Sometimes you want to get someone else’s opinion on a matter. It could be the color of a shirt that you want to buy, or it might be a business proposal that you are working on. In either case, you’ll need to know how to ask “what do you think?” in Japanese.
That’s what we’re going to go over in the first part of this lesson, but after that I wanted to share some related words and phrases that I hope you’ll find useful as well.
What Do You Think (About This)?
The main word that you’ll want to use is 思う (omou) which means “to think” in Japanese. It can be used in its casual form which you read just a few seconds ago, or if you are in more formal situations then it can be changed into 思います (omoimasu).
But that’s only half of what we need. We also need to use the word どう (dou) which can be translated into English in a couple of ways such as:
- in what way
- how about
Just these two words are enough when you are speaking directly to someone whom you are close to. All you will need to say is 「どう思う？」 with a rising intonation right at the end to indicate that it is a question.
This literally just says “how think?” but the full sentence is “What do you think about this/that?”
The context of the conversation is usually enough for the other person to know what you’re talking about. For example, if you’re at an art gallery and you are both looking at the same piece of art, then this shortened phrase is obviously asking the other person what they think of the painting.
But sometimes you’ll want to ask this question about a new topic that hasn’t been mentioned yet or isn’t obvious.
In those cases what we want to do is use the word について (ni tsuite) which means “about” and gets attached to the end of whatever item or thing you are asking about.
Here’s a common question that you may be asked by a native when visiting Japan and goes beyond the typical ways to say hello in Japanese:
- nihon ni tsuite dou omoimasu ka?
- What do you think of Japan?
This phrase is really just asking someone what their opinion is on any given topic.
The above sentence can be used for pretty much anything, just swap out 日本 with whatever you want to ask the other person about.
What Are You Thinking (of)?
There is another word in Japanese for “to think” but it’s a little different from the first one we covered.
This new word is 考える (kangaeru) and it is used when a person is thinking of or about a topic. If you wanted to ask someone about their opinion on something, then you would use the first word we covered and not this one.
Let’s say that you come into a room and you see one of your buddies sitting there thinking to himself. He’s got a serious look on his face and seems to be deep in thought which piques your interest.
So you walk up to him and ask:
- nani o kangaete imasu ka?
- What are you thinking about?
This can be a serious phrase like I’ve listed above, but it is also sometimes used in a more rhetorical way when a person does something that you feel is crazy.
For example, if your kid tries jumping off the roof of your house with just an umbrella to slow the descent. In those cases the phrase is more like saying “What the hell are you thinking!” and is used to vent emotions.
To learn exactly how that it is phrased in those situations, check it out in this post near the bottom of the page.
Going back to the first example of the friend who is mulling something over, he might respond by telling you that he is thinking about his future and what he needs to do in order to achieve the life he desires.
- shourai no koto o kangaete imasu.
- I’m thinking about my future.
How Is It (This/That)?
Another phrase that is similar to the first one we covered in this post, yet still slightly different is the Japanese way of asking “how is it (this/that)” which can be worded a couple of different way.
If a person is eating some food that they’ve never tried before, you can ask them:
- sore wa dou desu ka?
- How is it?
In more casual situations, you can simply ask them 「どう？」 with a rising intonation at the end so they know you’re being inquisitive.
Like I mentioned before, this is very similar to the first question, but the difference is that when we used 思う we were asking what their opinion of something was.
Now we are asking them about how their experience of something was.
Perhaps I’m just splitting hairs on this one, but I felt that since these two phrases were close to one another it would be a good idea to cover them both.
The Japanese word for opinion is 意見 (iken). So we can use it as an alternative way to ask a person what their thoughts are on a certain matter.
- anata no iken wa nan desu ka?
- What’s you opinion?
One of the interesting things about this word is that it can be used in situations that call for polite language, also known as 敬語 (keigo).
The first change is that an honorific ご (go) is added to the beginning of this noun to make ご意見. Another noticeable change is that the verb that a person uses alongside this noun will also be a polite one.
I’ve heard several used before, but the one I like the most when asking someone what their opinion is can be seen below:
- goiken o oukagai shitai no desu ga.
- I would like to ask for your esteemed opinion, good sir/madam.
This might be something you hear from a service worker when you’re one of their customers or guests. It’s also possible that it would appear in business situations when one person wants to show respect to another who holds a higher position than them.
So, What Do YOU Think?
We covered a lot of ways to ask people what they think or what their opinion is. They were all pretty similar, but still had some slight differences which I hope was clear from the explanations.
But if for any reason something didn’t make sense, then please let me know about it and I will do my best to clear it up.
Of if you have any thoughts that you would like to add to the conversation, then please don’t hesitate to do so by leaving them in the comments section below.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: