The Ko-So-A-Do System

Basic Japanese Lessons

Kosoado Kotoba

Japanese has sets of words which are based on the physical distance between the speaker and the listener. They are called "ko-so-a-do words" because the first syllable is always either ko-, so-, a-, or do-. "Ko-words" refer to things nearer to the speaker, "So-words" to things nearer to the listener, "A-words" to things that are at distance from both the speaker and the listener, and "Do-words" are questions words.

Please look at the picture above and see the following conversation among animals.

Kuma: Kore wa oishii na.
Risu: Honto, sore wa oishisou da ne.
Nezumi: Ano kaki mo oishisou da yo.
Tanuki: Dore ni shiyou kana.

くま: これはおいしいな。
りす: ほんと、それはおいしそうだね。
ねずみ: あのかきもおいしそうだよ。
たぬき: どれにしようかな。

(1) kono/sono/ano/dono + [Noun]

They cannot be used on their own. They have to be followed by the noun that they modify. 

kono hon
この本
this book
sono hon
その本
that book
ano hon
あの本
that book over there
dono hon
どの本
which book


(2) kore/sore/are/dore

They cannot be followed by a noun. They can be replaced with kono/sono/ano/dono + [Noun] when the things indicated are obvious. 

Kono hon o yomimashita.
この本を読みました。
I read this book.
Kore o yomimashita.
これを読みました。
I read this.


(3) Ko-so-a-do Chart

 ko-so-a-do-
thingkono + [Noun]
この
sono + [Noun]
その
ano + [Noun]
あの
dono + [Noun]
どの
 kore
これ
sore
それ
are
あれ
dore
どれ
placekoko
ここ
soko
そこ
asoko
あそこ
doko
どこ
directionkochira
こちら
sochira
そちら
achira
あちら
dochira
どちら


The "kochira" group can be used as the polite equivalent of the "kore" or "koko" group. These expressions are often used by employees in the service industries. Click here to check out a lesson for shopping.​

Kore wa ikaga desu ka.
これはいかがですか。
How about this one?
Kochira wa ikaga desu ka.
こちらはいかがですか。
How about this one? (more polite)
Asoko de omachi kudasai.
あそこでお待ちください。
Please wait over there.
Achira de omachi kudasai.
あちらでお待ちください。
Please wait over there. (more polite)