What Does Nande (なんで, 何で) Mean in Japanese? A Detailed Guide


What Does Nande Mean in Japanese - A Detailed Guide How To Say Why in Japanese Nande vs Nani vs Doushite vs Naze

In this free Japanese online lesson, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the meaning of the Japanese word nande (なんで, 何で). In anime and manga, it is often used in expressions such as “Nande da yo“, “Nande darou“, or “Nande ya nen” and it also part of most JLPT N5 grammar lists. So what does nande mean in Japanese?

The Japanese word nande (なんで, 何で) usually translates as “why” in English. It is a more casual way to ask about the cause, reason, or purpose behind something than naze (なぜ) or doushite (どうして). However, sometimes 何で can also mean “how” or “by what means”. In that case, it is often read as “nani de”.

This ambiguity usually confuses beginners, so below I have a detailed explanation with tons of example sentences for you that will help you understand the exact meaning of the Japanese word nande (なんで, 何で) and how to use it. Last but not least you can also read more about the difference between nande, naze, and doushite.

The Meaning of Nande (なんで, 何で) in Japanese

Nande” is a Japanese word that can be written in Hiragana as なんで, or partially with Kanji as 何で. While both versions are used, I personally find that it is more commonly written in Hiragana only. However, the way it is written is sometimes a good indicator of its translation and pronunciation.

The tricky part about nande (なんで, 何で) is that it has two very different translations and meanings. It either means “why” or “what for” and is used to ask about the cause or reason of something, or it translates as “how” or “by what means” and is used to ask about the means of transportation (bus, train, plane, ship, car, etc.).

Most of the time, it is clear from the context whether nande means “why” or “how“. However, sometimes even native speakers might get confused and misinterpret the question. Here is an example sentence:

Nande kita no?
なんで来たの?

This sentence can either be translated as “Why did you come here?” or as “How did you come here?“. So which one is correct? Unfortunately, there is no way to tell. In this situation, you will either have to ask a clarifying question or just answer the question and let the other person clear the misunderstanding in case you chose the wrong answer.

As a general guideline, when the sentence starts withnande” and the question is written in Hiragana as なんで, it most likely meanswhy“. When the person asks “nani de” it always means “how” or “by what means“. Furthermore, when it is written in Kanji as 何で, or when it is not the first word of the sentences it probably meanshow” or “by what means“.

Nande koko ni kita no?
なんでここに来たの?
Why did you come here?

Koko ni nande/nani de kita no?
ここに何で来たの?
How did you come here?

How to Use Nande – Common Phrases & Example Sentences

To further clarify its meaning and to learn how to use nande (なんで, 何で) in Japanese, let’s take a look at a bunch of different examples. You will find the meaning and translation of some of the most commonly used expressions in anime and manga such as “Nande yo“, “Nande da yo“, “Nande darou“, and “Nande ya nen“. After that, you can check out 20 example sentences and their translations.

Nande yo – Means “Why??”, “Why not?”, or “What’s Wrong?”

Nande yo (なんでよ) is a quite strong casual phrase that can be translated as “Why?“, “Why not?“, “What for?“, “How come?“, or “What’s wrong?“. The yo (よ) at the end is a sentence ending particle that adds emphasis and in this case, it expresses frustration, criticism, blame, or a complaint.

So when a friend asks you to do something you really don’t want to do you could show your displeasure by replying with “Nande yo” meaning “Why (me)?“. Or when you suggest an idea and your friends reject them you could also express your frustration with “Nande yo” meaning “Why not?“.

You could also use it for example when you are annoyed by the stares of your friends or a stranger. In that situation, it could be translated as “Why (are you staring at me)?” and is very similar to the English expression “What’s wrong?“. Since it is a colloquial phrase and can sound rude be very careful when you use it!

Nande yo
なんでよ
Why (me)?
Why not?
What’s wrong?

Nande da yo – Means “Why???”, “But Why?” or “Why The Hell?”

Nande da yo (なんでだよ) is very similar to nande yo (なんでよ) and can be translated as “Why?“, “But why?“, or “Why the hell?“. You can use this phrase to express frustration or disappointment. That’s why it can also be translated along the lines of “I just can’t/don’t understand why something happened”.

Both phrases can be used in a similar way, but personally, I think, nande da yo (なんでだよ) is a bit stronger in the sense that you seem even more frustrated or extremely disappointed. However, for some reason, nande yo (なんでよ) sounds ruder to me. Probably because it is shorter. It also depends a lot on the intonation, though.

Nande da yo
なんでだよ
But why?
Why the hell?

Nande da yo…
なんでだよ…
I can’t understand why…

Nande Darou? – Means “I Wonder Why?”

Nande darou (なんでだろう) or Nande darou ne (なんでだろうね) are commonly used phrases that mean “I wonder why“. Darou (だろう) translates as “I think“, “I guess“, or “I wonder“, but it also just makes the question sound softer. The sentence ending particle ne (ね) adds more softness, too, and sounds more feminine.

You can use the phrase when you wonder to yourself why something happened or why something is that case. It can also be used when you agree with the other person’s complaint or disappointment: “Me, too. I wonder why…” or “Right…I really wonder why…”. In that case, you can also say “Ne! Nande darou…” (ね!なんでだろう).

Instead of darou (だろう) you can also use deshou (でしょう), but judging from my own experience it is less commonly used.

Nande darou
なんでだろう
I wonder why

Nande darou ne…
なんでだろうね~
I wonder why…

Nande deshou…
なんででしょう…
I wonder why…

Nande Ya Nen – Means “What Are You Talking About, lol?”

Nande ya nen (なんでやねん) is Kansai or Osaka Dialect and means “What are you talking about?” or “You’ve got to be kidding!“. It can be used in response to someone who said something silly or who is teasing you by saying or doing something silly. It is frequently used in Osaka and by stand-up comedians.

Whenever your friend says something stupid or strange you can use this phrase to point it out in a funny or teasing way. It can also be translated as “Oh, come on!“, “That’s crazy!“, “No way!“, “What the hell are you saying!“. It is never used in an angry way. Just in a comical way.

Nande ya nen
なんでやねん
What are you talking about?
You’ve got to be kidding!
Oh, come on!
No way!

Watch Out for “Nandemo” and “Nandemonai”

While nandemo (なんでも, 何でも) and nandemonai (なんでもない, 何でもない) seem to be similar or related to the previously discussed phrases, they are actually used in an entirely different way. Nandemo means “anything” or “everything“, while nandemonai (also written as “nandemo nai“) means “nothing“, “It’s nothing“, or “not at all“.

Kare wa nandemo dekiru.
彼はなんでもできる。
He can do anything.

Kanojo nandemo shitteiru.
彼女なんでも知っている。
She knows everything.

Nandemonai desu…
なんでもないです…
It’s nothing…

Examples of How to Use Nande in a Sentence

Nande Toukyou ni iku no?
Why are you going to Tokyo?
なんで東京に行くの?
なんで とうきょう に いく の?
Nande/nani de Toukyou ni iku no?
How are you going to Tokyo?
何で東京に行くの?
なんで/なにで とうきょう に いく の?
Nande kiku no?
Why do you ask?
なんで聞くの?
なんで きく の?
Osaka e nande ikimasu ka?
How are you going to Osaka?
大阪へなんで行きますか?
おおさか へ なんで いきます か?
Nande sou omou no desu ka?
Why do you think so?
なんでそう思うのですか?
なんで そう おもう の です か?
Nande sonna koto shita no?
Why did you do that?
なんでそんなことしたの?
Nande sore ga dekinai no?
Why can’t you do it?
なんでそれが出来ないの?
なんで それ が できない の?
Nande inu ga koko ni iru no?
Why is there a dog here?
なんで犬がここにいるの?
なんで いぬ が ここ に いる の?
Nande kanojo ga inai no?
Why don’t you have a girlfriend?
なんで彼女がいないの?
なんで かのじょ が いない の?
Nandemo ii desu ka?
Anything is fine?
なんでもいいですか?
Nande sou naru no?
Why is it like that?
なんでそうなるの?
Kare wa nandemo shitteiru.
He knows everything
彼はなんでも知っている。
かれ は なんでも しっている。
Nande darou…
I wonder why…
なんでだろう・・・
Eeeeee? Nande????
Oh no! But why?
えええええ!なんで???
Nande koko ni kita no?
Why did you come here?
なんでここに来たの?
なんで ここ に きた の?
Koko ni nande/nani de kita no?
How did you come here?
ここに何で来たの?
ここ に なんで/なにで きた の?
Kore wa nande sou natta?
Why did this happen?
Why did it come to this?
これはなんでそうなった?
Nande kinou gakkou ni konakatta no?
Why didn’t you come to school yesterday?
なんで昨日学校に来なかったの?
なんで きのう がっこう に こなかった の?
Nande boku ja nai no?
Why not me?
なんで僕じゃないの?
なんで ぼく じゃ ない の?
How to Use Nande in Japanese – Example Sentences

Nande (なんで, 何で) vs Nani (なに, 何) – What’s the Difference?

Nande (なんで, 何で) means “why” or “how“, while nani (なに, 何) is the Japanese word for “what“. However, 何で can also be read as “nani de” when asking for example “How did you come here?” or “By what means of transportation did you come here?” and can also be read as “nan” which can confuse beginners.

Kinou Nani o shimashita ka?
昨日なにをしましたか?
What did you do yesterday?

Nande sore o shimashita no?
なんでそれをしましたの?
Why did you do this?

Nani o katta no?
をかったの?
What did you buy?

Nande katta no?
何で買ったの?
Why did you buy it?

Nande vs Naze – What’s the Difference?

Nande (なんで) and naze (なぜ, 何故) both mean “why” and are used to ask for the reason or cause of something. However, naze is more formal, sounds more rational, and is usually used in written language. Nande, on the other hand, is more commonly used in daily conversation and sounds more emotional.

So in formal situations or when you write an email etc it is better to use naze (なぜ, 何故). However, when talking to your friends or when you want to express your frustration, surprise, regret, or wonder about something you should use nande (なんで).

If you look at the following example: “Why did you quite your job?“. When you ask “Naze shigoto o yameta ka?” (なぜ仕事をやめたか?) you purely ask for the reason behind quitting. However, when you ask “Nande shigoto wo yameta ka?” (なんで仕事をやめたか?) it has the nuance of “But why did you quit?“, “Oh, no! Why did you quit?“, or “Oh my god. Why did you quit?“.

Kanojo wa naze naiteimasu ka?
彼女はなぜ泣いていますか?
Why is she crying?
(sounds cold and emotionless)

Kanojo nande naiteimasu ka?
彼女なんで泣いていますか?
(Oh no) Why is she crying?
(sounds like you care)

Naze kare wa konai desu ka?
何故
彼は来ないですか?
Why isn’t he coming?
(just asking for the reason)

Nande kare wa konai no?
なんで
彼は来ないの?
(Oh, but) why isn’t he coming?
(expressing regret, surprise, or wonder)

Nande vs Doushite – What’s the Difference?

Nande (なんで) and doushite (どうして) are both Japanese words that mean “why” and are rather casual and emotional ways of asking for the reason or cause of something. However, in comparison nande sounds a bit more casual and is slightly more often used in daily conversation especially by young people.

The differences between nande and doushite are really subtle. So my advice is don’t worry about it! You could define nande as slightly more colloquial, but in reality, there are hardly any differences. Personally, I use “doushite” more commonly than “nande”, however, my Japanese students use “nande” more frequently – especially the younger males.

Doushite koko ni imasu ka?
どうして
ここにいますか?
Why are you here?

Nande koko ni imasu ka?
なんで
ここにいますか?
Why are you here?

Doushite ikanai no?
どうして
行かないの?
(But) why don’t you go?

Nande ikanai no?
なんで
行かないの?
(But) why don’t you go?

Alex (RockinJapanese)

おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you have any questions feel free to contact me anytime! Alex

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