I didn't find any questions about this, except for this one, but it's not really the same thing.

I've seen the phrase 「知るか」 a few times in anime and manga before and I've always interpreted it as "as if I'd know!".

Recently I came across the phrase 「口が裂けても言うものか」. It confused me a bit because of the conditional that didn't seem to work in a word-for-word translation, but when I searched it on Google, 「口が裂けても言わない」 showed up as a set phrase that means essentially "to keep quiet (about something) no matter what".

So I would translate 「口が裂けても言うものか」 to "as if I'd say that/as if that's something I'd say!". Is that correct?

Finally, I was wondering: is 「知るか」 basically 「知らない」, and 「口が裂けても言うものか」 basically 「口が裂けても言わないもの」, but rude/accusatory? Is it the same for similar exclamatory phrases?

For example, would 「楽しいことか!」, in contrast to 「なんと楽しいことか!」, mean "this isn't fun!"?


1 Answer 1


知るか and 口が裂けても言うものか are both Japanese rhetorical questions. The actual meaning is 知らない ("I don't care", "None of my business") and 口が裂けても言わない ("I won't say it no matter what"), respectively.

楽しいことか sounds unnatural, but you can form a rhetorical question like 楽しいわけがあるか, 楽しいものか or 楽しいはずがあるか, which actually means 楽しいわけがない ("No way it's fun"). なんと楽しいことか is something positive like "How fun!".

There may be no syntactical difference between Japanese normal questions and rhetorical questions. For example 行くか can be a normal question ("Are you going?", "Should we go now?") or a rhetorical question ("Who goes?", "How come I have to go?") depending on the context. Still, some expressions like ~ものか, ~もんか, ~わけがあるか, ~はずがあるか, ~なんてことがあるか, ~かよ and so on are almost always associated with rhetorical questions, so you can assume the actual implication is the opposite. These are always emphatic, but not necessarily offending or accusatory.

  • Ah, so that 「もの」 is a sentence ending particle? I thought it was a noun, that's why I used 「こと」 later. Could I say 「楽しいものか!」 then? Or just the phrases you wrote? Can I actually put a noun after the verb or adjective and before the 「か」? Like 「悪い人かよ」, meaning "I'm not a bad person". Or is it unnatural? Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 19:19
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    @E.Matsunaga Please see this and the questions liked to it. You can say 楽しいもんか, 知るものか, and so on, too.
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 23:07
  • I'm still a little confused as to why 「楽しいことか」 sounds unnatural, mainly because I've heard the phrase 「知ることかよ」 before. It was in a song, though. Is it because 「楽しい」 is an adjective? You edited your answer, but before you said "fun is a tricky noun". Is that somehow related? Even though I meant 「楽しいこと」 as "something fun", so it might've just been a misunderstanding. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 0:01
  • @naruto while I 100% agree with your explanation of these structures as rhetorical questions, I am a little hesitant to agree with the final point in your original answer. In my experience these sentence endings are almost always used with an air of contempt. For example I'd translate 知るもんか as "Yeah like I'm supposed to know that." or "And exactly how was I supposed to know that?". I'd argue similarly for 口金裂けても言うものか, but I'm having a hard time coming up with any examples of these structures free of any contempt that aren't 独り言 and am really curious to hear your thoughts!
    – sbkgs4686
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 1:23
  • @E.Matsunaga I initially said "tricky" because "It's fun" is difficult to translating using a noun, but as you said, if you are thinking 楽しいことか in relation to something like 知ったことか, then that fact is irrelevant for now. But sorry, it's hard for me to logically explain why 楽しいことか sounds wrong to me...
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 1:31

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