Grammar Notes for Lesson 5
Grammar Notes for Dialogue 1
bullet Prenominals この, その, あの, どの

この, その, and あの prenominal forms of demonstrative pronouns. That is, these words are used only to modify a noun and cannot be used as a noun by themselves (ungrammatial below ).

Prenominal N
この へや あかるいですね。 This room is bright.
その バス べんりですね。 That bus (near you) is convenient.
あの トラック おおきいですね。 That truck (over there) is large.
どの コンピュータ   ですか。 Which computer is it?
ungrammatial この   コンピュータです。 [ungrammatical]
ungrammatial その   コンピュータです。 [ungrammatical]
ungrammatial あの   コンピュータです。 [ungrammatical]
ungrammatial どの   コンピュータですか。 [ungrammatical]

Note that adjectives (or noun + の like 日本人の) may be inserted after a prenominal form before the noun.

"this tall person"     Prenominal2
"that Japanese teacher"

その can also be used to refer to something/someone that is mentioned in the previous sentence as shown below.


よしださんの せんこうは えいごです。

Ms. Yoshida's major is English.
B: そのひとは にほんじんですか。 Is that person (= he/she) a Japanese?

どの is the prenominal question word which means "which." To ask which one X is, you can use the pattern Xは どのNですか . Compare this with another question word どれ which means "which one". どの and どれ are not interchangeable. どの is a prenominal form (i.e., occurs only in front of a noun) and cannot become a noun by itself while どれ is a noun by itself.

  Xは どのN
A: たなかさんの くるま どの くるま ですか。 Which car is Mr. Tanaka's car?


あの くるま です。 It's that car.
A: ぎんこうは どの たてもの ですか。 Which building is the bank?
B:   あの たてもの です。 It's that building.


Q: たなかさんの くるま どれ ですか。 Which one is Mr. Tanaka's car?
ungrammatial たなかさんの くるま どの ですか。 [Ungrammatical]

The demonstrative pronouns (これ, それ, あれ and どれ) we learned in Lesson 4 are regular pronouns and cannot be used to modify a noun. This fact makes all of the following ungrammatical.

ungrammatial これ コンピュータ

ungrammatial それ バス [Ungrammatical]
ungrammatial あれ トラック [Ungrammatical]
ungrammatial どれ くるま [Ungrammatical]
bullet Pronoun: Xの

The pronoun ("one") is used to substitute another noun (usually referring to objects, not people) and create a shorter expression. For example, in English, "a white car" can be shortened to "a white one." The same can be done in Japanese.

Adjective Noun   Adjective  
あたらしい コンピュータ あたらしい new one
むずかしい ほん むずかしい difficult one
しろい くるま しろい white one
ひまな ひと ひまな idle one;
one who is not busy

Examples in sentences are shown below.

あの しろい としょかん です。 That white one is the library.

With the NのN construction, the particle and the pronoun are rolled into one .

Noun Noun   Noun  
きのう コーヒー きのう yesterday's (one)
きょねん くるま きょねん last year's (one)

Since the structure PERSON の N expresses a possessive notion "PERSON's N," this can be shortened to PERSON の "PERSON's."

A: たなかさん かばんは どれですか。 Which one is Mr. Tanaka's bag?
B: わたし あおい のです。 Mine is the blue one.
B:   あおい のです。 It's the blue one.

The following combinations (on the left) are ungrammatical. The correct form is written on the right.

  • UngrammaticalGrammatical
  • この の → これ ("this one")
  • その の → それ ("that one [near you]")
  • あの の → あれ ("that one [far away]")
  • どの の → どれ ("which one?")
Grammar Notes for Dialogue 2
Grammar Point and

There are two ways to ask "Which person is Mike?" (1) マイクさんは どのひとですか and (2) どのひとが マイクさんですか. The first type of sentences contains the particle は (topic marker) while the second type contains the particle が (subject marker). Both of these sentence types consist of an unknown/new element and a known element but they are structured in the opposite order. The particle は marks something as a known topic that is previously introduced into the conversation or assumed to be known while the particle が marks something as unknown or new and can follow a question word (e.g., どのひと). Remember this rule: The topic marker は can NEVER mark a question word while が (and other particles like を, に, etc.) can mark a question word.

Using は Using が
Unknown/New です。
Known です。
A: マイクさん どのひとですか。 A: どのひと マイクさんですか。
  As for Mike   which person is it?   Which person   is Mike?
B: マイクさん あのひとです。 B: あのひと マイクさんです。
  Mike   is that person.   That person   is Mike.
or     あのひとです。 or あのひと   です。
  (It)   is that person.   That person   is.

The answer to a WHが-question must be also marked by が. One seeks unknown information with a WH question (A1) and the other gives new information as its answer (B1). If one refers to the same entity mentioned previously (A2), は must be used instead of が. (Xは=English "it/he/she/they" or "the X")

A1: どのひと アリスさんですか。 ("Which person is Alice?")
B1: このしろいTシャツのひと アリスさんです。 ("This person with a white T-shirt is Alice.")
A2: そのひとせがひくいですか。 ("Is she short?")
B2: はい、せがひくいです。 ("Yes, she is short.")

In other words, は functions to keep the same topic while が introduces new information (often to change the topic). Compare the following conversations. かた ("person") below is the polite form of ひと. (New information is in bold/red. Known information is underlined.)

  • A: あのかたマイクさんですか。 "Is that person Mike?"
    B: いいえ、あのかたジョンさんです。 "No, he is John."
  • A: あのかたマイクさんですか。 "Is that person (over there) Mike?"
    B: いいえ、そのかたマイクさんです。 "No, that person (near you) is Mike."

Grammar Point いちばん せがたかい

The adjective たかい means "high." To describe a person's height, you have to use a special form of this adjective せが たかい "tall" or せが ひくい "short (in height)." This adjective corresponds to different adjectives in English. By adding いちばん in front of the adjective, we can create superlative expression ("the most ~") as in いちばん たかい("the most expensive") or いちばん やすい くるま ("the cheapest car").

1. あのひとは せが たかいですね。 That person is tall.
2. あのビルは たかいですね。 That building is tall.
3. このくるまは たかいですね。 This car is expensive.
4. いちばん おおきいのは アメリカのくるまです。 The largest one is an American car.
5. あのくるまが いちばん やすいです。 That car is the cheapest.
6. アメリカのくるまが いちばん おおきいです。 American cars are the largest.

Note that Sentences 5 and 6 above use which marks あのくるま and アメリカの くるま as the newly introduced information in conversation. If あの くるま and アメリカの くるま are previously introduced in conversation, these should be marked by instead as in あの くるま~ and アメリカの くるま~, respectively.

Grammar Point Question word だれ ("Who") and だれの ("Whose")

The question word だれ ("who?") refers to a person and works like another question word どれ ("which one?"). To ask "Whose X", we use だれのX as shown below.

A: あのひとは だれですか。 Who is that person?
B: あのかたは すずきせんせいです。 He/She is Professor Suzuki.
A: あのかばんは だれの かばんですか。 Whose bag is that bag?
B: どれですか。 Which one (do you mean)?
A: その みどりの かばんです。 That green bag.
B: それは リーさんのですよ。 That's Mr. Lee's.
A: よしださんのは どれですか。 Which one is Ms. Yoshida's?
B: あれですよ。あの あかいのです。 It's that one. That red one.
Whose suitcase is that one?

Grammar Notes for Dialogue 3
Grammar Point Demonstrative pronouns ここ, そこ, あそこ, どこ

The demonstrative pronouns (ここ, そこ, あそこ, どこ) refer to specific locations near or far from the speaker and/or listener.

ここ here (near me) this place
そこ there (near you) that place (near you)
あそこ over there (far away) that place far away
どこ where which place

The copula です can be used in the sense of "Something/Someone is located" as shown below.

  X Location です  
A: がくせいかいかん どこ ですか。 Where is Student Center?
B: がくせいかいかん あそこ です。 Student Center is over there.
B:     あそこ です。 (It) is over there.
A: ブラウンさん どこ ですか。 Where is Ms. Brown?
B: ブラウンさん にほん です。 Ms. Brown is in Japan.
B:     にほん です。 (She) is in Japan.

Earlier, we learned the structure Xは Yです "X is Y." If Y refers to a place, this structure can be used to state the location of someone or something: "X is located in Y." For example, わたしは マクドナルドです can mean "I'm at McDonald's (restaurant)" as in Picture 1 or "I am McDonald" as in Picture 2.

Where Who
Picture 1
Picture 2

Grammar Point Loc に Xが あります/Xは Loc あります

Two different types of location expressions are introduced here. In Type 1 expression, A1 below asks WHAT is located in the dorm by the Locationに Xが あります pattern. The last word ありますis the verb that states that an inanimate object (not people or animals) is located somewhere. In this pattern, the particle marks X as something new/unknown---not previously introduced in conversation. The topic marker can be inserted after as in りょうには~ if the "dormitory" is already established as a known location/topic.

Old/Known New/Unknown    
Noun Particle Noun Particle Verb  
Location (は) Subject あります  
A1: りょう に(は) なに ありますか。 What is (located) in the dorm?
B1:     キッチン あります。 A kitchen is (located) there.
      キッチン です。Grammar Point A kitchen is. (short version)

Grammar Point Note that the particle is dropped here.

In Type 2 expression, A2 below asks WHERE the cafeteria is located by Xは Locationに あります pattern. In this pattern, the particle marks X as the information previously introduced (i.e., the topic = "cafeteria") in conversation. In reply, B2 can just say 2かいに あります. (Note that can NEVER be placed after here because it is following a question word (e.g., どこ).)

Old/Known New/Unknown    
Noun Particle Noun Particle Verb  
Topic Location あります  
A2: カフェテリア

どこ ありますか。 Where is the cafeteria (located)?
B2: (それ は) にかい あります。 It is (located) on the second floor.
      にかい です。Grammar Point It's on the second floor.

Grammar Point Note that the particle is dropped in the short version.

The verb あります can also be used to refer to an abstract existence of something instead of physical objects as in しつもんがあります ("I have a question").

  • しつもんが ありますか。 ("Do you have any questions?")
  • いいえ、ありません。 ("No, I don't.")

Grammar Point Scrambling Rule

In English, the part of speech is marked by the word order as in /Subject + Verb + Object/. In Japanese, this is done by particles. Noun phrases (/noun + particle/) within verb sentences can be moved around as a unit as long as the verb comes at the end [Scrambling Rule] as shown below.

  • りょうに/カフェテリアが/あります。 contrast カフェテリアが/りょうに/あります。
  • D.C.に/ホワイトハウスが/あります。 contrast ホワイトハウスが/D.C.に/あります
  • わたしのへやに/おふろが/あります。 contrast おふろが/わたしのへやに/あります。
  • りょうに/なにが/ありますか。 contrast なにが/りょうに/ありますか。
  • カフェテリアは/どこに/ありますか。 contrast どこに/カフェテリアは/ありますか。

Note that noun/adjectival sentences like がくせいかいかんの カフェテリアは 2かいです or わたしの へやは しずかじゃありません cannot be scrambled.

Grammar Notes for Dialogue 4

Grammar Point Loc に Xが います/Xは Loc に います


To say "Someone (or animal) is located somewhere," we need to use the verb います ("Animate object is located") instead of あります ("Inanimate object is located"). Inanimate objects that move around (e.g., trains, buses and taxis) are also referred to by います as in タクシーは りょうのまえに います "The taxi is located (i.e., waiting) in front of the dormitory."

In Type 1 expression, A1 below asks WHO is located at school by the Locationに Xが います pattern.

Noun Particle Noun Particle Verb  
Location Subject います  
A1: がっこう だれ いますか。 Who is (located) at school?
B1:     スミスさん います。 Ms. Smith is (located) at school.
      スミスさん です。 She is at school. (short version)

In Type 2 expression, A2 below asks WHERE Ms. Smith is located by Xは Locationに います pattern.

Noun Particle Noun Particle verb  
Topic Location
A3: スミスさん どこ いますか。 Where is Ms. Smith (located)?
(I know she is here somewhere.)
B3:     がっこう います。 She's (located) at school.
      がっこう です。 She's at school. (short version)

To state where someone lives, we use the verb expression すんでいます as shown below.

  • スミスさんは どこに すんでいますか。 "Where do you live, Ms. Smith?"
  • りょうに すんでいます。 "I live in the dorm."

Grammar Notes for Dialogue 5
Grammar Point Responding to negative questions

In Dialogue 5, we have seen the following exchange.

A: この きんじょに ぎんこうは ありませんか。 There isn't a bank near here?

ええ、ぎんこうは ありませんねえ。Sorry

No, there isn't. (Lit. "You're right. There isn't.")

ぎんこうは ありませんか is a negative question. On the surface, the reply ええ、ありません sounds like a contradiction ("Yes, there isn't"). Negative questions like this are based on politeness consideration --- the speaker is expressing that he/she has only a low expectation of finding a bank around here ("There isn't a bank near here, I presume"). Asking this way will alleviate the psychological stress the listener might feel if he/she has to give bad news. Negative questions like this need to be answered with ええ if the expectation is confirmed ("Correct in your expecting that there isn't a bank near here"). In this case, ええ is grammatically equivalent to "no" in English ("No, there isn't"), and there is no contradition here.

Likewise, if the expectation is disconfirmed, the answer should be いいえ、あります.

A: この きんじょに ぎんこうは ありませんか。 There isn't a bank near here?
(Lit. "There isn't a bank near here, I presume?")
B: いいえ、ありますよ。Good news! Yes, there is. (Lit. "On the contrary. There is.")

Grammar Point Demonstrative pronouns こちら, そちら, あちら, どちら

A group of demonstrative pronouns (こちら, そちら, あちら, and どちら) refers to directions with regards to the relative positions of the speaker and listener.

FYI: These expressions are optionally combined with のほう "the side/direction of..." as in そちらのほう "general direction toward you." The combined expressions (e.g., そちらのほう) sound less precise than the simple expressions (e.g., そちら).

こちら(のほう) this way toward me
そちら(のほう that way toward you
あちら(のほう) that way away from us
どちら(のほう) which way / which
Grammar Point Positional words

Positional words are often used in combination with building names. Note that you state the building name before the positional words to say "[position] of [building]" or "building's position."



びょういん まえ
front of the hospital
back of the hospital
びょういん こちら
this side of the hospital
the other side of the hospital
びょういん みぎ
right of the hospital
left of the hospital
びょういん となり next door to the hospital
びょういん よこ side of the hospital
びょういん ちかく or そば or きんじょ place near the hospital
びょういん なか
inside of the hospital
outside of the hospital
びょういん うえ
above/on the hospital
underneath the hospital

When someone asks "Where is X?", he/she assumes that X exists somewhere and is interested in where it is. As a result, X in Japanese is referred to by the topic marker (since its existence is known). The following shows common question-answer forms involving locations. Note that the particle is used only with the verbs あります/います.

Question Forms Answer Forms
ぎんこうは どこに ありますか。
ぎんこうは どこですか。
(ぎんこうは)びょういんの となりに あります。
(ぎんこうは)びょういんの となり です。
Where is the bank? The bank is located next to the hospital.

When you are introducing new objects with regard to a known location, you use the following forms. Note that new objects are marked by and that the double particle には (instead of just ) is more likely to be used when the location is a known topic.

Known/Familiar Unknown/New    

Location に(は)

Object が


びょういんの うしろに(は) スタジアムが あります。 A stadium is at the back of the hospital.
びょういんの まえに(は) こうえんが あります。 A park is in front of the hospital.
びょういんの となりに(は) としょかんが あります。 A library is at the next door to the hospital.
びょういんの みぎに(は) えきが あります。 A station is at the right of the hospital.
びょういんの よこに(は) バスが います。 A bus is at the side of the hospital.

To ask "What is located in a given location?", the following structure can be used. Note that the particle cannot follow a question word. (ungrammatial なには is ungrammatical.)

  Known/Familiar Unknown/New    

Location に(は)

なに が


A: その へやに(は) なにが ありますか。 What is located in the room?
B:   テレビ あります。 A TV set is located (there).
A: びょういんの うしろに(は) なにが ありますか。 What is located behind the hospital?
B:   スタジアム あります。 A stadium is located (there).

To ask "What is the building associated with a given location?", the following structure is used. This is a familiar identity question "Xは なんですか". Note that no particle follows なん below .

  Known/Familiar Unknown/New    
  Location は なん です(か)  
A: びょういんの うしろは なん ですか。 What is the building behind the hospital?
B:   スタジアム です。 It's a stadium.

Grammar Point へやの どこ vs. どこの へや

Compare the following structures and make sure you understand how each meaning is obtained. Note that the Japanese word order below is a complete reversal of how you would say them in English.






へや どこ   どこ へや
where in the room?
(Lit. "room's where?")
  the room in which place?
(Lit. "which place's room?")

 ベッドは へやの どこに ありますか。("Where in the room is the bed?")
B: へやの みぎに あります。 ("It's on the right side of the room.")

A: 田中さんのへやは どこの へや ですか。 ("The room in which place is Mr. Tanaka's room?")
B: 2かいの へやです。("It's the room on the second floor.")