It is incredibly easy to turn a statement into a question in Japanese—all you need to do is add the particle か to the verb.

山田やまださん は 先生せんせい です。
Yamada-san is a teacher.
山田やまださん は 先生せんせい です
Is Yamada-san a teacher?
マイク は みず を みます。
Mike will drink water.
マイク は みず を みます
Will Mike drink water?

In formal writing, there is no need for the question mark (it never used to exist in Japanese) as か makes it clear that the sentence is a question; however, in most non-literary texts it will be in included.

If we change the verb to the negative then we can use か to make a suggestion or an invitation.

一緒いっしょに に 食事しょくじ を しません
Won’t you have dinner together?
かい に ません
Won’t you come to the drinks?

We can also add か to the standard form of the verb (this structure has a key grammatical function, as we shall see later); however, this is rarely a structure used to ask a question—it is too blunt. Instead, you will see の or なの added, depending on the sentence ending.

  • の is used if the sentence ends in a verb or i-adjective
  • なの is used if the sentence ends in a na-adjective or noun
いまいそがしい
Are you busy now?
その ビル は 学校がっこうなの
Is that building a hospital school?

In casual conversation you can also put make the question in statement form and let a change in intonation do the rest, e.g. “You going?”

べる?
Will you eat?
ジョン は 会計士かいけいし
Is John an accountant?

Note that you will never hear this way of questioning used with the copula—either standard or polite.

ジョン は 会計士かいけいし だ? ()
ジョン は 会計士かいけいし です? ()

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