I'm confused because in sites like this one.

They define 何ですか as what and なぜですか as why. But in other sides I saw 何ですか defined as why too.

So, what would be the best way to handle the question in the title (I'm open to other options.)

Example conversation:

Speaker A: Dude, you're being cringey now.

Speaker B: Why (do you say that)?

  • I wouldn't use either of those as Speaker B...
    – istrasci
    May 10, 2018 at 14:26
  • @istrasci why not? I mean, is there a better way to handle that? Maybe どうしてそう思うか? May 10, 2018 at 15:02
  • 1
    I'd probably say something like えっ、なんで?It seems most natural for casual conversation.
    – tcallred
    May 10, 2018 at 15:18
  • 2
    ^ @eric ううん、「どうしてそう思う ?」なんて言わない。
    – chocolate
    May 10, 2018 at 15:18
  • 1
    @ericfromabeno こういうのは、「か」は「どうしてそう思いますか」とかのほうが使うんだね
    – psosuna
    May 11, 2018 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


The most natural response to that would be probably be some form of why: なぜ, なんで, or どうして. But 何ですか would make sense if you interpreted it as "What is it (in my conduct that you think is cringey)?" In both cases you're asking for some sort of explanation but with a different nuance. The likely reason for 何ですか being considered a "why" is because in some contexts you can use it to get an explanation but not always.

Basically, if you want reasons you should ask with a "why" question, and if you want things you should ask a "what" question.

  • 1
    So なぜ, なんで, or どうして are like the short/informal versions of なぜですか ?
    – alex
    May 10, 2018 at 15:13
  • 2
    @alex Yes. By themselves they are informal but they can all be made formal by adding ですか after them.
    – tcallred
    May 10, 2018 at 15:15

何ですか doesn't mean "why", but 何でですか? or simply 何で? mean "why".

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