Messing with か, Part I

We've seen the particle か already, yeah? We put it onto the end of formal questions:

おいしい です か?
Is it good?
Literally: "tasty / delicious + です + か?"

いっしょ に いきません か?
Would you like to go together?
Literally: "together + に + will not go + か?"


か has a number of other uses, however.

For example, look at what happens when we add か to the following question words:

何 → 何か
なに → なにか
what → something

誰 → 誰か
だれ → だれか
who → someone

いつ → いつか
when → sometime; someday

どこ → どこか
where → somewhere

I know you're just itching to see these in full sentences...


なにか のみます か?
Would you like something to drink?
Literally: "something + drink + か?"

Note that なにか is commonly pronounced なんか in casual language:

なんか のむ?
Do you want something to drink?
Literally: "something + drink?"


いつか アイスランド に いきたい。
I'd like to go to Iceland someday.
Literally: "someday + Iceland + に + want to go."


どこか に ある はず。
It should be (around here) somewhere.
Literally: "somewhere + に + there is + should be."
Note: はず(だ), meaning something like "should be," is a grammar point we'll cover in one of our JLPT lessons.

Similar to how なにか can become なんか in casual language, どこか can become どっか:

どっか に ある はず。
It should be (around here) somewhere.
Literally: "somewhere + に + there is + should be."


おかあさん、 だれか きた よ。
Mom, someone's here.
Literally: "mother, + someone + came + よ."


I'm hoping that the changes made by か in the words listed above aren't too hard to understand... because I'm about to make things a bit more confusing.

The thing is, か does not necessarily change question words in the ways listed above. There are times when か simply appears beside these words but is not changing their meaning.

An example will explain better than I can:

あの ひと、 だれ か しってる?
Do you know who that person is?
Literally: "that + person, + who + か + are knowing?"

Why doesn't the in the sentence above turn 誰 (だれ // who) into 誰か (だれか // someone)?

The reason is that か is marking the entire phrase before it as a question. To put it another way, か is being used to mark a noun phrase, somewhat like we saw の doing in an earlier lesson.

In the next lesson, we'll look at a few more examples of this use of か.

Noticed any typos we've missed or other issues?
Report them here at this link.

Have questions about something in this lesson? Something not quite clicking yet? Join our discord community and discuss any questions / comments with us and fellow students.
You can join by heading to this link.
Complete and Continue