One of my textbook says: だ and  か can not be used together, like:

Example: これは本か。(Is this a book?)

You can NOT say: これは本だか。

The textbook also says:

疑問詞(ぎもんし)(どれ、どちら、どなた、どこ、だれ、いつ etc) When used in a sentence with か, you should not use だ.

Another example: どの人が李先生か知っていますか。

You can NOT say: どの人が李先生だか知っていますか。

However, when I surf the Japanese websites, I noticed sentences like this:

この人だれか分かりますか? Here, だ and  か is used together.

Isn't it supposed to be この人だれか分かりますか?

Does that mean the textbook is not accurate?

  • か is used with 〜のだ as well. 「何の話をしてるんだか。」「まだ二十歳そこらで何をいってるんだか…」「いいんだか悪いんだか」(ISBN-13: 978-4167476410) – blutorange Dec 21 '14 at 16:18

You can write だか in an embedded clause (usually containing a question word such as どの or だれ) which is a complement of a verb such as 分かる. In a main clause, you must omit だ before か.

So I think you can say:


  • What is a matrix clause? I understand based on context, but I've never heard the term. – rintaun Nov 21 '13 at 11:15
  • 1
    @rintaun It's a synonym for main clause (or independent clause) as opposed to subordinate clause (or dependent clause, or indeed embedded clause). – Earthliŋ Nov 21 '13 at 13:55
  • This is the only answer that gives the actual rule for when this is allowed. Other answers are misleading because they make it sound like it's always allowed. – Darius Jahandarie Nov 22 '13 at 3:37
  • I would say that strictly grammatically it probably -could- be allowed everywhere, but common usage has restricted it to subordinate clauses. My reasoning for this is that だか is of course short for であるか, and であるか is valid anywhere. I would say this restriction is similar to how だ accepts -some- particles that require 連体形, but not all - the others requiring なの. – Kafka Fuura Nov 27 '13 at 1:45
  • @KafkaFuura Your reasoning is not correct, though. であるか and だか don't have the same distribution, even though the latter is a contracted form of the former. – snailplane Nov 27 '13 at 1:46

You can use だ and か together. I think だか is short for であるか. For native speakers, であるか sounds like a formal speech. So we often use だか.

For example, of course you can say


but you can also say


so your textbook is wrong, and


is also Okay, but this is a little bit formal. (maybe young people don't say so.)

Another example, you can say both of



There's no difference between them. However


is strange. Because in the latter part, it uses であるか so this sentence should be formal, but in the former, は or が is omitted. So



is Okay, but I don't usually say so to my friends.

Now, turn back to the main topic. As far as I have mentioned, it seems there is no difference between だ and だか, but unfortunately it is not true. Actually, you can say


but you cannot say


This is difficult to explain, but probably because many people feel a sentence doesn't end by だか. Actually, if I heard the latter, I would think "What is Hondaka?". To sum up, these are basically the same but don't end a sentence with だか.


だか is used with question words all the time by us native speakers. However, you need to know that it is used almost exclusively in informal speech as the more formal forms are であるか and であるのか.

Examples: (Note that I will make the sentences informal on purpose so that だか fits in naturally.)

「何が何だかさっぱりわかんねえ。」= "Dunno what the heck's going on."

「これ、どこのワインだかわかる?」= "Can you tell where this wine comes from?"

「なぜだか教えてくれ!」= "Do tell me why!"

  • Can you say : これは本だかどうか知りません。This sentences sound strange. Is it correct? – James King Nov 27 '13 at 12:10
  • @JamesKing これが本かどうか知りません would sound better. – user1016 Nov 29 '13 at 12:42

It sounds like you are learning and still in the relatively early stages in which case your text book is introducing you to new grammar step by step.

If you look a few chapters ahead you will probably be introduced to more complex sentences such as:

いくつあるか知りません | I don't know how many there are.

いくらだか知りません | I don't know how much it is.

だれだったか忘れました。| I forgot who it was.

These came up in chapter 26 of one my first text books (p338 of an Introduction to Modern Japanese, which is quite old).

As you can see from the other answers, these are first steps to more complex uses.

I would suggest you take it step by step (but at a pace you feel comfortable with!). As you come across new more complex but useful phrases that you can remember, learn them as set-phrases. You probably know a few already (どういたしまして?). When you get to study the grammar in your studies, it will be a bit easier because you will have passively built up a feel for it. It is quite easy to study lots of new grammatical rules and feel you understand them but harder to adopt them all at once (or at least that was my experience).

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