What do you call X in Japanese?

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by Jfoe, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. Jfoe Member

    One is: X nihongo de nan to iimasu ka?
    and then the other: X nihongo de nante iu no ka?
    So the iimasu or iu means to say, and then nihongo is japanese, and ka/ no ka stands for the question, but in the first, why is there a to, and the second, what does nante mean?
  2. masatom Banned

    Hello, Jfoe.

    What do you say X in Japanese?
    What=nan-to or nan-te (-to or -te are particles that indicate Objects. )
    -to is more formal than -te. -te is colloquial expression.
    you=anata-wa (-wa is a particle that indicates Subject.)
    say=iu or iimasu (iimasu is more polite than iu.)
    X=X-wo ( -wo is a particles that indicates Object)
    in=de ( de is a particle that indicates category. English equivalent;"in")

    noka or ka is a question maker.

    anata-wa X-wo nihongo-de nan-to iimasu ka.:tick:
    anata-wa X-wo nihonngo-de nan-te iimasu ka.:tick:

    In Japanese we usually omit Subject(=anata-wa), so,
    X-wo nihongo-de nan-to iimasu ka:tick:
    X-wo nihonngo-de nan-te iimasu ka:tick:

    X-wo nihongo-de nan-to iu no ka.:cross:
    Gramatically correct. but abrupt and not polite. You should not use this, I think.
    X-wo nihong-de non-te iu no ka.:cross:
    Gramatically correct. but abrupt and not polite. You should not use this, I think.
  3. Starfrown

    Starfrown Senior Member

    Columbia, SC
    English - US
    I think that beginners would probably do best to stick to the phrases:


    There is a slight difference, I think, between the two. For most situations, the first will probably be a good choice, because it simply asks for the Japanese equivalent of X.

    "What do you call X in Japanese?"

    I would probably use the second one if I called something the wrong word and my Japanese host family laughed at me. It has an added element of a request for explanation. A literal translation would be:

    "It is that (you) call X what in Japanese?"

    A better English translation is perhaps:

    "What is it that (you) call X in Japanese?"

    Masatom might be able to give you better advice about these.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  4. masatom Banned

    I can't explain it properly so I want to leave it to Flam.
    I feel the latter is a little more polite and indirect expression.
    Japanese educated people tend to prefer indirect expression which is thought to be polite.
    (I think it is common tendency throughout the world.)
    So, from that stance, you should use the latter.
    But I think the two sentences are almost the same.

    By the way,
    X-wo nihongo de nan to ii-masuka=What do you call X in Japanese?
    X-wa nihongo de nan to iware-masuka=What is X called in Japanese?
    I know the difference. The latter is passive tense of the former.
    And the meanings are almost the same.
    X-wa nihongo de nan to iimasuka
    X-wo nihongo de nan to iimasuka
    I think these two have exactly the same meaning.
    But grammatically the latter X-wo is object. The former X-wa is subject or still object, Flam?

    Is there any grammatical difference, Flam?

    I want to hear other native's answer.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  5. Starfrown

    Starfrown Senior Member

    Columbia, SC
    English - US

    We generally refer to this as the topic. As you know, our language lacks grammatical topics, so we usually end up translating it as either the subject or object. Occasionally we use a phrase such as "As for X,..."
  6. markmo808 New Member

    Late reply but I think this might answer your question if it has not already been answered.

    In the first sentence - Nihongo de nan to iimasu ka - the English translation would be what do you call this in Japanese. Here the "to" particle is acting as a quotation marker to "nan".
    de=particle which indicates the means of how something is done
    nan or nani = what
    to=quotation marker
    iu or iimasu=say

    In the second sentence - Nihongo de nente iu no ka - translated into English would be - How do you say this in Japanese - with the nuance of re
    de=by means of particle
    no=particle requestion an explanation or a response from the listener
    ka=question particle.

    I think that your question was more of the use of nan to and nante. In the second sentence nante just means how.

    The first sentence is a more casual "Oh, what is this called in Japanese" where the second is more requesting information "I don't know how to say this in Japanese, could you please tell me" .

    Hope this helped :)

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