Why do we say 何と言いますか as opposed to どうやって言いますか or something along the those lines when asking how to say something? The first seems to be "Say what?" while the second would seem to me to say "How to say?"

  • Your Japanese contains a spelling mistake (twice).
    – Earthliŋ
    Feb 22, 2015 at 19:01
  • Whoops, fixed it.
    – user3457
    Feb 22, 2015 at 19:02
  • 1
    possible duplicate of What's the difference between なんと and どう
    – istrasci
    Feb 22, 2015 at 19:18
  • It also makes more sense, if you think about it. To how to say one might as well answer with your mouth, but what to say gives no chance for being smart-assed.
    – blutorange
    Feb 22, 2015 at 19:35
  • It is perfectly natural in English to say "What does one say/call...?" just like "How does one say/call...?"
    – Kimball
    Feb 22, 2015 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


One of the most basic structures for naming an object in Japanese is:

これは~といいます。 ---- This is called ~. / This is ~.

For example:

これは急須といいます。 ---- This is called a kyusu. / This is a kyusu.

Hence the interrogative:


simply by replacing the noun part with 何 and adding a か at the end.

BTW どうやって言いますか sounds as if you are asking about the manner of telling someone something; like, visiting him/her, or making a phone call, or just texting to him/her,...etc.

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