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Studying Japanese on my own, I've learned that in order to make a question, you usually add the particle "~か", like this:

今何時ですか。

It's also true that a question can be asked without it, using the rising tone of voice.

But then I found out that in certain contexts, the use of "~か" can be seen as sarcastic. My questions are:

  1. Is this actually true?
  2. And how do we decide when to choose which alternative?

Reference sites are appreciated.

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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You may want to look here and here.

Outside of polite language, か should be used with care. Generally, it has a very masculine and rough sounding atmosphere. Generally, in informal language, it only used when being very direct or sarcastic.

Here's a good example taken from the second link:

そんなのは、あるかよ!(Do you think (I) would have that kind of thing!?)

Either way, it doesn't have a really "happy" tone to it.

Hope I helped :)

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Thanks for your answer and the link! It seems the most complete to me. +1 and accepted. –  Alenanno Sep 3 '11 at 7:29
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Slightly different, but on topic I believe: You in should never double up and write both か and a question mark, like so:

どこですか? (bad!)

It is better to use only one. Either the question mark if it is transcribed speech, or the か for formal texts, or even a の if you try to be less brisk or more feminine.

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Common mistake! Never really thought about it but you're right, you never see か and a question mark together. –  Ali May 31 '11 at 22:31
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I do not know what grammarians say, but “どこですか?” is perfectly acceptable as long as daily usage is concerned. It is more of the matter of style than the matter of correctness. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 1 '11 at 6:23
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If you drop か, your rising intonation will indicate a question.

  • 今何時ですか。- canonical polite form
  • 今何時です- slightly less formal, feminine form.
  • 今何時- casual
  • 今何時だ- demanding and rude. Doesn't require rising intonation. Just watch something with gangsters and you'll hear it :)
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how will it seem to you if a guy uses 今何時です? –  Pacerier Jun 17 '11 at 11:22
    
also.. do you happen to have any clips showing the intonation of 今何時? (i've tried using a rising intonation but i just can't do it) –  Pacerier Jun 17 '11 at 11:24
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The difference is more or less whether you're using casual forms or polite forms. With polite forms like your example question, it's a straightforward question. With a casual form like 今何時か it might be seen a little rude, or that you're expressing surprise/frustration.

In casual speech if you want to ask a straightforward question you should use the rising tone of voice or the explanation-seeking の?

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Although I would add that IME ending your questions in の can be seen to be a little feminine. –  Ali May 31 '11 at 20:58
    
@Ali isn't it only feminine if you're stating a fact with の? I was under the impression from Tae Kim's guide that asking a question with の was unisex. –  sartak May 31 '11 at 21:04
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Just did a quick native check, according to the missus it's a lot 'softer' and so men tend not to use it. Women and old men apparently do use it as a question marker, so take that for what it's worth. Corroborates with my experience in Japan too but YMMV. –  Ali May 31 '11 at 21:09
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