Introduction to demonstratives

When you want to refer to something, but you don’t know what to call it, you can point to it and say ‘this’ or ‘that’. These demonstrative pronouns (pronouns to point at things) work more or less the same way in Japanese, but they have specific pairs, called KSAD-pairs, depending on how you use them. The first pair we will discuss here are これ, それ, あれ and どれ, or in romaji kore, sore, are and dore (KSAD). Translates they mean, ‘this one’, ‘that one’, ‘that on over there’ and ‘which one’. 

これ = This one
それ = That one (close to the other person)
あれ = That one (close to neither of you)
どれ = Which one

This one with これ

これ is for things that are close to the speaker. For example, when you are standing in a shop next to a table full of computers and you want to point at the computer in front of you, you use これ. You can for example ask how much this computer costs.  

これ は いくら です か
How much is this?

いくら = How much?
です = To be

これ は なん です か
What is this?

なん = what

これ は にほんご です
This is Japanese

にほん = Japan
ご = suffix for language or word
にほんご = Japanese language

これ は ゴジラ です
This is Godzilla

That one with それ

それ means ‘that one’, but to show the difference between それ and あれ. Imagine you are in a room with someone and you want to point something out. When it’s in the vicinity of the person you are speaking to, you say それ. 

  • それ is used for things that are near the person you are speaking to

それ は わたし の ペン です
That is my pen

わたし = Me, I
ペン = Pen

それ は わたし の ねこ です
That is my cat

ねこ = Cat

それ は わたし の クッキー です
Those are my cookies

クッキー = Cookie

Mind that in the last example, you don’t specify if you’re talking about one or multiple cookies but let’s assume cookies always come in batches.

That one over there with あれ

While you are still in the same room, but you want to talk about something that is for example in another room, you say あれ. That is why it’s often translated as ‘that over there’ in English.

  • あれ (that over there) is used for things that are far away from the both of you

あれ は なん です か
あれ は ビル です

What is that over there?
That over there is a building.

なん = What
ビル = Building

おと は なん です か
あれ は ラジオ です

What is that sound?
That is the radio

おと = Sounds
なん = What
ラジオ = Radio

Which one with どれ

What if you are faced with multiple options to choose from and you don’t know which one you are talking about. That’s where どれ (which one) comes in. For example, you are sitting at the conveyor belt of a Japanese sushi restaurant (also known as かいてんすし) and you have to choose a plate to pick up. You could ask:

どれ は さけ です か
Which one is salmon?

さけ = Salmon

どれ は あなた の アパート ですか
Which one is your apartment

あなた = You
アパート = Apartment

And that’s it. This is what you have to know to point at things and make clear what you want you are talking about. Now for some exercising.


それ and あれ are both translated as ‘that’ but それ refers to something close to the person you are talking about, while あれ is for something that is neither close to you nor the other person. どれ is used in questions to ask what something is. Some examples: 

Necessary vocabulary

わたし = I, me  
りんご = Apple  
にほん = Japanese  
ほん = Book  
あなた = You  
いえ = House  
くるま = Car  
ゴジラ = Godzilla  

Translate the following sentences from Japanese to English 

  1. これ は わたし の りんご です
  2. それ は にほん の ほん です
  3. あれ は あなた の いえ です
  4. どれ は あなた の くるま です か
  5. どれ は ゴジラ です か

Click here for the answers