This chapter describes demonstrative and interrogative words, that is, words expressing things such as this, that, what, who and where.
The demonstrative and interrogative words are either pronouns, adjectives or adverbs, and may be divided into four groups depending on the prefix:
- ko – Something near the speaker.
- so - Something nearer the listener than the speaker.
- a - Something at a distance from both speaker and listener.
- do – Question
The following picture shows how to use the words for this and that; kore, sore and are. All other words also follow the same pattern.
The pattern is described in the table below:
|Near speaker||Near listener||Far from both||Question|
(of 3 or more)
that [x] (over there)
what kind of [x]
this kind of
that kind of
that kind of
in this manner
in that manner
in that manner
in which manner
Talking About People
When talking about people, especially if they are present, it is considered rude to use the words kono, sono, ano and dono. For instance, one should avoid sentences like “‘kono hito wa dare desu ka” – it is a rude way of saying to “Who is this person”. Instead one should use the polite versions kochira, sochira, achira and donata.
Example – Introducing a Colleague
- A: sochira wa donata desu ka?
- B: kochira wa Tanaka desu.
- A: Who is that person?
- B: This is Tanaka.
Exceptions to Using Polite Language About People
There are, however, also some occasions where it would be natural to use plain ko/so/a/do pronouns for people. For instance if the person you are speaking about cannot hear you, or when talking about your own children.
Example – Referring to someone in a story
In this example, (B) has told (A) a funny story about someone.
Example – Looking at a photo
This example shows another valid occasion to use sore for a person. (A) and (B) are talking about a person, who is not present. In the following situation, (B) is holding a photo in his hand.
Example – Talking about children
You can use the words kore/sore for your child, your students and your pets etc. But you can’t use it for other people’s children and students, as it would be considered rude. For instance, if a colleague, who does not have children, comes with a child, it may be better to use polite Japanese such as “donata no okosan desu ka?”.
In the following situation, at a kindergarten event, a nurse (A) finds an unknown child and asks another nurse (B) about this. The child’s mother (C) comes into the conversation.
Example – Pets
Sometimes “dare” is used for pets. For example, if you found a piece of cake was damaged on the table in the kitchen, and your cats are still in the room – it’s obvious that one or more cat is
the culprit, but you don’t know who did it. So, you could ask them:
Other Interrogative Pronouns
Some other interrogative pronouns are the following:
|どちらさま||dochirasama||who (very polite)|
|何人 ［なんにん］||nannin||how many people|
|幾ら ［いくら］||ikura||how much|
|どのような||donoyouna||which kind of?|
This page was written by the StudyJapanese team.