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Japanese pronouns

Pronouns are convenient shorthand for nouns that both English and Japanese make good use of. Check out the following instruction, where all the pronouns are italicized.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns seem like much too big a term to describe four little words: this, that, these, here, there and those. You use demonstrative pronouns to "point" verbally.

In Japanese, demonstrative pronouns are just a little more complicated than they are in English. Suppose you are the speaker and your girlfriend is the listener, and the two of you are sitting face to face at a cozy table in a restaurant. In this case, the half of the table on your side is your territory, and the half on your girlfriend’s side is her territory. All other tables in the restaurant are outside both your territories. With these boundaries drawn, you can use the following Japanese pronouns to various foods throughout the restaurant:

  • Kore (ko-re): This
  • Sore (so-re): That
  • Are (a-re): That over there

Kore is used for things in your territory. In other words, things, which you can see, touch and feel, are indicated by this pronoun.

Sore is used for things in other’s territory. In other words, things, which you cannot touch but are near and can be seen clearly are indicated by this pronoun.

Are is used for things outside both your territories. In other words, things, which cannot be touched and may be seen at a very far distance or may not be seen but the person has knowledge of its existence are shown by this pronoun.

Do you get the idea? If you do, you can understand whose eating tako (ta-ko; octopus), who’s eating ika (i-ka; squpid), and who’s eating ebi (e-bi; shrimp) at the restaurant in the following dialogue:

Sore wa ika desu ka. (Is that squid?)

Iie, kore wa tako desu. Sore wa ika desu ka. (No, this one is octopus. Is that squid?) Hai, kore wa ika desu. (Yes this is squid.)

Jya, are wan nan desu ka. (Ok then, what is that over there?)

Are wa ebi desu. (That over there is shrimp.)

It is always observed that, when a question is asked in kore it can be answered in either kore or sore depending upon the distance of the person from the object. In the same way if the question asked is in sore then it should be answered in either sore or kore depending upon the distance of the person from the object. However, when the question is asked in Are then the answer should always be only in Are. Another very important word to be remembered is dore (do-re) meaning "which". Dore is a common question word for kore, sore and are. For example:

Nihongo no hon wa dore desu ka. (Which is the book of Japanese language?)

Sore wa nihongo no hon desu. (That is the book of Japanese Language.)

In Japanese pronouns, there are other three pronouns, which have the same meaning as kore, sore and are but have different usage. The other three words are:

  • Kono (ko-no): This
  • Sono (so-no): That
  • Ano (a-no): That over there

Ko/no/ sono/ Ano are known as Demonstrative nouns. The basic difference between the use of Kore/ Sore/ Are and Kono/ Sono/ Ano is as follows:

  • Kono/ Sono/ Ano is used to when we talk about a particular thing or object. It gives importance to only 1 thing. Whereas, Kore/ Sore/ Are is used to point out things. It is used when we talk about objects in a generalized way. Look at the following example:

Kore wa hon desu. (This is a book.)

Kono hon wa nihongo no desu. (This book is of Japanese language.)

In the first sentence, we are pointing out a book. Here we are not specifying anything else about the book or in other words, we are not giving any importance to the book. On the other hand, in the second statement we are specifying that the book is of Japanese language only.

  • Kore/ Sore/ Are is used only when we are talking about some object or thing. On the other hand, Kono/ Sono/ Ano is used for both people and objects.
  • Kore/ Sore/ Are is immediately followed by either "wa" or "ga" particle. Kono/ Sono/ Ano is followed by a common noun.

For example:

  • Kore wa kuruma desu. (This is a car.)
  • Kono kuruma wa akai desu. (This is a red car.)

The common question word for Kono/ Sono/ Ano is Dono (do-no) meaning "which". Japanese Personal Pronouns The first-person singular pronoun in Japanese is watashi (wa-ta-shi), which corresponds to the English I/ me. Japanese personal pronouns have other pronouns, which you can find in below table.
Japanese pronouns

The first-person singular pronoun is typically watashi, but you can say I/me in more than one way:

  • The formal version is watakushi (wa-ta-ku-shi).
  • In informal and neutral contexts, men say boku (bo-ku).
  • In informal contexts, some men say ore (a-re), some older men say washi (wa-shi), and some young women say atashi (a-ta-shi).

The first-person pronouns are repeatedly used in conversation, but other pronouns are not. In fact, the use of anata (a-na-ta; you, singular) is almost forbidden. A person who says anata sounds snobbish, arrogant, or just foreign. So how can you ask a question like Anata wa ikimasu ka. (Will you go?) without using anata? One strategy is to drop the pronoun. Just use the verb and the question particle: Ikimasu ka [Will (you) go (there)?]. Another strategy is to use the person's name repeatedly. You can ask Yoko this question: Yoko-san wa ikimasu ka (Is Yoko going?), which actually means "Yoko, are you going there?"
demonstrative Japanese pronouns

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