Interrogative Sentence

Japanese Wh-questions: どんな and どう

What kind of: こんな

Last time, you learned Japanese wh-questions with Japanese demonstratives which work as pronouns and determiners, like “どのふくものですか (which clothes are kimono)?” In this lesson, you will learn the rest of them with their related question words.

Japanese Wh-questions with Demonstratives: こそあど

Table of Contents
どんな: What Kind of…
どう: How

For review, we will show the whole table again. You will tackle attributes and proadverbs here. Be careful; there is an irregular pronunciation: ああ.

   
Pronouns -group
thing
これ
this one
それ
that one
あれ
that one over there
どれ
which one
-group
location
ここ
here
そこ
there
あそこ*
over there
どこ
where
っち-group
ちら-group
direction
こっち
こちら
this way
そっち
そちら
that way
あっち
あちら
that way over there
どっち
どちら
which way
いつ-group
people
こいつ
this person
そいつ
that person
あいつ
that person over there
どいつ
which person
Determiners -group この
this…
その
that…
あの
that… over there
どの
which…
Attributes んな-group
kind
こんな
this kind of…
そんな
that kind of…
あんな
that other kind of…
どんな
what kind of…
Proadverbs -group
kind
こう
like this
そう
like that
 ああ*
like that over there
どう
how

どんな (What kind of…) with んな-group

んな-group: Attribute

こんなふくはかわいい(です)よね。
This type of clothing is pretty, isn’t it?
*Said while you’re pointing at a picture near you.
そんなひとは(らない / りません)。
As for that kind of person, [I] don’t know.
*Said while you’re pointing at a picture near the listener.

んな-group words work as attributes and are always placed before nouns like の-group: determiners. In the first example, if you say このふく, it means that the clothes on the picture (*only one) are pretty. However, by using attributes: こんな, it means that clothes like the picture (*unlimited number) are pretty. That’s the difference.

このような
こういう
こうした
こういった
そのような
そういう
そうした
そういった
あのような
ああいう
ああした
ああいった
どのような
どういう

どういった

んな-group sounds a little casual and is preferred in speaking. If you would like to use formal expressions, the above ones have the same meaning, but sound formal.

どんな: What Kind of…

もの どんなふく (ですか)?
Topic / Subject Complement Question Marker
As for Kimono, what kind of clothing is [it]?

どんな is the question word related to んな-group. Basically, this is used with generic nouns. With the example above, もの is a specific name of clothes. You need to use the generic noun: “clothing” in order to ask what kimono is like. With the last example below, the の (of どんなの) works as a noun and represents clothes. As you learned in the lesson for the particle の, when the context clearly tells what or whom you’re referring to, this kind of replacement happens.

とうきょうはどんなまち(ですか)?
As for Tokyo, what kind of town is [it]?
なかさんはどんなひと(ですか)?
As for Tanaka-san, what kind of person is [he/she]?
ものはどんなの(なの / なんですか)?
As for Kimono, what kind of [clothing] is [it]?

The following examples are questions which directly ask about attributes of generic nouns while the previous ones ask about attributes of specific nouns.

どんなひと成功せいこう(する / しますか)?
What kind of people will succeed?
どんなごはんべる(の / んですか)?
What kind of meals will [you] eat?
どんなしょうたう(の / んですか)?
At what kind of place will [you] sing?

どう (How) with う-group

う-group

こうはしる(んだ / んです)よ。
[You] run like this.
*Said while showing a model by yourself when you’re asked, “How should I run?”
ああする(んだ / んです)よ。
[You] do X like that over there.
*Said while pointing to a model over there when you’re asked, “How should I do X?”

う-group words work as proadverbs, and basically modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. The nuance may look similar to んな-group (attributes) for English speakers. However, they are not interchangeable. In English, “like this” is a versatile phrase. For example, you can say:

A: Do you like music?
B: Yes. I especially like music like this. *when there is background music.

What do you think is suitable for this situation: こんな or こう? The answer is こんな because こう works as a proadverb and basically modifies adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs, while こんな expresses attributes of nouns. In this context, you’re talking about what kind of music you like (attributes). The translation “like this” may cause confusion, but try to think Japanese as it is.

A: 音楽おんがくきですか?
B: はい。とくにこんな音楽おんがくきです。

Again, how about the following situation? Let’s think about which is suitable: こんな or こう.

A: This “Let It Be” sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? *when someone imitates Beatles.
B: People who sing [the song] like this are rare, aren’t they?

By contrast, you can use only こう here because you’re talking about how he/she sings. Verbs have to be modified by adverbs.

A: このLetレット Itイット Beビーすこへんですね。
B: こううたひとめずしいですね。

どう: How

[それは] どう ちがう(の / んですか)?
[Topic / Subject] Proadverb Verb
How does [that] differ?

どう is the question word related to う-group. The basic concept comes from adverbs. Thus, if you have difficulty understanding どう, we recommend you review the previous lesson: Japanese adverbs. There are three main functions. The first is to seek a description and generally used for words which can have degree. When it comes to answers, specific ones are often preferred. For example, when you see a doctor, he/she often asks the second example below. You can say something like, “なかにぶいたい (I have a dull pain on my back).”

どうじん(なの / なんですか)?
How good-looking [woman] is [she]?
どういたい(ですか)?
How painful is [it]?

The second is to ask about manner. This function generally appears with verbs. When it comes to how to answer, with the third example below, you can answer by using both a specific method like クロールで (by crawling) and adverbs of manner like ゆっくり (slowly).

どう(うたう / うたいますか)?
How do [you] sing?
どう説明せつめい(する / しますか)?
How do [you] explain?
どう(およぐ / およぎますか)?
How do [you] swim?

The third is an exception. This function can be considered idiomatic and so you need to just memorize set phrases. The major ones are below. They don’t ask degree or manner, but objects of verbs.

どう(おもう / おもいますか)?
What do [you] think?
どう(する / しますか)?
What will [you] do?
どうなる(の / んですか)?
What will [it] result in?

You can even reword them with 何 (なに・なん).

あなたのけんは(なに / なんですか)?
What is your opinion? (*=What do you think?)
なにを(する / しますか)?
What will [we] do?
なにきる(の / んですか)?
What will happen? (*=What will [it] result in?)

Respond to Questions with そう

わたしもそう(おもう / おもいます)。
I think so, too.
*Said when someone says to you, “I think it will rain tomorrow.”

そう is often utilized to respond to questions. Since this is the proadverb indicating a near space to someone whom you talk with, you can essentially use this to quote what someone said or did. With the above example, the “so” indicates “it will rain tomorrow.” Here are more examples.

そう(だ / です)。
[It] is so.
そう(う / います)よ。
[I will] say so.
そう(する / します)。
[I will] do so.

そう has some set phrases. The typical example is そうですか or そうなんですか. This is generally used when responding to people. The か comes from the question marker and implies it’s the first time for you to hear it. The translation doesn’t work well, but you may regard it as “Really,” “Oh, is it,” I didn’t know that.”

っている?来月らいげつにジブリがあたらしいえいすよ。
Do [you] know? Ghibli will release a new movie next month.  
そうなんですかたのしみですね。
Oh is it? [I’m] looking forward, aren’t you?

Summary

  1. んな-group works as attributes and is always placed before nouns.
  2. う-group works as a proadverb and to modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.
  3. そう is a proadverb, but works essentially to quote what someone said or did.

You have completed Japanese demonstratives and almost all the question words. The amount of the explanations may be large, but they are one of the high frequently used expressions. Please pay attention to the structure. Particles’ functions and omissions of subjects are the key. Next, you will learn wh-questions which are not related to demonstratives.

Recommended Links

Join in Wasabi's Learning Community!

We have created a learning community on Facebook where learners can ask and answer questions, share learning tips, and motivate each other. Wasabi’s members are also there to support your learning and hear your feedback to improve our materials. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to join the Facebook group and learn Japanese together!


CLICK HERE