I'm looking through JLPT N3 questions and have come across this one:

A: ねえ (   ) どんなひと?
B: とても親切でいい人だよ

The possible answers are:

  1. 田中さん
  2. 田中さん
  3. 田中さんって
  4. 田中さんでも

Number 4 makes no sense at all. "Tanaka-san but"?

Number 2 is a bit weird. We're not doing anything with Tanaka. It is wrong.

However, my instinct was that number 1 was correct. It is not. 3 is. I understand the use of って。 Its saying on the subject of whatever->this. But が also seems that it would work fine. Tanaka is the object we're talking about.

Why is 1 so wrong and 3 has to be right?

Also, would は be strictly okay in this sentence?

  • 1
    I don't think が works here, although は would be OK. The reason is basically the complement of why だれは is wrong and だれが is right. – Zhen Lin Jul 2 '14 at 7:05
  • 2
    田中さんでも means "Even Tanaka-san", not "Tanaka-san but". The でも is a particle/助詞, not a conjunction/接続詞. – user1016 Jul 2 '14 at 16:59

「って」 is the only correct (and possible) answer here.

When someone asks the question 「ねえ, 田中さん(   )どんなひと?」, the asker should basically have no knowledge of Tanaka, correct?

That is where the topic-introducing 「って」 comes into place --- "this Tanaka guy", "this guy called --- what was his name, Tanaka?", etc.

Using 「が」 is very unnatural (I would call it plain wrong, actually) when asking about something/someone you do not know. You say 「これなんですか。」 and never 「これなんですか。」.

Regarding 「は」, which is not among the choices given, it is "possible" to use it. BUT it requires a certain condition under which the question 「ねえ、田中さんはどんな人?」 is asked. The condition is that the asker has already asked about at least one other person before asking about Tanaka. If Tanaka is the only (or first) person you are asking about, the only correct choice is to use 「って」.

  • I suppose that to use 「これはなんですか」correctly, it's not necessary to ask about something else before that. If that's true, then why 「田中さんはどんな人」 is subject to this restriction? – null Jul 3 '14 at 4:21
  • so its a cultural usage thing rather than a strict grammar thing? Asking about people its just the case that you shouldn't use ga? The image I had in my head was of one person showing the other photos and Tanaka caught person A's eye, she wanted to know more about him, hence ga to say he is the one she wants to know about. – user2422320 Jul 3 '14 at 14:24
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    @user2422320 You don't say これ何ですか for "What's this?" or XX英語で何ですか for "What's XX in English?". Likewise you don't say 田中さん誰ですか / 田中さんどんな人ですか, either. – user1016 Jul 5 '14 at 8:56
  • 1
    日常会話で「これって何?」「この人って誰?」は、「これ、何?」「この人、誰?」「これは何ですか」「この人は誰ですか」にはないニュアンスが含まれることがあるので、全く同じような気持ちで使わないほうがいいと思います。 – user1016 Jul 5 '14 at 9:38
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    丁寧にすると・・・「佐藤さんとは(≒佐藤さんという方は)、どんな方ですか?」「~~で、~~なかたです。」「そうですか。では、田中さんどんな方ですか? 」 – user1016 Jul 5 '14 at 9:45

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