Saturday, October 8, 2016

kono, sono, ano, dono - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, kono, sono, ano, dono この, その, あの, どの mean "this," "that," and "what." They're kosoado words very much like kore, sore, are, dore これ, それ, あれ, どれ, except they're used as adjectives instead of as nouns.

The words sono その and ano あの are also interjections. The word dono どの after someone's name is the honorific dono 殿.

Manga: Boku no Hero Academia, 僕のヒーローアカデミア (Chapter 48)

Demonstrative Pronouns

Like all other kosoado pronouns, kono, sono, ano, dono refer to different things according to their prefix:

  • kono X
    This X. (close to me.)
    My X. (possessive usage.)
  • sono X
    That X. (close to you.)
    This X. (close to you, on you, of you.)
    Your X. (possessive usage.)
  • ano X
    That X. (far from us.)
    Their X. (possessive usage.)
  • dono X
    What X?
    Whose X? (possessive usage.)

The words kono, sono, ano, dono almost always come before a noun. You don't say just kono to say "this." You must say kono X to say "this X." Exceptionally, kono この is sometimes used alone in swearing, but that's an incomplete sentence. Some examples:

Manga: Boku no Hero Academia, 僕のヒーローアカデミア (Chapter 48)
  • Context: Midoriya Izuku 緑谷出久 realizes something about himself.
  • kono taiyaki ga boku'...desu!!
    This taiyaki... is me!!
    • taiyaki たい焼き
      A sort of fish-shaped pancake.
  • Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
    Blessings for This Wonderful World
  • sono kao wa doushita?
    What's up with that face?
    What's up with [your] face?
    Why are you making that face?
  • sono tame nara nandemo suru
    If it's for that purpose [I'll] do anything.
    • Whatever it takes!
  • sono kane wa doko kara dete-kita no ka?
    That money, from where it came from?
    From where did that money come from?
  • ano ken wa dou narimashita ka?
    That matter, how it became?
    What became of that matter?

Grammatically, the noun after the pronoun doesn't need to be a single word. For example:

  • kono keeki
    This cake.
  • ichigo ga notteiru
    The strawberry is mounted on.
    The strawberry is atop of.
  • {ichigo ga notteiru} keeki
    A cake [on which] {a strawberry is mounted}.
    A cake [with] {a strawberry on top}.
  • {ichigo no notteiru} keeki
    (same meaning.)
  • kono {ichigo no notteiru} keeki
    This cake [on which] {a strawberry is mounted}.
    This cake [with] {a strawberry on top}.
    • Grammatically, "cake with a strawberry on top" is a noun phrase, which is why we can put kono before it.

Sometimes the nominalizer no の is used instead of a concrete noun. For example:

このイチゴののってるの ほほーー!
Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 10, ケーキ)

その vs. あの

The difference between sono その and ano あの is that sono is something close to the listener, while ano is something far from both the listener and the speaker. For example:

  • kono hako
    This box. (here, in my hands.)
  • sono hako
    That box. (in your hands.)
  • ano hako
    That box. (in that guy's hands over there.)
How kosoado words work, こそあど. An animated gif diagram.

There's even a couple of phrases that illustrate this perfectly:

  • kono yo
    "This world."
    • As in our world.
    • The world of the living.
    • kono yo ni sonzai shinai
      It doesn't exist in this world.
    • kono yo kara kiero!
      Disappear from this world! (i.e. die!)
  • ano yo
    "That world."
    • As in, the world that's not mine or yours, not ours.
    • The world of the dead. Afterlife. Hell, heaven, etc.
    • ano yo ni okutte yaru
      I'll send you to that world. (i.e. I'm gonna kill you.)

vs. これ, それ, あれ, どれ

The difference between kono, sono, ano, dono and kore, sore, are, dore is that one group is made out of adjectives, while the other group is made out of nouns.

When you say "this" in English, that's a noun. But when you say "this cake," then "this" is an adjective, and "cake" is the noun. In Japanese, there are different words for these two this's: kore and kono.

  • kore ga hoshii
    This is wanted.
    I want this.
  • kono keeki ga hoshii
    This cake is wanted.
    I want this cake.
あ 私これ このチョコレートケーキください はい
Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 10, ケーキ)
  • Context: choosing a cake.
  • a, watashi φ kore
    Ah, [for] me, this thing.
  • kono chokoreeto
    keeki kudasai

    Give [me] this chocolate cake.
  • hai
    • Works like "roger that" in English, but is used more normally.


Sometimes, kono, sono, ano appear at the end of a sentence, after the predicate that would normally come after them. This is called a right-dislocation, and it's particularly common in questions and surprised responses, in which case it's called emotive right-dislocation.

Manga: Prison School, 監獄学園 (Chapter 168)
  • Context: a girl is conflicted.
  • n? nanda.. kono kimochi wa..
    Hm? What is it.. this feeling.. [in my chest...]
    (emotive right-dislocation.)
    • kono kimochi wa nanda?
      What is this feeling?

Toward People

Unlike kore, sore, are, the words kono, sono, ano can be used toward people without disrespecting them, so long as they don't qualify a disrespectful noun.

For example, the noun hito 人, "person," is a noun that's often used with the pronouns.

ちょっとお金貸してくれない? なんですかこの人!?
Manga: Gabriel DropOut, ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 24)
  • Context: the speaker is walking around when all of sudden this girl shows up and...
  • chotto okane kashite kurenai?
    Won't [you] lend [me] a little money?
  • nandesuka kono hito!?
    What's up with this person!?
    What's up with this [girl]!?
    (emotive right-dislocation.)
  • She just asked money from a complete stranger!

Another noun is ko 子, which means literally "child," but can be used like hito 人 to refer to other people. There's a dozen peculiarities about this word, see how ko 子 works for details.

Manga: Black Lagoon (Chapter 9, Calm Down, Two Men - Part 1)
  • Context: an old woman gives advice to an adult woman.
  • jouchan!
  • anta mo
    chotto wa
    ano ko wo
    minarai na.

    You [should] learn a little more [from] that [boy].
    • Here, "that boy" refers to Rock, who is an adult man, but nonetheless a kid to the speaker who's a much older woman.
    • anta あんた
      anata あなた
    • mo chotto もちょっと
      mou chotto もうちょっと
      A little more.
    • wo mi-narau を見習う
      To see and learn from. (to learn something by watching how someone else does it.)


The words kono, sono, ano can be used to add emphasis to the noun if the noun is already unique.

That is, normally, when you have two things you can call by the same word, like two "cars," you must say "this car" or "that car" in order to specify which car you're talking about.

But sometimes you have a word that can only refer to one thing. For example, say you're talking about the prince. Since it's the prince, not a prince, we can infer there's only one prince: the prince. Adding "this" or "that" before it is redundant: there's no "this prince" or "that prince," it's only one prince.

In Japanese, doing this would add emphasis to the word:

  • ano ouji-sama ga sonna koto wo?!
    THAT prince [did] [such] thing?!
    • That one? The one that would never do such thing, did it?
    • I can't believe it! Outrageous, just outrageous, I dare say!

This is most notably seen in phrases like kono ore この俺, "this me."

  • kono ore ga itteiru
    THIS me is saying it.
    • Not anybody else: THIS me.
    • Are you doubting MY word?
    • Are you implying that I am lying?

Which's mostly used by characters who are very full of themselves.

全く 下世話な愚民共 この私を誰だと思ってるの?
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 1, 映画に誘わせたい)
  • mattaku
    [Good grief.]
  • gesewa na gumin-domo
    [What a lot of prattling fools.]
    • gesewa na 下世話な
      [Someone] who chit-chats, prattles.
    • gumin 愚民
      Foolish people.
  • kono watashi wo dare dato omotteru no?
    Who do [they] think this me is?
    • Who do they think I am?

It doesn't need to be used with a personal pronoun. Sometimes it's used with the person's own name:

Manga: "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure," JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 (Chapter 4, 負けられない戦いの巻)


Similarly, the word kono この can be used when swearing, in which case "this" ends up becoming "you" most of the time. For example:

  • kono baka!
    This idiot!
    [You] idiot!
  • kono yarou!
    This guy!
    This [bastard]!
    [You bastard]!
Manga: Zatch Bell!, Konjiki no Gash!! 金色のガッシュ!! (Chapter 5, 道具か人間か!?)
  • ii kagen ni shi-yagare,
    • [That's enough],
    • [Stop that],
    • [Cut it off],
  • kono yarou!!!
    [You bastard]!!!

Sometimes kono alone already implies wrath.

仕方・・・なく・・・ こ・・・・・・の・・・・・・ 何だ何だ!? ザワザワ
Manga: Zatch Bell!, Konjiki no Gash!! 金色のガッシュ!! (Chapter 1, 清麿、正義のみかた)
  • Context: Zatch Bell ガッシュ・ベル did something he shouldn't have, enraging Takamine Kiyomaro 高嶺清麿.
  • shikata... naku...
    • [It couldn't be helped.]
    • [There was no other way.] (more literally)
    (incomplete sentence.)
    • [You...... little......]
  • nanda nanda!?
    What is it what is it!?
  • zawa zawa

Using Dono どの

The pronoun dono どの can be used to ask "what" or "which" of a thing, but it's not as often used as one would expect, because there are reasons to use other pronouns instead of it.

For starters, dono is an adjective. It must come before a noun. So, obviously, you need to say the noun, too, besides saying dono. In a lot of cases, that noun can already be inferred from context, which makes using "dono noun" needlessly explicit.

For example, if you're talking about flowers, you don't say "which flower do you want?" Because you're already talking about the flowers. You'd say just "which one do you want?" as you point to the flowers you can see with your own eyes. Or even "which do you want?"

Similarly, there are many cases docchi, dore, and even nani are used instead of dono.

Besides that, take a phrase like this:

  • dono manga ga suki desu ka?
    Which manga do you like?

This is a very good question. Except that the following question often makes more sense:

  • donna manga ga suki desu ka?
    Which kind of manga do you like?

It can be the difference between getting "Naruto" as the answer and getting "manga about the feudal Japanese culture" as the answer.


  • dono pokemon wo sodatereba ii no?
    Which pokemon should [I] raise? (tame, train, level up, etc.)
  • tsugi wa dono anime wo miru ka na?
    Next which anime [I'll] watch, [I wonder]?

The only one a bit more complicated is a phrase like this:

  • dono you na goyouken deshouka?
    What is the matter?
    What brings you here?

That's because you よう is a light noun. The word youken 用件 means "matter." So the phrase is more or less "which kind of matter" do you want to discuss.

One valid answer, grammatically, would be "this kind of matter," kono you na youken このような用件, but nobody will actually say that. Instead, they'll just explain the matter: "oh, I want to discuss X with you."

Possessive Usage

Sometimes, kono, sono, ano, dono can express possessive aspects similar to those of no-adjectives.

This Thing of You

When possessive, the pronouns translate to something like:

  • This thing of me, on me, etc.
  • This thing of you, on you, etc.
  • This thing of them, on them, etc.
  • This thing of whom, on whom, etc.

The simplest to understand case of this is with kakkou 格好, "appearance."

  • kono kakkou
    This appearance. (literally.)
    • Often means:
    • watashi no kakkou
      My appearance. How I look.
  • sono kakkou
    That appearance. (literally.)
    • Often means:
    • anata no kakkou
      Your appearance. How you look.
  • ano kakkou
    That appearance. (literally.)
    • Often means:
    • kare no kakkou
      His appearance. How he looks.

The same usage can be observed in phrases like:

  • dono kuchi ga iu
    What mouth says [it]. (wrong.)
    Whose mouth says [it]. (correct.)
    Look who's talking.
    • Expression used when someone accuses someone else of something they're also guilty of, e.g. the laziest character in a series calling another character lazy will get this response as tsukkomi ツッコミ.

There are cases it's not possible to tell if sono means "your thing," or "this thing close to you," "that thing." For example:

それ・・・・・・その翼・・・・・・取れる? え・・・・・・取れません・・・・・・
Manga: Maoujou de Oyasumi 魔王城でおやすみ (Chapter 18, 布団トモダチ)
  • Context: Aurora Suya Rhys Kaymin, オーロラ・栖夜・リース・カイミーン, who loves to sleep, stares at the feathers of Harpy, ハーピィ, and says something abominable.
  • sore...... sono tsubasa......
    That...... those wings / your wings......
  • toreru?
    Can [one] take them [off]?
    Are they removable?
  • e...... toremasen...
    Eh...... [no], [they] aren't.
ちょい待ったそのセリフって傍から見るとすっげぇ犯罪臭が・・・ ポンッ ・・・・・・
Manga: Grand Blue, ぐらんぶる (Chapter 2, 新歓コンパ)
  • Context: Kitahara Iori 北原伊織 is talking with someone that says something that could be misinterpreted badly.
  • choi matta
    Wait a bit.
  • sono serifu tte {hata kara miru} to suggee hanzai-shuu ga...
    That line / your line, if {seen by a third-person}, [it] [has] an incredibly criminal smell. (literally.)
    If someone hears what you said without context, they'll think it's a crime.
    (incomplete sentence, double subject construction with tte って topic marker.)
    • serifu 台詞 - a line, in the sense of dialogue, something that someone says, or said.
    • hata kara miru
      To see from the sidelines, in the sense of how an onlooker interprets a situation they aren't involved in, without full context.
    • suggee - same as sugoi すごい, with changes in pronunciation.
    • X-shuu
      [To have] an X smell. To reek of X. To appear to be X, such that other people can tell it's X from how it looks like.
  • pon'
  • ......
    • omawarisan
      Police offer. (the sort that patrols.)
    • junkai suru
      To go around [a place]. To patrol. To tour.

Of The Aforementioned

In some cases, sono can translate to "of the aforementioned."

Presumably, this happens because sore それ can mean "that" as in something aforementioned, so sono その, which exchanges the ~re ~れ morpheme by a ~no ~の morpheme that's sometimes possessive ends up meaning "of the aforementioned."

As always, ano あの feels more distant than sono その when referring to an aforementioned something.

With Family Members

Sometimes, sono is used to say someone is a family member related to an aforementioned someone else. For example:

儂は燦の父親で瀬戸内魚類連合瀬戸組 組長 『瀬戸豪三郎』じゃ ドス その妻『瀬戸蓮』!
Manga: Seto no Hanayome 瀬戸の花嫁 (Chapter 1, 瀬戸のおんな)
  • Context: a character sitting in agura あぐら position introduces himself, as does his wife.
  • washi wa San no chichioya de Seto-uchi-gyorui-rengou Seto-gumi Kumi-chou "Seto Gousaburou" ja
    父親瀬戸内魚類連合瀬戸組 組長 『瀬戸豪三郎』じゃ
    I'm Sun's father and Seto's Inner Fish-kind Alliance, Seto Group's Boss, "Seto Gousaburou."
  • dosu
    (used when a threatening character makes an entrance.)
  • sono tsuma "Seto Ren"
    That's wife, "Seto Ren"! (literally.)
    • sono hito no tsuma
      The aforementioned person's wife.

With Time

When the words kono, sono, ano come after nouns for time, they end up referring to a time pertaining to some event.

この日, その日, あの日

  • hi

  • kono hi
    This day.
    • Not necessarily "today." It can be a previous day mentioned by the speaker.
    • kono hi wo wasurenai
      [I] won't forget this day.
    • kyou
  • sono hi
    That day. (in which something occurred.)
  • ano hi
    That day. (in which something occurred.)

The phrase sono hi can refer to a "day," hi, that the listener mentioned: "oh, and on that day (you mentioned), was it raining?"

Both sono hi and ano hi can be used to talk about past days, but ano hi feels more distant, more in the past, than sono hi.

These same differences apply to other words of time. For example:

  • asa

  • kono asa
    This morning.
    • In English, "this morning" is sometimes used to refer to today's morning. In Japanese, it's literally "this" morning. It can be a morning mentioned by the speaker previously, or it can be the morning that's occurring right now.
    • kesa
      Today's morning.
  • sono asa
    That morning. (in which something occurred.)
    • This can be translated as in "the morning" when telling a story.
    • E.g. I left the door open. In the morning (sono asa), all my stuff was gone!
    • Here, sono asa refers to the morning after: "I left the door open."
  • ano asa
    That morning. (in the past.)
  • yoru

  • kono yoru
    This night.
  • sono yoru
    That night.
  • ano yoru
    That night.

この前, その前, あの前

The words kono, sono, ano can qualify mae 前, "before," to talk about what happened before something.

  • kono mae
    This before.
    Before this.
    • The other day, something happened.
  • sono mae
    That before.
    Before that.
    • Doing that is important, but before that, we have to do something else first.
    • Before that happened...
  • ano mae
    That before.
    Before that.
    • Before that thing which happened in the past happened...

To elaborate:

  • kono mae tenkou shite-kita
    Before this, [he] transferred schools [to here].
    • tenkou suru
      To change schools.
    • shite-kuru
      To come doing something. (e.g. to come here by transferring schools.)
  • sono mae ni kakunin sasete
    Before that, let me confirm.
  • sono mae ni junbi shiyou
    Before that, let's prepare.

この後, その後, あの後

When the words kono, sono, ano qualify ato 後, "after," it works the same way:

  • kono ato
    After this.
  • sono ato
    After that.
  • ano ato
    After that.


Sometimes, no-adjectives can be used with numbers to create partitives. For example:

  • ni-bun no ichi
    One of two parts. One half.
  • touzokudan no hitori
    One person of the band of thieves.
    One of the band of thieves.

This can also happen with sono その.

  • watashi ga sono hitori
    I'm that one person.
    I'm one person of the aforementioned group. I'm one of them.

Another example:

  • kore ga sono ichibu
    This is that one part.
    This is one part of the aforementioned thing.
    • ~bun is a part in mathematical fractions, ~bu is for parts that compose things.
    • soshiki no ichibu suginai
      Doesn't exceed one part of the organization.
      Is nothing but one part of the organization. (you thought you defeated the evil organization just by defeating this one small part of it? Haha!)

その1, その2, その3

The word sono その can also come directly behind a number like ichi, ni, san 一, 二, 三, to refer to the first, second, third, etc. of something.

  • sono ichi
    その一 (or その1)
    The number one of that.
    The first one of that.
    Its first.
  • sono ni
    その二 (or その2)
    The number two of that.
    The second one of that.
    Its second.
  • sono san
    その三 (or その3)
    The number three of that.
    The third one of that.
    Its third.

This could be, for example, iterating the rules of an agreement, competition, regulation, contract, or so on. The first of the student council's rules... the second of the student council's rules... etc.

Manga: JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 - Part 3: Stardust Crusaders (Volume 18, Volume 7 of Part 3)
  • In JoJo, some chapters are parts of larger arcs. For example:
  • taiyou sono ichi
    The Sun: the chapter number one of that.
    The Sun: its first.
    The Sun: Part 1.


Although the pronouns kono, sono, ano, dono are normally written with hiragana, they do have kanji, so, in some rare cases, you may find them actually written with kanji:

  • kono 此の
  • sono 其の
  • ano 彼の
  • dono 何の

One reason they aren't written with kanji is that ano 彼の would be spelled the same way as kare no 彼の, "his." And dono 何の the same way as nan'no 何の. That would be too confusing, so people don't spell them with kanji.


The words sono その and ano あの can also be used as interjections. The interjection ano あの is used when starting a conversation with someone, a way to ask "can I have your attention?" Just like "excuse me" in English.

  • ano, sumimasen, dareka imasu ka?
    Hello? Excuse me, is anybody there?
どうしたの?ちよちゃん あ あのっ 私 コンピューターって全然 触ったことなくてっ
Manga: Azumanga Daioh あずまんが大王 (Volume 2, Chapter May: Part 2)
  • doushita no?
    [What happened]?
  • Chiyo-chan
    (character name.)
  • a ano' watashi
    konpyuutaa tte zenzen
    sawatta koto nakute

    あ あのっ 私 コンピューターって全然 触ったことなくてっ
    [Y... you see,] I've never touched a computer.

The interjection sono その is used when fumbling: when you're trying, you know, like... uh.... I mean, sono... when you're having trouble coming up with the words.

kosoado kotoba こそあど言葉


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  1. What does it mean when someone uses
    "Kono Ore" in a sentence?

    1. Literally "this me." It's a way of saying, often dramatically in anime, that something unfitting happened to THIS me. Like, "THIS me lose a fight?!" as in, this monstrously-strong-me-who-has-a-history-of-never-losing-in-fights-since-elementary-school lose a fight?!

      Other examples include: forgetting stuff, mistaking one thing for another, blunders, etc. Though even for something like "THIS me-who-hates-romance fall in love?!" also works.