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  5. "何ですか?"

"何ですか?"

Translation:What?

June 6, 2017

93 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/InfinitysGrace

Isn't 何ですか more like "what is it?" than just "what?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Shadow15243

Yes, but what and what is it are pretty much the same thing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/misteress

So just to be clear, you're saying I can use this interchangably:

  • to ask if somebody needs something from me, if I see them staring?

  • to inquire in general about an unfamiliar object, to nobody in particular?

  • to try and get somebody to finish a statement they have stopped prematurely?

Gotta make sure I'm using this one right.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lizzewithnumbers

and 何 is "what?" alone so yeah


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hannaha70093

何 is what on it's own but it can also take the meaning of what is it. The ですか is there to make the phrase formal. If you are speaking with friends or family, then using the casual form, 何, is acceptable.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JosiaSerad1

On its own, how come its pronounced "nani" but if you formalized it, it's pronounced becomes "nan des ka"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MeriborRessick

The "i" in 何 is dropped the same or similar way that the "u" is dropped in です


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RamenDutchman

Yes, but they are used the same. All least in Japanese they are.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IWannaLearn3

それは何ですか


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BrunoTohor

それわ なにですか or それは何ですか?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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  • 2609

It's それは何ですか?

それ = that thing by you
は = topic particle
何 = what
です = is
か = interrogative particle

As for that thing by you, what is it?
https://www.coscom.co.jp/learnjapanese101/learnjapanese104.html


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/charlie901227

わ isnt a particle its は but pronounced like わ


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Crazy_plant_lady

It would be それはなんですか. The わ is written as は here and なに becomes なん


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

The translation above reads "what is it?". I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Has Duo changed the translation? Was it previously just 'what?'


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NelloPed

No, but it is now. Though it seems that both translations can be used interchangably.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Julia543869

何 is what and 何 ですか is what is it?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ingrid90497

I believe "what is it?" in Japanese would be なんだよ(nandayo).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

It depends on the context. Be careful using なんだよ because it's very casual and would only suit a somewhat confrontational situation, e.g. someone is staring at you and you want to know what their problem is (in which case, なんなんだよ would be more natural).

If someone was holding a box or something, and you want to know what it is, なんだよ is NOT the right sentence to use. In this situation, pointing to the box and saying 何ですか would be correct.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CodeSujal

So "nandayo" is "what is it?" but not so formal?

Like "what is your problem" kind of thing

And "nandesuka" is more formal?

And "what is it?" like as a surprise thing?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/shirel.tai

Why is 何 pronounced as nan?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CalypsoDancing

For pretty much all kanji there are multiple readings, normally with at least two (one a Chinese origin and one from a Japanese origin). In most cases there is only on correct answer in the readings, but in this case you can generally go with either 'nani' or 'nan', depending on which sounds right. I'm sure there is probably some sort of rule, but generally go with whatever flows better while saying it in this particular case.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/coco434343

Use "nan" if the following word starts with t, d, or n. Use "nani" in any other case. But ofc there are also exceptions ..


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Minaki.S

so basically it is like vowel rule right?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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It's less to do with vowels and more to do with alveolar consonants.

http://www.ipachart.com/


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/algTitankitty

Native speakers shorten words by leaving off the last vowels usually "i" and "u". When speaking you'll hear "nan" more often than "nani", unless they are simply saying "what".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/geoffreyhu6

This is rather wrong. I and U sounds mostly only get dropped due to standard pronunciation rules. This is a matter of Kanji readings. 何 has three readings, なに, なん, and カ, each with their own time and place to be used.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SherylHohman

The reading should match what it is they are currently teaching and quizzing us on.
How else can we learn? Introduce other readings appropriately as they are being taught. They need to have a separate recording for each reading, and choose the recording to match the lesson.

I found this particularly bad in an earlier lesson with the character that's a rectangle with a vehicle live thru it. Can't remember right now what it means. They taught us that character in the same lesson with a particular pronunciation. Then they quizzed us on which character makes that around. But clicking on that character always some a completely different sound! It was women starting with"n" sound. Line "naki" or something like that (I don't remember). And I cannot remember at all even what sound they "taught" us for the character - but it wasn't even a little bit similar. Very Confusing! And the questions essentially had no correct answer.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tophyr

That irritated me too. It was 中, with ”なか” as the pronunciation sample, but that wasn't one of the choices. The right answer ended up being ちゅうbecause they were eventually going to use the on'yomi reading of it since it would be in the word for China, 中国.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jude650174

Yeah I totally hit the button to report the audio being incorrect before I realised what was going on >-


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_.redacted._

Basically, charachters pronounciations change because of the different forms of writing put together. If Japanese worked the way you wanted it to work, the language would be limited.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TiaCobourn

Well when put in a sentence the い in 何 is kind of dropped. As in the sentence 何ですか. But by itself the kanji is read なに。


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/plastoquinone

Why did you write two readings in hiragana but the last one in katakana? Is it because the last one is based on a Chinese reading?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

That's exactly right. I think the convention in most kanji dictionaries is to write the on'yomi or Chinese-based reading in katakana and the kun'yomi in hiragana.

Most of the time though, when giving the readings for kanji in the context of a sentence, it's common to just use hiragana (if it's written in small script above the the kanji, it's called furigana), regardless of whether it's on'yomi or kun'yomi.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SherylHohman

I saw it as clarifying thi pronunciation as "nani" vs "nan"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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i and u are typically dropped/devoiced when they're surrounded by voiceless consonants.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SherylHohman

I keep hearing rules like this, but nobody says what a "voiceless constant" is!
Therefore such comments are useless.
I looked it up, but the explanations I found were long and very confusing.
Even if I do try look it up again (and the time figure it out), it'd be Great to have a quick reminder (cheat sheet like) reminder each alongside such comments..


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SherylHohman

What's a "voiceless constant"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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  • 2609

Consonant, not constant.

There are two basic kinds of sounds: vowels and consonants.

Vowels are sounds that leave your mouth with the airflow unimpeded. The different vowel sounds are just a matter of the shape of your mouth.

Consonants are sounds that are made by impeding the airflow out of your mouth to varying degrees and in various locations.

B, D, G, F, and S are examples of voiced consonants. You use your voice when you say them.

P, T, K, V, and Z are examples of voiceless (a.k.a. unvoiced) consonants. You don't use your voice when you say them.

http://www.ipachart.com/


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jesse922038

Would it be rude to say this if you didnt hear what someone said and wanted them to repeat it?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

I wouldn't say that this sentence in and of itself is rude, but saying it in that situation makes it very clear that you simply weren't paying attention to the conversation, especially if you just blurt this sentence out without any other modification. For example, 今のは何ですか = "What was that just now?" would soften it a bit because it sounds like you were following everything up until the last point.

If you didn't hear clearly, or heard but couldn't understand, there are better ways to ask someone to repeat themselves.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JherekLazo

Man, your comments really help. Thank you!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Fred309905

Living in Japan, people used Nan desu ka and na ni for different reasons and different situations. They may mean "what is it" or "what" but they can't be used interchangeably. For example: if you come to a store and ask an employee for help, they typically could answer what is it, nan desu ga, but saying nani wouldn't be appropriate. if your child, however, is crying and carrying on, saying "nani" to him or her would be typical to try and understand what they want or need.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theeldris

I know it means "what is it" but is it more of a "what's up" or "what is that object"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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  • 2609

If memory serves, both, although not in the greeting sense. It can mean "What is this thing?" and it can mean "What's the problem?" But I'm not sure how informal the second usage is.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

In terms of the second usage, saying 「何ですか」 can sound confrontational, along the lines of "what are you looking at?" But if you're asking along the lines of "what seems to be the problem", then you're more likely to use a different phrase, namely 「どうしたんですか」 "what's wrong" or 「何かありましたか」"did something happen"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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ありがとう。


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Drakynfly

Does 何か work as the informal? If so, would it be 'nanka' or 'nanika'?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

As @Rae.F says, the informal is often simply 「何?」 (なに?), although it is extremely common (depending on the situation) for people, especially young people, to say 何それ? or 何あれ?

As for the pronunciation of 何か, both nanka and nanika work and both mean the same thing ("something", not "what"), but nanka is the casual/spoken version. Nanka is used very often in a way similar to "like" or "kind of" is used for vagueness/uncertainty in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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I've heard the informal as simply "Nani?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Joelperry7

Why is it that the "i" at the end of nani isnt pronounced?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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  • 2609

If the next word starts with t, d, or n, then it's shortened to "nan". Otherwise, it's "nani".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ivanRamos916787

What is the difference between "nani"? And "nandeska"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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It's kind of equivalent to the difference between "What?" and "What was that?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Matt101X

Why is it pronounced differnt when desu ka is not there


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sneak110

"what are you?" Said the scientist looking at a creature he just created in a lab


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LauraVaiek

Isn't what supposed to be nani not nandeska? Whats the difference?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GustavoLis13

Isn't "何ですか?" kinda impolite?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/choobytoo

could you say "何?" besides "何ですか?" or "なに?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

"何?" is pronounced "なに?" You can write either one, and it will mean the same thing, but there's only one way to say them ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MonikaHill3

How would you use thing in a sentence?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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  • 2609

"何ですか?" is the whole sentence. It's the equivalent to "What is it?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/10G.University13

if nani is 何. Why is 何 pronounced as nan (なん) ? "なん ですか"? What I'm reading is nani desu ka (何 ですか) すみません, わかりません。


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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Because /n/ and /d/ are both alveolar sounds, so being pronounced together like that makes the /i/ go away.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Daniel503809

Is 何ですか a polite way to say it or is there a special way to say it to elderly people or something


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

You could say 何 でしょうか? What could it be? Bit gentler than a straight "what is it?" and a little bit more polite.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JordanJone573422

So do you not say the full word "nani" in this sentence and just say nan or is it just the way the speaker is saying it


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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  • 2609

In isolation, the word is pronounced "nani". When the next word starts with sounds such as "d", it's pronounced "nan".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/arkngl94

The translation for "何ですか?" couldn't be "what happen?" too?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

No. 'What happen' doesn't make sense in English. You would say instead "what happened". The Japanese for that is どう した (you'll note する ie. the verb, is in the past tense just as it is with the English phrase).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ali72034

So if 何 is "what" and ですか is "it is?" will I be able to use ですか as a reply to a statement. In English I can say "it is?" in reply to a statement that I'm surprised by.

For instance Japanese is very easy. It is? (ですか?)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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Not quite. です is the verb "to be" and か is the interrogative particle that turns a statement into a question.

I am a student.
私は学生です。
Watashi wa gakusei desu.

Am I a student?
私は学生ですか?
Watashi wa gakusei desu ka?

Professor Tanaka speaks English.
田中先生は英語を話します。
Tanaka sensei wa eigo o hanashimasu.

Does Professor Tanaka speak English?
田中先生は英語を話しますか?
Tanaka sensei wa eigo o hanashimasu ka?

You can't have the verb by itself in Japanese, and you can't just phrase things in Japanese the same way we do in English. These are two very different, completely unrelated languages with very different grammar rules, among other things.

If you're asking a straight-up question because you don't know the answer, you would say そうですか? (Sou desu ka?), which is rendered in English as "Is that so?" or "Is this true?" or variations thereupon. If you're asking because you want someone to confirm your feelings, you would say そうですね? (Sou desu ne?), which is rendered in English as "Isn't it?" or variations thereupon.

  • Japanese is easy.
    日本語は簡単です。
    Nihongo wa kantandesu.
  • It is? / Is it? I think it's difficult.
    そうですか? 難しいと思います。
    Sou desu ka? Muzukashī to omoimasu.

Contrast with: Japanese is easy, don't you think?
日本語は簡単です! そうですね?
Nihongo wa kantandesu! Sou desu ne?
or as a tag question roughly similar to ours:
日本語は簡単です、ですね?
Nihongo wa kantandesu, desu ne?

But the ですか / ですね can't stand on its own.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeDeidre

I dont hear that extra syllablr for "nani." I hear "nan deska?" Is there something I'm not understandimg?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Guimo87

So what then is the difference between 何ですか and なに? Is one more formal than the other? Also, in anime they often just say 何で, that means 'why', right?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Its_KKG

Can you just use, "何?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dane742639

I feel like "what is it" would be better than ”What?!”. I would probably not even regard asking that person anymore lmao


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ValbonaVH

The translation has changed now? it says to me that i've made a typo but there aren't all the words that the typo mentions. (it should be "What's it?" but the words available are only "what" and "is").


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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Next time something like that happens, take a screenshot and file a bug report:
https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/articles/204728264-How-do-I-report-a-bug-

You should be able to switch to keyboard mode to type in the answer without the limitations of tiles.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ValbonaVH

Thanks for the reply :) I actually took a screenshot but i didn't see the option to attach it when i filed a report. I will try the keyboard thing next time :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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It should be right there toward the bottom:
https://i.imgur.com/x3PA17b.png


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bamelinlover13

I have seen a few translation in animes where 何 can mean "What do you mean" or "What does it mean." Has anyone noticed this alternate translation or am I wrong?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

In those cases, I imagine the original line was simply 「何!?」So it's not that the kanji 何 means "What do you mean", but rather, that is the implication of the sentence (literally "what!?"). The kanji itself just means "what".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/WHbMu4

Definitely should be "what is it"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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It's not one-to-one like that. Translation is more about usage than it is swapping out words--especially when the two languages are not the least bit related to each other. 何ですか? can be used the way we would use "What?" or "What is it?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/setsuk4

I'm guessing "nan de?" is more informal.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

Good try. 何で? (nan de?) is more informal, but actually means "Why?"

The informal version of this sentence is usually just 何?(なに?)

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