Words such as “this” and “that," which refer to things are known as (shijishi 指示詞) and, in English, these words can be used as pronouns or adjectives without changing form, but the singular-plural distinction is still made.
i. This is a beautiful house. (Nominal)
ii. That is a very tall tree. (Nominal)
iii. This song is amazing. (Adjectival)
iv. Those blades are sharp. (Adjectival & Plural)
These same words in Japanese go by the name こそあど because of how they all start with either one of these morae. Unlike English, they change form depending on distance of the referent and whether it is being used as a pronoun or an adjective. Plural forms do exist, but they don't contrast with their plain forms by marking plurality per say.
First, we will look at the basic pronoun forms of the words meaning "this" and "that," then we'll move onto their adjectival, and then lastly onto the special plural forms.
Curriculum Note: The ど-series of こそあど will be touched on once we learn about question words.
Japanese makes a distinction between "this" and "that" based on how close the referent is to the speaker and/or listener(s).
To simplify this, these words are usually translated as follows:
Nominal こそあど Forms
That/those (near you)
That/those (over there)
These basic nominal forms are typically used in either the singular or the plural sense as their plural forms, which we will learn about in the next lesson, mark plurality for another reason.
Kore wa tamago desu.
This is an egg.
These are eggs.
Kore wa nan desu ka?
What is this?
What are these?
Kore wa man’nenhitsu desu.
This is a fountain pen.
Kore wa eiwa jiten desu.
This is an English-Japanese dictionary.
5. それは何ですか。("That" which is nearest the listener)
Sore wa nan desu ka?
What is that?
Sore wa wani desu.
That is a crocodilian.
“Are wa nan desu ka?” “Koinobori desu.”
“What is that?” “It's a koinobori.”
Culture Note: A koinobori 鯉幟 is a giant paper carp flown atop poles for celebrating Children's Day on May 5th for families who have male children.
10. 確たしかにあれを食たべたね。(Distant Recollection → Are あれ)
Tashika-ni are wo tabeta ne.
(I/you/he/she/it) definitely ate that, right?
Adjectival こそあど Forms
Kono この + Noun
This/these + Noun
Sono その + Noun
That/those + Noun
Ano あの + Noun
That/those + Noun (Over There)
Thinking about how far something is just to say "that" can be very tricky from an English speaker's perspective, but if you are by yourself or if the listener(s) is right next to you, you use それ・その if the "that" is in front of your eyes but not too far away, and when the "that" is considerably far (out of reach), you use あれ・あの.
Kono tsukue wa furui-desu.
This desk is old/these desks are old.
Kono hebi wo koroshimashita.
I killed this snake.
Sono ari wa kawaii-desu ne.
This ant is cute, isn’t it?
Those ants are cute, aren’t they?
Sono kyōkasho wa yasukatta-desu ka?
Was that textbook cheap?
Ano tatemono wa gijidō desu.
That building is The National
Watashi mo ano neko ga suki-desu.
I also like that cat over there.
こそあど with Non-Physical Objects or Objects NOT Present
It isn't always the case that "this" and "that" refer to entities that are actual physical objects, and they are also used to refer to entities that, although they may be physical, they may not be actually present.
In Japanese, demonstratives don't change based on whether the entity is present/physical or not in the same way they don't in English, but the three-way spatial distinction is still maintained.
"These" or "those" entities may be people, places, times, things, etc. The biggest source of confusion as an English speaker will be differentiating between the two "thats" - それ・その and あれ・あの. If you aren't sure whether the listener knows anything about it, that doubt alone is grounds for using それ・その. If the other person mentions it and you know about it, you use あれ・あの．
Katsute, kono atari wa shizuka-na tokoro deshita.
This area was once a quiet place.
Kore wa jūyō-na tegakari desu.
This is an important clue.
Kore wa taihen-desu!
This is serious!
Kono hanashi wa himitsu desu yo.
This conversation is a secret.
Sono tsumori wa nai.
I don’t have that intention.
Grammar Note: Sono その is used in Ex. 22 because although the speaker is denying a situation outlined by another person, the speaker's denial implies that it isn't in their mind at all, which would be a requirement for using ano あの.
Sono gakusei-san wa dare desu ka?
Who is that student?
Sentence Note: The student in question is unfamiliar to the speaker, but it is implied by the question that the listener might know the person. If the student is physically present, they would be within range of eye contact of both the speaker and listener.
A, sono hanashi wo kikimashita.
Oh yeah, I heard about that.
Sentence Note: Even though both the speaker and listener know something about the conversation being referenced, it is implied that only the listener knows the full story.
Ē. Sore, hontō-desu ka?
Eh? Is that true?
Sono hi wa kumori deshita.
That day was cloudy.
Sentence Note: In this example, the speaker is informing the listener that the day in question was cloudy.
Sore wa irimasen.
I don't need that.
That won't be necessary.
Sentence Note: Sore それ may be referring to an actual object or an abstract situation. For instance, the speaker may not be in need of a thing in the listener's possession, or the speaker may be rejecting assistance in a certain matter that the listener has brought up.
Ano neko-chan ne, boku mo daisuki-desu yo.
Oh, that cat, I love it too.
Sentence Note: The cat in question may be physically in sight but would have to be out in the distance. With how this speaker is wording it, it sounds more likely that they're talking about a very familiar cat that's out of sight.
Ano resutoran, oishikatta nā.
Ah, that restaurant was delicious.
Particle Note: The particle nā なあ is used to give a heightened sense of appreciation as the speaker recollects.
The particle no の is capable of directly following the nominal forms of こそあど. In doing so, the entity is being described by the こそあど and NOT the following noun. "Prenominal" means that they come before a noun, and although they behave as an adjective in the sense that they are still modifying the noun that follows, they maintain their nominal meaning unlike the adjectival forms mentioned earlier.
30a. This flavor
30b. The flavor of this
The use of these forms requires that the entity be at the forefront of conversation so that what the こそあど is referring to is understood. These forms get translated into English as "of this/that."
Prenominal こそあど Forms
Kore no これの + X
The X of this/these
Sore no それの + X
The X of that/those
Are no あれのX
The X of that/those
From these translations, it may appear that in any situation you would use "of this/that" in English, you should be able to use these prenominal こそあど forms, but in phrases like "as a result (of that)" where the "that" is not even necessary in English, the semantic weight of the noun "result" is too great for the prenominal form それの to be used. In other words, if you can paraphrase to "that/the X" in English - "the/that result was that...," then you cannot use a prenominal form.
Kore no ao wa arimasu ka?
Do you have this in black?
Sore no tsukaikata ga wakarimasen.
I don't know how to use that (thing).
Sono tsukaikata ga wakarimasen.
I don't understand that way of using (it).
Kanojo wa, kappu men no naka ni sukoshi haitta are no aji wo motomete ita.
She was searching for the flavor of that.
Sore no nani ga ikenai-desu ka?
What is wrong with that?
Literally: What of that is wrong?
Sono kekka, ōku no giseisha ga deta no desu.
Sore no kekka, ōku no giseisha ga deta no desu.
As a result (of that), there were a lot of casualties.
Tomodachi ga daietto-shite ite, sore no kekka ni iraira-suru.
Grammar Note: The use of それ indicates a higher degree of semantic weight on the こそあど. Since こそあど may refer to people as much as they can to abstract entities, それ is collectively referring to the speaker's friend and how she is dieting.
There is also notable overlap between these こそあど adjectival and prenominal forms when describing the area of space occupied by an entity already established in context.
Sono migigawa da.
Sore no migigawa da.
It's the right side of it.
It's to the right of that.
As the translations of 38a. and 38b. suggest, the slight difference in nuance does carry over. However, almost all situations aside from those where the physical entity is being specifically pointed out, the adjectival forms are overwhelmingly preferred. The same can also be said in general as the prenominal forms tend to be paraphrased to the more specific "adjectival form + noun (+ no の)."
Sono tonari no omise ni itta.
I went to the store next to it.
Are no naka ni ochite shimatta.
Ano naka ni ochite shimatta.
40a. I fell inside of it.
40b. I fell in there.
In casual speech, the particle wa は contracts with the nominal forms of the こそあど for "this" and "that" in the following ways:
れは → りゃ
れは → ら
Kore wa これは
Sore wa それは
Are wa あれは
These casual forms are frequently used in coarse conversations, but tone is everything in casual speech. The contractions in the third column, however, are notably trickier to grasp. Part of the reason is that in a calm tone, they are considered dialectal, but in a coarse tone, they become more universally used in Japan to express anger.
Nan da, [korya/kora].
What the heck (is this/going on)!
Dialect Note: In dialects of West Japan like Ōsaka Dialect (大阪弁), the adjective omoshiroi 面白い (interesting) is contracted to omoroi おもろい.
Arya, taihen datta ne.
That was difficult, huh.
Particle Note: Nē ねぇ is the same as ne ね but with a trailing pronunciation to give off a tone of relief.
44. あら、その音、聞こえた？ (Feminine)
Ara, sono oto, kikoeta?
Oh? Did you hear that sound?
Misnomer Note: The ara あら in Ex. 44 is not related to a contraction of あれは but is actually an interjection meaning "oh." In modern times, it is preferred by female speakers.