皆様、こんにちにゃあぁ！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online! Japanese language is like a forest, beautiful when able to be traversed with ease, or at least carefully journeyed. However, the first few times you find yourself attempting to trek it on your own, there may be various pitfalls and mountains that add to the terrain of what makes it so wonderful, but can cause it to become a less than fun journey without anyone to help you. Luckily, you’re not alone! You have guides dedicated to leading you through your Japanese learning journey at your pace and towards your chosen destination. You have us, Kiki and Koko! And between the time you’re where you want to be and where you are now, you need words that can help you get your point across, quite literally. When you need to indicate an object, pointing it out, you need demonstratives! This lesson, we’re going to tell you about this and that, again, quite literally.
In the previous lesson, we explained how Japanese demonstratives function, otherwise known as「指示語」(shijigo). As you’ll find the further you delve into many languages, there are many divergences from one’s own. While it can feel helpful to make connections between languages, when it comes to Japanese grammar, it’s best to wipe your mind clean and work with the building blocks we’ve given so far. It makes things much less confusing and allows you to use the systems already put in place to make things actually quite organised! We explained that Japanese language has an extra element to it to allow you to actually use fewer words to express concepts, and the concepts used are very organised throughout, using the same sorts of prefixes—Well, it’s better explained in the previous lesson. And, though you need the previous one to benefit from this and future lessons, you’ll oddly understand the previous lesson more after this one.
So, こそあど言葉, kosoado kotoba, another word for Japanese demonstratives, are quite consistent throughout so that once you understand the concept, you’ll more easily absorb the new ones. But, before adding these new vocabulary words and grammatical concepts to your repertoire, you’ll still need to have your basic grammar handy as well as some vocabulary with which you can use it. In the Essentials section you can find the grammar section, where you can have a look at how to make basic sentences, question sentences, and basic particles. We’ll be using these concepts, but immersion and exposure really only work if you have some sort of structure off of which you can base it. We promise, it’s worth it to spend the extra time. Everyone is looking for the fastest way to learn, but most people really can’t properly learn without investing at least a little time and effort. We always do our best to make these a bit fun and interesting, as attaching these concepts to a broader scenario can also be helpful.
You’ll definitely want to keep the lessons on 疑問詞, gimonshi, otherwise known as question words, in mind! This will assist you in using those as well. Grammatical concepts like asking questions and identifying objects with demonstratives can be quite different, especially to English. But, no worries, we’re here to walk you every step of the way! As we mentioned, we’re your guides through the beautiful yet sometimes treacherous forest of Japanese language. Though, if you don’t know how to traverse it, you won’t get the benefit of enjoying the scenery.
What’s the Big Plastic Hassle?
Why is this important to everyday speech?
Out of all of the concepts, demonstratives are definitely something every passer-by learning Japanese language can find use in. If you know anything about pronouns, you’ll know they’re used to replace the name of a noun. This is very useful for beginners (as well as every level of speech), but it’s useful because you can use it to ask about things or concepts of which you are unsure of their name. However, in Japanese, there’s one extra element that will make this less complicated for the listener and eventually for you as well as the speaker. As we explained in the previous lesson, these concepts express the location in relation to the speaker and listener which saves words and time. Disregarding any of that, it’s a concept you’ll use everyday, especially when asking what things are, as in:
kore wa nandesuka?
What is this?
There are other ways of asking this that we’ll get into, and are also useful and follow the same organised system, so when you do learn them, they won’t feel as though they’re completely out of nowhere. But, perhaps this simple scenario didn’t compel you to truly feel like this concept is important. Let’s say you’re in an office at your desk, and your coworker asks you for an 「鉛筆」, but you’ve forgotten the difference between「鉛筆」 and 「ペン」.
Gesturing a cup full of writing utensils, your coworker asks:
enpitsu wo kuremasenka?
Could you get me a [鉛筆]?
Then, because you’re on very friendly terms, you ask:
‘enpitsu’ tte dore desuka?
Which (one) is a [鉛筆]?
which would be a more conversational way of saying
enpitsu to iuno wa dore desuka?
Which (one) is called [鉛筆]?
And, luckily, the one you’re holding is it, so they say:
It’s that (one).
And, after learning that 「それ」implies its closer to you, the listener, not only by the word, but because it starts with 「そ」in the list of demonstratives, you know you can get him the proper [鉛筆], so they can get back to work writing some sort of important notes or… solve Taniyama-Shimura Conjectures. Either way, you’ll find quite a lot of use with these demonstrative pronouns.
This, That, and That (Over There)
Japanese Demonstrative Pronouns
Before getting into here, there, and
everywhere over there, we’re going to introduce to you what you would find here, there, and everywhere over there, which will, in turn, be very useful conversationally, as the concepts go hand-in-hand. We’re going to introduce these vocabulary words and grammatical concepts to you in the same way we showed you the previous ones so that you can relate them to each other, and that is with a table. Now, no worries, we’ll explain it further, but this should hopefully assist you.
Demonstratives | Pronouns || 指示詞|代名詞
|日本語||これ||それ||あれ||どれ + どちら / どっち|
|English||This||That||That (Over There)||Which (One)|
|(╭ರᴥ•́)||( óωò๑)||( •᷄ὤ•᷅)？|
|Closest to Location of:||Speaker
You’ll notice that these follow the concepts laid out before about こそあど言葉, kosoado kotoba, and with good reason, because as you may again realise, こそあど doesn’t actually mean anything on its own, it’s just the beginning of each of the demonstratives, and it can help you visualise this concept wherever you are. We usually think of the first part of a word as being closest, so as long as you imagine こ close to you, you’ll have a good idea of which word stands for which location. And, ど, being indefinite, could be close or far, so just think of it as being obscure being at the end.
(Nearest to speaker, or nearest in time to present, or action of speaker)
This is usually written in hiragana, but using the kanji is useful for connecting the concepts. As we mentioned, これ isn’t just meant for items closest to the speaker in location spatially, but also temporally. So, if you’re speaking, then これ is closest to you. If the speaker is another person, then これ is closest to that speaker. Either way, it’s whoever is referring to the object or concept.
To keep things simple, at first, start with remembering これ as closest to the speaker, then build on the concept so it doesn’t become too complicated on the first memorisation.
(Nearest to listener, or something from mind, further back in time, or action of listener)
Again, this is usually written in hiragana, but seeing the kanji will assist you in future when you come across this concept in different parts of speech. In this case, just as the previous, this demonstrative pronoun can refer to more than just physical objects. それ, that, in this case is meant to indicate an object nearest to the listener. So, if you’re speaking, それ is meant for objects closest to the person you’re speaking to, and if someone else is talking to you, it means the object is closest to you as the listener.
Now, as a bonus for future more nuanced speech, whilst これ is for things and concepts closer to the present or from a current topic or one’s own actions, それ indicates something that is in the past, in one’s mind that is recalled or the listener’s actions. Basically, each is a step away from これ, outside of it.
‘That (over there)’
(Far from speaker and listener, or something far from speaker and listener mentally/physically/temporally, or something nuanced that one doesn’t mention by name, i.e. That thing…, That stuff,… etc)
This is pretty much always written in hiragana,as it’s identical to another pronoun, but the kanji still will ingrain the concept. Okay, so this is something that doesn’t exist in English. We explained the concept in the previous lesson, but basically, this is a concept that can best be translated as ‘that over there’ or ‘that waaay over there’. It basically shows that something is far from both you and the listener/speaker, so as long as it’s not close to either of you, you can’t go wrong with this. It’s meant to express a concept that takes several words in English, but is easily expressed with one in Japanese.
When it comes to future intermediate and advanced usage, you can easily think of this as anything that’s disconnected, or a word or incident/concept you’d rather not mention that’s usually understood between everyone. It’s sort of the nuance of English when you say, ‘You know… That thing…’ or ‘Remember that…’
‘Which*’ (Out of Three or More)
This is almost always written in hiragana, but it’s useful to see that it’s a question word more obviously with the kanji. (It’d only be obvious after reading the extensive lesson concerning 何 as well as the previous lesson, and even still, it can take a bit of memorising and exposure before things click, so this is just a part of that process.)
Anyway! In Japanese, there is another concept that is different to English which is indefinite demonstrative pronouns. In this case, you have to remember whether you’re differentiating between two or three or more items. So, really,to make it simpler, the only time you can’t use this is if you’re deciding between two items. If there’s three or more than three items, you would use this. And in order to know how to use this, you would also need to take a look at the lessons concerning question words. However, here is a helpful example:
anata no nooto wa dore desuka?
Which (one) is your notebook?
‘Which*’ (Out of Two)
(Also a form of ‘which way’, ‘where’, and ‘who’)
So, there are actually corresponding words to どちら, dochira, and どっち, docchi, that follow the same こそあど pattern, but we don’t want to bog you down with too many new concepts at once. It can be written in kanji, but is usually written in hiragana, but the kanji can be read two ways. どちら is more polite whilst どっち is more conversational or casual. If what is being asked has more than two options, then you can rely on どれ, but if there’s only two, then this is the option for you.
This concept is quite different to English, but with time, it will become more natural. Just be patient and you’ll eventually get it~! Just try to associate the concepts as often as possible. Here’s a good example of something with two options that will maybe give you something with which to work:
geemuki to pasokon, docchi ga ii?
Which is better, console or pc?
There is so much more to cover on this concept, but not to worry because we will continue this concept along with some useful practise in the continuation! Besides, it’s always a good idea to pace yourself and let concepts sink in, looking at them multiple times and trying to suss them out. Be sure to relate these lessons back to the previous ones in order to strengthen your understanding of the concepts, grammatical, lexical, or otherwise. We’re sure that with time and practice, these concepts will become natural to you. It simply takes returning and taking it one step at a time.
Though we included some romanisation, we’re trying our best to realistically encourage you to learn hiragana by giving you chances to read the characters on their own with places to refer back to their readings. But, at the same time, if you’re just new here, we understand, and we have lessons for you to become proficient in reading and writing. Just take a look at our Reading and Writing sections to revise / review / study. It will help your pronunciation, and it’s essential to learning any language. If you want to make sure your Japanese language survival kit is stocked with the latest tools, you can make sure you stay up to date by subscribing to the Electronic Mailing List of Tomorrow, today, found usually at the bottom of the site page or the sidebar on desktop. You’ll get the latest tools and resources to surviving in Japanese language in straight to your inbox. That’s articles, videos, podcasts, and more.
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