In English it would be strange to have more than one "WH question" word in a sentence,

For example:

Tomorrow, where are we meeting, at what time and to do what ?

It sounds like it's grammatical English, but nevertheless it sure sounds odd (or an intentional joke) at best.

In Japanese, what is the stand on sentences that has more than one "WH" word? e.g:


  • 3
    You left out "誰と".(笑) Apart from making the hypothetical questioner sound like a pretty clueless person, I don't see any problem with it.
    – rdb
    Sep 14, 2011 at 9:56
  • @rdb lol that's a good one. Fancy asking 4 questions in a single sentence!
    – Pacerier
    Sep 14, 2011 at 17:13

2 Answers 2


It's fine, although, as in English, if you stack up too many you end up with something faintly ridiculous, of course. (This can even be emphasised for humorous purposes: try Googling "地球が何回回った時").

Still, I would say that Japanese is more tolerant of multiple WH- words in a sentence than English is, maybe because in Japanese the WH- words can be left in place rather than fronted, and so the result is less structurally remarkable.

(Come to think of it, in English, too, multiple WH- words don't seem particularly objectionable when they're in a non-fronted structure: "You went WHERE with WHO?" "Wait, who said what to who now?" etc.)


Multiple wh-question is fine in any language as far as I am aware of. The relevant parts in the answer are related by some function or are lists.

A: Who is meeting whom where when to do what tomorrow?
B: John is meeting Bill at 3:00 at school to review the class [single answer]
B': John is meeting Bill at 3:00 at school to review the class, Tom is meeting Dave at 1:30 in front of the tree to go to the gym, ... [list answer]
B'': The first graders are meething their caretakers in the hall at 2:00 to talk about next week. [functional answer]

A: 明日、誰がいつ何処で何のために誰と会うの?
B: ジョンが三時に学校でビルと復習するために会うんだよ。 [single answer]
B': ジョンが三時に学校でビルと復習するために、トムがデーブと一時半に木の前で運動しにいくために、... [list answer]
B'': 一年生たちが二時に集会場でそれぞれの保護者と来週の打ち合わせのために会うんだよ。 [functional answer]

In languages like English, one wh-phrase moves to the beginning of the sentence. In languages like Japanese, none of the wh-phrase is obligatorily moved. In languages like Serbo-Croatian, all of the wh-phrases move to the beginning of the sentence.

  • 1
    I feel that "Who is meeting whom where when to do what tomorrow?" is a bizarre way of asking this question in English, and therefore this answer muddies the issue of how natural it is in Japanese. (You might be able to get away with that question by putting stress on each question word; in that case the implication is frustrated confusion.) More normally, this sentence would be broken up. "Who's meeting who tomorrow? When and where are they meeting, and what are they meeting for?" ... or perhaps ... "Who's meeting who tomorrow? Where, when, and to do what?"
    – Hyperworm
    Sep 14, 2011 at 14:54
  • @Hyperworm If you split the sentence like that, then you would not be able to respond with a list or a functional answer.
    – user458
    Sep 14, 2011 at 15:20
  • @sawa Heys thanks for the answer =D Btw why did you choose to write 何処 instead of どこ ?
    – Pacerier
    Sep 14, 2011 at 17:21
  • @Pacerier Either way is okay. My Japanese input method gives me that conversion, so there is no way that I should avoid it. But in handwriting, I would probably rarely use the kanji one.
    – user458
    Sep 14, 2011 at 22:39
  • @sawa ok thx =D
    – Pacerier
    Sep 15, 2011 at 5:25

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