Translation:What is that?
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And どれ (dore) = "which?" for a thing in an unknown location. These together are the "ko-so-a-do" system of demonstratives. The same pattern applies to 〜こ (here/there/where), and 〜の (ex: この is short for これの and is used to say "this ___" while referring to a specific object), and ko-so-a-do can be used in a few other cases as well.
Actually, I think the best translation for this sentence should be "what is that?"
それ refers to something which is near the listener, so "this" is not a valid translation. "This" refers to something which is near the speaker, and Japanese has a different word for this (これ).
"It" is valid because it's so general; "it" could be referring to something random, which just so happens to be near the listener, but that proximity isn't relevant/emphasized.
何 is "nani" which is contracted to "nan" before a "d" sound. So the full sentence reads "Sore wa nan desu ka ?" The meaning of 何 is "what".
Sore is “that which is close to you” or “that thing which is close to you” as a noun, distinct from “sono” which is a relative adjective and requires a noun eg “sono neko” - “that cat near you” “That thing which is not near you or me” is “Are”あれ
So the complete literal translation is: "That thing which is close to you, what is it?"
Japanese is rather like an open-ended Yoda language. The structure of grammar is subject-object-verb, instead of English's subject-verb-object.
Instead of saying "The cat eats mice", they say "The cat mice eats."
This turns the full question in this particular lesson from "What is that?" to "That thing which is close to you, it is.....?" Basically asking the other person to fill in the blank. It explains why a lot of Japanese answers are very simple words or phrases. "Betsuni" = "nothing", or "This? Pencil it is." or "Plush toy, is."
If they're interested, of course they'll tell you more. If not, that's usually all they say, and then leave you with a weird stare or muttered "idiot".
It's also why I love Japanese. They can fit whole subtleties into one small phrase, but then other concepts take whole sentences to describe. :-)
Japan is not the only country that follows 'S+O+V' structure; Nepal is another country that uses the same structure for sentences as well. Even the question structure is similar; However, subject is not omitted here. Fun fact - most of the Nepal vocabularies are originated or are taken from Indian vocabulary (not to mention Nepal also modified them),so , person fluent or learning Indian language can manage to learn Nepali language in no time.
I just threw "what" into Google translate and it came up with a bunch of variants on 何 and also どんな "donna". どんな is much better translated as "what kind of" if I recall correctly.
Also どんなもの - what kind of physical thing? and どんなこと- what kind of abstract thing? As usual, donna has its friends konna, sonna and anna https://www.reddit.com/r/LearnJapanese/comments/381eug/how_do_i_use_konna_sonna_anna/
Yes, for the most part, I think. In more formal writing, such as correspondence with a client or a professor, I think using ？ tends to be avoided, but there's nothing wrong with it.
Also, since many particles, including か, are dropped in casual speech, ？is used when texting friends to indicate the upward inflection of a question, e.g. 「今日(きょう)、暇(ひま)？」 = "Are you free today?" (Lit. "Today, free?")
は marks known/contextual information, the topic
が marks new important information
When asking a question, the unknown thing that you want an answer to is the part of the phrase you want to emphasize. This means question words cannot be marked as known context with は, and it means that you wouldn't place stress on other words before it with が
それは何ですか "(on the topic of that,) WHAT IS IT" - "that" is context, "What" is the important unknown thing you want answered
それが何ですか "THAT ONE is what one?" - "That" is the important thing, which doesn't really make sense in a question format.
なん when before a particle or auxiliary verb starting with T, D or N sound and when attached to a counter
なに when used with a noun and when before a particle/auxiliary verb that does not start with T, D or N
です is "Desu" with a "D" sound so 何です is read なんです
何人・なんにん - How many people? (What + Counter for people) = "nan" reading because にん is a counter
何人・なにじん - What nationality? (What + Noun suffix for nationalities) = "nani" reading because じん is a noun suffix starting with a "J" sound