How to ask “where is the restroom”.


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How to ask “where is the restroom”.

How to ask “where is the restroom”.

「おてあらい は どこ です か。」

This sentence is comprised of 5 parts:

â‘  「おてあらい」, which means “bathroom”. 

â‘¡ 「は」,  the subject marker.  Please note that the subject marker particle in Japanese is written with hiragana 「は」 but pronounced “wa”. The subject marker means “speaking of ~”, where the “~” mark refers to the noun before the 「は」 particle. Therefore, in this context, 「おてあらい は」would mean “speaking of the bathroom”. In other words, the 「は」particle marks a subject of discussion. 

③ 「どこ」, or the word for “where”.

â‘£ 「です」, or the simple polite form of the verb “to be” . Please note that Japanese verbs conjugate based on politeness, not who is doing what and/or singular vs plural unlike English or other romance languages. So, where English would conjugate the infinitive verb “to be”  as “am”, “is”, or “are” , Japanese simple polite form is just 「です」every time, regardless of who is doing what and if it is singular or plural.

⑤ 「か」, the question marker. This particle must be used for simple polite form as well as honorifics, and is typically not used often in casual speech. The function is simple; it tells the speaker that a question is being asked. This is done by changing tone, intonation, and word order in English, but in Japanese all you need to do is put「か」at the end of a sentence to make it a question. This means that the word order and words used for “Where is the bathroom” and “The bathroom is here” in Japanese looks almost identical, all you need to do is swap out 「どこ」for 「ここ」 and take away the 「か」at the end. See below:

• 「おてあらい は どこ です か。」

• 「おてあらい は ここ です。」

       To make this into even more natural Japanese, you can take away the 「おてあらい は」in the answer, like so:

• 「おてあらい は どこ です か。」

• 「ここです。」

This is because the subject marker 「は」 has a special function in Japanese. Once a subject has been stated in conversation/written text with the subject marking particle 「は」, that subject stays the same until it is changed by a new subject with a different 「は」 particle later on in the conversation/written text. This means that you could have an entire conversation about a certain subject, but only actually say what the subject is one time at the beginning of the conversation. Pretty neat, right? 

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