Kosoado I: This & That

第24課: Kosoado こそあど I: “This” & “That”
Kore/Kono これ・この, Sore/Sono それ・その, & Are/Ano あれ・あの

 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. 

Nominal Forms of “This” & “That”: Kore これ, Sore それ, & Are あれ

Japanese makes a distinction between “this” and “that” based on how close the referent is to the speaker and/or listener(s). 

  • When the object is by the speaker, kore これ is used. 
  • When the object is near the listener(s) but not the speaker, sore それ is used.
  • When the object is neither near the speaker nor the listener(s), are あれ is used.

To simplify this, these words are usually translated as follows: 

Nominal こそあど Forms English Equivalents
Kore これ This/these
 Sore それ That/those (near you)
 Are あれ 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. 

1. これは卵です。
Kore wa tamago desu.
This is an egg.
These are eggs.

2. これは何ですか。
Kore wa nan desu ka?
What is this?

What are these?

3. これは万年筆です。
Kore wa man’nenhitsu desu.
This is a fountain pen.

4. これは英和辞典です。
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?

6. それはワニです。
Sore wa wani desu.
That is a crocodilian.

7. 「あれは何ですか」「鯉幟です」
“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.

8. それはオランウータンですよ。
Sore wa oran’ūtan desu yo.
That is an orangutan.

9. あれは古い携帯電話だ。
Are wa furui keitai denwa da.
That over there is an old cellphone.

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 Forms of “This” & “That”: Kono この, Sono その, & Ano あの 

When using こそあど in an adjectival sense, the final /re/ is dropped and the particle no の is attached. The purpose of the こそあど used is to show the spatial relation of the noun it attaches to and the noun’s job is to be the referent. 

11a. これを食べます。
Kore wo tabemasu.
11b. このピザを食べます。
Kono piza wo tabemasu.
11a. I will eat this.
11b. I will eat this pizza.

In 11a, the word kore これ must account for “this” as opposed to something further away from the speaker and indicate what exactly is being eaten. In 11b, kono この only marks that the object is near the speaker and the entity is clearly stated. 

Adjectival こそあど Forms English Equivalents
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.

12. この机は古いです。
Kono tsukue wa furui-desu.
This desk is old/these desks are old.

13. このヘビを殺しました。
Kono hebi wo koroshimashita.

I killed this snake.

14. そのアリはかわいいですね。

Sono ari wa kawaii-desu ne.

This ant is cute, isn’t it?
Those ants are cute, aren’t they?

15. その教科書は安かったですか。

Sono kyōkasho wa yasukatta-desu ka?

Was that textbook cheap?

16. あの建物は議事堂です。

Ano tatemono wa gijidō desu.

That building is The National Diet.

17. 私もあの猫が好きです。

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. 

  • これ・この: A “this” in context is a physical or abstract entity that is directly affecting the speaker and may very well be affecting the listener(s) as well, but the focus is on “this” situation from the speaker’s perspective. 
  • それ・その: When the “that” in context, whether it be a physical or abstract entity, only either the speaker or the listener(s) are familiar with the situation. It is both close to someone’s mind but still far away in someone’s mind.
  • あれ・あの: When the “that” in context, whether it be a physical or abstract entity, is so far away that neither can actually see it, use these. When the concept is very abstract, both the speaker and the listener(s) must be familiar with that situation. What distinguishes them from これ・この is that it is distant from both parties.

“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.

18. かつて、この辺りは静かなところでした。
Katsute, kono atari wa shizuka-na tokoro deshita.
This area was once a quiet place.

19. これは重要な手がかりです。
Kore wa jūyō-na tegakari desu.
This is an important clue.

20. これは大変です!
Kore wa taihen-desu!
This is serious!

21. この話は秘密ですよ。
Kono hanashi wa himitsu desu yo.
This conversation is a secret.

22. そのつもりはない。
Sono tsumori wa nai.
I don’t have that intention.

Grammar NoteSono 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. 

23. その学生さんは誰ですか。
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.

24. あ、その話を聞きました。
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.

25. えー。それ、本当ですか?
Ē. Sore, hontō-desu ka?
Eh? Is that true?

26. その日は曇りでした。
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.

27. それは要りません。
Sore wa irimasen.
I don’t need that.
That won’t be necessary.

Sentence NoteSore 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.

28. あの猫ちゃんね、僕も大好きですよ。

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.

29. あのレストラン、美味おいしかったなあ。
Ano resutoran, oishikatta nā.
Ah, that restaurant was delicious.

Particle Note: The particle  なあ is used to give a heightened sense of appreciation as the speaker recollects.

Prenominal (Adjectival) Forms of “This” & “That”
Kore no これの, Sore no それの,Are no あれの

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. この味
Kono aji
30b. これの味

Kore no aji
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 English Equivalents
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. 

31. これの青はありますか。
Kore no ao wa arimasu ka?
Do you have this in black?

32. それの使い方がわかりません。
Sore no tsukaikata ga wakarimasen.
I don’t know how to use that (thing). 

33. その使い方がわかりません。
Sono tsukaikata ga wakarimasen.
I don’t understand that way of using (it). 

34. 彼女は、カップ麺の中に少し入ったあれの味を求めていた。
Kanojo wa, kappu men no naka ni sukoshi haitta are no aji wo motomete ita.

She was searching for the flavor of that.

35. それの何がいけないですか。

Sore no nani ga ikenai-desu ka?

What is wrong with that?
Literally: What of that is wrong?

36a. その結果、多くの犠牲者が出たのです。〇
Sono kekka, ōku no giseisha ga deta no desu.

36b. それの結果、多くの犠牲者が出たのです。X
Sore no kekka, ōku no giseisha ga deta no desu.

As a result (of that), there were a lot of casualties.

37. 友達がダイエットしていて、それの結果にイライラする。
Tomodachi ga daietto-shite ite, sore no kekka ni iraira-suru.

My friend is dieting, and the results of that (dieting) are irritating. 

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. 

38a. その右側だ。
Sono migigawa da.

38b. それの右側だ。
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).”

39. その隣のお店に行った。
Sono tonari no omise ni itta.

I went to the store next to it. 

40a. あれの中に落ちてしまった。(Emphatic)
Are no naka ni ochite shimatta.
40b. あの中に落ちてしまった。
Ano naka ni ochite shimatta.
40a. I fell inside of it. 
40b. I fell in there. 

Contractions of “This” & “That” こそあど + The Particle Wa は

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: 

Standard Speech れは → りゃ れは → ら
Kore wa これは Korya こりゃ Kora こら
 Sore wa それは Sorya そりゃ Sora そら
 Are wa あれは Arya ありゃ Ara あら

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.

41. 何だ、{こりゃ・こら}!
Nan da, [korya/kora].
What the heck (is this/going on)!

42. そら、おもろい。
Sora, omoroi.
That’s interesting.

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.

43. ありゃ、大変だったねぇ。
Arya, taihen datta ne.
That was difficult, huh.

Particle Note 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.