There are some essential questions that you should learn in order to communicate effectively in Japanese. One of those is knowing how to say “how much” in Japanese.
This question can use a couple of different words in Japanese depending on what you’re asking about. If you’re asking about how much time it will take, that will use one word.
However, if you’re asking about something else, such as “to what degree” a thing will go, then that will a different word.
The best way to know which one to use is to go over all of them and get familiar with the context and use. Then it should be easier to figure out which one you need.
The first word that we’ll cover is いくら (ikura) and it means “how much? how many?” in English.
If you’re out shopping and you want to ask the store keeper how much some cheese costs, you can do so with this word.
- kono chiizu wa ikura desu ka?
- How much is this cheese?
If you wanted to be a little more polite, then you could add on お (o) to いくら and turn it into おいくら (o-ikura).
- kore wa o-ikura desu ka?
- How much is this?
Many times when you are in a shop or a store you can just point at something and ask いくら with a rising intonation at the end to ask the question “how much” when you want to know the price of an object.
Sidebar: Learn how to say why in Japanese.
However, いくら doesn’t have to be limited to just prices. It can also be used to ask about the quantity of something.
For example, let’s say that you’re calculating your net worth and you have to fill out a question as to how much property you own.
- zaisan wa ikura aru?
- How much property is there?
- How much real estate do you own?
Perhaps asking about real estate isn’t a common question, but talking about money is.
Perhaps you’re out with a friend and you guys want to go half-and-half on something expensive. You might ask how much money they have just to make sure that you two can foot the bill.
- o-kane ga ikura aru ka?
- How much money do you have?
This first section covered a word that can be used when referring to the cost of an item, or the quantity of an item. Now we are going to go over a word used with time and distance.
どのくらい (dono kurai)
The second one that we’ll cover is どのくらい (dono kurai) and it is an expression that can mean “how long; how far; how much.”
This is used most often when asking about time or distance. For example, if you were in Tokyo and thinking about making a trip over to Kyoto, you could ask the following:
- kyouto made dono kurai desuka?
- How far is it to Kyoto?
- How much distance is there (from here) to Kyoto?
Or you could ask how long it will take if you’re more concerned about the time:
- koko kara dono kurai kakarimasu ka?
- How long does it take from here?
- How much time does it take to get there?
There are two more things that you should be familiar with when it comes to どのくらい.
The first one is that sometimes it’s written in kanji as どの位. This means the same thing as before, but it’s just written a little differently that the all-hiragana version.
The other thing that you should know is that it often times get changed to どのぐらい (dono gurai) during spoken Japanese.
Again, the meaning is exactly the same, but often times when a person is speaking quickly they naturally change the く (ku) to a ぐ (gu) unconsciously.
Sidebar: Learn “how are you” in Japanese.
There is also the phrase どれくらい (dore kurai) which is slightly different from the one we’ve been covering in this section, but still close enough that I thought I’d include it here.
どれくらい means the same as どのくらい when translated into English “how long; how far; how much.”
Despite them being translated identically in English, they do have slightly different uses in Japanese. According to ytv どれぐらい is used more when comparing two things.[Source]
That being said, I don’t have any concrete examples of it that can clearly show this nuance. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you, and instead just be aware of it.
どんなに (donna ni)
So now you’re familiar with words to ask when dealing with price, quantity, distance, or time.
But there’s another word that will be useful to know when you want to know “to what degree” something is.
The word どんなに (donna ni) is an adverb that means “how; how much” and can be used more when asking about intangible things such as feelings.
- donna ni urayama shikatta ka?
- How jealous (envious) were you?
Or here’s an example from an NHK questionnaire where one of the choices is talking about following a law even though it’s unjust. The point of this next phrase is still just to illustrate how どんなに can be used.
- donna ni futouna hou ni demo shitagawa nakereba naranai.
- No matter how unjust, you must follow the law.
There’s also a pretty good YouTube video that covers some grammar for the N3 level of the JLPT that actually covers どんなに.
One example provided in that video that uses どんなに is the following:
- donna ni denwa shitemo tsunagara nai
- No matter how much I call, I can’t get through
It’s actually a pretty good video, so I’ll leave it here for you all to enjoy. The only thing that I should mention is that it’s all in Japanese, so depending on your listening comprehension level you might find it easy or a little difficult.
Over To You Now
Thanks for reading this post. Now I want to hear from you!
Do you have any comments or questions? If so, then leave them below and let me know!
Or are there any other ways to say “how much” in Japanese that you know of? Share them with me and I’ll be sure to update the page to include them.