In today’s blog post, I will tell you all about the meaning of the Japanese expression “Nani kore” (何これ, なにこれ). Luckily, the English translation of “Nani kore” is pretty straightforward, however, you need to be careful when to use it in Japanese, because the phrase is extremely casual.
“Nani kore” (なにこれ, 何これ) means “What is this?”, “What the (hell)?”, or “What’s going on?”. It is a casual phrase that is used when you see or feel something but you don’t know what it is. In addition, it can be used as an exclamation to express surprise, displeasure, or excitement about something.
Now, after I have answered your basic question and you know what “nani kore” (なにこれ, 何これ) means in Japanese and English, let me illustrate its meaning with a bunch of example sentences. We will also take a look at how to write “nani kore” correctly in Hiragana and Kanji and you will learn the politer version of how to ask “What is this?” in Japanese.
The Meaning of “Nani Kore” in Japanese & English
The Japanese expression “Nani kore” (何これ, なにこれ) consists of the word “nani” (何, なに) which means “what” and “kore” (これ) which translates as “this“. So the complete phrase literally translates as “What (is) this?“, but can also mean “What the hell (is this)?” or “What (the hell) is going on?“.
What is this?
What is this thing?
What the hell is this?
What the heck is this?
What the hell is going on?
What the heck is going on?
In casual situations like for example among close friends, family members, and young children “Nani kore?” (何これ, なにこれ) is sometimes used to ask “What is this?” in an informal way.
However, the phrase is pretty straightforward and doesn’t sound polite at all, which is why in anime, it is commonly used by young boys and standoffish or unapproachable characters.
On top of that, “Nani kore?” (何これ, なにこれ) is often used as an exclamation to express surprise, excitement or amazement and sometimes even disgust or displeasure. In this situation, it is best translated as “What the?“, “What the hell?“, “What the heck?“, and “What the heck (is this)?“.
What the hell?
What the heck?
What the heck is this?
What the heck is going on here?
Let’s take a look at some examples!
When you walk through Japan and see an interesting or funny toy or gadget you can use the phrase “Nani kore?” (何これ) to express your curiosity or amazement in a joking way. You can just mumble the expression to yourself or say it to get your friend’s attention.
Nani kore? Kawaii!
What is this? It’s cute!
Nani kore? Omoshiroi…
What the heck? It looks funny…
On the other hand, “Nani kore?” (何これ), can also be used to express your disgust or displeasure about something. Maybe you discovered a manga or video game your younger brother was not supposed to buy and you are confronting him about it or maybe you see children quarreling.
What the hell is THIS?
Nani kore? Yamenasai!
What the hell is going on here? Stop!
Please note that you should never ever use this phrase when talking to your boss, a stranger, or in any other business or formal situation. You can learn the politer phrases further down below.
How to Write “Nani Kore” in Hiragana & Kanji
“Nani kore” is usually written in kanji and hiragana as 何これ, in hiragana only as なにこれ, or in katakana only as ナニコレ. Sometimes you will also see it written in kanji and katakana as 何コレ. The katakana versions are usually used to further emphasize the surprise, disbelief, or amazement of the speaker.
When you text with your friends and you want to write “nani kore” you should either use 何これ (kanji + hiragana) or なにこれ (hiragana only). Since the phrase is already extremely casual and might even be considered rude, these are the least extreme versions.
If you write “nani kore” in katakana, either partially as 何コレ or completely as ナニコレ, it is too much and looks like you are screaming. Similar to when you write a whole word or sentence in uppercase letters in English. You might see “nani kore” written like this in anime or manga, though.
How to Use “Nani Kore” – Related & Politer Phrases
Since “Nani kore?” (何これ) is such a casual expression, I want to show you a couple of politer expressions that are more appropriate in daily conversations. Honestly, I only recommend you to use “Nani kore?” when you are still a small kid or when you are talking to close (male) friends.
- Kore wa nani?
- Kore wa nan desu ka?
Kore wa Nani? – Means “What is This?” (more polite)
“Kore wa nani?” (これは何) means “What is this?“. It is the casual phrase that is used when you see or feel something, but you don’t know what it is. In comparison to “Nani kore?” (何これ), “Kore wa nani?” is way politer, however, it is not as polite as the formal “Kore wa nan desu ka?” (これは何ですか).
Kore wa nani?
What is this?
This phrase is a bit casual but polite enough that it can be used in all kinds of informal situations. It sounds nice and friendly but not too stiff or too formal.
Kore Wa Nan Desu Ka? – Means “What is This?” (very polite)
“Kore wa nan desu ka?” (これは何ですか) is a formal Japanese phrase that means “What is this?“. When you are shopping or at a restaurant and you don’t know what something is you can use this phrase to ask the clerk or waiter. It is the more formal version of “Kore wa nani?” (これは何).
Kore wa nan desu ka?
What is this?
Whenever you have to be polite you should use this phrase. “Kore wa nan desu ka” (これは何ですか) can be used with your boss, a supervisor, a senior, a doctor, or any other person you have to respect.