Saturday, October 8, 2016

kore, sore, are, dore - Meaning in Japanese, Usage Examples, Grammar

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.

Sometimes, are? あれ? is an interjection of doubt: "huh?"

なー あれなんだー? え?
Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 1, よつばとひっこし)

Demonstrative Pronouns

Like any other kosoado pronouns, kore, sore, are, dore differ according to their prefix:

  • kore
    This thing. (near me.)
  • sore
    That thing. (near you.)
  • are
    That thing. (far from us.)
  • dore
    What thing?

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 1, Page 35, コンピューター!)
  • Context: teaching someone how to use a computer.
  • kore wa?
    This thing [is]?
  • mausu. {sore wo tsukatte}
    sousa suru no yo

    マウス それ使って操作する
    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.
  • 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 kiite 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?
なー あれなんだー? え?
Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 1, よつばとひっこし)
  • naa
    (interjection used before asking someone something.)
  • are nandaa?
    What is that thing? (far from both of us.)
    • nanda
      Is what.
  • e?
Manga: MONSTER, モンスター (Chapter 8 of Volume 2, 老兵と少女)
  • Context: western man gets served Japanese food with chopsticks.
  • nanda, kore wa?
    Is what, this thing?
    (emotive right-dislocation.)
    • kore wa nanda?
      What is this thing? (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.

In English, "this," "that," and "what" can be used as either nouns or adjectives. When they're used as nouns, that is, when "this" means "this thing," you use kore, but when "this" comes comes before another word to qualify it, you use kono. Observe:

  • kore wo kau
    To buy this thing.
    To buy this.
  • kono geemu wo kau
    To buy this game.
  • *kore geemu wo kau
    Intended: "to buy this game."
    Closer to: *"To buy this thing game."
  • *kono wo kau
    Intended: "to buy this."
    (also wrong.)
    • In general, wo can't come after adjectives.
    • The only exception is metalanguage: if it was a weird situation where we're buying the word "kono" literally, then it doesn't work as an adjective, but as a quoted phrase.
    • "kono" wo kau
      To buy "kono."

The words kore and kono can 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 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.

Toward People

Normally, kore, sore, are, dore aren't used to refer to people, only to things. This is just like you don't call people "it" or "that" in English. It would be disrespectful and perhaps offensive.

Sometimes, it happens 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.

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 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, Collage)
  • Context: Satou Kazuma 佐藤和真 introduces his harem party.
  • haai, koitsu φ Akua
    Ookay, this [is] Aqua.
  • ore φ Kazuma
    Me, Kazuma.
  • kocchi φ Megumin
    Here, Megumin.
  • kore φ Dakunesu ne
    This thing [is] Darkness, okay.
  • Darkness ダクネス, who is a "masochist," do-M ドM, becomes overjoyed by the inhuman treatment.
  • watashi wo "kore" yobawari
    [He] called me "this thing."
  • kore
    "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
    • Something I am talking about.
  • sore
    • Something you mentioned.
    • Something I mentioned, but that happened in the past.
  • are
    • 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.)
よーし 今からちょいと法に触れる事するけど おまえ見て見ぬふりしろ よいしょ~~  へ!? ・・・それって犯罪者になれってこと? ダメか? パン
Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 3, 炭鉱の町)
  • Context: Edward Elric エドワード・エルリック drags his younger brother into a life of crime.
  • yooshi

  • ima kara {choito hou ni fureru} koto suru kedo
    [Starting] now, [I] will do something [that] {violates the law a bit}.
    • choito
      (same as...)
    • chotto
      A bit. A little.
    • hou ni fureru
      To touch the law. To collide with the law. To violate the law.
    • fureru
      To touch. (as a matter of fact: ended up touching, brushing against.)
      • sawaru
        To touch. (intentionally: he touched the cat, petting it.)
  • omae φ {mite-minu} furi shiro
    As for you, pretend {not to see [anything]}.
    • mite
      To see, and...
    • minu furi
      Pretend not to see.
  • yoisho~~
    • Expression of effort, he used it when climbing.
  • he!?
  • ...sore tte hanzaisha ni nare tte koto?
    ・・・それって犯罪者になれってこと? that: "become a criminal," is what you're saying?
    • You're telling me to cooperate in a crime!
  • dame ka?
    Is [that] no good?
    • Is that not okay?
    • Will you not help me?
  • pan

それでは Farewell

The phrase sore dewa それでは, and its contraction sore ja それじゃ, can be used to bid farewell.

Manga: Sen'yuu. 戦勇。 (Chapter 2, 勇者、悔やむ。)
  • sore dewa
    And with that, [I take my leave].

あれ Reminder

The word are sometimes refers to an idea that's implied to be known by both speaker and listener, but that the speaker is having trouble describing: it's that thing, you know, that thing.

ただいま おかえり っていうかアレだな おまえは早く帰って私の遊び相手をするべきだ こんな時間までどこほっつき歩いてたんだこの野郎
Manga: Minami-ke みなみけ (Chapter 1, ホットケーキにしましょう)
  • Context: Minami Kana 南夏奈 welcomes home her younger sister, Minami Chiaki 南千秋.
  • tadaima
    [I'm back].
  • okaeri
    [Welcome back].
  • tteiuka, are da na
    [Or rather], [it] is that.
    • are da - "[it] is that," as in "you know, it's that thing when, which, etc.," used like this to refer to an idea the speaker assumes to be known already, and will remind the listener of next.
  • omae wa hayaku kaette watashi no asobi-aite wo suru beki da
    You should return home quickly and be my play-partner.
    You should come home quickly to play with me.
    • Kana reminds Chiaki of what she should do.
  • konna jikan made doko hottsuki-aruiteta-n-da, kono yarou
    Where were [you] loitering around until this [late], you bastard?
    • konna jikan made - until this hour, until this late.
    • ~teta-n-da - contraction of ~te-ita no da ~ていたのだ.

あれ Bad

Sometimes, saying something is are あれ, is "that," means it's bad or awkward somehow. It's, well, you know, "that."

  • {iu} no mo are da shi
    Besides, {saying [it]} would be "that."
    • Phrase used when someone explains why they're refraining from saying something, e.g. why don't you ask that person for the thing yourself? Because saying it myself would feel awkward, or embarrassing, or it wouldn't be a nice thing to do, etc.
はじめはアレだったけどイングランド(こっち)のビールにもにも近頃なれてきたよな あ!いいな オレにもひとくち
Manga: Vinland Saga (Chapter 21, ヴァルハラ)
  • Context: vikings viking around.
  • {hajime wa are datta} kedo Ingurando (kocchi) no biiru nimo chikagoro narete-kita yo na
    {At first [it] was "that"} but lately [I feel like] [I] have gotten used to England's beer.
    • i.e. at first the beer felt weird, but lately he's gotten used to it.
    • kocchi こっち, "this side," is used as gikun 義訓 for England in this panel because the vikings aren't from around England, i.e. their country is "over there," acchi あっち, and to "this direction," "this side," "around here," kocchi こっち, is England.
  • a! ii na, ore nimo hitokuchi
    あ!いいな オレにもひとくち
    Ah! [That] is nice. Give a sip to me, too.

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
    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.

When you have a question with nani なに, you can answer anything:

  • {suki na} iro wa nani?
    What is the color [that] {[you] like]}?
    What color do [you] {like}?
  • {watashi no {suki na}} iro wa ao
    The color [that] {I {like}} [is] blue.
  • watashi wa {ao ga suki da}
    {Liked is true about blue} is true about me.
    I like blue.
    (double subject construction.)

When you have a question with dore どれ, you can only answer kore, sore, are, or rather, dore always asks about a thing that you can refer to by kore, sore, are. They must be things that you can point to. If we're talking about colors, it must be only the colors that you can see somewhere.

  • {suki na} iro wa dore?
    What color do [you] like?
    Which color do [you] like?
    • From these colors that you can point to.
  • {watashi no {suki na}} iro wa kore
    The color [that] {I {like}} is this one.
  • watashi wa {kore ga suki da}
    I like this one.

It's worth noting that when nani 何 is followed by the da だ copula or the desu です copula, it's contracted to nanda 何だ and nandesu 何です. The ~i disappears.

There's another pair of contractions that have nothing to do with these: the nanda なんだ and nandesu なんです that come from na no da なのだ and na no desu なのです.

  • kore wa nanda?
    What is this thing?
    • nanda - nani plus da.
  • kore nanda!
    [It] is this thing!
    • kore na no da.
      (same meaning.)

In general, people don't ask questions with dore as often as they ask questions with nani, nanda, nandesuka, simply because you're unlikely to ask a question about only things that you can see.

  • 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?

The word 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
    Just this much.
  • sore dake
    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
      To say something for later. To leave something said. To say something as a warning.
    • iu
      To say.
    • ~oku
      To do something for later, generally as precaution.
      (auxiliary verb.)

These are sometimes contracted to kondake, sondake, andake, dondake こんだけ, そんだけ, あんだけ, どんだけ.

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
  • {katta} geemu
    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
  • sore
  • are
  • dore

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, "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.

・・・・・・あれ? フ~~~ ゴシゴシ
Manga: School Rumble, スクールランブル (Chapter 2, EASY RIDER)
  • ......are?
  • fu~~~
  • goshi-goshi
    *scrub scrub*
    (mimetic word.)

Sometimes, it's accompanied by the kke っけ particle.

  • 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.

あれれ? ポッ ポッ
Manga: AQUA (Chapter 3, 水役の街)
  • Context: suddenly, it starts raining.
  • arere?
    Huh? What? It's raining? *perplexity intensifies*
  • po' po'
    ポッ ポッ
    *rain drops hitting the floor*


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, ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 22)
  • Context: Vignette ヴィネット asks about the drawing Gabriel ガヴリール is drawing.
  • souieba, e no hou wa dou?
    そういえば ほうどう
    By the way, how's the drawing?
  • mou choi ka na
    [It'll take] just a little bit more, [I think].
  • nakanaka umaku
    kaketeru yo
    [I] have been able to draw [it] really well.
  • hontou?
  • doredoree?
    [Let's see]?
kosoado kotoba こそあど言葉


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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.

  2. Please make an article on だけ because it would save my life. Just kidding, but it's one of the particles you have not covered in its own article at all, it seems. Your quality of writing would be very beneficial to a lot of learners .