第147課: Which: どれ, どちら, どっち, & いずれ

This lesson will be devoted to delving further into the Japanese words that mean “which.” Although “which” corresponds to several Japanese words, the ones you will learn in this lesson cover the fundamental meaning of “which.” 

Which ‘Which’?

There are three primary words that mean “which” in Japanese: どれ, どちら, and どっち. Generally speaking, they are distinguished in the following manner.

・どれ: Used for when pointing out from three or more things.
・どちら: Used when pointing out from two things.
・どっち: Used when casually point out from two things.

1. 香川かがわさんのかばんはどれですか。
Which is Mr. Kagawa’s bag/briefcase?

Sentence Note: In Ex. 1, there are most likely more than two bags/briefcases present.

2. どちらがしいですか。
Which do you want?

Sentence Note: In Ex. 2, only two options are likely being offered.

3. 日本語を勉強し始める前は、どちらが中国語の教科書か、どちらが日本語の教科書かが分からなかったでしょう。
Before studying Japanese, I probably wouldn’t have figured out which is the Chinese textbook and which is the Japanese textbook.

4. この会話かいわでは、どっちがいいかかりません。
I don’t know which to use in this conversation.

Sentence Note: Although どっち is used colloquially, it still works well in polite speech. However, in formal situations, it gets completely replaced with どちら.

5. アルコールのよわいおさけはどれですか。
Which drinks are low in alcohol?

What we have seen thus far are the forms for “which” when used as a noun. When used adjectivally, you will need to change どれ to どの and add the particle の to どちら and どっち.

6. どのみちえらぶかまよっています。
I’m wavering on which path to choose.

7. {どの・どちらの}図書館としょかん返却へんきゃくしてもいいんでしょうか。
Which library would it be alright to return (it) to?

8. どのえきりればいいですか。
Which station should I get off at?

9. どのチームを応援おうえんしてるの?
Which team do you support?

10. どの科目かもく選択せんたくするかとてもなやんでます。
I’m really worried about which subjects to choose.

11. (わたしには)どのいろ一番似合いちばんにあうとおもいます?
Which color(s) do you think fits me the best?   

12. 結局けっきょく、どれにすればいいの?
In the end, which should I go with?

13. どれにしようかまよっています。
I’m wavering on which to go with.

Grammar Note: しよう is the volitional form of する (to do). If you were to remove what’s after か from the sentence, you would get a sentence that equates to “which shall I go with?”

どれの is seldom possible, but it does exist. This follows the same principles as これの, それの, etc. And so, creating a truly grammatical sentence with it requires that “which” actually stand as a noun, but the only grammatically sound combination would be どれのこと (which thing). 

14. ログインIDってどれのことか教えてください。
Could you tell me which thing is the login ID? 

15. 一体どれのこと?
Which is it?

Aside from the truly basic sentences we’ve seen thus far, somewhat more grammar needs to be introduced when listing the actual things in a sentence with “which.” Because the underlying grammar is the same across the three ‘which’ words, we’ll use the English word ‘which’ in discussing the grammar patterns used with them.

The basic grammatical pattern used when listing the actual things ‘which’ may refer to is “XY ()では.” When listing things with the particle と , it was once the case that Y was always marked by と. In making comparisons, this archaic grammar remains relatively used. Even when there are three or more elements, in which case (と)では would be after the final element, it is still often used.

16. ドメインは、.comと.net(と)ではどっちがいいですか。
For a domain, between “.com” and “.net,” which is good?

17. ジョギングは、あさよるではどっちがいいの
As for jogging, which is best, morning or night?

Sentence Note: The lack of と before では is largely due to the sentence being more casual. After all, the use of と after the second element is optional and indicative of older grammar.

18. 体重たいじゅう身長しんちょうあさよる(と)ではかならちがいます。
Both one’s weight and one’s height always differ between day and night.  

Sentence Note: Although “which” is not in the sentence, (と)では is still used to create the phrase “between…and…”

19. (同室どうしつと)別室べっしつとどっちがいい?
(Between same room or) separate rooms, which is better?

Sentence Note: Whenever the first element is deemed to be obvious, it may be omitted from the sentence. In this example, the only thing that could reasonably be compared with別室 (separate room) is the phrase for “same room,” which is 同室. Though rather unrelated, also note that the “which” in “which is” is neither a noun nor an adjective, meaning it doesn’t correspond to the “which” phrases in this lesson.

When listing three or more phrases, you can use の中で(は)instead of (と)では. The difference in nuance by using the word 中 is that the translation will usually include “among” rather than “between.”

20. いぬねこと、ウサギ{(と)・のなか}では、どれが一番好いちばんすきですか。
Between/among dogs, cats, and rabbits, which do you like the most?

Grammar Note: The use of the particle は is to emphasize the choice being made. In effect, it highlights the pool of choices. In the next sentence, は is not used. The reason for this is because the four seasons are quite finite and there is no need to add special emphasis to the options at hand. However, adding は would not make the sentence odd or ungrammatical.

21. はるなつあきふゆなかで、{どれ・どちら}の季節きせつ一番いちばんきですか。
Among spring, summer, autumn, and winter, which season do you like the most?

Grammar Note: Although どちら is almost always used in situations in which there are only two things ‘which’ may refer to, it is sometimes treated as the formal form of どれ. This becomes apparent when clearly formal elements are introduced in the sentence. Here, we see that the prefix お~ is added to 好きだ (to like) to create an honorific expression.

22. モンストとパズドラってどっちがき?
Between Monster Strike and Puzzle & Dragon, which do you like?

Grammar Note: The second/last と may actually be seen as って. As we know, this is not the only instance in which と can be replaced by って. Its use here is to lessen the old-fashioned nature of marking the second element.

Phrase Note: Monster Strike and Puzzle & Dragon are two of the most popular mobile app games in Japan. Colloquially, they are referred to by their contractions as is demonstrated in Ex. 22. 

The use of と to mark the second/last element, as mentioned, is grammatically unnecessary. This is also the case when one or both elements are nominalized phrases. When it’s missing, you’ll see that the nominalized phrase essentially connects with the ‘which’ word with the particle の.

23. たまねぎは、なま加熱かねつするの(と)、どっちがいいの?
As for onions, which is better, they being raw or heating them up? 

24. いえは、るのとすの(と)、どっちがいいの?
As for homes, between selling and leasing, which is better?

25. るのとくの(と)、どっちがいいの?
Between shaving and plucking, which is better?

Another facet of grammar surrounding ‘which’ is the optional addition of の方 to the sentence after a ‘which’ word to emphasize “which one.”

Orthography Note: To avoid confusion with its other usages, 方 may be read as ほう.

26. ワインとビール{(と)では・の}どちら(のほう)がきですか。
Between wine and beer, which (one) do you like?

27. いまのところ、モンストとパズドラ(と)では、{どっち・どちら}のほうが人気にんきがあるんですか。
Currently, between Monster Strike or Puzzle & Dragons, which is more popular?

28. 喫煙席きつえんせき禁煙席きんえんせき、どちらになさいますか。
Which would you like, smoking or non-smoking?

The options before the ‘which’ word may alternatively be listed with the particle か. In this case, か is usually stated after the second/last element, although it may be omitted if the following ‘which’ phrase sounds like a separate statement. Regarding difference in nuance, the sense of comparison is lessened to a listing of options which may not be exclusive which may also be emphatically based.

29. おはしかフォークかどちらになさいますか。
Will you go with chopsticks or fork?

Sentence Note: Although the general options may indeed just be chopsticks or forks, the option of neither is also implied. It is also open-ended enough for the customer to choose something else not explicitly mentioned.

30. ガチャって、単発たんぱつ10じゅうれんか、どっちがいい?
As for gacha, which is better, single shot or 10 shot?

Sentence Note: As mentioned, the sense of comparison is open-ended but is also more subjective and emphatically based. By posing the question this way, the speaker may expect follow-up questions regarding the nature of the options or personal experiences from others with said options.

Word Note: In mobile games, gacha is an internal prize that you get, often by utilizing in-game currency. 

31. あいかおかねかどちらにしますか。
Which will you go with, love or money?

Sentence Note: Ex. 31 is a perfect example for the subjective, emphatic nature of か. Clearly, there is more behind “love” and “money” alone, but it is this fact that also drives the emphasis behind the question itself.

32. モンストかパズドラ、どっちがおススメですか?
Monster Strike or Puzzle & Dragon, which do you recommend?

33. 賃貸ちんたいいえかどっちがとくかなど比較ひかくしてはいけません。
You mustn’t compare on the lines of like whether renting or owning one’s home is the better bargain.

In addition to what we’ve seen, it is also appropriate and very common for the second/last element of a sentence with ‘which’ to be followed by a conditional phrase.

34a. 太平洋たいへいよう大西洋たいせいようだと、どちら(のほう)がおおきいのでしょうか。
If it’s the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, which (one) is larger?
34b. 太平洋たいへいよう大西洋たいせいよう(と)では、どちら(のほう)がおおきいのでしょうか。
Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, which (one) is larger?

Grammar Note: The use of だと adds to the sense that a definitive comparison is being made.

35. 経営者けいえいしゃ労働者ろうどうしゃなら、どちら(のほう)がいでしょうか。
If it’s between being a manager and being a worker, which (one) is better?

Grammar Note: The use of the particle なら is used in order to ask for a suggestion.

37. くるまうなら、新車しんしゃ中古車ちゅうこしゃかどっちがおとくなんですか。
If you’re buying a new car, which is a better bargain, a new car or a used car?

38. くるま購入こうにゅうする場合ばあいは、新車しんしゃ中古車ちゅうこしゃ(と)では、どちらがおとくなんでしょうか。
In the case of purchasing a vehicle, which is the better bargain, a new car or a used car?

Sentence Note: Ex. 38 is a more formal version of Ex. 37. As you can see, the phrase ~場合は is used to mean “in the case…”

Deceiving Translations from English

At times, the use of the word “which” doesn’t correspond to either of the ‘which’ phrases discussed in this lesson. However, it is almost always the case that the English can be paraphrased into something else, and it will be that something else that translates smoothly into Japanese.

39. 紳士服売しんしふくうは何階ですか。
Which/what floor is men’s clothing?

Word Note: The opposite of “men’s clothing” is “women’s clothing,” which is 婦人服.

40. {どこの・どの}都市としんでみたいですか。
What/which city would you like to live?


Another word meaning “which” is いずれ, which is the original form of どれ. It remains in set phrases like いずれにしても, meaning “at any rate/in any case.” You will also see it frequently used as an adverb meaning “sooner or later.”  

41. 彼女かのじょはいずれわすれるでしょう。
She will surely forget sooner or later.

42. 死刑廃止しけいはいし存続そんぞく、いずれにしてもむずかしい問題もんだいなのだ。
Abolishing the death penalty or continuing with it, at any rate, it is a difficult question.