"What is it?"


June 22, 2017

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So it's like this: "nan desu ka?" Is that it?


Yep. That's it. If you want to say it casually, then you would just say 何 (nani).


I just put 何か for "What?" And that works as well


According to wiktionary, 何か means "something" and is pronounced なにか, but can also be pronounced なんか in informal contexts.


nanka means more like "something" or "i don't know what", like, 何かおかしいな… (like, "something, I don't know what, is strange"; often translated as "something's wrong" or even "it's too quiet" for a more idiomatic translation)

In Hunter x Hunter, "nanika" (written in kana) is also the name of alluka zoldyck's alter, the fae spirit with blacked-out eyes that asks and grants favors with often terrifying and unpredictable consequences. I believe it's the dominant fan theory that she's called that because her family doesn't know what she is.

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I would have thought you write it either as "nani desu ka" or "nan des ka".


It's written as "なんですか" and pronounced as "nan des(u) ka".

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Does that mean the i of nani isn't said for a different reason than the u of su?


Exactly, the reason is that this character has many pronunciations, so "nani" and "nan" are just two of many.


それ, means "that". So それは何ですか。means "what is that?"



As a side note - I remembered それ (that, something that is far) and これ (this, something that is in hand, or close to speaker) from those old "Let's Learn Japanese Basic 1" (hosted by Mary Althaus) videos.


Why is it not okay to put ぉ at the start?


お is an honorific, which is reserved for addressing elders and people of high status. This is just what I've gathered, correct me if I'm wrong.


And in front of tea and toilets. But that is rather to make it sound nicer an fresher rather than up honour them.


generally they are very respectful with food. It's like おはし (ohashi) written on some hashi plastics.


You know someone likes food when the thank it existence いただきます


I mean there's "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub" but "saying grace" certainly isn't as universal in the states.


But that is rather to make it sound nicer an fresher rather than up honour them.

This is an interesting claim. Do you have a reference for it?


wikipedia be like:


Its also for strangers and anyone that is not a close family member or friend I believe. Not just elders or higher status


Why can't we put これ or それ in the beginning?


It's because "何ですか。" also translates to "What?" as well as "What is it?" Also, これ and それ are used when talking about something that is more in particular. "これは何ですか。" translates to "What is this?" and "それは何ですか。" translates to "What is that?" ^^ Hope that helps.


It helps... it helps a lot. Thanks!


Sorry, but I didn't understand... What is the difference about "kore" and "sore"? Why should be "are"?


I think これ is for something that's close to you (Imagine yourself holding something really weird, or just being close to it and saying 「これは何ですか?」)

それ is for something that is far from you, but close to whom you're talking to (as in: "what's that next to you?")

and あれ is something that's far from both of you or the default way of saying "what is it?" (the default part is just assumption tho)

correct me if I'm wrong, I'm just a beginner ^^


To isleep8 As it's far from both listener and speaker, it like saying "what is that over there?"


Edit. "What is that?" (over there.)


(Kore ) is used to point at something that is close to the speaker ,(sore) used to point at something that is far from the speaker but close to the listener, lastly (are) used to point at something that far from both the speaker and the listener. This is how I learned it.


you have to point or mean something when using kore / sore / are ex: is it your phone? これ は あなあた の 電話 ですか。


Why doesn't the word bank exercise present the 何 as an option?


why not use the 何?


Yes, you're able to replace なん with 何.


How are "nan" and "nani" different?


なん and なに are both readings of 何. I think which you use just depends on circumstances.


This has it backwards. Language is speech, which comes first. Writing is a way of representing speech on paper, and it comes later. You can't explain language in terms of writing.


Whilst you're not wrong, you miss the point of the question. The easiest way to understand a language is from the writing. You are fully able to learn a language through speech, but it will be more difficult. Regardless, "nan" and "nani" are both readings of 何.


i have a problem with this. Literaly in Japanese Shouldn't be それは何ですか ? because それ is it isn't?


それ is "that".


Why does it not have" は"?


は marks the overall topic; the known contextual information for the statement you are about to make.
There's nothing in this sentence to mark as a topic though. The known subject being described that would normally be marked with は has been omitted and we insert the vague "it" pronoun required for English to be grammatically correct. In Japanese the sentence is only the predicate 何ですか "What is (implied 'it')"
If you wanted to be more specific about what you are referring to you could specify a topic「これ、それ、あれ」は何ですか "What is [this/that/that over there]"


So か doesn't make the question for 'you' but rather for 'someone/something other than me'


か is just the question marker. It always go at the very end of the sentence.

Think of it as the Japanese question mark.


あれ does not mean "it", does it? Is this translation wrong?


Have they changed the translation? It now says:

"What is it?" Translation: なんですか?

I think it said something like the following, back when I submitted the above comment (05 Sep 2020):

"What is it?" Translation: あれは何ですか?

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You are correct on both counts. "A-Re" means "that (over there) and they must've changed the question/answer as there is no mention of So-Re or A-Re now, but several mentions in the comments. I have read another comment that in some situations Ko/So/A-Re may be translated as "it" however you're best to stick with translating them as "this/that."


In sentences like these is は pronounced as "wa," or as "ha?"

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When it marks the topic of a sentence it's always pronounced Wa. Whenever it's used as part of a word (or any word other than the subject marker) it's pronounced Ha.


Is it nan deska or nam deska

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More often pronounced nan desuka(deska). In front of a word starting with "b" it would change to nam. For example, "nam-ban" what number (sometimes how many).


Can i use これ"は"なんですか


That has a similar meaning, but there's a slight nuance that can't be ignored.

「なんですか」 / 「何ですか」 / "nan desu ka?" - This means "what is it?" in a vague manner that can be used in many situations. If you see someone frowning after reading something, you can say this to figure out what's causing them distress. If you receive a strange call with someone asking "Did you get that thing I sent you?" you might say this out of confusion. If your brother tells you he got you something special for your birthday, "Oh, what is it?" naturally comes to mind. The topic can be physical, conceptual, or anything really.

「これはなんですか」 / 「これ・は・何ですか」 / "kore wa nan desu ka?" - This means "what is this?" Again, it's similar, but now you're speaking about this. Going back to an earlier example, if you see someone frown after they read something, it wouldn't make sense for you to ask "what's this?" If you're holding something and you want to ask what it is, specifying this with これは is perfectly fine and even helps the listener distinguish what you're speaking about. But if something is closer to the listener, you'd what you specify the topic as that (それ) rather than this (これ). Either way, you're specifying what you're asking about, and this is the more natural question when you're gesturing at something (pointing, nodding, holding, or looking at something, for instance).

So while both questions are basically asking "what is x?" they have different levels of specificity and generality. In some contexts, they're interchangeable, but many times they are not. You and the listener/reader need to know what you're asking about, so you'll have to decide which fits best: "What is it?" or "What is this?" As for the translation exercise, I think it should be incorrect, though I haven't checked the acceptable answers.

TL;DR: They are not the same thing. Meaning is close, but the translations are different.


I used あれは何ですか


So, "de" is not an option. Kind of a problem when the answer requires "de".


で ("de") is part of です ("desu"), Literally meaning "it is" and cannot be omitted in this case.


I was reviewing and sore also meant it so isn't sore o nan Desu ka supposed to be right


I wrote "Nandesuka" and it's wronh. I don't get it??


Did you write it exactly like that?
Duo doesn't accept romaji answers, you need to write in proper Japanese. (Romaji is mainly a pronunciation aid for foreigners who can't read the characters)
なんですか in hiragana or 何ですか with kanji is accepted


Oh, yes! I wrote it in romaji didn't know it wasn't accepted but it's probably written somewhere. I guess I'll have to figure out how to write in hiragana, katakana and Kanji then


Shouldn't it be それはなんですか?


これは何ですか(Kore wa nandesuka) is more like "What is this?"


How come "what is it?" Can be written as "nan desu ka?" Whereas "which is it?" Needs the "sore wa" in front of it "nan desu ka"?

These 2 questions always trip me up, as english wise the only difference is which instead of what, but the japanese sentence has an extra bit when "which" is used.


何ですか is just "what is"; but English requires a filler pronoun => "what is it" or "what is that". それは何ですか is litteraly "as for that, what is" => "what is that", but with an explicit topic put on "that" in the Japanese sentence.

None of them means "which is it"; that implies a choice between some elements already known. and the Japanese word for "which" is どれ

Sidenote: Japanese ha s a very cool system ko/so/a/do : words starting with ko- are related to things near the speaker (eg: これ = this (near me)), with so- are related to things near the listener (eg: それ = that (near you)), whith a- for things far from both (eg: あれ = that (above there)). And starting with do- for the question words (eg: どれ, the question word associagted to this/that => which)

For places: ここ (here (next me))、 そこ (there (next you))、 あそこ (there (above there))、 どこ (where). etc


Not sure what question you're referring to. "Which" is どれ (dore) in Japanese. So "which is it?" would be どれですか。


I mean that the lesson had 2 questions. "What is it" and "Which is it".

"What is it" can be translated to "nan desu ka" for a correct answer, but in the "which is it" question, "dore desu ka" was marked as wrong. Instead it wanted me to answer "dore wa nan desu ka".


that's weird. to the best of my knowledge, どれはなんですか should translate as "which is what?". that sounds like an error on duolingo.


Dore is "where" -- in English we say what's the difference, in Japanese you say "Where's the difference."


どれ is "which one"
どこ is "Where"

The Duolingo question I believe Kilian655992 is referring to is actually 「それはどれですか」 translated to "Which one is it?" but is more literally "Which one is that one".
どれですか is still also an accepted answer for it though. Duo doesn't require the それは at the beginning other than in 'type what you hear' questions, though it isn't uncommon to translate それ to "it" to point to something known (as there is no real 'it' equivalent in Japanese).


As to why "What is it" is just 何ですか and "Which is it" is それはどれですか, they were both likely just added at different points in time for different versions of the course by different contributors. This specific question doesn't even use the kanji for "what" 何, indicating it was likely a remainder from the very first iteration of the course which didn't use kanji.

There is an alternate version of this question that uses kanji phrased as 「それは何ですか」more likely added by the same person who created the それはどれですか question: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/22993698/%E3%81%9D%E3%82%8C%E3%81%AF%E4%BD%95%E3%81%A7%E3%81%99%E3%81%8B%EF%BC%9F


So 何 can write with なん too ?


Um ... but WHy are they using hiragana instead of Kanji? I've been searching the "nan"(kanji) for a long time only to realize it is used as hiragana ;-;


Duolingo is a tad bit inconsistent with when it decides to use Kanji. However, Kanji is accepted as a response. なん is a reading of 何.


Why did i get away with それなんですが ? Shouldn't there be a は in there somewhere?


For short exchanges, は is sometimes dropped. In this case, it might be better to write it as それ、何ですか?¹ but Duo doesn't care about punctuation anyhow. Since the は is just boilerplate structure and それ is assumed to begin with, it's not surprising that it would be allowed. However, I wouldn't count on that for other exercises. Unless you're fine testing the waters and getting strikes, always include the particle when the topic needs to be identified.

¹ 何ですか == なんですか


why is it not kore は nan desu ka?


これは何ですか (korewa nan desu ka) means "What is this." The best way to think of it is "what" (subject) is a translation of 何 (nan), and "it is/is it" is a literal translation of です (desu).

何ですか = What is it?


Could it also be (pronounced) Nani-gah?


I feel like 「どうした?」should be an acceptable answer. Since it can be translated as "what is it?" or "what 's up?"

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