Language | WELL SAID

What's that we were talking about? Ah yes, the many uses of 'are'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Mata Karutago ni ikitai ne. Ano resutoran wa yokatta. (I’d like to go to Carthago again. That restaurant was good. )

Situation 1: Mr. Sere and his girlfriend, Yuri, are chatting about the restaurant they went to before.

ゆり: またカルタゴに行きたいね。あのレストランはよかった。

セレ: うん、あそこはよかったね。モロッコを思い出したよ。

Yuri: Mata Karutago ni ikitai ne. Ano resutoran wa yokatta.

Sere: Un, asoko wa yokatta ne. Morokko o omoidashita yo.

Yuri: I’d like to go to Carthago again. That restaurant was good.

Sere: Yeah, it was good there. It reminded me of Morocco.

Let’s look at あれ and あの in a more abstract way. Japanese uses the あ-group of demonstratives to refer to things far away from both speaker and listener, and to refer to concepts in a conversation that both parties know about: あれ is used for things, あの attaches to a noun, あそこ is for places, the polite あちら and the casual あっち are for directions, and あんな is used with nouns to mean “that kind of.” In Situation 1, both Yuri and Sere have had the experience of eating at Carthago, so they refer to it after the fact as “ano resutoran” (“that restaurant”) and “asoko” (“there”):

「昨日(きのう)、前(まえ)に会社(かいしゃ)にいた小野(おの)さんに会(あ)ったよ。」 「ああ、あの人(ひと)、元気(げんき)だった?」 (“Yesterday, I met Ms. Ono who used to work at our office.” “Oh, that person, was she doing well?”)

When the speaker forgets the name of something and the listener is assumed to know what they’re talking about, あれ or あの+noun can be used instead:

「あれはもうできた?」 「あれって報告書(ほうこくしょ)のこと?」 (“Have you done that yet?” ” ‘That’ … do you mean the written report?”)

Situation 2: Continued from Situation 1.

ゆり: いつごろモロッコに行ったの?

セレ: うーん、あれは5年前だったかな。一人でエジプトとモロッコを旅行したんだ。

Yuri: Itsu goro Morokko ni itta no?

Sere: Ūn, are wa go-nen-mae datta kana. Hitori de Ejiputo to Morokko o ryokō shita-n-da.

Yuri: When about did you go to Morocco?

Sere: Hmm, that was five years ago, I think. I took a trip to Egypt and Morocco by myself.

あ-group demonstratives can indicate a thing or matter from the speaker’s memory that conveys a sentimental feeling.

大学生(だいがくせい)のころ京都(きょうと)に住(す)んでいた。あのころは楽(たの)しかった。 (I lived in Kyoto when I was a university student. Those were the good days.)

あ-group demonstratives are also used in monologues when the speaker remembers something, as in: あの映画(えいが)は本当(ほんとう)にすごかったなあ。 (That movie was really exciting.)

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Tamachi and her coworker Ms. Gray are chatting about their parents. They are both worried that their mothers are becoming forgetful in their old age.

田町(たまち): 母(はは)と電話(でんわ)をしていると、最近(さいきん)「あれ」が多(おお)くて。父(ちち)と話(はな)しているときも、「あれを持(も)ってきて」とか言(い)ってるの。

グレイ: ああ、年(とし)をとると、ものの名前(なまえ)がすぐに出(で)てこないのよね。

田町: そう。認知症(にんちしょう)にならないように、できるだけ名前を出(だ)して話すように言っているのに。

グレイ: そういえば、私(わたし)の母も子(こ)どものころに住んでいたところに行(い)ってみたいっていうの。「あのころがなつかしい」とか言って。

田町: そういうものなのね。…あ、三時(さんじ)だ。あれ、やらなきゃ。

グレイ: 何(なに)?あれって?

田町: ほら、あれよ、ええと、何(なん)だっけ?

グレイ: やだ、田町さんまで。しっかりしてよ!

Tamachi: When I speak to my Mom on the phone, recently she’ll say “that” a lot. When she speaks to my Dad, she’ll say things like “Bring me that thingy.”

Gray: Ah, as we get older the names for things don’t come so quickly.

Tamachi: That’s right. To guard against dementia, I ask her to use the names for things as much as possible, though.

Gray: That reminds me, my Mom will also say she wants to try going to where she used to live when she was a child, saying stuff like “I miss those days.”

Tamachi: That’s the way it is. … Oh, it’s 3 p.m. I gotta do that thing.

Gray: What? Whaddya mean “that thing”?

Tamachi: Ugh, that thing, umm, what’s it called?

Gray: Oh, no! You’re just like your Mom! Get a hold of yourself!