How to say WHY in Japanese?

Why? Is one of those power words you need to discover when learning a language.

Useful in all types of sentences:
  • Why are we breaking into this house?
  • Why is everyone angry?
  • Why am I being arrested?
So what is "why" in Japanese, simply it's: 何で  →  なんで  →  na-n-de

Japanese doesn't map perfectly to English so 何で also can mean something a little like how.


どうして (do-u-shi-te) is another word that means why. It also can mean "how".

なぜ (na-ze) another word that means why but doesn't mean how.


There's a time when a child is growing up that their favourite question is "why?" and they will ask this endlessly. Well that's not just English speakers! Here's some rapid fire 何で. There's a few 何 → なに → na-ni which is "What".


Japanese has degrees of formality, sometimes you need to be polite and at this time you change the words you use. We have this in English too but to a much lesser extent. Going from most formal to least formal the words above are in this order: なぜ, どうして,  何で

It makes sense  何で is the least formal.

So there you go, now you know how to say "why" in Japanese! Or several ways :D

Example sentences (I just searched google so they're natural but not necessarily simple!)

My translations are usual are a bit slap dash but if anything's actually wrong drop me a comment!

「信じられない! なんで日本人なのにポケモンカード持ってないの!?」
I don't believe it! Why don't Japanese people carry pokemon cards?

おっぱいは、なぜ素晴らしいのか?
Why are breasts wonderful?

どうして地震が起こるのか
Why do eathquakes occur?

Hmm I never seem to get examples this good when I'm searching just for my own anki deck :D
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