And kanji with manga
Saturday, October 8, 2016

kore, sore, are, dore これ, それ, あれ, どれ

In Japanese, kore, sore, are, dore これ, それ, あれ, どれ mean "this thing (near me)," "that thing (near you)," "that thing (away from us)," and "what thing?" They're kosoado words that refer to things in general.

Note that are? あれ? is also an interjection of doubt, "huh?"

Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 1)

Demonstrative Pronouns

Like any other kosoado pronouns, kore, sore, are, dore differ according to their prefix:
  • kore これ
    This thing. (near me.)
  • sore それ
    That thing. (near you.)
  • are あれ
    That thing. (far from us.)
  • dore どれ
    What thing?

A number of resources have kore, sore, are, dore translated as simply "this," "that," and "what." You could translate them that way, and, in fact, they're usually translated that way because it sounds more natural.

However, there's a number of ways "this," "that" and "what" are used in English that don't match how kore, sore, are, and dore are used in Japanese. I'll explain this later. First, let's see some examples of how the words are used.

Usage Examples

これは? マウス それを使って操作するのよ
Manga: Azumanga Daioh あずまんが大王 (Volume 2, Chapter May: Part 2)
  • Context: teaching someone how to use a computer.
  • kore wa?
    This thing [is]?
  • mausu. sore wo tsukatte
    sousa suru no yo

    マウス それを使って操作するのよ
    Mouse. Using that thing [you] operate [the computer].
  • kore wa omoshiroi
    About this thing: entertaining.
    This is funny.
  • kore wa nani?
    About this thing: what?
    What is this?
    • kore wa nandesuka?
      (same meaning.)
    • kore wa nandeshouka?
      (same meaning.)
  • kore wa dame da
    About this thing: [it] is no good.
    This is hopeless. This won't work. This isn't allowed. (dame has various meanings.)
  • Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?
    About this thing: is [it] a zombie?
    Is This a Zombie?
  • sore wa iwanai hou ga ii
    About that thing: [it's better if] [you] don't say [it].
    It's better if you don't say that.
  • sore wa ikenai!
    About that thing: [it] can't go! (idiom.)
    That is bad!
    You can't do that!
    We can't let that happen!
  • sore wo kiiite anshin shimashita
    Hearing that thing, [I] felt relieved.
    I felt relieved after hearing that.
  • are wa sugokatta!
    About that thing: [it] was amazing!
    That was amazing!
  • dore ga hoshii?
    What thing is wanted?
    Which one do you want?

The way kore, sore, are, dore work is fairly simple and consistent. The real problem is the rest of the phrase. There are many grammar points that frequently make use of these pronouns, so to understand a phrase with kore, sore, are, dore, you'll need to understand other stuff first.

The best way to illustrate this is with the i-adjective ii いい, "good," which has some extremely confusing uses. For example:
  • sore ga ii
    That thing is good.
    That is good.

This makes perfect sense. But then:
  • sore de ii
    By that thing [it] is good.
    It's fine that way. (we don't need to do anything about it.)

Wait... where did this "fine" and "way" come from?

It came from -de ii ~でいい, of course. Without knowing that, you wouldn't be able to understand the phrase. Even though kore, sore, are, dore are the easiest pronouns, they're always surrounded by the hardest grammar, so watch out.

Fortunately, once you know how the rest of the phrase works, switching sore, "that," by kore, "this," is consistent:
  • kore de ii
    It's fine this way.

それ vs. あれ

The difference between sore and are is that sore それ is close to the listener, while are あれ is far from both the listener and the speaker. For example:
  • kore wa nani?
    This is what?
    What is this thing close to me?
  • sore wa nani?
    That near you is what?
    What is that thing close to you?
  • are wa nani?
    That far from us is what?
    What is that thing far from both of us?

Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 1)
  • naa
    [Hey]. (interjection used before asking someone something.)
  • are nandaa?
    That is what?
    • What is that? (far from both of us.)
    • nanda 何だ
      Is what.
  • e? え?
    Eh? (interjection.)

Manga: MONSTER (Chapter 16)
  • Context: western man gets served Japanese food with chopsticks.
  • nanda, kore wa?
    Is what, this?
    • What is this? (right in front of me.)

How kosoado words work, こそあど. An animated gif diagram.

vs. この, その, あの, どの

The difference between kore, sore, are, dore これ, それ, あれ, どれ and kono, sono, ano, dono この, その, あの, どの is that kore, sore, are, dore are nouns, while kono, sono, ano, dono are adjectives.

To elaborate: adjectives can come before nouns to qualify them in Japanese. This means that if you want to say just "this," you use kore. But if you want to qualify something with "this," for example, "this game," then you use kono.
  • kore wo kau
    To buy this.
  • kono geemu wo kau
    To buy this game.

The words kore and kono can even refer to the same thing. For example:

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

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

Toward People

The pronouns kore, sore, are, dore are normally not used to refer to people, only to things. This is just like you don't call people "it" or "that" in English. That would be very disrespectful and perhaps offensive.

That being said, sometimes it can happen in anime for comedic reasons: a character is so weird you don't treat it as a person anymore, you treat it as a thing. Or similar scenarios.

はーい、こいつアクア 俺カズマ こっちめぐみん これダクネスね
Anime: Isekai Quartet 異世界かるてっと (Episode 2)
  • Context: Kazuma introduces his harem party.
  • haai, kotsu Akua
    Ookay, this is Aqua.
  • ore Kazuma
    Me, Kazuma.
  • kocchi Megumin
    Here, Megumin.
  • kore Dakunesu ne
    This thing is Darkness.
私をこれ呼ばわり これ まるで物のような扱い
Anime: Isekai Quartet 異世界かるてっと (Episode 2)
  • Context: Darkness is a "masochist," do-M ドM, becoming overjoyed by the inhuman treatment.
  • watashi wo "kore" yobawari
    [He] called me "this thing."
  • kore これ
    "This thing."
  • marude mono no you na atsukai
    It's as if [I was] treated like a thing.
    • Literally: like treatment similar of thing.

Toward Ideas

The words kore, sore, are can refer to ideas, abstract concepts, in dialogue besides tangible, physical things.

This is just how I used the word "this" right at the start of this line. That "this" was referring to the previously mentioned concept. In Japanese it works the same way, except you have three words:
  • kore これ
    • Something I am talking about.
  • sore それ
    • Something you mentioned.
    • Something I mentioned, but that happened in the past.
  • are あれ
    • Something that happened in the past.

For example:
  • kore wa watashi no yume desu
    This is my dream. (the thing I just talked about is my dream.)
  • sore wo iu na!
    Don`t say that! (the thing you just said.)
  • sore wa shippai datta
    That was a failure. (the thing I talked about.)
  • are wa abunakatta
    That was dangerous. (that thing that happened.)

これから, それから, あれから

The phrases kore kara, sore kara, are kara are one way the pronouns can be used toward ideas. That's because they mean "from this event, that event on." In English, this would more naturally be translated as:
  • kore kara dou suru?
    What [you] will do from this on?
    What [you] will do from here on?
  • sore kara dou shita no?
    What happened from that on?
    What happened from there on?

As you can see, kore, sore, and are, can be translated as "here" or "there" in the sense of time.

これまで, それまで, あれまで

Similarly, kore made, sore made, are made mean "until this event, that event," and would more naturally be translated as:
  • kore made no koto
    The things until this.
    Everything that happened up to now.
    Everything that happened until now.
  • sore made それまで
    Until that.
    Until that point.
    Until then.

Using どれ

The way dore works in Japanese is rather tricky because many resources translate it as simply "what," it's naturally translated as "which one," and the way I translated it in this article was as "what thing." So it's a mess. However, once you grasp the trick it's really easy.

どれ vs. なに

Let's start with the difference between dore どれ and nani なに, both meaning "what" in one way or another.

Before that, let me clear one thing up:
  • nani
  • nanda 何だ
    nandesu 何です
    • Same thing, but read as nan instead of nani when it comes before da or desu.
  • nanda なんだ
    nandesu なんです
    It is.
    • Different thing. Contraction of:
    • nanoda なのだ
      nanodesu なのです
      (used when affirming something.)

Now that that's cleared up:

Basically, all types of kosoado pronouns have words starting with ko-, so-, a-, and do-. The do- is always interrogative, always a sort of question. And the do- is always answerable by ko-, so-, or a-.

That is, if you ask something with dore, then kore, sore or are must be valid answers. And we know that kore, sore, and are mean "this" and "that." So any question with dore must be answerable by "this" or "that."

For example:
  • What color do you like?

There are two ways to translate this to Japanese:
  • suki 好き
  • iro
  • suki na iro 好きな色
    Color of [your] liking.
    The color [you] like.
  1. suki na iro wa nandesuka?
  2. suki na iro wa dore desu ka?

In the first one, we can say "blue," "red," "black," etc.

In the second one, we can say "this" or "that."

Which is weird. After all, "this" isn't a color. "Blue" is a color. I mean, what kind of question is this? Someone asks you: "hey, what color you like?" And you answer "this"? That doesn't make sense. What's going on here?

In order for dore to work, there must be a palette of colors or something similar available around for the listener to point at. Like, say you have three shirts of different colors, you ask "what color do you like?" Then he could point at one of the shirts and say "this one." Only then does dore make sense.

As you may assume, often, dore doesn't make sense.

People don't ask questions with dore as often as they ask questions with nani or nandesuka.

Some examples of how you can use dore:
  • dore ga suki?
    What thing is [your] liking?
    Which one [do you like]?
  • kuruma wa dore desuka?
    The car is which one?
    Which one is the car?
    • Among all these cars parked around here. Is it this one? Is it that one?

Another thing to note is that dore どれ can also be used to say "let's see" when you're checking something someone else is showing you. Like they've cooked a dish and you're checking the flavor to see if it tastes good, and so on.

どれ vs. どっち

Both dore and docchi can mean "which." The difference between dore どれ and docchi どっち is that docchi is used when you have a choice between only two things.

This only happens between saying kocchi, socchi, "this direction," "that direction," is more natural when you have a bifurcated path.
  • docchi ga hoshii?
    Which one (of these two things) do you want?
  • dore ga hoshii?
    Which one (of these three or more things) do you want?


The phrase dore demo ii どれでもいい means literally "whichever is good," or, in other words, "it doesn't matter which."

This word, too, is used when you have two or more choices. If you have only two, then you'd use docchi demo ii どっちでもいい, "it doesn't matter which (of the two)." Either one is fine.


The phrase dore kurai どれくらい means "how much" in Japanese. An example of how it's used:
  • dore kurai?
    How much?
  • dore kurai ga kakaru?
    How much will it take?
    How much will it cost?
  • dore kurai jikan ga kakaru to omoimasu ka?
    How much time do [you] think it will take?
    How long do [you] think it will take?

This usage is kind of odd given what we already know about how dore works, for two reasons:
  1. "How much" sounds like an open-ended question: "three hours" isn't the same thing as "this" or "that."
  2. kurai 位 is a noun, so it makes more sense to say dono kurai どのくらい instead, as dono is an adjective.

Regarding the first problem, dore kurai is valid because you can say this in Japanese:
  • kore kurai
    This much.
  • sore kurai
    That much.

Grammatically, kono kurai このくらい, sono kurai そのくらい would make more sense, reinforcing the second problem.

Regarding this second problem, the answer is that dono kurai, etc. are also used. In fact, they were in use before dore kurai. The phrase dore kurai only started being used around the Meiji period. They both mean the same thing. Even though dore kurai makes less sense, it's not considered wrong or anything. You can use either if you want.[「どのくらい」と「どれくらい」は同じですか?違いは何ですか?使い方を教えてください。 -, accessed 2019-04-21]


The phrase dore dake どれだけ means "just how much." This is similar to dore kurai どれくらい. The difference here is that dore dake uses the particle dake だけ, which means "only," "just" in the sense of amount, while kurai means "around" or "about" a quantity.

An example of how dore dake is used:
  • dore dake juuyou ka wakattenai
    [He] doesn't understand just how important [this] is.

An example of the answers:
  • kore dake これだけ
    Just this much.
  • sore dake それだけ
    Just that much.

Note that dake doesn't necessarily translate to a "much."
  • kore dake itte-oku
    [I'll] say just this. (if you continue this way, you'll regret it deeply.)
    • itte-oku 言っておく
      To say something for later. To leave something said. To say something as a warning.
    • iu 言う
      To say.
    • oku おく
      To do something for later, generally as precaution. (auxiliary verb.)

vs. This, That, What

There are a number of ways kore, sore, are, dore differ from "this," "that," "what" in Japanese. For reference, I'll list them here.

Adjective "This" "That"

First and foremost, in English the words "this" and "that" are both nouns and adjectives. In Japanese, kore, sore, are are nouns, while kono, sono, ano are adjectives.
  • kore wo kau
    To buy this. (noun.)
  • kono geemu wo kau
    To buy this game. (adjective, game is the noun.)

Expanding this, there are other kosoado pronouns that can mean "this something" or "that something." For example:

Relative "That"

In English, the word "that" can also be used as a relative pronoun used to introduced a relative clause, in the same way as "which." Japanese doesn't have relative pronouns: relative clauses are introduced by literally putting them behind the noun which they quality.
  • katta 買った
    • Past form of kau 買う, "to buy."
  • katta geemu 買ったゲーム
    The game [which] [I] bought.
    The game [that] [I] bought.
    The game [I] bought.


The word dore どれ only means "what" in the sense of "what thing among all these things," in other words, it means "which one." Also, docchi どっち is preferred when choosing "which one" of only two things. The word nani 何 is used when referring to something which you don't know "what"it is.
  • docchi ga suki?
    Which (of these two) do you like?
  • dore ga suki?
    Which (of all these) do you like?
  • nani ga suki?
    What do you like?


Although the pronouns kore, sore, are, dore are normally written with hiragana, they do have kanji, so, in some rare cases, you may find them actually written with kanji:
  • kore 此れ
  • sore 其れ
  • are 彼れ
  • dore 何れ

In very rare cases, they may be written without okurigana: are 彼.

Which's probably why are 彼, "that," is basically never spelled this way: it'd be identical to kare 彼, "he," and both are extremely common words, which means things would become extremely confusing. So it's normally spelled are あれ to keep things relatively sane.

これら, それら, あれら

The words korera, sorera, arera これら, それら, あれら mean "these" and "those." They're kore, sore, are in the plural. The ra ら is a pluralizing suffix.

They're also spelled:
  • korera これ等, 此れ等, 此等
  • sorera それ等, 其れ等, 其等
    Those. (near you.)
  • arera あれ等, 彼れ等, 彼等
    Those. (far from us.)


The word are あれ can sometimes be used as an interjection translating to "huh?" or "what?" "or "wha?" and so on. Used when the speaker is surprising by a confusing state of affairs.

Manga: School Rumble (Chapter 2)
  • ......are?
  • fu~~~ フ~~~
  • goshigoshi ゴシゴシ
    *scrub scrub* (mimetic word.)

In some cases, it's accompanied by the particle kke っけ.
  • are? kou datta kke?
    Hmmm...? Was it this way? (or was it another way? I don't remember!)

Repeated Phrases

There are some expressions and phrases in Japanese that have kore, sore, are, and dore repeated somehow. For reference:


The expression kore wa kore wa これはこれは means literally "this, this." It has the topic marking particle wa twice, but it doesn't say anything about the topic (kore). It's used when the speaker just saw something, or someone, and is surprised by it or amused by it.
  • kore wa kore wa,
    oujo-sama dewanai ka!

    [Oh my], [if] it isn't the queen!
    • In the sense you just saw the queen and are surprised by it.


The word sorezore それぞれ means "to each." It's a reduplicated word. Basically, if one sore is one "that," then a continuity of sore's is "that, and that, and that, and that..." To each of those that's something applies. This is the essence of sorezore.
  • sorezore no yakuwari wo hatasu
    To achieve each's role (in something).
    • For each to achieve their own role.
    • For everybody to do their own part, or job.


The interjection arere あれれ is just like the interjection are, except a bit longer and rather unusual.

Manga: AQUA (Chapter 3)
  • Context: suddenly, it starts raining.
  • arere? あれれ?
    (huh? What? It's raining? *perplexity intensifies*)


The phrase doredore どれどれ means "let's see." It's an expression and has barely nothing to do with the other ways dore is used.

This phrase is used when someone has done something, for example cooked a dish, and you're about to check how it is: "let's see" if it's well done, if it's tasty, etc.

そういえば絵のほうはどう?もうちょいかな なかなか上手く描けてるよ 本当? どれどれー?
Manga: Gabriel DropOut (Chapter 22)
  • Context: Vignette asks about the drawing Gabriel is drawing.
  • souieba
    e no hou wa dou?

    そういえば 絵のほうはどう?
    By the way, how's the drawing?
  • mou choi kana
    nakanaka umaku
    kaketeru yo
    なかなか上手く 描けてるよ
    [It'll take] just a little bit more, [I think].
    [I've] drawn [it] really well.
  • hontou?

    [Let's see]?

1 comment:

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  1. wow, so I've been trying to study japanese -self-taught- with some pdfs and such for a while. I'm kind of off and I usually come across different material on the internet. Most of it pretty useful but hard to really assimilate in the end, perhaps because of how it is presented. I really loved the way the content is explained, so far this is the first series of pages I read, related to KOSOADO, but I'm already looking forward for the next useful couple of articles. Nothing to say that can express how surprised and amazed I am to have found this, except THANK YOU. Greetings from Honduras.