why in Japanese

6 appropriate ways to ask why in Japanese without making it sound rude or offensive.

Are you planning to visit Japan for study or work purposes? If so, one thing that is going to benefit you the most is learning to ask why in Japanese. These questions are very culturally specific. One thing that is acceptable in one culture may seem offensive in another one.  It is feasible for you to learn Japanese online before getting into a foreign culture.

Visiting a foreign country will always bring some cultural differences. Every culture has its own norms and values. For instance, in western culture asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ may seem normal but its meaning and perception change in the Japanese culture.

So the questions arise how is it possible to ask such questions without offending the Japanese people? For this, you need to undergo some research and you can seek professional learning from professional and reputable language learning websites. Italki is a language learning website with its prime focus on speaking practice. It has a large strength of professional online Japanese tutors that provide the best learning experience with one-on-one sessions. These instructors guide the best ways to learn to speak Japanese so that the learners can have literary plus practical knowledge building at the same time.

You need to understand the Japanese culture before exploring the ways to ask why in Japanese. Japanese people mostly remain quiet. In the majority of the cases, asking why in Japanese culture is considered to be rude and offensive. Asking how is also considered a sign of ignorance.

They are silent people brought up with the lesson that silence is golden. It is the learning process that takes time while it may seem totally different in the case of western people. Now let us move toward the Japanese phrases to ask ‘why’.

Japanese phrases to Ask “Why” in Japanese

When you learn Japanese, the first thing being taught is that you can ask ‘why’ as どうして. But there are different ways to ask ‘why’ in Japanese. These ways range from formal to informal nature depending on whom you are having a conversation with.

If you do not want to sound like a clueless person, you must know which phrase to use under given circumstances.

All the phrases mentioned below mean ‘why’ in Japanese. But let us start with the formal ones first.

1. なぜ

This is the most formal way of asking ‘why’ in Japanese. You can use this phrase in formal writings such as websites, reports, magazines, essays, books, etc. This phrase is not used in daily conversations and is mostly geared toward professional settings.

For example:

In the book in Japan, the author used なぜ in the books title rather than どうして, because the book is considered a formal piece.  

2.    どうして

You can use this phrase in your daily routine anymore. It is an informal and soft phrase. But do not mix it with どうしたの which means what is wrong.

Some examples of this phrase include:

どうして泣くの? (どうして なくの?)

Why are you crying?


Why is it?

If you want to ask why in a polite way, just add ですか in the end. This is the safest way to ask why in Japanese.

3. 何のために (なんのために)

This phrase is neutral and quite similar to どうして. Japanese people mostly use these phrases when they ask rhetorical questions.

For example:

みんなお金をできるだけたくさん稼ぎたがっているけど、お金って何のために稼ぐの?(みんな おかねをできるだけ たくさん かせぎたがっているけど、おかねって なんのために かせぐの?)

Everyone wants to earn as much money as possible, but what for?

何のためにここへ来たの? (なんのために ここへ きたの?)

What has brought you here? / What are you here for?

4. 何で (なんで)

This phrase is a casual one. It is mostly used with close friends and family. It is a bit rough so avoid it using in your workplace where it is necessary for you to be polite.

Example of this phrase:

何でそんなことをするの? (なんで そんなことをするの?)

Why do you do something like that?

5. どんな訳で (どんなわけで) or どんな理由で (どんなりゆうで)

These two phrases are very formal. Even when used it speech, they seem very formal and severe. These phrases are not used often in daily conversations. This is because if you ask these questions it sounds as if you are at fault so it is very important to use these phrases carefully.

Exemplary sentence of how this phrase is used:

どんな訳で来たのですか? (どんなわけで きたのですか?)

Why have you come?

どんな理由でここにいるのですか?(どんなりゆうで ここに いるのですか?)

Why are you here? / For what reason are you here?

6. どういう訳で (どういうわけで) or どういう理由で (どういうりゆうで)

These two phrases are also quite formal. They must be used carefully as they have an element of finger pointing.

Examples of these phrases include:

どういう訳で辞職するのですか?(どういうわけで じしょく するのですか?)

Why do you wish to resign?

どういう訳で遅刻したのですか?(どういうわけで ちこく したのですか?)

Why are you late?

どういう理由で泣いたの?(どういうりゆうで ないたの?)

For what reason did you cry?

彼が日本から来たというあなたの判断は、どういう理由で?(かれが にほんから きたという あなたの はんだんは、どういうりゆうで?)

This sentence means “Why did you decide that he was from Japan?” or “Based on what reasons did you decide he was from Japan?”

If you still need more guidance regarding these phrases and other factors such as Japanese punctuation marks, visit italki. You will get the video lesson classes at very affordable prices.


Most people are confused regarding various languages and the extent of their use. They get confused about whether they need to learn Korean or Japanese. Well, it depends upon the direction you have set and the goal that you want to achieve. To learn Japanese it is very essential to learn about Japanese culture first.