Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've needed to use a word "to ask" recently, and the word I decided on was [尋]{たず}ねる. But I have strong doubts that this is actually the right word to use in a situation such as this:

I would like to ask you something. (e.g. about my name, about what time it is)

Is there a better word to use than [尋]{たず}ねる for "ask" in this case? I've heard of [質問]{しつもん}する, but in both cases I can't find anything on how to use either of them in an actual sentence.

share|improve this question
I think 「聞く」is the most basic way and suits your example. Depending on context you might also want to use 尋ねる・頼む. – Aki Aug 8 '14 at 5:23
I'd also heard of 聞く, but felt like it was too similar to "to listen" (which is another way of translating the same word in different contexts). Still, thanks for confirming that choice. – Joe Z. Aug 8 '14 at 5:34
I just realized that "There's something I want to hear [from you]." and "There's something I want to ask [you]." pretty much imply the same. I never thought about it, but 聞く's different meanings do not seem that different to me now. – blutorange Aug 8 '14 at 5:56
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The single most natural verb choice among us native speakers is:

[聞]{き}く (sometimes written as 訊く)

「聞きたいことがあるんだけど、いい?」 = "Can I ask you a question?" More literally, "There is something I want to ask, OK?"

「ひとつ聞いてもいい?」 = "Can I ask you a question?" (Literally.)

「[何]{なん}でも[聞]{き}いて。」 = "Ask me anything!"

「尋ねる」, though some J-learners use it, is too big a word for everyday conversations. They should know that it sounds pretty formal.

「質問(を)する」 is used much more often than 「尋ねる」 by native speakers but we definitely use 「聞く」 more often than 「質問(を)する」 in informal situations.

share|improve this answer
Thanks a lot. I guess I'll go with 聞く then. – Joe Z. Aug 8 '14 at 5:34
For what it's worth, sometimes I get confused between the "listen" and "ask" meaning of 聞く. Also, how about 問う? – 3 to 5 business days Aug 8 '14 at 6:00
Also for reference, in a business (or other formal) setting, 伺う・お伺い is used often. Note: 伺う also carries a meaning of physically visiting someone in person. – user224579 Aug 8 '14 at 6:37
@3to5businessdays, For example, when you don't know something and you want somebody to teach / tell you about it, you 聞く someone. On the other hand, you 問う to make something sure or question someone on known things. 聞く and 問う are not replaceable. – Takumi Sueda Aug 8 '14 at 10:58

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.