by Don  

The word же is an emphatic particle, by which we mean it puts emphasis on the preceding word. My first-year college Russian instructor first suggested translating it into English with the phrase ‘in the world.’ I still like that approach after question words:

Кто это? Who is this?
Who is that?
Кто же это? Who in the world is this?
Who in the world is that?
Что это? What is this?
А что же это? And what in the world is this?
Где мои ключи? Where are my keys?
Где же мои ключи? Where in the world are my keys?
Куда ты идёшь? Where are you going?
Куда же ты идёшь? Where in the world are you going?

Же has many other uses and translations as well. It's especially worth taking the time to contemplate how it's used in translating the English phrase ‘the same’ in this blog entry.

Куда же ты идёшь?
Куда-куда, на кудыкину гору.

Where the heck are you going?
I'll never tell.

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