hm.. does this mean "did he have children?" or "was he a child?" both seem irrelevant to the context of the book I'm learning from :/

  • Makes no sense as-is, I am afraid. Could you double-check the sentence? – l'électeur May 24 '16 at 14:00
  • il put the question with the kanji...Ive not learned much kamji so only use the kana. 山下先生は子供でしたか – Jon May 24 '16 at 14:07
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    ah ye, mistype sorry "KoDoMo" not KoKomo :/ – Jon May 24 '16 at 14:08
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    Does this page help? memrise.com/course/896001/genki-i-sentences-lessons-4-6/17 – Chocolate May 24 '16 at 15:39
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    oddly enough chocolate, yes it does, its got the same questions and answers as its from the same genki book!!! thank you !! just questions like this throw me off as its so random lol, weren't we all children at 1 point lol – Jon May 24 '16 at 16:57

「山下先生は子供でしたか?」 literally means "Was Mr. Yamashita a child?" or "Was Mr. Yamashita childish (at that time)?" 子供だ/子供です means being a child, not having a child, of course. 子供だ sometimes can metaphorically mean "childish".

"Did Mr. Yamashita have a child?" is 「山下先生には子供がいましたか?」

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    Couldn't it also express surprise that this 山下先生 had turned out to be a child, or childish? – Aeon Akechi May 24 '16 at 16:19
  • Yes, it can, depending on the context ("Wow, Mr. Yamashita is a child!?"). – naruto May 24 '16 at 16:21

Judging from the all-kana sentence, I'm guessing that this is a beginner question, and as naruto answered, it means "Was Mr. Yamashita a child?" without any other context.

That said, and just for the fun of scaring beginners, this sentence can also mean "Does Mr. Yamashita have children?", specifically "You, Mr. Yamashita, have children, right?"



This is variation on the 僕はうなぎです scenario, for those familiar with it.

  • Thank you, so I was right in presuming it meant either 1 of those, I'm learning from the genki book. and its talking about Yamashita sensei 25 years ago. You have to answer the Japanese questions about the teacher. What confused the hell out of me was that in the information (in English) about the teacher, it did not involve anything to do with children (having or being) and from the info it tells you mr Yamashita was 22 at that time, so he wasn't a child. Thank you for the quick response :D – Jon May 24 '16 at 16:47
  • Before we go rushing in that direction, I'd be very surprised to find a beginners textbook using this kind of structure. I think it would help if you posted the whole conversation. – Marc Adler May 24 '16 at 17:51
  • chocolate sent the link for the conversation memrise.com/course/896001/genki-i-sentences-lessons-4-6/17 but I'm working from the text book – Jon May 24 '16 at 18:13
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    The response to the question is that he wasn't a child, though, so there's no logical inconsistency here. The question does mean "Was Mr. Yamashita a child?" – Marc Adler May 24 '16 at 18:51

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