どういうことか (dou iu koto ka) Meaning Japanese Grammar - What Does It Mean?

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'どういうことか (dou iu koto ka) Meaning Japanese Grammar - What Does It Mean?'

Anna Baffa Volpe

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どういうことか (dou iu koto ka) Meaning Japanese Grammar - What Does It Mean?

The expression どういうことか (dou iu koto ka) means What do you mean by that?, What does it mean?.

It is used to ask for clarification and elucidation of what is being said and also to express astonishment, surprise or disappointment depending on the situation.

In this post we learn more about the meaning of どういうことか, how it is formed and when どういうことか is used through real example sentences.

How to form どういうことか

This expression is formed

  • by the interrogative どう how?, what? of the Kosoado series, the Japanese demonstratives
  • by the verb to say ()
  • by the noun こと meaning thing, event, matter; its kanji is (こと)
  • by the interrogative particle

We can also find the forms:

  • どういうことですか polite form with the copula expressed: です.
  • どういうことなのか informal and colloquial


⇨ what do you mean?

⇨ what does it mean?

Sentence +どういうことか

Today I am giving as examples various titles of Japanese publications on different topics and all containing the expression どういうことか that we are developing in this post.

What does it mean to be 'good at your job'?
()(ごと)()()る: be able to do one's job, be good at one's job


What does it mean to be 'good at your job'?

とは to express astonishment

These two particles combined create a very common form in Japanese and one use is in explanations and descriptions of something.

とは follows the noun or expression whose description is asked or reported

The structure as follows:

Thing or situation to be described+とは+description+ことだ or ものだ or Sentence


Talent is believing in yourself.


Isn't it a bit early to be going to bed at 11 o'clock?

We can find phrases that end simply with とは; these are situations of surprise, amazement, when something is not expected to happen.


I never thought I'd get my lost wallet back.


A 4-year-old child can write kanji...

The sentence is completed according to the situation:

  • I was surprised to see a 4-year-old writing kanji
  • I didn't think a 4-year-old could write kanji.

とは is often replaced by the less formal って


What does it mean to be an adult?

What is PH?
(さん)(せい)(ちゅう)(せい)、アルカリ(せい): acidic, neutral, alkaline


What is PH?

とは is ised in combination with どういうことか

... とは+どういうことか
What does it mean to trust people?
(ひと)(しん)じる: trust people


What does it mean to trust people?

A comment on a video on the beauties of Japanese landscapes containing とは in this case as an expression of astonishment, of surprise:

I never thought there would be such beautiful scenery in Japan.
(こく)(ない)の: adjective meaning domestic, national


I never thought there would be such beautiful scenery in Japan.

どういうことか to ask for clarification

This expression is used when we don't quite understand what our interlocutor is saying and ask for further information and explanation.

A Japanese definition of the form どういうことか: 物事の起こった原因が分からない際の表現


Expression used when we don't know the cause of something that happened.

We don't know the causes and the reasons for the fact reported and ask the interlocutor for an explanation.

What does it mean to learn?
(まな)ぶ: learn, study


What does it mean to learn?

どういうことか to express surprise

どういうことか is also used in situations where one expresses surprise at what is being said.

Astonishment and also dismay in the following dialogue:



My girlfriend suddenly told me that we couldn't meet anymore...



What do you mean you can't meet anymore!?

Other Japanese book titles:

What does 'rational' mean?
(ごう)()(てき)な: な adjective meaning logical, rational


What does 'rational' mean?

What does it mean to help others?
(ひと)(たす)ける help others


What does it mean to help people?

Synonyms of どういうことか

Some commonly used synonymous forms of どういうことか are:

  • どういう(わけ)
  • どういう()(ゆう)

what's the reason?

The generic noun こと thing, matter is replaced by (わけ) wake and ()(ゆう) riyū meaning reason, motive, cause

どういうことかと()うと: What I mean is

Let's complete the expression どういうことか with というと written with the Kanji と()うと or と()えば and literally the translation is: if I have to say what it is about to put it simply, in other words, what I'm trying to say is どういうことかというと is used to explain and clarify a certain thing; we paraphrase an abstract thing with a practical thing, but it is often used to ask for an explanation or express something that is ambiguous and unclear.


There are various interpretations as to what this means.

Some synonymous expressions of どういうこととかというと:

  • ()(たい)(てき)には: specifically, in detail
  • (れい)として: for example, for instance
  • ()(きん)(れい)()うと: to put it in simple terms Another synonym for どういうことかと()うと is つまり. Here is a dialogue taken from an interview with a (ちょ)(めい)(じん) celebrity.



You recently launched your own YouTube channel, what inspired you to do so?



Well, I guess it's because I wanted to connect more with the younger generation. I want to use YouTube to share my thoughts and experiences with them.

Literally: If I have to explain why I launched my YouTube channel... In the sentence from the interview, the use of どういうことかというと was that of explaining and clarifying, whereas in the next one we see the sense of ambiguity and not clarity:


The new law makes it difficult to see what the government's intentions are.

Examples of どういうことか

What do you mean by 'understand'?
()(かい)する: understand, comprehend


What do you mean by 'understand'?

って as we have seen substitutes とは.

What is it like to be a dog?
(いぬ)である: being a dog


What is it like to be a dog?

From a Health and Wellness blog about (かん)(せん)(しょう)(しん)(だん): diagnosis of infectious diseases

What does it mean to make a diagnosis?
(しん)(だん)をつける: make a diagnosis


What does it mean to make a diagnosis?