Articles, this, that, these, those

4 December 2018 by wolfganghofmeier


There are no articles in Japanese. You can’t literally translate the English words the, a, an. Some languages have a large number of articles like German, English has just three and most languages including Lithuanian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese have none.


Japanese does have words for this, that, these, those that can be used for clarification if necessary.


A book is useful. _ Hon wa benri desu. _ 本は便利です。

The book is long. _ Hon wa nagai desu. _ 本は長いです。

Books are heavy. _ Hon wa omoi desu. _ 本は重いです。


Note that a and The are not translated and neither is the plural s of books. The last sentence could just as well be translated as ‘A book is heavy’, or ‘The book is heavy.’


This book is interesting. _ Kono hon wa omoshiroi desu. _ この本は面白いです。


That book is interesting. _ Sono hon wa omoshiroi desu. _ その本は面白いです。


That book (over there) is interesting. _ Asoko no hon wa omoshiroi desu. _ あそこの本は面白いです。


These two pencils are sharp. _ Korera no ni-hon no enpitsu wa surudoi desu. _ これらの二本の鉛筆は鋭いです。


Curiously, the counter word for pencils is 本hon, spelled and pronounced exactly the same as the word for book. 二 ni means two, followed by the counter word that can’t be translate, makes 二本 nihon, which sounds exactly like the Japanese word for Japan although that word is spelled 日本.


Note that あそこ asoko and これら korera are followed by no, an untranslated particle that literally means of whereas この kono and sono are placed directly in front of the noun. That’s just the way it is, languages aren’t always logical or consistent.


This person is American. _ Kono hito wa amerika jin desu. _ この人はアメリカ人です。


That person is English. _ Sono hito wa igirisu jin desu. _ その人はイギリス人です。


That person is French. _ Ano hito wa furansu jin desu. _ あの人はフランス人です。


Note that hito/jin/nin/ri/to means person, but is pronounced differently depending on context. In the sentences above, it is pronounced hito when it stands on its own, jin when it follows a nationality.

Word Meaning
1. hon
2. book
便利 1. benri
2. useful
長い 1. nagai
2. long
重い 1. omoi
2. heavy
面白い 1. omoshiroi
2. interesting
この 1. kono
2. this
その 1. sono
2. that
あそこ 1. asoko
2. that (over there)
鋭い 1. surudoi
2. sharp
鉛筆 1. enpitsu
2. pencil
あそこ 1. asoko
2. that (over there)
これら 1. korera
2. these
1. hito
2. person
アメリカ 1. amerika
2. America
アメリカ人 1. amerika jin
2. American
イギリス 1. igirisu
2. English (nationality)
イギリス人 1. igirisu jin
2. English (person)
フランス 1. furansu
2. French (nationality)
フランス人 1. furansu jin
2. French (person)
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