Why Don't Japanese Questions Have Question Marks?

Often, questions written in Japanese end in a full stop, not a question mark. But why?

When not to use a question mark

If a question ends in the question marker ka (か), it doesn't need a question mark, because the 'ka' tells us that this is a question:


Ima nanji desu ka.

What time is it?

That doesn't mean you can't use a question mark with か. People do it, especially in casual contexts. You just don't need to (and you shouldn't in formal writing).

Here's a question with か and a question mark, from the McDonald’s Japan website:

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 13.30.00.jpg


Hambaagaa wa nagai aida houchi shitemo kusaranai to kikimashita. Hontou desu ka?

I heard you can leave a hamburger for a long time and it won't go bad. Is that true?

Adding a question mark after か here makes 本当ですか? sound a bit more casual, friendly and questioning.

When to use a question mark

In questions without ka, question marks are pretty common:


Ashita wa?

How about tomorrow?


O-shigoto wa?

What's your job?


Gakkou ni itta?

You went to school?

Without a question mark, these short written statements wouldn't obviously be questions.

That's all from me for today. So... any questions?

First published December 11, 2015
Updated December 13, 2018