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Question どうしましたか? どうしたんですか? What is the difference?

xminus1

Sempai
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Hello, friends:

What is the distinction in meaning (and rationale thereof) between どうしましたか? and どうしたんですか?

Is there a general rule that could be extrapolated here?

Thanks!
 

Toritoribe

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Hmm, I think the main difference would be just the level of politeness. Those expressions can mean "What did you/they do after that?/What's happened after that?" other than "What's the matter?/Are you OK?", and どうしたんですか? is more common than どうしましたか? for the former meaning since the explanatory ん is there, but actually, どうしましたか? can be used also in those situations.
どうしたんですか? is basically a spoken language, so this isn't used, for instance, in a long-text reading comprehension test (e.g. 主人公はそのあとどうしましたか), but those are interchangeable in most cases.
 

xminus1

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Hi, Toritoribe-sama:

Thank you for explaining the nuances of usage with these sentences; very helpful and much appreciated. I found them to be curious because, although they are very similar in construction, my Minna textbook associated them with two different idiomatic expressions. Google translate didn't really seem to support the Minna translation, so I wanted to ask an expert if there was anything I was missing.

In case anyone is intrigued, Minna used どうしましたか in the context of a doctor's office, where the doctor asks his patient "what seems to be the matter?"

どうしたんですか was used in a situation where someone had been waiting for her friend to arrive. When the friend finally arrived (late), the waiting person asked どうしたんですか ("what happened [to you]?").

As you say, Toritoribe-sama, the main difference is politeness, so it makes sense a doctor would speak more formally to a patient than one friend would to another. That's a very useful insight I hadn't exactly been mindful of. Furthermore, since these expressions are otherwise more or less interchangeable I should treat them with some flexibility when I seem them in different contexts. Japanese is a subtle language. Thanks again very much for your explanation.
🙏:)
 
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