For example I find myself saying things like:

What did you win, bro?

I could leave out the "bro" and the sentence would be complete but I unconsciously add emphasis with the subject again because it's the way I speak.

In a conversation, would it be okay to do the same in Japanese for emphasis as well? Something like:


I'm unsure since in Japanese you can omit the subject altogether. Or maybe it just doesn't sound or translate the same, thoughts?

  • 3
    What do you mean by win? "Win (a prize / a million yen in a lottery / etc)" is not 勝つ but 当てる in Japanese.
    – naruto
    Sep 25, 2014 at 16:06
  • 3
    "bro" is in this context a vocative. Are you asking if you can use vocatives when asking Japanese questions?
    – virmaior
    Sep 25, 2014 at 16:12
  • @virmaior Yes, that's right.
    – Tek
    Sep 25, 2014 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


As virmaior said in the comments, "bro" in this sentence is a vocative - it's used to address "bro". It's not the subject of the sentence. The subject of the English sentence is "you".

Vocatives' natural position is at the end or beginning of a sentence. In writing, you usually put a comma to separate it. When speaking, you make a short pause.


What did you win, bro?

to me looks better written as


(Note, I changed the structure of the sentence based on 非回答者's comment below.)

As for omitting or adding a vocative, yes, you can use it or not, not very dissimilar to English:

何が当たったの、兄貴? What did you win, bro?

兄貴、何が当たったの? Bro, what did you win?

何が当たったの? What did you win?

  • I'm not sure if 兄貴 is the best word for "bro". Please correct if it's wrong.
    – Szymon
    Sep 25, 2014 at 21:43
  • Err yea, I have to agree with Szymon. I've literally never heard anyone speak like this. I think that よ might be what you're looking for - 何を当てたのよ (but tbh, in speaking I think just leaving it at の is normal)
    – user5083
    Sep 25, 2014 at 23:37
  • 1
    @Monburan Completely different meaning, really. Makes it sound accusatory. Sep 26, 2014 at 1:24
  • 1
    @Monburan It can be used in a friendly manner among closer friends, but when it's at the end of the sentence like that, it has the same flavor as "なんだよ、お前" or "何をしたんだよ、お前", which can of course still be said among friends but it's sort of a playful accusation in that case (IMO -- not a native speaker either :-). Sep 26, 2014 at 1:48
  • 2
    @snailboat Well, the OP did provide "bro", so while we could choose to ignore that, it's not like they didn't provide necessary context, I think. (It is at least pretty apparent to me the intended usage of "bro" there.) Sep 26, 2014 at 1:49

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