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One day, I asked my japanese friend how I could invite some friends to eat. He said
"一緒に食べに行くかい?"

I know that we could also say:

行きましょうか(行こうか)?
行きませんか(行かない)?
行きますか(行くの)?

but I got interested in why he used "kai".
I'd like to know others situations that japanese people use "kai"

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3  
As others have said, it's a typical familiar inflection. Importantly, it is a typical male inflection... –  Dave Aug 26 '11 at 7:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As opposed to 「か」, which is open-ended and can have any sort of answer, 「かい」 is expected to have an answer in the affirmative or negative only, that is, yes or no, with subsequent explanation optional.

Example:

 誰か来たのか
 誰か来たのかい

 誰が来たのか
× 誰が来たのかい

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could you give me an example? I still can't differenciate "kai" than "ka". yoroshiku –  daniel tomio Aug 26 '11 at 2:49
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Can't you say things like 何色が良いかい, or is this a nonstandard development? –  Matt Aug 26 '11 at 4:32
2  
That's my point, though... You can find examples of this sentence online, and they definitely don't mean "解". (Whereas, indeed, 誰が来たのかい" is very rare.) So the question is, are these usages nonstandard, or is the difference subtler than "yes/no vs open-ended"? –  Matt Aug 26 '11 at 4:43
1  
@Ignacio: It's not 解. The い is a suffix which is probably derived from よ or や, at least according to Daijisen. –  Zhen Lin Aug 26 '11 at 4:50
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can I say "一緒に行かないかい?" –  daniel tomio Aug 27 '11 at 18:29

かい is used to soften the rudeness of か in informal speech. Sentences like "見たか?" or "好きか?" are harsh to the ear, and using かい instead of か is thus nicer to the listener.

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1  
for an invitation, within friends among japanese people, is it normal to say かい like "行くかい" (or maybe "行けるかい")? –  daniel tomio Aug 28 '11 at 3:44
1  
I mean, is it more common than 「行かない?行こうか?、、、」? –  daniel tomio Aug 31 '11 at 21:24
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@Axioplase However since this is a "male-usage", how do female speakers soften the か ? –  Pacerier Mar 26 '12 at 3:23
1  
@Pacerier I think female speakers say 一緒に食べに行く? or 一緒に食べに行かない? –  Choko May 25 at 8:02
    
@danieltomio (行く)かい? / (行ける)かい? is less common than (行か)ない? / (行こ)うか? / (行こ)う(よ) etc. at least among young people. –  Choko May 25 at 13:13

I'm not so sure about the folksiness, but it's definitely very informal. I've mainly heard it used in speaking to children and intimates. I don't think it would be used toward social superiors in most situations. By the way, there's an analogous variant of the copula, だい, as in 「ママのおにぎりはどうだい?」.

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Is there any situation I could use だい, as a foreigner speaker? would it sound weird if I say it? –  daniel tomio Aug 26 '11 at 3:32
    
@daniel tomio: yes "どうだい?" is very ok. You can use it all the time you let your friends taste that cake you made, or when you decide what time to meet at (9時は、どうだい?) –  Axioplase Aug 26 '11 at 3:48

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