Grammar Info
N3 Lesson 10: 12/20

(what) the heck?, (who) in the world?, (where) on earth?, (how many) f*ing...

いったい + Question Word + Phrase
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In order to convey the feeling of ‘what the heck’, with any ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘where’ or ‘why’ type question, the 副詞(ふくし) (adverb) 一体(いったい) will be used in Japanese. いったい appears frequently both with, and without kanji.
いったい will usually be seen at the beginning of sentences, before some statement about what the speaker finds unbelievable.
  • 一体(いったい)ここ何(なに)起(お)きたん
    What the heck happened here?
  • これ一体(いったい)どういうこと
    What is the meaning of this?
The literal meaning of いったい is ‘one body’, or ‘one form’. In this way, when paired with questions, いったい can be thought of meaning ‘in a way that can be understood, what is (A)’, or ‘in a way that makes sense, what is (A)’.
  • 一体(いったい)なんでこんな事(こと)になった
    Explain to me in a way that makes sense, why something like this happened?
  • 一体(いったい)なんであんな奴(やつ)付(つ)き合(あ)ようと思(おも)った
    In a way that I can understand, why did you think of dating someone like him?
Fun Fact
Like the ‘one body’, or ‘one form’ meaning mentioned above, 一体(いったい) is sometimes used to mean ‘in general’, or ‘generally’ when seen as 一体(いったい)に. However, this use is slowly becoming less common, partly due to how often 一体(いったい) is used simply to express surprise or shock.
  • アメリカ人(じん)は一体(いったい)親切(しんせつ)です
    Americans are generally polite.
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When on earth are you going to be ready to go out?
I wonder how much freaking tax I will pay this year.
I wonder how many freaking cows there are on this farm.
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