Context: the narrative character is attempting to find a reason explaining his past behavior.


I understand the gist of the above sentence (as seen with my translation attempt below), but I don't understand why there is a 何をどう there.

That time, what I wonder is how to think of what my behavior was?

l'électeur says here

「なに」 requires specific and detailed information whereas 「どう」 only requires rough or vague information. "Specifics vs. Overall Approach", so to speak.

Is the above a case of "specific and detailed information" being sought from the "vague information" the character gathered by thinking, or is my understanding of the 何をどう meaning wrong?

1 Answer 1


In Japanese, like in English, we can use multiple question words all at once in the same question when we want to ask for multiple bits of information.

誰が何を買ったの? → Who bought what?

誰がいつどこで何をなぜどのようにしたのですか? → Who did what where, when, in what way, and why?

In your question, the writer has combined 「何」(what) and 「どう」(how / in what way) to ask (though in the sense of your sentence, rhetorically) for multiple bits of information.

あの時 → (At) that/the time
何を → what (obj.)
どう → how / in what way
考えて → think
行動した → act (in the sense of "do something")

So I might translate



At the time, what was I thinking about what when I acted?

though this is admittedly sort of awkward sounding; unfortunately I can't really think of any nicer-sounding ways to translate this.

For reference, here are some other sentences that 「何」 and 「どう」 are used in combination that don't sound as awkward in English:

・世界を変えるエリートは何をどう学んできたのか? → What have the 'elite' that change the world come to learn, and how did they learn it?

・うまくメモを取りたいけど、何をどう書けばいいかわからない。 → I want to take good notes, but I don't know what to write, or in what way I should write it.

・自分が何をどうすべきか理解できていない人 → People who just don't get what they should do, and how they should go about doing it

・何をどう購入すると軽減税率適用? → What should you buy in what way to get the reduced tax rate?

  • So in the case of my sentence, を is being used as a 'and'? I've never seen it used in that manner before; which most likely is what tripped me up in terms of what 何をどう meant.
    – Toyu_Frey
    Nov 2, 2019 at 6:31
  • 2
    No, it is not. Please don't think of it that way. 何をどう考える is an amalgamation of 何を考える and どう考える, which just so happen to translate almost exactly the same into English, leading to the awkward translation. The を here is just indicating the object of 考える, which is 何.
    – sbkgs4686
    Nov 2, 2019 at 6:48
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    An addendum: 何を考える - think about what; どう考える - think what about (something). So 何をどう考える - think what about what.
    – sbkgs4686
    Nov 2, 2019 at 7:08

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