Ultimate Guide Kore, Sore and Are (こそあど): This or That?

こそあど (ko-so-a-do) is short for これ, それ, あれ and どれ (read as kore, sore and are), but there are different sets to them, too. They are demonstrative Japanese pronouns used to refer to something, but you don’t necessarily need to specify what they are. They’re one of the first things you learn as a beginner Japanese language student.

Your instructors were probably quick to point out the difference. Both それ and あれ (sore and are), for example, translate to “that”, but depending on the physical distance between you, the object and the listener, you’ll only use either one.

But what happens if you’re talking about an intangible object, like an idea or a memory? In other words, how do you use これ, それ, あれ for something you can’t see or isn’t physically there? That’s when things could a bit tricky — but it doesn’t have to be if you have the right grasp of the ever-intricate Japanese grammar rules.

Jump to:

  1. Basics Japanese for こそあど: Kore, Sore and Are
  2. How to Answer こそあど Question
  3. How to Use Kore, Sore and Are
  4. Use of Dore, Docchi and Dochira
  5. Intermediate-Advanced Japanese for こそあど: Kore, Sore and Are

Basics Japanese for こそあど: Kore, Sore and Are (これ, それ, あれ)

Kore, Sore Are

Chances are, you’re already familiar with the こそあど differences, but we want to gloss over the basics again because it relates to more advanced stuff. Keep in mind that going back to “basics” means we’re returning to the very foundation (and therefore easiest) Japanese language rule: objects that you can see.

Finally, どれ is used to question, “Which one” out of several objects.

Generally, これ is used for things that are close to the speaker. それ is used when the object is close to the listener. あれ is used when the object is far away from both the speaker and listener.

  • こ (ko), either kore or kono, is used when things are closed to the speaker and can be understood as “this” in English.
  • そ (so), meaning sore or soon, is used when things are closed to the listener and can be understood as “it” in English.
  • あ (a): あ is used when things are neither close to both speaker and listener and can be understood as “that” in English

From here, we know you’ll either これ and それ based on your point of view. For example, if your friend is holding an apple and you’re approaching them from across the room, you’ll pick それ. Subjectively, your friend is closer to the apple, while you’re physically far from it.

Sore wa ringo desu ka?
Is that an apple?

On the other hand, your friend will use これ, because the point of view is the opposite of yours. They’re close to the apple, while you’re not.

Kore wa ringo desu.
This is an apple.

But that’s a no-brainer answer, so we’ll need to tweak the scenario a bit: What if you’re both seeing an orange from a distance? In English, the word choice doesn’t change. You’ll still use “that”. In Japanese, however, you’ll use あれ because both of you are far away.

Are wa nan desu ka?
What is that?

Kore, Sore Are

How to Answer こそあど Questions

Depending on the situations, answering こそあど questions will differ. Let’s take a look at the examples below.

A: それは何ですか?
What is that?

B: これは時計です。
This is a watch.

We know that the person is curious about that thing that is close to you. If you answer “それは時計です,” you’ll further distance yourself from the watch (object), which isn’t true. You can think of これ, それ and あれ as “territories”. If that object is outside your これ territory, use それ. If it goes beyond それ territory, use あれ. Pretty simple, right?

A: あの人誰ですか?
Who is that person?

B: あの人は私の友達です。
That person is my friend.

It’s a simple deduction, really. If that person uses あの, they feel that both of you are subjectively far from the object. In turn, it’s appropriate to use あの the next time you want to mention it.

How to Use Kore, Sore and Are (これ, それ, あれ)

Now that we’re clear on the very surface level of the function of こそあど, there are a few things to keep in mind. Something that a lot of new Japanese learners fall for is adding the wrong particle after これ, それ, あれ. Technically, they are noun replacements, so you can’t put use the particle の to modify a noun with a noun. It’s equivalent to saying “this (object)” instead of just “this”.

Kore no jidousha ga takai.
car is expensive.

Kore ga takai.
This is expensive.

 If you want to say “this car” or “that car”, you’ll need another type of こそあど: この, その, あの, and どの (kono, sono, ano and dono). We’ll get to that in a bit.

Kono jidousha ga takai.
This car is expensive.

Depending on the situation and function, there are different types of こそあど. Before we go further into the article, note that this article will mostly use hiragana, so prior knowledge of them is a must. If you’re still learning them, don’t worry; you can take a look at our hiragana chart to review them.

An expression in front of an object: これ、それ、あれ、どれ

We’re feeling a bit repetitive too, so we’ll cut to the chase: if you’re directly replacing a noun with a pronoun, use これ、それ、あれ、どれ.

This is a book.

In this scenario, we can deduct that the book is placed close to the speaker, either by holding it or being in front.

An expression in front of multiple objects: これ、それ、あれ、どれ

Like many Japanese objects, これ、それ and あれ don’t recognize one and multiple objects. In English, you’ll probably know about plural and singular nouns — but, to avoid further headaches, let’s not dwell in countable and uncountable things. (Why is it fish and not fishes?) For example, “child” becomes “children” and “book” becomes “books”. In Japanese, it’s always 子供 (こども) and 本 (ほん).

In a similar fashion, これ、それ and あれ (and この, その, あの) indicates both one and multiple things. これ can mean “this” and “these”, while それ and あれ can mean “that” and “those”.

It’s easy to write with this pencil
It’s easy to write with these pencils.

However, there are pluralizing suffixes that make one single pronoun inclusive and multiple. Particularly in first-person pronouns, you’ll see わたし turned to わたしたち or ぼく to ぼくら. Similarly, you can add a suffix to indicate that something is more than one by adding ~ら. The kanji is 〜等, which can also be read as など.

Are these for cleaning?

You can pluralize kore, sore and are by saying korerasoreraarera (これら, それら, あれら). They “these” and “those.”

We don’t see people using it often as it’s not required. Alternatively, you can specify the number after これ、それ and あれ, but you’ll need to know about the right Japanese counters for that (we don’t want you to say “two sticks of books”).

Those two books are written by the same author.

An expression indicating point in time

Kara (から) and made (まで) each means “since” and “until” respectively. If you pair them with kore, sore and are (これ、それ and あれ), they can help indicate a point in time: present, the past or the future.

Kore kara (これから) and kore made (これまで)

これから and これまで refer to a certain period in time in the present. これから means “from now on”, “after this” and “now”. これまで means “so far”, “up to now” and “until now”.

From now on, I’ll live alone.

It has been very popular so far.

Sore kara (それから) and sore made (それまで)

それから and それまで are used to refer to a certain period in time in the past or future. You can translate それから as “and then” or “since then”. それまで means “until then”, “up to that time”, “that extent”, and “by then”.

Three years had passed since then.

I’ll be back by then.

Are kara (あれから) and are made (あれまで)

あれから and あれまで are used to refer to a certain period in time that both speaker and listener is familiar with. あれから means “since then” and “after that”. あれまで means “up until then”, “that extent”, “that far”, and “until then”.

Twenty years have passed since then.

Everything was fine until then.

An expression in front of noun: この、その、あの、どの

In English, when you want to attach “this” or “that” to another object, you don’t need to modify the word. For example, if you say, “This is delicious!” and “This pie is delicious!” it won’t make a difference. Both are grammatically acceptable and correct.

But as we said before, things get seemingly a bit complicated when it comes to the Japanese language. Let’s say you want to say “that person”. You will need to use another こそあど set: この、その、あの andどの.

That person is kind.

The person being pointed to is neither close to both speaker and listeners. In real-life situations, it could be used when you are pointing at someone across the street (but please don’t point your fingers in Japan as it’s considered rude) and saying that that person is kind to your friend. As you are referring to someone across the street, あの is the best choice.

Use of Dore, Docchi and Dochira (どれ, どっち, どちら)

We’ve covered the essential need-to-know about sore, kore and are, but we want to brush up dore, too. Dore (どれ) is used in the same way as “which” or “which one” in English — but so are どっち and どちら. You’ve probably heard them used in a lot of conversations. So what’s the difference?

Technically, どっち and どちら also mean “which” or “which one”. However, docchi and dochira (どっち and どちら) is used for comparing, choosing, or having someone choose one of two things. We use dore (どれ) when there are three or more options. Docchi (どっち) is dochira’s (どちら) shortened colloquial form, and it’s used in casual conversations.

Out of all the sports, which one is your favorite?

In the example above, we opt for どれ because we’re faced with all of the sports options. If the speaker specifies (say, between swimming and running), they will have to use どっち or どちら. You can use どっち or どちら to ask for suggestions or when you’re facing a dilemma as you’ll see in the dialogue below.

A: Between blue and green, which one suits me better?

B: This year, green is the trend, and I have blue, so green is better.

A: 確かに。
A: たしかに。
B: You’re right.

Here, the conversation uses casual Japanese, so opting for どっち sounds natural. On the other hand, what if you’re waiting for your doctor’s appointment in a clinic, and there’s someone sitting beside you? The nurse might call your name, saying:

Thank you for waiting. Which one (of the two of you) is Coto-san?

When using question words like どれ, どっち, どちら, you need to use the particle が instead of は.

Which one do you think is delicious?

Kore, Sore Are

Intermediate-Advanced Use of これ, それ, and あれ

Those books. This car. That pencil. So far, we’ve been using items that you can see — or, at least, visually imagine. We’ve also established that the use of kore, sore and are are subjective, depending on where you draw your personal “territories”. But what happens when you’re referring to something you can’t physically see, like a lie or a memory? Or even something you mentioned before?

This is why it’s important to rely on your intuition. It boils down to your emotional proximity and regards to the relationship between you, the person you’re addressing and the object. In this case, it boils down to your emotional proximity. In other words, the use of これ, それ, and あれ is no longer dependent on the physical distance, but how far you associate yourself with the topic.

こそあ: Kore, Sore and Are for Abstract Concepts and Information

Rumors, emotions and ideas are all abstract concepts. When you heard a nasty rumor from a friend, should you use “this” or “that”? Depending on how you want to associate yourself with it, you’ll need to be careful with your word choice.

I can’t believe that rumor!

In this case, we can apply the same concepts of kore, sore and are for mental distances. If you use その or それ, you’re implying that the information of that rumor is “far” from you (more of こそあ in a bit).

The things you can’t see don’t just have to be abstract or intangible. It’s something that was previously mentioned but not within sight. It might physically exist at the moment, too, but you’re just far away from the object — physically and conceptually.

When this happens, ignore the actual distance between you and the “thing”. If you do, you’ll only use あれ, あれ and あれ. For example, you’re a Tokyo resident who went to Sapporo last week. You spoke about your encounter with life-changing ramen.

The other day, I ate ramen at Sapporo, and it was super delicious!

We know that both the ramen and Sapporo actually exist, but from a physical point of view, they’re miles away. You’re not in a ramen shop. The food isn’t in front of you. Why did you use これ instead of あれ?

The answer is simple: it’s because it feels like the ramen is in front of you. In this case, it is no longer a physical thing, but a piece of information. Your mouth is watering just from the thought of the tonkotsu broth. It’s so good you’re dreaming about it. You want to evoke the memory so vividly, you do so by saying “this” ramen.

これ・この Distance

You may use これ or この if you feel that the information is close to you in some way. It can be because you have a strong connection or feelings about it. You want to give the impression that it’s so close to you, it’s literally here.

Two things to keep in mind: これ suggests the information is already mentioned or experienced, and it adds a more empathetic nuance to your sentence. Because of that, これ can indicate something that’s more personal or emotional.

I found a picture of my childhood friend! This is so nostalgic!

When you opt for これ or この, you’re pulling that concept, like a memory of your childhood friend, closer to you. It shows that you have a deep connection with it or hold significance to you.

Of course, these don’t always correlate to positive emotions. We can use これ or この when we have strong emotion on negative topics, too. Remember the nasty rumor we mentioned?

This rumor, I can barely believe this!

If you hear a ridiculous rumor about you, you might feel so mad, frustrated and disgusted. You “accidentally” tie yourself to that information because you’re just brimming with emotions.

それ・その Distance

You use それ when you prefer to strip your feelings or personal touches to the object. In other words, それ is the most neutral way out of the こそあ group to address a piece of information, idea or topic. It doesn’t give a particularly noticeable nuance. You’re not closing yourself to the topic, but you’re not running away from it either.

Now, let’s use the same ramen example and tweak it a bit.

That day, I ate ramen in Sapporo, but it wasn’t good…

Remember what we say about the こそあ territory? それ and その are generally used for something too far away for これ and この. Because of this, それ and その feel like it’s detached from everyone’s point of view. Using it will give off the impression that you’re neutral about the topic, and you’re just referring to the information objectively (regardless of whether it actually has positive or negative significance to you).

Everyone believes that rumor, huh?

Let’s say you heard about that nasty rumor again. This time, you’ve cooled your head, and you want to sound calm when addressing that rumor. Instead of suspiciously distancing yourself, you can choose to sound more level-headed by using その.

あれ・あの Distance

You use あれ and あの for two things. The first function is similar to how you’ll use them for physical objects: when they’re too far away from you. In this case, you use あれ and あの when you want to refer to memories, information or any recollections that sit on the far back of your head. Weirdly, it doesn’t mean you’re emotionally detached from said information. When you use あれ and あの, you’re pulling a memory from a distance, which can create a nostalgic nuance.

Think of it like this: if you’re struck with a childhood memory, that means they hold sentimental value to you — like recollecting the “good old days.”

When I was a kid, I used to play in Kawaguchi Park. That place is nostalgic, you know.

Here, the speaker makes it clear that Kawaguchi Park is a dear place to them. Why don’t they use この, when it’s also used to indicate something that’s important?

これ and この emulate immediate attachment of the object, but あれ or あの are better when you want to indicate a recollected memory or information. When the charm lies in nostalgic memories, you can conjure more closeness by opting for あれ or あの.

The second function is closely related. The basic use of あれ or あの is to mention an item that’s neither close to both speaker and listener. We can apply the same principle to non-physical objects like information and memories, too. You use あれ or あの when both you and the listener share the same (or similar) memory or information. This shows that both of you are gazing off into the distance together. It’s too “far” from the present, so it’s diverted to a “remember when you?” moment.

A: 札幌で食べたラーメン、覚えてる?あれ,最高だったね。
A: さっぽろでたべたラーメン、おぼえてる?あれ、さいこうだったね。
Remember the ramen we ate on Sapporo? That was the best, right?

B: そうね。あれ,また食べたいな。
B: Yeah. I want to eat that again.

こそあど: Kore, Sore and Are for Implying and Responding

What happens when you want to respond to someone after they use これ・それ? Let’s just say they’re talking about how they heard a fake rumor about them.

This rumor is a lie!

Here, your friend feels like they’re being attacked personally. Because you’re not the one experiencing it, you can’t use この to reply. The incident isn’t old either, and you’re not sharing the same experience (i.e. having a rumor about you), so the safest option is to use その. It’s objective, distant and doesn’t give off any nuance.

Don’t worry about that rumor.

あれ For Implying Something Negative

On the other hand, we can also use あれ to implicitly talk about something — like sharing a secret that you can’t say out loud. This is because あれ indicates a shared memory, so you use it as an “alias” when you’re hesitant to say something and want to distance yourself from that information.

Because of this, you use あれ when you’re refraining from saying something or giving negative connotations.

Have you heard? That person is a bit…

あれ to Express Surprise and Confusion

Finally, you can think of あれ as an exclamation and question mark. Similar to fillers like あの and えと, they’re not used in written or polite Japanese. Instead, think of it as the Japanese version of “Huh?” and “Oh!”  You use them during a state of confusion and surprise.

Huh? Where’s our suitcase?


What’s next after learning sore, kore, are and dore ((これ , それ , あれ , どれ)? Read more about:

What is kore, sore and are?

Kore, sore, are and dore (これ , それ , あれ , どれ) each mean “this thing (near me),” “that thing (near you),” “that thing (away from us),” and “which one?”

What's the difference between kore, sore and are (これ, それ, あれ)?

Kore is used when the object is close to the speaker. Sore is used when it’s close to the listener but far from the speaker. Are is used when the object is far from both the speaker and listener.

What's the difference between dore, docchi and dochira?

どれ, どっち and どちら all mean “which” or “which one”. We use dore (どれ) when there are three or more options. Docchi and dochira (どっち and どちら) are used when we only need to compare two things. Docchi (どっち) is dochira’s (どちら) shortened colloquial form, and it’s used in casual conversations.

How do you use kore and kono?

You use sono, sono and ano when you want to pair it with a noun. この (kono),その (sono), and あの (ano) cannot stand alone. On the other hand, Sore, more and are (これ, それ and あれ) are pronouns, so they must stand independently.

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