people.


I flip through but can't really find it. Maybe I mixed up 'question word' and 'question'. Like, in a question we don't use を (this one is in the eat chapter 'eat' sorry don't know how to post pic here). But now I know a question with question-word we can use を again.


Sure thing, thanks for coming back. In questions (with a direct object), we CAN use を or は. は moves the object to a topic (and supersedes を). It is customary to move the thing you want to ask to a topic, therefore it is very common to see は in place of を. However, it is not mandatory.


Because dore is an interogative pronoun and you CAN NOT use wa on interogative pronoun. dore wa tabemasuka would mean "do you eat 'dore'?". you are confusing this with normal nouns like gohan or hamburger which will works with wa.


They also accepted "Which can i eat?"


That's disappointing, because personally, I wouldn't accept "which can I eat" as a correct translation. "Can" suggests the speaker is asking about either possibility ("which is able to be eaten") or permission ("which am I allowed to eat"), neither of which are acceptable uses of どれを食べますか?

The correct translation for "which can I eat" should be:

  • (possibility) どれが食べられますか?
  • (permission) どれを食べていいですか?


Why using を instead of が?


が is for subjects, and を is for objects.

I am a boy. Subject: I, object: a boy, verb: am

Which one will you eat. Subject: you, object: which one, verb: will eat


I do have a question regarding translation. The above translates to Which ONE will you eat? however どれを飲みますか? Is translated as Which will you drink? Shouldn't it also be translated as Which one will you drink? or actually shouldn't both need が instead of を to be translated as Which one?


What is the difference between "which will you drink" and "which one will you drink" in English, except that the former sentence can mean you can choose from one or more while the latter one can only be a single item?

In the Japanese sentence it does not restrict you from choosing from more than one item.


My question though is why both questions are not translated the same in Duolingo. Shouldn't both be Which will since both begin with どれを? Shouldn't it need to begin as どれが to be translated as Which one will?


They should translate to the same. Is one of them not accepted? If so please report.

どれが食べる would become Which one will eat, asking like will this cat eat or that cat eat.


Does japanese make a distinction between present and future tense? I would have translated it as "which one are you eating?"


In Japanese language, they don't usually have a distinction between present and future tense like English. It's often distinguished with the words which shows the time such as きょう (today)、こんしゅう (this week)、らいしゅう (next week)、らいねん (next year), etc.

[Example] Future: らいしゅう、学校へ行きます。 Present: きょう、学校へ行きます。

As you see, the verb tenses are the same. The present tense verbs for the future, the event is more certain and for sure. If you are not sure, you can use "...と思います" (I think....).

[Example] 1. あした、がっこうにいきます。(I'm going to school tomorrow. (...for sure!) 2. あした、がっこうにいくとおもいます。(I think I'm going to school tomorrow....(most likely....?)

Also, especially at the weather forecast, they usually use ...でしょう, that is future tense in Japanese. This でしょう is used when the speaker says something he or she has not confirmed. You will hear でしょう when the speaker is talking about something but NOT about them, like weather forecast and/ or fortune telling.

Also, the one you said, "Which one are you eating?" can be a present continuous (present progressive.). In Japanese, it will be 「どれをたべていますか」, that is, "Which one are you eating (right now)?"


Why is it in future tense? I would think which do you eat or which are you eating. They have not yet introduced future tense, or explained if this is only when talking about food. I need the rules, please! Duolingo, you fail miserably at explaining the rules!


Japanese does not distinguish between present and future. 「~ます」form is non-past, meaning it is used for both simple present/habitual and future tense. So 食べます means both "eat" as well as "will eat"
ご飯を食べます - "I eat rice" (habitually) or "I will eat rice" (future)

Continuous/progressive "-ing" tense takes a different conjugation, 「~ている」 食べている・食べています - "Eating"
ご飯を食べています - "I am eating rice" (ongoing)

どれを食べますか - "Which one do you eat?" or "Which one will you eat?"


What is the difference between What do you want to eat and What do you prefer to eat?


In English? "Want to eat" has more of a sense of immediacy, whereas "prefer to eat" feels more general.

To convey that nuance in Japanese is a bit beyond the scope of this course I think, but "What do you want to eat" would be 何を食べたいですか? and "What do you prefer to eat" would be 食べるのは何が好きですか?


Why can't it be "What will you eat? "


Because "what" is different from "which one." "Which one" implies that there are several choices to choose from. In Japanese, "what" is 何(なに) and "which one" is どれ. Please refer to the other comment in this thread as well as it has already been answered.


I put "Do you eat that?" Why is this incorrect?


It is asking for which one (どれ) and not a yes/no question.


"what can I eat" is not correct?


Yes, it's incorrect, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, どれ means "which", not "what". In certain situations, what/which could be used interchangeably, but generally speaking, "which" tends to better convey the idea behind どれ, and "what" is better for 何, so I can appreciate why Duo keeps the translation strict in these learning exercises.

Secondly, and more importantly, "can eat" has a vastly different meaning from "will eat". In your suggestion, the speaker is asking either what things are edible/able to be eaten or what things are permitted to be eaten. Both of these differ from the actual meaning of which things do you intend to eat, and accordingly have different verb conjugations associated with them.

Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.