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, 2014 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, 2014 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


「って」 is the only correct 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 know little to nothing about. 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」.

  • "The condition is that the asker has already asked about at least one other person before asking about Tanaka": does this condition apply to all uses of は as a topic marker, or is it just for people?
    – max
    Jul 4, 2021 at 14:46

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