Interrogatives (5 W’s & H)

In Persian the five W’s and H are three ch’s (چ) and three k’s (ک), as follows:

who? ki (pronounced like “key”) کی؟
when? key (pronounced like “kay”) کِی؟
where? kojā کجا؟
what? ce چه؟
why? cerā چرا؟
how? cetowr چطور؟

Except for چه, which has a colloquial variation as چی, the rest of these adverbs are the same in colloquial Persian.

چرا is from چه plus را, a post positioned direct object marker in New Persian (as in the accusative), while in Classical Persian it was an object marker for accusative as well as dative (that is, direct and indirect object).

In چطور we are dealing with a hybrid morpheme combining the Persian adverb چه ‘what’ and the Arabic loanword طور towr (Arab. tawr) ‘manner.’ It literally means ‘in what manner?’; that is, ‘how?’.

In colloquial Persianچطور also means ‘how come?’:

چطور حالا اومدی؟
cetowr hālā umadi?(or, āmade-yi)
“How come you’ve come (showed up) now?”

In addition, there is a compound with چطور as چطور شد…:

چطور شد حالا اومدی؟
cetowr šod hālā umadi ?
(or, āmadi)
“How come have you come (showed up) now?”

Another compound is برای چه barā-ye ce ‘what for, how come, why.’ If it follows the object of the sentence, it means that the speaker is looking for the function of the object of the sentence in their affair; if it precedes the object of the sentence, it means that the speaker expected the object of the sentence to be a different one or not be included at all. In this case the object takes the stress.

Compare the following sentences:

او را برای چه با خود آورده ای؟
u rā barā-ye ce bā xod āvarde-yi?
“Why have you brought him/her with you?”

Here the reason for the object of the sentence being there is of importance.

برای چه او را با خود آورده ای؟
barā-ye ce u rā bā xod āvarde-yi?
“Why/how come have you brought him/her with you?”

Here the object of the sentence is of concern: “Why this one and not another?”, or “Why did you have to bring him/her along?”, or “Did you really have to bring him/her along?”.

However, in colloquial dialect, as long as the stress is on the object, any of these two notions may be expressed/understood.

Finally notice that the Persian question mark is a mirror image of the English mark; of course, this is because Persian is written from right to left.

Simple Samples:

شما کی هستید؟
šomā ki hastid?
“Who are you?”

کی آمدید؟
key āmadid?

“When did you come?”

“Where are you?”

این چه است (چیست)؟
in ci ast (cist)?
“What is this?”

چرا رفتید؟
cerā rafti?
“Why did you go?”

Plural/formal: “How are you?”