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Let's say I see a wallet on the ground and a person I suspect dropped it. In English I would naturally ask" Excuse me. Is this your wallet?" A direct Japanese translation would be"すみませんあなたの財布ですか" but time and time again I hear that using "あなた" is rude. How then do I get around this in case the person a complete stranger?

  • So are you just asking about directness/rudeness of あなた, or are you really asking about a dropped wallet? – istrasci Jul 3 at 15:28
  • @istrasci I want to know how to ask a stranger in a polite way if he dropped the wallet I found on the ground. I'd normally ask "is this your wallet?" but since the " あなた" is considered something rude to tell a stranger, what's the alternative? – Keen Jul 3 at 16:15
  • Honestly, あなた is not that rude here, though it of course doesn’t hurt to avoid it. – Darius Jahandarie Jul 3 at 17:59
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Ask without あなた (Avoid direct translation).

Japanese expressions will work without the pronoun in one-to-one conversations. If I actually saw a person dropped a wallet, then I would reach the person and say in statement form:

あの、すみません、財布おとしましたよ。
Um, excuse me. [You] dropped [a/your] wallet.

Then again, if I suspect the person dropped a wallet, or if I am not sure who dropped it, then I would reach whomever I saw near by and say in question form:

あの、すみません、財布おとしましたか?
Um, excuse me. Did [you] drop [a/your] wallet?

No need for the pronoun, use either the statement form or the question form.

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