What in Japanese – Nande? Nani? Nandesuka? Nandayo?

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If you live or consume Japanese material you may have heard the expression “Nani? Nande? Nandesuka? Nandayo? Nanda?” and many others that apparently mean “What?”. In this article we will do a very deep study related to these Japanese words.

All these words that we mention in the title of the article are derived from the nani ideogram [何] which means “what”, “how many”, “which” and many other expressions related to questions. The differences between them lie in the choice of particles and verbs.

Differences between nande, nanda, nani

In Japanese there are many ways to express questions, opinions and even surprises using the “what” ideogram. If we are to ask “what” formally we can simply say nandesuka [何ですか], if we want to speak as informally as we can just say nani? [何?] That may give you an idea of ​​surprise.

Nanda [何だ] is nothing but an informal abbreviation of nandesuka, if you still have questions just read our article on desu [です] and da [だ]. Sometimes nanda [何だ] can be spoken exclamatively by passing on an idea of ​​“what is it?” Or a frustration, especially if you add the particle yo [よ] into a nandayo [何だよ].

What in Japanese - Nande? Nani? Nandesuka? Nandayo?

Nandayo may mean “what is that?” But it is a very informal, rough and abrupt way. Women have the custom of saying also naniyo [何よ]. To better understand the meaning of yo in these expressions we recommend reading our article on ending sentences with particles.

The particle ne [ね] can still be used in expressions such as nandayone [何だよね] where the particle ne gives an idea of ​​agreement and affirmation. The particle ka [か] is always used when asking questions, but it is not always necessary. Everything will depend on the tone you pronounce the word nanda, nande, nani…

Although the particle gives the idea that too, when used in expressions involving nani [何] and other particles that precede nani, it gives an idea of ​​any or all. Already the particle de [で] of nande [何で] gives the idea of ​​“why?”, “What for?” And “how?” In an informal way.

What in Japanese - Nande? Nani? Nandesuka? Nandayo?

In addition to nande [何で], there are other ways to write “why” such as doushite [如何して] which is a bit informal and naze [何故] which is formal. It seems rather complicated to understand the differences between these words, but with time and custom you get the hang of it.

Sample sentences involving nande, nani, nanda

To understand a little of the words we mentioned earlier, let’s leave several sentences that can help you understand their use. Let’s try to leave several examples of nande, nani, nanda and variations, as well as naze and doushite.

EnglishJapaneseRomaji
You’re the only one I want欲しいのは君だけなんだ。Hoshī no wa kimi dake nanda.
In a word, you hate me, don’t you?要するに君は私が嫌いなんだね。Yōsuruni kimi wa watashi ga kirai nandane.
I am not involved in that.俺この件に関してノータッチなんでOre kono-ken ni kanshite nōtatchi nande
What are you serving today?本日のランチの内容はなんですか。Honjitsu no ranchi no naiyō wa nandesuka.
What is this?これは何ですかKore wa nandesuka
It is true? Why?本当?なぜ?Hontō? Naze?
Why does the moon shine at night?どうして月は夜輝くのかDōshite tsuki wa yoru kagayaku no ka
Why are people fooled by these schemes?何でそんな安っぽいペテンにひっかかるんだ。Nande son’na yasuppoi peten ni hikkakaru nda.
Take whatever you want.欲しいものは何でも持っていきなさい。Hoshī mono wa nandemo motte iki nasai.
What in Japanese - Nande? Nani? Nandesuka? Nandayo?

How to know if the reading is Nan or Nani?

The “what” ideogram has several readings such as: nani; nan; ka; na; do; i; ka. Some wonder when I will know that reading is nan instead of nani? Just watch if the next word starts with t, d or n, which in this case will be pronounced nan (Examples: Nanno 何の; Nandesuka 何ですか; Nande 何で; Nanto 何と).

If other particles follow the ideogram [何] as [が; を; も; ga; wo; mo] the reading will be nani. Of course, there are several exceptions for both cases, especially if what comes from the ideogram [何] is another kanji that forms a single word. There are cases where the two pronouns exist as in [何語], but beware that the meaning may change.

If what kanji proceeds from [何] is a counter, the pronunciation is nan (Examples: Nannin 人人; Nankai 何回; Nandai 何台; Nanmai 何枚). If followed by a noun you use nani (nani-iro 何色), of course there are exceptions like nanyoubi [何曜日].

Using nani to ask what or how many

The Japanese “what” [何] ideogram is often used in conjunction with other words to ask certain things such as:

EnglishJapaneseRomaji
How old?何歳ですか?nansaidesuka
What’s the number?何番nanban
What day of the week何曜日nanyoubi
What a day; How many days何日nannichi
How many words何語nango
How many minutes何分nanbun
How many people何人nannin
How many times何回nankai
How many (machine counter)何台nandai
How many (flat objects counter)何枚nanmai
What in Japanese - Nande? Nani? Nandesuka? Nandayo?

Other words derived from nani kanji

To end the article we will share a list of words related to questions that derive from the nani ideogram [何]:

JapaneseRomajiEnglish
何処dokoWhere; which place
何故nazeWhy; like
何もnanimoIs nothing; with nothing;
何でnandeWhy?; for what?
何時itsuWhen; Like
何とnantoWhat; like; whatever it is
何てnanteLike; what (exclamatory)
何方dochiraWhich way; which direction; Where
何れ[も]dore[mo]Which (in); anyone (+ も)
何かnanikaSomething; Thing
何でもnandemoAnything); whatever; I understand
何とかnantokaSomething; somehow
何れizureWhere; which; what; both; any; eventually
何回nankaiHow many times
何度nandoHow many times
何やらnanyaraSomething; some reason
何時nanjiHow many hours?
どれ位dorekuraiHow much time; How far; how much
何処までもdokomademoAnywhere; all the places; completely
何物nanimonoSomething; anything
何れ何れdoredoreWhat; let me see
何々naninaniWhat about; this and that; what what? What problem?
何でもないnandemonaiIs nothing; anything
何時までitsumadeHow much time? Until when?
何もかもnanimokamoanything; all; almost everything
何せnanise;nanseanyway
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