Sometimes you’re hanging out with friends or family and you notice that one of them isn’t their usual, positive self. Something must have happened, or perhaps there’s something bothering them and you want to ask what it is. Today you’ll learn how to say what’s wrong in Japanese so that you can ask them what the problem is.
In addition to this common phrase, I’ll also go over some related questions and words that can be used in similar situations such as when the room is a mess and you want to ask what happened here, or when there’s a commotion going on and you are curious as to the reason behind it.
With all that being said, let’s hop right into today’s lesson!
How To Say What’s Wrong In Japanese
The basic phrase that you can use to ask someone about their problem is:
- dou shita no?
- What’s wrong?
This is super common expression and has several other forms that basically mean the same thing, such as:
- dou kashita no ka?
- Is something wrong?
There’s also a more masculine version that is preferred by men when they are in an informal type of situation:
- dou shita n da?
- What happened?
Or if you’re visiting the doctor, then he or she will ask you this question but use a more polite form since you are their client and they want to show you the proper amount of respect:
- dou nasaimashita ka?
- Whatever is the problem, good sir (madam)?
The Japanese word どう (dou) means “how” but it can change slightly depending on the situation that it’s used in.
The Japanese Word For Problem
There are other ways to ask a person “what’s the problem” and to understand them you will need to learn a couple of new words. In particular, we’ll need to go over the Japanese words for “problem” and then see how they’re used in questions.
The Japanese word 問題 (mondai) means “problem” and it can refer to the types of problems that you answer on a test in class, or it can refer to bigger problems like those faced in politics or by society.
- nani ga mondai desu ka?
- What is the problem?
This last phrase is like asking “what (specifically) is the problem” when you’re pretty sure that a problem exists, but you’re just not sure what it is.
However, it might be that you’re in a situation and you suspect that there’s a problem, but you want to make sure by simply asking “is there a problem?” or something along those lines.
- nanika mondai demo arimasuka?
- Is there a problem here?
In this situation, the 何か (nanika) means “something” and the でも (demo) is a particle that can understood to mean “or something” when attached to 問題 (mondai).
It may sound a little redundent from an English speaker’s perspective, but 何か問題でも is a common way to ask “is something a problem (or something)” when speaking Japanese.
The でも part just leave it kind of open and is a more roundabout way of asking a question, which is a pretty Japanese thing to do.
If you’re in an informal situation, you can also change the ありますか to just ある and end it with a rising intonation to indicate a question.
Another Japanese word for problem is 悩み (nayami), but this one refers to a person’s personal problems.
- nanika nayami koto aru no?
- What’s on your mind?
This last one can be asked when your friend looks troubled and you want to inquire if they have a problem or if something is bothering them.
How To Ask What Happened In Japanese
Alright, so let’s say that you walk into a room and everything is a mess. Something happened and you definitely want to know what it was, so you ask the person sanding next to you.
- nani ga okotte iru no desu ka?
- What’s going on here? What happened?
The Japanese verb 起こる (okoru) means “to occur; to happen” and is very common to see in situations like this where an incident occurred.
- ittai nani ga atta ka?
- What in the world happened?
The word いったい (ittai) gets used a lot in these situations where you’re asking a question and want to add some emotion to it. It’s like adding “the heck; the hell; the flip” and whatnot to your question.
How To Ask What’s The Commotion
Sometimes you hear a lot of noise and it makes you curious as to what’s going on. You start heading toward the sound and you notice that there’s a lot of people handing around one area.
As you walk up to it you see your friend in the crowd, so you walk up to them and ask them “what all the fuss is about” or something along those lines.
In Japanese, the word 騒ぎ (sawagi) means “uproar; disturbance” and it can be used in this type of situation.
- nan no sawagi da?
- What’s all the commotion?
Or let’s say that you’re in a bar and you accidentally bump into a big guy and knock his drink out of his hand. He starts to get angry with you, but you’d rather avoid a fight that you know you’ll lose.
In a situation like that, you might say something like “Hey man, I don’t want to cause a scene” in an effort to preserve your life.
- sawagi wa okoshi takunai.
- I don’t want to cause a disturbance.
Maybe if you start off by apologizing profusely you’ll be able to avoid any trouble.
Are There Any Problems?
That’s all for today’s article. If you have any question, comments, or concerns that you would like to share then please feel free to do so by writing a comment down below.
I’ll be sure to see it and get back with you as soon as possible.
Otherwise, if there’s nothing wrong, then I’d like to thank you for reading until the end of this post and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: