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Whose car is it?

A: Kuruma wa dare no desu ka?

B: Dare no kuruma desu ka?

I'm just a beginner but I'm sure these two expressions mean the same thing.

viz. Whose car is it?

I feel that A is more colloquial than B, would I be right?

Version A is how I would have translated the expression.

How would you have translated it?

Is there a more of a nuanced different between these two versions?

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I think there are some nuances here. They are hard to translate into English.

Kuruma wa dare no desu ka? That car - whose is it? By putting 'kuruma' at the front of the sentence I am emphasising it. I would use this if there were a number of vehicles in front of us and I wanted to ask specifically about the car rather than the bicycle or the bus.

Dare no kuruma desu ka? Who does that car belong to? Perhaps we've already been talking about the car or perhaps it's the only vehicle in front of us. What I want to know about is the person who it belongs to.

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Since some context has been omitted, we will assume that the car being referenced is directly before the speaker and listener, making 'this' the relevant adjective for purposes of translation.

Also omitted is the noun (kuruma) following 'no' in the first sentence and the topic in the second sentence. While this is completely natural, especially in spoken Japanese, when formulating a 'complete sentence' and when translating, what is omitted should still be considered.

A. (Kono) kuruma wa dare no (kuruma) desu ka? (This) Car is whose (car)?
B. (Kore wa / Kono kuruma wa) Dare no kuruma desu ka? (This / This car is) Whose car?

If we look at both 'completed' sentences above we can see that they are saying the exact same thing, namely: Kono kuruma wa dare no kuruma desu ka? What has been omitted for the sake of brevity, naturalness, politeness, or personal preference is what makes them different. I wouldn't say that there is any real difference in nuance.

B seems far more casual/colloquial to me, for it contains the necessary elements for comprehension while being more compact/brief.

I would translate either as 'Whose car is this?'.

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  • I like what you say about the need to consider what has been omitted when translating. – tomi Nov 13 '19 at 21:09

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