The difference between 「なんで;nande」,「どうして;doushite」, and 「なぜ;naze」"Why"

This article’s topic is なんで(nande) ,どうして (doushite), and なぜ (naze) which are translated as “Why?” or “How?”. It is one of the common words you hear in the daily conversation. Both words have the same meaning but have different connotations. We can't draw a clear line between their use, but here's a summary of the broad differences.

どうして is an emotional way of asking why

どうして is a way of saying “why” with the speaker's emotions and expresses a range of emotions such as frustration, surprise, regret and wonder.

Examples of どうして

1. どうしてあんなことを言ってしまったんだろう。


 Doushite Anna koto wo itte shimattanndarou.

 Why did I say such things?

2. お前はどうして遅刻したんだ。


 Omae wa doushite chikoku shitanda

 Why are you late?

3. 休日はどうしてこうも短いんだ。


 Kyujitsu wa doushite koumo mizikainda

 Why are holidays so short?

In (1), it shows regret for saying such and such; in (2), one is questioning the other for being late; and in (3), it shows frustration and surprise.

どうして also can be used in the exclamation statement just like the English word “How” and “Why”. Example sentences (1) and (3) are typical examples of this, where the emotional side of the sentence is more evident than the reason.

なんで is also an emotional way of asking why

なんで is most commonly used in daily conversation compared to どうして. Both なんで and どうして involves speakers emotion but なんで is more colloquial (spoken language). なんで is often used by children and young people in everyday conversation. When you say "どうして" in spoken language, it sounds more formal or slightly more senior than "なんで". Also, "どうして" is a word with a sense of formality, so some people may feel uncomfortable using it in daily conversation.

Examples of なんで

4. コーラを飲むとなんでしゃっくりが出るんだろう。


 Co-la wo nomuto nande shakkuri ga derundarou

 Why do I get hiccups when I drink Coke?

5. なんで宿題をやらないといけないの。


 Nande syukudai wo yaranaito ikenaino