Japanese/Grammar/Pro-forms

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Japanese has demonstratives (words for pointing to the subject of discussion) much in the same way that many other languages do. Japanese demonstratives are highly regular and take four standard prefixes:

  • こ〜, for objects close to the speaker;
  • そ〜, for objects closer to the listener;
  • あ〜, for objects far from either; and
  • ど〜, for question forms.
れはあなたのものですか? — Which is yours?
れです。 — (It) is this.
れです。 — (It) is this.
れです。 — That over there (yonder).

These are suffixed with various pronoun indicators that are listed in the table below.

Japanese also makes a destinction between a prenominal form and regular form, meaning that the prenominal form must describe a noun that follows. For example, in the sentence "This cat" the word "this" describes the cat. The prenominal form replaces the れ with a の. In that way, "あの", "その" and "この" are the prenominal forms of "this" and "that".

あのねこはわかいです。 - That (distant) cat is young.
Here (こ〜) There (そ〜) Distant (あ〜) Question (ど〜) Suffix Usage
これ

this

それ

that by you

あれ

that

どれ

which

[〜れ] Objects (normal); a demonstrative pronoun to replace naming objects. For example, you can name a thing that the listener is holding in his hands, or a house that the listener is standing by just "それ sore".
この

this ~

その

that ~ by you

あの

that ~

どの

which ~

[〜の] Objects (prenominal); indicates objects located somewhere. Must be followed by a noun. For example, "あの ひと ano hito" means "some person" or "a certain person" distant (but known) from both speaker and listener. The [〜の] suffix is used not only with the こ, そ, あ and ど stems, but also with other pronouns and nouns to indicate genitive.
ここ

here

そこ

there by you

あそこ

there

どこ

where

[〜こ] Location. Refers to a place. Note that "あそこ asoko" is the correct way of saying "that place over there", not "あこ ako".
こちら

this way

そちら

that way by you

あちら

that way

どちら

which way

[〜ちら] Direction Direction or point of origin. There is also a shortened form of "〜ちら chira" - "〜っち tchi", which is almost as polite as the full form and is rather widely used, although should be avoided when speaking at formal events. In some translations. it may seem rather similar to the 〜う u group, but in reality it is different, as the 〜ちら chira group means direction, way to go somewhere, or sometimes place, but the 〜う u group means ways or methods to do something. Words belonging to the 〜ちら group are also a formal replacement for the 〜こ group.
こんな

this kind of

そんな

that kind of

あんな

that kind of

どんな

what kind of

[〜んな] A kind of. Indicates a class of things, and is usually translated as "such a" or "kind of". For example, "どんな いろ" means "what kind of color". "〜ういう" may be used instead of "〜んな nna". Note that the あ a-form of the "〜ういう uiu" is "ああいう aaiu".
こう

in this way

そう

in that way

ああ

in that way

どう

in which way

[〜う] A way. Expresses a way of doing something (method). For example "どう dou" can be translated as "how", and "そう sou" can be translated as "that way" or "so". Note that the あ a-form is "ああ aa", not "あう au".
こいつ

this person

そいつ

that person by you

あいつ

that person

どいつ

which person

[〜いつ] A person. Nowadays this is a rather rude way to name persons. For example, speaking of a person you do not respect and/or who is lower than you in social hierarchy, who is not there when you are speaking of him, you may use "あいつ aitsu" meaning "that guy". This is only to be used informally. An acceptable way to express the same meaning is using a word from the 〜の group followed by ひと (人), e.g. "あの ひと", meaning "that person".
こなた

you

そなた

you

あなた

that person, you

どなた

who

[〜なた] A person. While 〜いつ itsu is just rude, this one is trickier. Originally, あなた anata was rather honorific, but now it is either neutrally formal when addressing strangers (it is a standard way of telling "you" taught in most Japanese language courses), or intimate (this is what a wife uses when talking to her husband to address him). Like all pronouns, you should avoid using あなた if possible. A more common way to refer to someone is by their name with the appropriate suffix (さん, くん, ちゃん) and not to use other pronouns of this group unless you know what you are doing. こなた konata and そなた sonata are rare nowadays, although you may still encounter them in classic literature or in movies about historical events. どなた donata is a polite word for "who?".

Note that the 〜ちら chira group may be used instead of the 〜こ ko group and also may be appended with の no instead of the 〜の no group in some cases in more official (formal) expressions. For example, "こちらの kochira no" can also mean "this (object/thing)".

Which which[edit]

There are several ways to say which depending on the number and item being asked about.

While these are by no means hard rules, "どちら" is more used particularly for two objects while "どれ" is mainly used for three or more items. For a particular item one can use "どの〜" (for whatever number) though "どちらの〜" is also common.

どちら(みち)()きます か 。 Which way will you take?
(なまり)(きん) と で は 、 どちら(おも)い か 。 Which is heavier, lead or gold?
どっち()って も (うれ)しい 。 Which ever wins, I'll be happy.
どの 電車(でんしゃ)()る の です か 。 Which train are you catching?
どの (いぬ) が あなた の もの です か 。 Which dog is yours?
どの (くつ) を はく つもり です か 。 Which shoes are you going to put on?
どの チーム が ()つ だろ う か 。 Which team will win?
大中小(だいちゅうしょう) あります が どれ に します か 。 We have large, medium, and small, what size do you want?

Also...[edit]

どのくらい どれぐらい どれほど どれだけ

None, all, some〜[edit]

どれも、どれか どれでも

A note on kanji[edit]

The prefixes have kanji, but these are written in kana in modern Japanese. They are:

  • こ〜: 此
  • そ〜: 其
  • あ〜: 彼
  • ど〜: 何

Some of the suffixes similarly have kanji:

  • 〜こ: 処
  • 〜ちら: 方
  • 〜いつ: 奴