How to say “who are you?” in JapaneseJapanese native speakers would use the expression, “dare desu ka”, to say ‘who are you?’ in Japanese. This is one of the most well-known expressions among Japanese learners, I think. Depending on the situation, however, it can sound casual, impolite, or perhaps rude. In this blog post, therefore, I will explain how to say it politely after explaining “dare desu ka” in detail based on its components. My explanations would help Japanese learners to avoid awkward conversations with first-met people. Let’s get started!
- Definition and meaning of “dare desu ka”
- Components of “dare desu ka”
- Example #1: how to say “who is he?” in Japanese
- Example #2: how to say “who are YOU?” in Japanese
- How to say “who are you?” politely in Japanese
- How to say “who are you?” more politely in Japanese
Definition and meaning of “dare desu ka”First of all, let me start with the definition and meaning of “dare desu ka”.
- dare desu ka – 誰ですか (だれですか) : a Japanese expression for ‘who are you?’, ‘who is he?’, ‘who is she?’, or perhaps ‘who are they?’
Components of “dare desu ka”Below are the components used in “dare desu ka”.
- dare – 誰 (だれ) : an indefinite pronoun meaning ‘who’ in Japanese. It is quite similar to the English pronoun. It can also be used alone to make the one word question, ‘who?’
- desu – です : an auxiliary verb put after a noun or adjective to make it polite. Probably, it is well known as a part of Japanese desu form. In the expression, it is put after the pronoun, “dare”, to make it sound polite.
- ka – か : a sentence-ending particle put at the end of a sentence to make a question. Normally, it is used with the pitch raised. As its definition suggests, it is put at the end of the expression to make the question.
Then, let me explain how to use this expression through the example conversation below.
Example #1: how to say “who is he?” in JapaneseBelow is the conversation between two Japanese: Haru and Aki.
- kare – 彼 (かれ) : a pronoun meaning ‘he’ in Japanese.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. In the example, it is put after the pronoun, “kare”, to make the subject word.
- Takashi – タカシ (たかし) : a Japanese male name.
Example #2: how to say “who are YOU?” in Japanese
- anata – あなた : a pronoun meaning ‘you’ in Japanese.
In conversations with first-met people, Japanese native speakers try to use indirect expressions, as these sound softer and more polite. In other words, direct expressions sound stronger and perhaps rude. “Anata wa dare desu ka” is, for sure, a direct expression, so sounds strong. This is what native speakers try to avoid. So, I do not recommend this expression to Japanese learners. To avoid awkward situations with first-met people, we should use a softer and more polite expression.
How to say “who are you?” politely in JapaneseWhen Japanese people need to say “who are you?” in Japanese. They would use the following polite expression.
- donata – どなた : an honorific expression of “dare”.
This expression is polite enough. Yet, in more formal situations, a more polite expression would be better.
How to say “who are you?” more politely in Japanese
- deshou – でしょう : the combination of the auxiliary verb, “desu”, and another auxiliary verb, “u”. In this case, the auxiliary verb, “u”, is used to make “desu” sound softer and more indirect. This combination is often used instead of “desu” in order to ask, request, or offer something in a more polite way in Japanese. In this regard, its usage is a bit similar to English modal verbs like “may”, “might”, “can”, “could”, or “would”.
SummaryIn this blog post, I’ve explained the Japanese question: “dare desu ka”. And also, I’ve explained its more polite expressions. Let me summarize them as follows.
- dare desu ka – 誰ですか (だれですか) : a Japanese expression for ‘who are you?’, ‘who is he?’, ‘who is she?’, or perhaps ‘who are they?’ It doesn’t contain any word referring to a particular person, so its meaning can vary depending on the situation and context. To make its meaning clear, we can use the combination of a pronoun and a particle before it.
- donata desu ka – どなたですか : a polite expression of “dare desu ka”. “Donata” is an honorific expression of “dare”.
- donata deshou ka – どなたでしょうか : a polite expression of “donata desu ka”. “Deshou” is a softened expression of “desu”. So, this expression sounds more polite than “donata desu ka”.
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