This way, that way and the other way? こう、そう、ああ

Posted on October 04, 2006 | Posted by evankirby

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Beginner students of Japanese often struggle with the three words used as relative pronouns in Japanese, これ (kore, this), それ (sore, that) and あれ (are, that over there). The reason it's difficult, of course, is that English only really has two: this, and that, so the difference between それ (meaning, something closer to the listener than the speaker) and あれ (something not close to either the listener or the speaker) can be quite difficult to grasp.

Along the same lines, a student in our Japanese for Exams course had some questions about the other forms of these words, こう (kou, this way/like this), そう (sou, that way/like that), and ああ (aa, the other way), and こんな (konna, this kind), そんな (sonna, that kind), and あんな (anna, the other kind). In the interests of furthering the knowledge of the world at large (or at least, that small portion of it that reads this blog), here is an explanation of the difference.

So, to the questions. These questions are taken from study materials for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, level 3. We'll leave the answers till later, to give you the chance to figure them out for yourself:
1.こう 2.こんな 3.そんな 4.あんな

1.こんな 2.あんな 3.そんな 4.そう

1.あんな 2.こう 3.どんな 4.ああ

1.こんな 2.あんな 3.どう 4.こう

1.ああ 2.どう 3.そう 4.こう

1.そう 2.あんな 3.ああ 4.どう
The answers:
1) 2.
Both of the speakers are experiencing the same day, right now, so the answer is こんな, this kind of day. If they were talking about a day in the past that both of them had experienced, they would use あんな. The speaker could only use そんな if he had not experienced that day himself.

2) 3.
In this case, そんな means "that thing that you said".

3) 1.
そんな and こんな are not given as options because they could also be correct. However, all of the other answers don't fit grammatically. こう and ああ go only with verbs, while どんな is for questions only.

4) 4.
To say the way to do something, we use こう, そう or ああ, and in this sentence any of these alternatives could be correct.

5) 3.
This is a special use of the word そう. In this case, it doesn't mean "in the way the listener described", but rather is almost exactly the same as the word "that", to act as a pronoun for the thing that was just mentioned. So in this case, そう means 「スキーが上手」ということ. Don't be confused by the fact that it sounds just like the regular word そう, and remember that it is used to summarize the part before.
This is probably the most difficult of the questions here. Just in case, here's another example:
I could eat another slice, but if I do that I'd probably feel sick.
So, just as in English we wouldn't say "if I do this", in Japanese you wouldn't say こうすれば.

6) 3.
Satou-san is not in the room with the two speakesr, so they must use ああ to refer to her - "not me, not you, but another person".
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