I have seen some sentences that are just a subject and are intended questions. I know just saying "nani" still conveys the meaning of "what is this/that." Can this apply to saying something like "Jin?" in response to mean "Him [really]?"

For example, I came across this sentence: あれは誰 which was translated to "What is that" without either a verb or ga at the end. Is this just a rare case or is it done frequently when informal?


1 Answer 1


Short answer

The short answer is no, not every question is required to end with か, but there are conditions.


  1. The standard question marker is か (ka), not が (ga) as stated in your question.
  2. あれは誰 is semantically wrong, because あれ (that over there) is for objects or things, but 誰【だれ】 (who) is for people. So, other valid sentences similar to your example would be:

あれは何【なに】? What is that over there?

あの人【ひと】は誰【だれ】? Who is that person over there?

As you noticed, Japanese relies heavily on context for conveying information, so there are times when you can ommit particles and such. This is also the case with か. Also note that usually, the question marker ? is used when ommitting か in written questions in order to convey the appropriate intonation.

That said, please note that whether you can ommit か or not is highly dependent on the level of speech. I.e. it depends on whether you are talking in a formal or polite way, or in an informal or familiar situation. Let's see both cases.

Formal or polite

In formal writing or when talking politely to someone at the workplace, it is not correct to formulate a question without the か. So, in a formal context such as the workplace:

Can we have a break?

〇 休憩【きゅうけい】をしてもいいです

✕ 休憩【きゅうけい】してもいい? (not appropriate in this context)

Who is that person over there?

〇 あの人【ひと】は誰【だれ】です

✕ あの人【ひと】は誰【だれ】? Who is that person over there?

Informal or familiar

When speaking familiarly to a relative or a close friend, you may omit the か and just change the intonation of your question and it is still fine. You can encounter this pretty frequently in informal speech.

Can we have a break?

〇 休憩【きゅうけい】してもいい?

Who is that person over there?

〇 あの人は誰【だれ】?

Also note that in many cases, you can use the particle の instead of the particle か at the end of a question in informal speech. As far as I know, the question marker is also present in such cases:

Do you know that person over there?

〇 あの人【ひと】を知【し】っているの?

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