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
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?”

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? ()

You May Also Like

The Volitional: ~よう

The volitional—or more simply the “let’s “and “shall” form—helps us create a number of different phrases. Group 1…

What Should Be

This structure can also be seen with the verb “to become”. Here the meaning is that “it has…

The Difference Between は & が

Like the も particle, the topic particle は can also append itself to other basic particles. The fact that…

Changing Adjectives into Adverbs

Changing an adjective to an adverb (e.g. he ate quickly) in Japanese is simple, although the rules differ…