1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. "Excuse me, who are you?"

"Excuse me, who are you?"


June 6, 2017



This is actually somewhat rude, you never address someone directly as "anata" whom you do not know.


I wrote すみませんだれですか and it was accepted. I don't know where it falls on the politeness spectrum.


An old post, but as people are probably still interested: it's kinda middle-of-the-road. Not THE most polite way of speaking (you would normally use どなた or どちら(さま) in this construction), but not really rude either.


sumimasen donata deska?


Can I ask what 「どなた」and「どちら」translate to, please?


So looking at the page he linked, 〜なた seems to be a polite word for "who", meaning 「どなた」means "who?" politely.

While 〜ちら seems to be a point of direction, like "which way", in polite form.
"Direction, way to go somewhere, or sometimes place."


Yup, and they're used with へ in that sense. They're also indirect, more polite pronouns. There's even どちら様[さま]. こちら and そちら can include those related to me/you, like “our company”, “your family”.



Can I ask what 「どなた」and「どちら」translate to, please?

No relationship. どなた is just a polite expression for 誰 (だれ).

Please DO NOT overuse polite expressions. It just makes you look even more like a noob. Japanese is situation-centric, namely, the specific situation you're in calls for whether polite expression is required or not.

If you constantly use polite expressions, you will only end up offending others, making them feel that you want to intentionally maintain distance between you and them.


すみません、どなたですか?was accepted.

どなた = who​ (Usually written using kana alone, Honorific or respectful - sonkeigo)


So it's; 「すみません、どちらさまですか?」? Or am I getting something wrong?


I don't think you need "sama" here.

様 (さま) is a formal expression for さん and is usually limited only when addressing someone in a business setting, as on a telephone call or exchanging an email.


How do you construct using ドチラサマ? (Excuse my kana)


In the meantime it seems not to be accepted anymore.


Okay... so how would you address someone whose name you don't know? Let's say you've already asked their name, but they don't give it (this is very common in Japan if they don't know you; they literally say "I don't know you" and don't give their name). How do you specify that you're talking about them?

There are situations where you have to use あなた, but it's rude if they've already told you their name because it means you didn't care enough to remember.


There is no one word you can use for someone whose name you don't know rather than trying to omit direct reference as much as possible.

As always in speaking Japanese, people expect you to read the situation, depends on your gender, age, and circumstance, together with the second person's gender, age, and circumstance to choose appropriate words or level of politeness. It's an art that is hard even for native speakers. When I worked in Tokyo, I had a boss who was really nice, polite guy, and he always referred to women of any age in food/drink service places as "One-san" which usually are used for referring younger women. I remember one time when we were drinking at a food stall, an older man who was sitting closer rudely criticized it as "She is no Onesan, she is Oba-san" and all of us ignored him and my boss kept talking with the "Onesan" in friendly way.

But as you could imagine, referring someone older with younger reference won't necessarily always work. Also "Onesan" usage somewhat infer a little closeness / friendliness so if you want to refer to someone you just met on the street to ask a direction, "O-jo-san" might work better. Yet, if the person is much older, that could be rude being taken as lack of respect to the age of the person.

Growing up in Japan, I had been referred to as "Ojochan" when I was very young, "Onesan" or "Onechan" when a little older, Obasan or Okusan (no matter your marital status, similarly to being called Señora in Spanish) nowadays. While I have no issue being called Obasan, some Japanese women hate being called so. So if you need to refer someone you are directly talking with, really, with eye contacts and everything, try to omit reference. Luckily (or unluckily), subjects and pronouns are often omitted in natural Japanese sentences.


Thank you for this, really informative. I kinda get what you said but guess it's quite difficult to completely comprehend it until i spend some time living and socializing in Japan.


This reply is EVERYTHING, @Flamingowife! Thank you so much!


politely answer "sorrymasen"


You ask their name...what is your name. You don't use あなた


"Let's say you've already asked their name, but they don't give it"


Then proceed with the rudeness!


Perfect profile pic for this comment haha


Do you think that's also true if they know it's a foreigner? Just curious.


I'd guess it is still rude but would be overlooked.


It can make natives speakers feel uncomfortable


What would be used then? "Kimi"?


きみis probably worse than あなた. Just skip it. Say だれですか or なまえはなんですか。


Also nobody will really sweat you if you do use あなた. Just don't say it to teachers or people above you.


God, I've done that before. Stupid Rocket Japanese only taught me how to embarrass myself in front of my professor.


Best not to talk to anyone other than friends until you are very confident in your level of japanese. It's extremely easy to offend people, especially elders.


Or have confidence and learn without insecurity


You don't use anything. You leave out anything in Japanese that is inferred.


お名前(なまえ)は is a good one to go for.


I think kimi a very soft way of addressing someone, for example it's used when talking to one's girlfriend/boyfriend


Only should be used for that according to what I have read... so, it would be awkward to use it with a stranger. Kimi is more like "honey" in English. "Honey, whats your name?" can be very rude too!


It's a bit more complicated than that. きみ (along with おまえ) are the two of the most informal/least polite second-person pronouns, before crossing over to the unambiguously offensive ones.

Note how きみ is written with the kanji 君, the same one as in the common honorific くん, which originally was a neutral honorific for adressing your peers, but nowadays is normally used either between (typically youngster or informal) female-to-male peers or from male superior to female subordinate (polite, but with a clear hierarchical connotation) in a working enviroment.

What am I writing all that for? Well, in its pronoun form, 君 (きみ) its usage is not entirely dissimilar. Originally it was a very polite way of address, but nowadays, other than a niche affectionate/intimate use, it's typically an informal way of addressing someone in a lower position, with clear connotations of superiority/slight. The more accurate English equivalent to きみ would be "hey, you".


くん, which originally was a neutral honorific for adressing your peers, but nowadays is normally used either between (typically youngster or informal) female-to-male peers or from male superior to female subordinate (polite, but with a clear hierarchical connotation) in a working enviroment.

Actually, くん is only used when addressing a MALE, usually of lower status/ranking or age. Never use it to a woman.


As with all Japanese politeness, it depends on the age group, circumstances and respective social positions.

It could be quite acceptable between young people in an informal situation (rather, in some situations, people would even find it weird to use formal language). It would definitely be considered rude (or at least impolite) to use on people at a higher position than you in any way. And everything else is a gray area in between.

In any case, I don't think teaching this way of speaking without giving a proper explanation is a good idea. For all the talk about acceptability, it IS a very familiar way of speaking and WOULD displease plenty of people you'd talk to.


And we should use "donata" not "dare"


There shouldn't be any "should". People are going around this discussion treating words like "anata" and "dare" as if they were cuss words, never to be uttered. But they're all missing the most important point:

these words can be rude in certain circumstances.

Since we don't get any context for these exercises, there's no way to know what "should" be the best answer; the best word choice depends on the situation.

Actually, "anata" and "dare" sit somewhere in the middle of the politeness spectrum; not necessarily showing respect, but also not necessarily offensive. For neutral words like this, non-verbal communication such as tone of voice, eye contact, gestures, etc. is actually significantly more important than the words themselves.


What about ごあなた? Is it more polite?


I don't think こあなた exists. As far as I can remember, あなた is the most polite way to say "you" in Japanese.

Pronouns are typically left out though, so Japanese evolved other ways of showing politeness.


Did you mean "どなたですか". This is much more polite.


Yes I agree. It kinda looks accusational.


Japanese: where the term 'you' is an insult


To be fair english has an equivalent - Hey you! what is your name? This in most contexts would be quite abrupt and could be considered rude, depending on delivery of the words.


To be fair also, the direct translation: "Exuse me, Who are you?" Would be Extremely rude in english. Like i cant even imagine a scenario where that isnt an insult.


I don't see that as remotely rude. The contrary is true for me. Not using "excuse me" or "pardon me" before asking a stranger their name is considered rude to me.


Every time I heard "excuse me, who are you?" It's in a disrespectful way, you can say just "hey, what is your name?" To sound friendly instead of provocative Anyway the most polite and common way to ask someone's name it's to first introduce yourself


but you cant leave out "you" in "What is your name" It simply breaks apart without it. And in japanese not only can you leave it but it is impolite to use it.


That's a different sentence, although I can't say how polite or rude it is. あなたの名前(なまえ)は何ですか。


Even this is a certain degree of rude since you're saying あなた. Best way would just be お名前は何ですか


When my mum is angry she uses おまえ or てめえ instead of あなた or きみ. The ways of being rude in this language!


This sentence could be rude (depending on context ) in english too. (according to this comment section)so it can be rude in either (DEPENDING ON CONTEXT)


It also accepts:



Nov 2020, doesn't seem to anymore...


How about どなた ですか。


More polite than だれ. Used by customer service in hospitality industry, retail industry, conceige services. But usually the entire sentence will be "upsized" in politeness like どなた ございますか


"ございます" is the humble form! You only use that word when speaking about yourself (or demons). Never use it when referring to another person! If you want to use honorifics, you can say どちらさまでしょうか?or どなたでしょうか?


"Yourself or demons", love it


lol! That's true, though. Demons or the damned are spoken about using the humble form (at least in some stories). But to use it when referring to the person you are talking to is unthinkable! That's a mistake you don't even want to make as a foreigner. 恥ずかしい! <:o


Asking who someone is, is not equivalent to asking their name . Some have suggested that asking for the name is more polite, but it's a very different question . Imagine if you were a security guard and you were challenging someone's right to be in a restricted area . Or someone brings a casualty into the hospital and the staff want to know their relationship to the patient .


Duolingo's teaching us how to be sassy in japanese :D


What I understand is that it is actually polite to use あなた when you don't know that person or name (a.k.a a stranger) but when you do know them and you would use あなた instead of their name is it seen as rude. I'm not 100% sure, but that is what I know.


No, あなた is impolite toward a stranger as you are automatically implying that there is no difference in status between you. If you are big friends with someone or even lovers, then あなた is ok


What should we use for strangers then?


I believe the commonly used therm for that kind of situation when you are asking to a unknown person, the best option is to use どちら様[さま]ですか? I see it many times in anime when being more formal (keigo).


どちら様ですか is how I was taught to politely ask "who is this" when answering the phone. Duo doesn't accept it though, so I reported it.


I know directly addressing someone you don't know like this is considered rude, but what would the polite way of asking someone who they are be?


If the subject can be assumed from context you can just say すみません、 だれですか。you can also use the more polite どなたですか。although I'm not sure if that works when referring to someone you know is a junior (e.g. I do not think a teacher would ask a student their name using どなたですか。)


It depends on the two people's age and age gap. Some polite college teacher would ask a college student their name using どなたですか. The closer the ages of the two people to adult societies, the adult social norm applies. When I was in Japanese elementary school, my teachers would refer the male students with "Kun" and the female students with "San." Similarly in my junior high school, almost all teachers still refer the male students with "Kun" except a Japanese language (female) teacher, who used "San" for all the students, which is the norm in adult society.


It is frustrating that so many Japanese language learning materials use あなた. I lived ten years in Japan, and I can tell you that all of the Japanese people I consulted both from the Kanto and Kansai region told me it was rude. It is especially rude in the Kansai region where I lived, but it is also considered rude in the Kanto region as well. It is considered to be "too polite", as if you are purposefully trying to keep distance from someone, or being ironically formal as a means of talking down to someone.

As was mentioned before, it is best to avoid あなた and just use the person's name, or just avoid it altogether. Usually the context is clear and you don't need to say it.


Hello, I see a lot of "どなた" but don't know what it means, can someone help me and maybe others understand the meaning please? Will be much appreciated ☺️


A polite form of asking “Who”, in the same line as the other こ-す+あ-ど demonstratives: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Japanese/Grammar/Pro-forms


Whats the difference between どなた and だれ? Danata used for second person and Dare for third person? If not, could use correctly use Dare in this case?


What I'm understanding is 誰 is too straightforward to apply to the person you're talking to, while どなた is more oblique.


Memrise told me that it was すいません but すみません feels righter for me too.


Both are correct and acceptable in any situation, but you're right, すみません is technically the correct word and thus is considered more formal.


how to say 'you' to someone you don't know without being rude with 'anata'?


You can say it with a smile. Non-verbal communication such as tone of voice, eye contact, gestures, etc. is typically significantly more important, because in and of itself, the word あなた is NOT rude. In fact, it's one of the more polite ways to explicitly say "you". It's considered more polite in Japanese if you can get around saying "you" directly, for example, a salesperson saying お客様【おきゃくさま】(lit. "the honored customer") instead of "you", but this only works in some situations.

Using it is generally considered rude if you use it when talking to someone whose name you should know, instead of using their name; so, not the situation you asked about.


Shouldn't "Excuse me" in this context be 失礼ですが [しつれいですが]? Because あなたは誰ですか is indeed discourtesy and impoliteness.


失礼ですか is " Is it "Excuse me"? ", as in an answer to a question like "What was the way of saying "Excuse me..." ". As explained by commenters above you, it's not THAT impolite to say anata. You can say it with a smile to let the other person know you're not trying to be rude.


I just tapped "Sumimasen, Dare" n it was correct lol




What is the difference between どなた、何方 and 誰 (だれ)?


Jisho.org is our friend:

どなた, 何方 are the same word, and it's honorific language (sonkeigo). It's usually written in kana.

誰 is less formal.


I forgot the "ka" at the end of the sentence but my answer was still marked as correct. Any explaination?


だれ already strongly points towards this sentence being a question. When in doubt, add か, it's virtually never wrong.


So then, saying only だれ to someone would be understood as "Who are you" if there was no previous subject?


Yes, I believe so.


So many comments about「あなた」! But for the "Excuse me" part, isn't it also possible to say「すみませんが」? I think I remember learning somewhere (not on Duolingo) that the が at the end serves to get someone's attention.


Good question! 「すみませんが」is absolutely possible; to my (non-native) ear, it sounds more polite and deferential with the が.

However, が at the end of a sentence actually takes the role of the conjunction "but". すみません on its own is sufficient to get someone's attention, so the が on the end here is implying "Excuse me, {I really need to ask you something and I wouldn't dare take your attention away from the important thing that you're currently doing unless I absolutely had no other choice}, but..."




Whenever I see this phrase pop up in lessons... I am reminded of the movie Perfect Blue by Shitoshi Kon.


Wouldn't "どちら様ですか?" make more sense considering politeness is always a thing in Japan?


すみません、誰か was accepted


I wrote, 「すみません誰ですか」and it didn't like my answer. Should I have written the second person pronoun or is this duolingo's fault?


I think the topic or context can be left out when a reasonable assumption can be made. We have seen questions like 疲れましたか?

(Also, your comment was posted four times. Maybe delete the other three?)


Just say that you are a foreigner and you do not all nuances in Japanese, if I will say something wrong forgive me please. OK? They will say on. And you can ask their name. If something wrong they will say you. Easy easy easy


So is あなた/きみ/おまえ(お前?) is considered rude?

And what word is best recommended to use for "you"?

Sorry for asking question like this again i know theres quite lot of people asked about this but after reading many explainations I'm really confused :/ Would really appreciate if you can make a clear explaination :)


rude/close relatives if only/ruder

temee is prbably the rudest

instead of "you" it seems WanaKazu526-san should just name people by name


Thank you for explaining it quick and easy! :DDD One more question (^~^;)ゞ What if I don't know the person's name how should I call the person?


あなた may be fine, especially is you know nothing about the person you're addressing (eg in ads): https://www.tofugu.com/japanese-grammar/second-person-pronouns/

そちら is indirect and thus more polite.


わかりました! ありがとうございます!!




I wrote すみません どなたですか and it was correct.


So could I use となたですか, and it be respectful?


if i were you, i would say "すみません、どちらさまですか?"

but i guess it would work if you said どなた without the あなた


Another discussion on this sentence said it would be polite to just leave out "dare" altogether and let it be implied. Is すみません、あなたは? an acceptable translation?


Yes, this would also be an acceptable translation. Since I'm not a native speaker, I can't definitively comment on whether あなたはだれですか? or だれですか? or あなたは? is more polite, but the different is probably negligible and more dependent on your tone of voice than word choice (if you're only looking at those options).


I wrote "masuka" instead of "desuka" and got marked wrong for it. Can somebody please explain to me what's wrong with "masuka" in this particular sentence?


Ka/か at the end of a sentence can be thought of as a verbal question mark. Masu/ます is the end of word think of it like "ing" or "tion", doesn't make much sense on it's own. Desu/です is the verb "to be" (in most instances) so in this sentence です is the "are" part. Word for word order woukd be something like: excuse me, you, who are? I hope that helps a little bit.


あなた would be rude in this context. You might not be called out on it if you're a foreigner, but people would still think less of you. あなた can be for someone you are extremely close with, like youe wife/husband.


You say "in this context", but Duo doesn't provide us with any context. Whether or not using あなた is rude isn't as cut and dry as you're suggesting, and assuming it's that simple is detrimental to learning how complicated it really is.


Why is the だれ there? I get the rest... What does it mean again?


That's the "who" part of the question. Without it, I think the sentence would be something like "Excuse me, it's you?", though I'm not sure if it's a proper Japanese sentence structure or not to use です(か) immediately after a は topic marker with nothing in between.


ごめなさい,だれ? ... why wouldn't it be correct ?


There are a couple of reasons:

1) Merriam Webster has a few options for the definition of "Excuse me", but the first four are all for getting attention and don't actually carry any intent to "apologize". Even definition five is intended for minor faults or offences. The usage of すみません matches up with this much better than ごめんなさい, which tends to focus more on the "apology" and is used for heavier offences.

2) The phrase ごめんなさい is actually a polite and formal command (because of the -なさい) verb conjugation; it literally means something like "Give me your forgiveness". On the other hand, だれ? is very casual/informal; you've dropped the subject, you've dropped the "proper" か ending for questions, and you've dropped the polite copula です. This conflict in distal style within the same sentence is an instant giveaway* that the speaker is not familiar with the different levels of Japanese formality.

*Disclaimer: this kind of distal style conflict can sometimes be used, but when done correctly (with the appropriate non-verbal communication), it's used for a specific rhetorical effect usually for comedic effect; it's funny precisely because the actor and audience are aware of the disparity.


wow thanks god you keep here giving us your great answers :)


I personally think something like すみません、どちら様でしょうか。 would be a better answer.


It's certainly a more polite answer, but that doesn't necessarily make it "better".

From a translation perspective, we don't know anything about the context this sentence is being used in or what level of politeness is most appropriate, so you can't say one is better than the other.

From a teaching/learning perspective, your suggestion would be objectively worse as the target sentence for this exercise. どちら would be confusing to beginners, as it can mean "which way", "which one" or "who", whereas だれ unambiguously means "who". 様 is an honorific without a direct English equivalent, not to mention it being a fairly difficult kanji. でしょうか gets into the realm of keigo which is well beyond the scope of the course, let alone this exercise at this stage of the course.


I wrote "すみません、あなたはだれですか?" but it was counted as wrong. When I C&P'd it and compared it to what I wrote, it was identical. When I C&P'd the correct answer, it said it was right.

Have anyone else had this problem?

すみません、あなたはだれですか? <--- What I wrote すみません、あなたはだれですか? <--- The "correct" answer I had to C&P to pass the lesson.


Duo doesn't like the Japanese space ( ) which I don't see in your sentence but sometimes people type it by inertia without noticing. Another cause could be writing だれ instead of 誰 but that would be peculiar. Most probably a bug honestly.


Can i use "kimi" insted of "anata" ?!


Yes, but you should be cautious of what situation you use it in. "Kimi" is generally considered to be less polite than "anata".


Kimi is often used to someone who's position (gender and age included) is the same or lower.


Instead of asking "dare desu ka" wouldn't it be better/more polite/appropriate to ask "dochira sama desu ka"?


Since we don't get any context for these exercises, there's no way to know what "should" be the best answer; the best word choice depends on the situation.

You're right that it is generally more polite though.


Shouldn't there be a が after すみません?


No, there can be and commonly is, but it's not strictly necessary.


I know that this is rude in Japanese, but I just have a rather weird question...

Can it be used as an insult?

Ya know. In a "Who the hell do you think you are?" type situation.

Just pondering.


When and why do you use the expression どちら様?


I wrote が instead of は, it was marked as wrong. What's wrong with using が?


は places the emphasis differently than が
が is used when introducing new (unknown to the listener) information and stresses the word before it
は marks known information and stresses what comes after it
あなたは誰ですか - "On the topic of you: Who (are you)?"
When asking a question "You" are the thing known by both the speaker and listener and "Who" is the important information that you want to know, so は is needed here.
が wouldn't make much sense since it isn't "you" who is being stressed and questioned, it is the unknown "who". It would make it read something like "Are you (the one who is) who?"


The discussion here is interesting, and after reading several comments, I start to think if the English sentence is "Excuse me, may I ask who you are?" the Japanese translation might be すみません、どちら様ですか?


I wrote, 「すみません誰ですか」and it didn't like it. should I have included the second person personal pronoun or is this duolingo's fault?


Why is just a simple donata desuka not accepted? I dont like using anata


What is どなた (donata)? Is it just a more polite form of だれ?


What's the difference between 誰 and どなた ? Is it like どなた is specific for "you"


すみまあえん、どなたですか? is also correct.


Why すみません、 あなたは誰ですか is wrong?


i wrote 「すみません、誰?」and it worked


Why is this answer not accepted? すみません、どなたはどちらさまですか。 (Sumimasen, donata wa dochira sama desu ka?) Am I in the wrong here?


The way you phrased it is a little awkward. It should be either 「どなたですか?」or「どちらさまですか?」

You should also note that these expressions are used more often on the phone than during conversation. They're equivalent to "Hello, who's calling?" in english.

(Answering the phone) Hello, who's calling (who is this)?


Okay, thank you very much!


What does donata mean???


Donata was never mentioned to me before so I didn't know what it was.


Can I say "すみません、どなたですか"?

  • だれ? or だれなの? or だれだ?(casual, usually to friends/family)

  • だれですか?(least polite, usually to strangers)

  • どなたですか?(polite, usually to your boss or someone higher up in status or age)

  • どちらさまですか?(most polite, usually in a phone call with strangers or highly formal or business situations)


Yes. In fact usually it's what you should use. Try to avoid using "あなた" whereever it's possible.


The new voice pronounces は as Ha in these sentences and it's irritating!


すみません。どなたですか Is a no no, really? With あなたI'm borderline going "who are you you?" Kinda getting sick of the strictness or lack or variety able to used.

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