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TYJ Demonstratives

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This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese

8.2. Demonstratives

8.2.1. Three locations


Demonstratives are words to point something based on its location. "This" and "that" are English demonstratives. They can also be used to point something talked about in a conversation, such as "That's a nice idea."

English demonstratives and similar words form pairs, one for things near to the speaker and the other for things far from the speaker, such as "this" and "that", "these" and "those", and "here" and "there". But this system is different from Japanese. If you know Spanish, it will help you learn the Japanese demonstratives. Spanish has three locations for demonstratives, instead of two. For example, a masculine singular object is addressed by these three words: éste, ése, and aquél, each representing near to the speaker, near to the addressee, and far from both. This is the same as Japanese. In this system, not only the speaker's position but also the addressee's position is important. You might think this is complicated, but remember most languages have three kinds of personal pronouns: first person (the speaker), second person (the addressee), and third person (other people). Having three locations for demonstratives is the same as having three kinds of personal pronouns.

Some Japanese demonstratives are shown below:

Kana:これ
Romanization:ko re
Meaning:this one

Kana:それ
Romanization:so re
Meaning:that one

Kana:あれ
Romanization:a re
Meaning:that one

These are equivalents of this and that, but I added the word one after this and that because they do not combine with the following noun.

The first one and the second one are the same in English, but they are different in Japanese (and in Spanish, as I have written). The first one, これ, is used for a thing near to the speaker. The second one, それ, is used for a thing near to the addressee. And the third one, あれ, is used for a thing far from both. For instance, imagine both you and a friend have an apple. You call your apple これ and your friend's apple それ. If you and your friend see an apple on a table, both of you call it あれ.

Demonstratives used in conversation depends on the location of the speaker, the addressee, and the thing that is referred to. The table below shows which demonstratives to be used when A and B are talking:

The location
of the referred object
Demonstratives
used by A
Demonstratives
used by B
near to both A and Bこれ
ko re
this
これ
ko re
this
nearer to Aこれ
ko re
this
それ
so re
that
nearer to Bそれ
so re
that
これ
ko re
this
far from both A and Bあれ
a re
that
あれ
a re
that

Note that それ and あれ are not used together.


8.2.2. The ko-so-a-do words


You might have noticed that the Japanese words for this and that I explained above, これ, それ, and
あれ, are similar in pronunciation. The Japanese word for which is also similar; it is どれ "dore". Not only these demonstrative pronouns but also other demonstratives and interrogatives have systematic phonemes.

The demonstratives and interrogatives with the systematic phonemes are called こそあどことば "kosoadokotoba", the ko-so-a-do words. こ "ko" is the prefix for things near to the speaker and not nearer to the addressee, そ "so" is for things nearer to the addressee, あ "a" is for things far from both, and ど "do" is for interrogatives.

The table below shows most of the ko-so-a-do words:

LocationDemonstratives
Near to the speaker
Demonstratives
Near to the addressee
Demonstratives
Far from both
Interrogatives
Pronoun
(thing)
これ
ko re
this one
それ
so re
that one
あれ
a re
that one
どれ
do re
which one
Pronoun
(place)
ここ
ko ko
this place, here
そこ
so ko
that place, there
あそこ
a so ko
that place, there
どこ
do ko
where
Pronoun
(direction)
こっち
ko t ti
this direction
そっち
so t ti
that direction
あっち
a t ti
that direction
どっち
do t ti
which direction
Attributive
(thing)
この
ko no
this ...
その
so no
that ...
あの
a no
that ...
どの
do no
which ...
Attributive
(type)
こんな
ko n na
this kind of ...
そんな
so n na
that kind of ...
あんな
a n na
that kind of ...
どんな
do n na
what kind of ...
Attributive
(manner)
こう

thus, in this manner
そう

in that manner
ああ
â
in that manner
どんな

how

Note that pronouns and attributives are different. Pronouns cannot combine with a noun, while attributives need the following noun. The English word this is used for both "this is a pen" (pronoun) and "this pen is blue" (attributive), but they are different in Japanese. The former is これ "kore", and the latter is この "kono". Compare the English words we and our. We categorize the former as a pronoun and the latter as an attributive here.

Note that the demonstrative pronoun for a place far from both the speaker and the addressee is あそこ "asoko", not あこ "ako".

Here is an example of ko-so-a-do words:

Kana:えきはどこですか。
Romanization:E ki wa do ko de su ka .
Structure:(noun, station) (topic marker) (pronoun, where) (copula, is + polite) (question marker)
Meaning:Where is the station?


Kana:えきはあっちです。
Romanization:E ki wa a t ti de su .
Structure:(noun, station) (topic marker) (pronoun, that direction) (copula, is + polite)
Meaning:The station is in that direction. (pointing in some direction)

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Takasugi
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

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