Messing with か, Part I

We've seen the particle か already, yeah? We put it onto the end of formal questions:

美味しいですか?
おいしい です か?
Is it good?
Literally: "tasty / delicious + です + か?"



一緒に行きませんか?
いっしょ に いきません か?
Would you like to go together?
Literally: "together + に + will not go + か?"


 



か has a number of other uses, however.

For example, look at what happens when we add か to the following question words:

何 → 何か
なに → なにか
what → something



誰 → 誰か
だれ → だれか
who → someone



いつ → いつか
when → sometime; someday



どこ → どこか
where → somewhere



I know you're just itching to see these in full sentences...

 



何か飲みますか?
なにか のみます か?
Would you like something to drink?
Literally: "something + drink + か?"



Note that なにか is commonly pronounced なんか in casual language:

なんか飲む?
なんか のむ?
Do you want something to drink?
Literally: "something + drink?"


 



いつかアイスランドに行きたい。
いつか アイスランド に いきたい。
I'd like to go to Iceland someday.
Literally: "someday + Iceland + に + want to go."


 



どこかにあるはず。
どこか に ある はず。
It should be (around here) somewhere.
Literally: "somewhere + に + there is + should be."
Note: はず(だ), meaning something like "should be," is a grammar point we'll cover in one of our JLPT lessons.



Similar to how なにか can become なんか in casual language, どこか can become どっか:

どっかにあるはず。
どっか に ある はず。
It should be (around here) somewhere.
Literally: "somewhere + に + there is + should be."


 



お母さん、誰か来たよ。
おかあさん、 だれか きた よ。
Mom, someone's here.
Literally: "mother, + someone + came + よ."


 



I'm hoping that the changes made by か in the words listed above aren't too hard to understand... because I'm about to make things a bit more confusing.

The thing is, か does not necessarily change question words in the ways listed above. There are times when か simply appears beside these words but is not changing their meaning.

An example will explain better than I can:

あの人、誰知ってる?
あの ひと、 だれ か しってる?
Do you know who that person is?
Literally: "that + person, + who + か + are knowing?"



Why doesn't the in the sentence above turn 誰 (だれ // who) into 誰か (だれか // someone)?

The reason is that か is marking the entire phrase before it as a question. To put it another way, か is being used to mark a noun phrase, somewhat like we saw の doing in an earlier lesson.

In the next lesson, we'll look at a few more examples of this use of か.




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