Japanese/Lessons/What is that?

Template:Japanese: Basic Japanese TOC In this lesson you will learn how to ask and identify objects.


What is that?Edit

When you want to ask someone what something is, you might ask

  • Kanji and hiragana: それは何ですか
  • Hiragana: それ は なん です か
  • Romaji: sore wa nan desu ka?
  • English: What's that?


  • それ means "that" (sore)
  • (なん, nan) means "what" (from なに, nani)
  • Recall that AはBです (A wa B desu) means "A is B."
  • (ka) is the question particle. Questions are formed by adding か to the end of a sentence. Unlike English, the word order doesn't change. Question words, such as 何 ("what"), simply replace the words you are asking about.

As in English, you would ask about an object depending on its distance from yourself (speaker) and the person you are talking to (listener). In Japanese, there are three words denoting an object's distance from the speaker and listener.

  • これ (kore) "this" - refers to an object near the speaker (e.g., you are holding the object)
  • それ (sore) "that" - refers to an object near the listener (e.g., the person you are talking to is holding the object)
  • あれ (are) "that over there" - refers to an object that is far away from both speaker and listener.

To summarize, これ (kore, this), それ (sore, that), あれ (are, that - far).

That is a...Edit

To reply to the question それは何ですか you would say これは___です. "This is a ___." You should use the name of the object in place of the blank.

In the above question, person A used それ to indicate the object is near person B. In response, person B uses これ to indicate the object is near person B.

Note: The distance of an object from the speaker and listener is taken into consideration when asking or responding to a question. You must familiarize yourself with これ・それ・あれ

Try to remember how to reply to a question with these tips.

  • When someone asks you これ, you reply それ.
  • When someone asks you それ, you reply これ.
  • When someone asks you あれ, you also reply あれ.

も - AlsoEdit

When you want to ask or say that something is also a type of object, you use the particle も.

  • Question: これ / それ / あれ___ですか "Is this/that/that (far) also a ___?"

There are two possible responses to this question...

If the answer is affirmative, you say 「はい、これ/それ/あれも___です。」.

If the answer is negative, you say 「いいえ、これ/それ/あれは___では ありません」. (では is pronounced /dewa/, or /ja/ in less formal conversation.)

  • はい means "yes" or "correct"
  • いいえ means "no" or "incorrect"
  • ___では ありません means "is not ___". When you want to say something is not a type of object you use this phrase.

の - Possessive particleEdit

The possessive particle, の, is added after a noun or pronoun to indicate that an object belongs to them.


  • それは私の___です。 "That is my ___."
  • あれは___さんの___ですか。 "Is that (far) ___-san's ___?"
  • これは私の___ではありません。 "This is not my ___."

Note: You can omit the name of the object.

  • 私のです。 "It's mine."
  • ___さんのです。 "It's ___-san's."
  • 私のではありません。 "It's not mine."

Whose is this?Edit

A useful phrase to use is 「これは誰の___ですか。」 (これは だれの ___ ですか) "Whose ___ is this?" or 「これは誰のですか」 "Whose is this?"

More specificEdit

これ・それ・あれ, which was used to indicate an object's location can be used in their more specific form of この・その・あの to refer to a specific object.

  • この車 (この くるま) "This (particular) car."
  • そのペン "That (particular) pen."

Note: これ車, これペン is not possible.


Japanese Pronunciation English
これ kore "this/these one(s)" (object near the speaker)
それ sore "that/those one(s)" (object near the listener)
あれ are "that/those one(s) over there" (object not near either speaker or listener)
この〜 kono〜 "this/these 〜" (specific or particular object near the speaker)
その〜 sono〜 "that/those 〜" (specific or particular object near the listener)
あの〜 ano〜 "that/those 〜 over there" (specific or particular object not near either speaker or listener)



がくせい: それはなんですか。

せんせい: これはりんごです。

がくせい: これもりんごですか。

せんせい: いいえ、それはなしです。


Student: What is that?

Teacher: This is an apple.

Student: Is this also an apple?

Teacher: No, that is a pear.


Japanese English
りんご apple
なし pear



1. How would you ask the following questions?

a) What is this?
b) What is that (far)?
c) What is that?

2. How would you reply to the following questions?

a) Q: それは何ですか A: (これ・それ・あれ) は___です。
b) Q: あれは何ですか A: (これ・それ・あれ) は___です。
c) Q: これは何ですか A: (これ・それ・あれ) は___です。