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.

korearesore.png

 

The pattern is described in the table below:

Near speaker Near listener Far from both Question
What これ
kore
this one
それ
sore
that one
あれ
are
that one
どれ
dore
which
(of 3 or more)

Which この
kono
this [x]
どの
sono
that [x]
あの
ano
that [x] (over there)
どの
dono
which [x],
what kind of [x]

Direction こちら
kochira
this way
そちら
sochira
that way
あちら
achira
that way
どちら
dochira
which way

Type こんな
konna
this kind of
そんな
sonna
that kind of
あんな
anna
that kind of
どんな
donna
which kind

Way/manner こう
kou
in this manner
そう
sou
in that manner
ああ
aa
in that manner
どう
dou
in which manner
Where ここ
koko
here
そこ
soko
there
あそこ
asoko
over there
どこ
doko
where

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.

Japanese:

A:それは誰ですか。

B:それは(P)です。

Roomaji:

  • A:  sore wa dare desu ka?
  • B:  sore wa P desu.

English:

  • A: Who do you refer to?
  • B: He/she is P.

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.

Japanese:

A:ねえ、それ誰。

B:これは妹だよ。

Roomaji:

  • A:  nee, sore dare?
    B:  (kore wa) imouto da yo.

English:

  • A: Say, who is she?
  • B: She is my younger sister.

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.

Japanese:

A:この子は誰ですか。

B:さあ...

C:すみません、それは家の子です。

Romaji:

  • A:  kono ko wa dare desu ka?
  • B:  saa…
  • C:  sumimasen, sore wa uchi no ko desu.

English:

  • A: Who is this child?
  • B: I’m not sure…
  • C: Sorry, he is my (our) child.

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:

Japanese:

あれを食べたのは誰。

Romaji:

  • are o tabeta no wa dare?

English:

  • Who ate that?

Other Interrogative Pronouns

Some other interrogative pronouns are the following:

誰[だれ] dare who
どなた donata who (polite)
どちらさま dochirasama who (very polite)
なん、何[なに] nan, nani what
何人 [なんにん] nannin how many people
幾ら [いくら] ikura how much
幾つ[いくつ] ikutsu how many
いつ itsu when
どうして、なぜ doushite, naze why?
どうやって、どのように douyatte, donoyouni how?
どのような donoyouna which kind of?
どのくらい donokurai how long?

Credit

This page was written by the StudyJapanese team.