Sore Wa Nan Desu Ka

Sore wa Nan Desu Ka: A Complete Guide

Sore wa Nan Desu Ka, also known as “What is That?” or “What is This?” in English, is a popular phrase used in Japanese language. This phrase is commonly heard in a variety of settings, from everyday conversations to formal speeches. In this article, we will dive deeper into the meaning and context of Sore wa Nan Desu Ka, its usage in Japanese culture, and how to properly use it in conversation.

What Does Sore wa Nan Desu Ka Mean?

Sore wa Nan Desu Ka literally translates to “What is that?” or “What is this?” in English. The phrase is a combination of four Japanese words, “sore” (that), “wa” (particle indicating the subject), “nan” (what), and “desu ka” (questioning ending particle).

The phrase is commonly used to ask about the name or nature of an object or thing that is being pointed out or referenced. For example, if someone is pointing to a beautiful painting in a museum, you might ask, “Sore wa nan desu ka?”, meaning “What is that beautiful painting’s name or theme?”

Sore wa Nan Desu Ka as a Common Phrase in Japanese Culture

Sore wa Nan Desu Ka is not only a common phrase in Japanese language, but it is also a valuable cultural element. The phrase itself is used in various contexts, including formal and informal settings, from superiors to subordinates, and in conversations with friends and family.

Moreover, understanding the phrase’s context and usage is crucial to effective communication in Japanese and Japanese culture. Using the phrase correctly will prove beneficial in establishing positive relationships and fostering effective communication with Japanese speakers.

How to Properly Use Sore wa Nan Desu Ka in Conversation

As with any language, using Sore wa Nan Desu Ka correctly will take time and practice. Nevertheless, here are some tips to help you use the phrase properly:

1. Context is Essential

The context of the conversation dictates the correct usage of the phrase. When asking about a thing or object, you should always point to it to avoid confusion.

2. Use Appropriate Pronouns

Proper usage of pronouns is essential to conveying the right message. You should use “Sore” for an object or thing near the listener and “Are” if it is near the speaker. Similarly, for something not in the immediate vicinity of the speaker or the listener, you should use “Kore” or “Are.”

3. Politeness Matters

In Japanese culture, politeness in communication is of utmost importance. When using the phrase with strangers or superiors, use the formal conjugation of “desu ka” for respectful addressing. Conversely, it is okay to use the informal conjugation when speaking with friends and family.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like with any language or phrase, practice will make perfect. Take advantage of conversation opportunities with Japanese speakers, and don’t hesitate to ask if you are unsure how to use Sore wa Nan Desu Ka in a particular context.


Sore wa Nan Desu Ka remains an essential phrase in Japanese language and culture. Understanding the proper usage and context is essential for effective communication with Japanese speakers. Additionally, incorporating this phrase into your Japanese vocabulary will aid in establishing positive relationships and building rapport with Japanese speakers. With a little practice, you’ll be well on your way to effectively using Sore wa Nan Desu Ka in your conversations.