I have heard people use 不好意思,请问厕所在哪里?for 'excuse me, where is the toilet?', and also 对不起 for 不好意思, although I think 不好意思 sounds more natural.

My question is (and notice the pun): what is the role of puting 请问 before 厕所在哪里? My thought is that 厕所在哪里? probably sounds too 'direct' and 'demanding', and we add the extra 请问 to soften the question. So for instance, if a teacher is angrily demanding where a student's homework is, they would just say 你的作业在哪里? And if a naughty child has hidden the car keys, his mother may say 车钥匙在哪里?

3 Answers 3


Yeah you've pretty much got it.

请问 is just a good, polite, way of giving the other person a heads up that you want to get some information out of them.

It's not necessarily demanding to drop the 请问, it all depends on your tone of voice.

If you're looking for more demanding way just drop the 在哪里 altogether and add a 呢 on the end while being overbearing. 呢 can also be fine by itself but again, it mostly depends on your tone of voice.

  • Thank you very much! With the use of 呢 , do you mean to use '请问厕所呢?' or just '厕所呢?'
    – Meep
    Sep 8, 2019 at 10:00
  • 1
    Haha 请问厕所呢 made me giggle, it starts off very politely and ends very abruptly. But yeah you could totally go with 厕所呢?or 你作业呢?
    – Mou某
    Sep 8, 2019 at 10:16

I think what the others have said is correct, but I should also add that you can in fact use 请问 not just as a polite or softening start to the sentence.

As with the spoken language, everything is about context and the way you express it (something more difficult to convey in written language). So a teacher could say 请问你的作业在哪里? This can be used emphasize that the teacher is not happy with the naught child, same way that we could use "Excuse me" in a stern tone.


It is very straightforward. 请问 simply means "excuse me" (as you yourself indicated in the example 'excuse me, where is the toilet?')

请问 has the same softening effect to the inquisitiveness of a question and it can be applied in similar social situations as "excuse me", "pardon me", "I would like to ask whether..." etc.

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