“What Are You Doing” In Japanese and Other Questions

There are certain questions in Japanese that are pretty common. If you memorize them, they will help you to communicate more effectively in your day to day interactions. The first question that you will learn how to ask in today’s lesson is “what are you doing?” in Japanese.

There are a couple of other useful questions that are similar to this one which will be helpful to go over. I’ll explain how to say each one and cover any other pertinent information that you need to know.

What Are You Doing In Japanese

The first question can be asked as follows:

  • 何をしていますか?
  • nani o shite imasu ka?
  • What are you doing?

This same question can also be used to ask “what do you do?” when you want to know a person’s occupation. However, this can be a little confusing if the context doesn’t make it clear which question you’re asking. In order to avoid mixing these two things up you can differentiate them as follows:

  • 今、何をしていますか?
  • ima, nani o shite imasu ka?
  • What are doing right now?

And when you want to ask what they do for a living:

  • 仕事は、何をしていますか?
  • shigoto wa, nani o shite imasu ka?
  • What do you do for work?

You can change the verb in this question to しましたか (shimashita ka) when you want to ask what a person has already done.

Or you can change it to します (shimasu) if you want to ask what a person is going to do in the future. Another way to ask this question can include the word つもり (tsumori) which means “intend” or “plan to do” like in the following phrase:

  • 何をするつもりですか?
  • nani o suru tsumori desu ka?
  • What do you plan on doing? / What do you intend to do?

Something you may have noticed is that the Japanese word for “you” is omitted in all of these questions. The reason for this is because pronouns are usually omitted during spoken Japanese when they are understood from the context of the conversation.

If you are talking to a person and you ask any of the above questions, it’s pretty clear that you are asking them to directly to the listener which means you don’t need to say あなた (anata), the Japanese word for “you.”

What Are You Saying In Japanese

There’s really two different ways of asking people what they are saying in Japanese. The first one is when you are seeking more information because you didn’t clearly hear them or simply didn’t understand what they meant.

  • 何を言ってるんですか
  • nani o itteru n desu ka?
  • What are you saying?

If that’s the case, then you might want to ask them to repeat it once more so that you can hear it again.

  • もう一度言ってください。
  • mou ichi dou itte kudasai.
  • Please say that once more.

If the reason you didn’t understand them was because they spoke too quickly for you, then you can also ask them to slow down a bit.

  • もう少しゆっくり話してください。
  • mou sukoshi yukkuri hanashite kudasai.
  • Please speak a little more slowly.

The other time that you might ask a person “what are you saying?” is when you’re being rhetorical. In other words, if your friend said something absurd, like how they plan on getting a pet tiger, you might reply to them by saying “what on earth are you talking about!”

In this second case, you’re not actually asking them for clarity on the conversation. Instead, you’re displaying your incredulity at what they just told you.

  • 何言ってるのよ!
  • nani itteru no yo!
  • What the *bleep* are you talking about!

Notice a couple of things about the way this last phrase is formed. The first thing you’ll see is how informal it is. Not only is the を (o) particle omitted, but the verb 言っている (itte iru) is contracted to just 言ってる (itteru) and the ending particle よ (yo) is used to display emotion.

In all honesty, you probably shouldn’t use this last one since it comes off as rude when speaking to others. However, if you want to learn Japanese from anime then you’ll need to know it since characters often say it to their friends.

What Are You Thinking In Japanese

This section is going to be similar to the last one. The first phrase is a real question that you can use when you want to know what someone is thinking. Perhaps you see a friend who is deep in thought and you’d like to see what’s going on in their mind.

  • 何を考えていますか?
  • nani o kangaete imasu ka?
  • What are you thinking about?

Or if you want to get their thoughts on a particular topic you ask them by using the phrase:

  • 韓国についてどう思いますか?
  • kankoku ni tsuite dou omoimasu ka?
  • What do you think about South Korea?

Of course, replace the word “South Korea” with the item you actually want to know about. Just keep in mind that Japan’s culture is one of Harmony. What that basically means is that people will tend to use the socially acceptable answer rather than their true thoughts when it comes to more controversial topics.

Now we get to “the other way” to ask a person what they are thinking. This one is more like asking a person “what the hell are you thinking!” when they do something that is dangerous, stupid, or just something that angers you.

  • 一体何を考えているんだ!
  • ittai nani o kangaete iru n da!
  • What the hell are you thinking!

Again, this last phrases isn’t one that you should use with real people, but I put it here so that you can understand it when you encounter it in Japanese media.

What Time Do You Think It Is In Japanese

I’ve got one last one for you before I wrap up this post. Let’s say that you’ve been out partying with your friends while your loved one waits for you at home.

If you stumble into your home way past the time you were supposed to return at, you might be greeted by an angry spouse who says:

  • 今何時だと思ってるのよ!
  • ima nan ji da to omotteru no yo!
  • Do you have any idea what time it is!

If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to pretend that you don’t understand what their saying and use one of the questions you learned earlier. Just don’t kill me if it doesn’t turn out well for you!

Now I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment below and share your thoughts on these questions and phrases.

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