Studying Japanese on my own, I've learned that in order to make a question, you usually add the particle "~か", like this:


It's also true that a question can be asked without it, using the rising tone of voice.

But then I found out that in certain contexts, the use of "~か" can be seen as sarcastic. My questions are:

  1. Is this actually true?
  2. And how do we decide when to choose which alternative?

Reference sites are appreciated.

4 Answers 4


You may want to look here and here.

Outside of polite language, か should be used with care. Generally, it has a very masculine and rough sounding atmosphere. Generally, in informal language, it only used when being very direct or sarcastic.

Here's a good example taken from the second link:

そんなのは、あるかよ!(Do you think (I) would have that kind of thing!?)

Either way, it doesn't have a really "happy" tone to it.

Hope I helped :)

  • Thanks for your answer and the link! It seems the most complete to me. +1 and accepted.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 7:29

If you drop か, your rising intonation will indicate a question.

  • 今何時ですか。- canonical polite form
  • 今何時です- slightly less formal, feminine form.
  • 今何時- casual
  • 今何時だ- demanding and rude. Doesn't require rising intonation. Just watch something with gangsters and you'll hear it :)
  • how will it seem to you if a guy uses 今何時です?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 11:22
  • also.. do you happen to have any clips showing the intonation of 今何時? (i've tried using a rising intonation but i just can't do it)
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 11:24

The difference is more or less whether you're using casual forms or polite forms. With polite forms like your example question, it's a straightforward question. With a casual form like 今何時か it might be seen a little rude, or that you're expressing surprise/frustration.

In casual speech if you want to ask a straightforward question you should use the rising tone of voice or the explanation-seeking の?

  • 1
    Although I would add that IME ending your questions in の can be seen to be a little feminine.
    – Ali
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 20:58
  • @Ali isn't it only feminine if you're stating a fact with の? I was under the impression from Tae Kim's guide that asking a question with の was unisex.
    – sartak
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 21:04
  • 1
    Just did a quick native check, according to the missus it's a lot 'softer' and so men tend not to use it. Women and old men apparently do use it as a question marker, so take that for what it's worth. Corroborates with my experience in Japan too but YMMV.
    – Ali
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 21:09

Slightly different, but on topic I believe: You in should never double up and write both か and a question mark, like so:

どこですか? (bad!)

It is better to use only one. Either the question mark if it is transcribed speech, or the か for formal texts, or even a の if you try to be less brisk or more feminine.

  • Common mistake! Never really thought about it but you're right, you never see か and a question mark together.
    – Ali
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 22:31
  • 6
    I do not know what grammarians say, but “どこですか?” is perfectly acceptable as long as daily usage is concerned. It is more of the matter of style than the matter of correctness. Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 6:23
  • I agree with @TsuyoshiIto. Also, I find か followed by ?in books so it cannot be a "never" rule.
    – Szymon
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 13:24

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