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I'm very confused about the role of「の方」in「(あなたは) 何県の方ですか」. Based on what I know,「の方」can either refer to a person or makes the noun「県」more polite.

If I interpret「の方」as a person, the question would mean "What prefecture person you are?" I'm not sure if it makes sense in this context.

If it's a politeness marker, I think the whole question makes sense because it would literally mean "What's your prefecture?"

Which of the two interpretations of「の方」is correct?

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    Don't think about Japanese sentence in English terms. 'What prefecture are you a person from?' sounds incredibly awkward in English, but 「何県の方{かた}ですか?」sounds perfectly fine in Japanese.
    – Angelos
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 6:55
  • Is the question basically "is this 方 read かた or ほう"? Also, where did you see it? It's always nice to know the context even if you think it's unimportant.
    – Leebo
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 7:00
  • I got it from this image.
    – Jimmy Yang
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 7:02

2 Answers 2

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This 方【かた】 is an honorific version of 人. If you don't mind sounding a little blunt, 何県の人ですか means the same thing. (の)方 as a polite (or "euphemistic") filler is always read (の)ほう (example), and it has nothing to do with this sentence.

X県の人 means "person from X Prefecture" or "person living in X Prefecture". Thus, a literal translation of this would be "A person from what prefecture are you?" or "What prefecture's person are you?". I know these are not natural, but I don't think it's completely nonsensical, either (correct me if I'm wrong).

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何県の方 means 何県出身の方. It means "What prefecture are you from?". ~の方{かた} is used when we make the people who belong to something such as occupations and countries polite. For example. 警察の方、アメリカの方 and so on.

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