"What is that?"
Both それ and あれ can be translated as 'that'. それ refers to something close to the listener, and あれ refers to something that is far from both the listener and the speaker. Both are translated as 'that' in English.
(For the sake of completeness, これ refers to something close to the speaker, and would be 'this' in English)
I've seen others explain it as "kore" is near the speaker, "sore" is away from the speaker but near the addressee, and "are" is away from both speaker and addressee--in other words, it's not about measured distance per se, but rather position relative to the interlocutors.
ここ means “this place”. If the speaker and listener are in different places, it refers to where the speaker is. Same with when they’re in the same place. そこ means “that place”. When in separate places, it refers to the listener’s place. When in the same place, it refers to relative distance. あそこ means “that place (over there)” it refers to a place not near the speaker or the listener. If I wasn’t clear, feel free to ask!
I get too many emails saying the same thing-- the answer is not available. I'll try to explain it here: The answer should be "それは何ですか" right? Yes it should, but 何 has 2 different ways to pronounce itself (in this case it's なん). So at Hiragana form, the answer is "それはなんですか". Usually you'll get a box with は and なん combined, thus making it はなん in one box. Conclusion: try to answer (それーはなんーですーか).
EDIT: あちら、そちら also counts as "It/that" although there's more explanation of why both are, I'm not going to go into details.
それ、あれ、これ are nouns used in place of other nouns. The use of は and を function with them normally as they would with other nouns.
は marks the topic of the conversation, such as here それは何ですか (On the topic of that - what is it?) "That" is doing the action of "being what"
を marks the direct object of the sentence; the thing that the verb is acting on. それをください (That thing - please give (it) to me) "That" is the object being requested/given to the speaker.
それは食べます - "That eats" or "That (topic) - eats" With the thing marked with は doing the eating.
それを食べます - "(I) eat that" or "That (object) - (I) eat" With the thing marked with を being eaten.
Sorry i don't really understand the use of the particle は (ha). I saw in previous comments on other Duolingo threads that if I want to say:
(I) do not eat vegetables (in general, because of an allergy for example) = yasai ha tabemasen (sorry for using romajis)
(I) do not eat vegetables (I won't eat vegetables, this time) = yasai wo tabemasen.
So when you wrote in your comment that "それは食べます - "That eats" or "That (topic) - eats" With the thing marked with は doing the eating.", I don' t agree (I am probably wrong, but please explain to me why). To me, は only significates a more general context (ex: in general, I do not eat that), but unlike what you wrote は doesn't mark what is doing the eating (=so the subject), however the particle for the subject is "ga" . Sorry for the long message but I am kind of lost right now :(
I think the explanation of は being "general" vs を being specific is misleading. My above examples from a year ago probably also aren't the best examples, though they work in the context of this sentence discussion.
In negative sentences は replacing を is acting as a contrast marker that puts emphasis on the verb "do not X". It shows "As for vegetables, I do not eat them" and leaves the implication that you do eat other things. You want to stress that vegetables are a thing that you do not eat. Whereas を is much more neutral sounding statement with no real emphasis or implication anywhere. Either of them could be habitual or in the future, the particles do not specify.
In many cases the topic and the subject are the same and the particles は and が are interchangeable, only slightly changing the nuance of the phrase. When they are different a topic will typically precede a subject in a sentence. は will come before が since は is a broader idea and が introduces new important information. は puts stress on what comes after it, が puts stress on what comes before it.
(私は)野菜がまずい - (watashi wa) yasai ga mazui - "As for me, vegetables are gross" (Vegetables are the thing that are gross to me) uses が to emphasize "vegetables" as the thing you dislike
野菜はまずい "As for vegetables, they are gross" using は to emphasize they taste bad
Without context a positive sentence with は and no specified subject or direct object could assume that the topic and the subject are the same, getting それは食べます "That thing eats"
In context though you could also assume that the topic is implied and は is actually being used to show contrast instead, それは食べます "(implied I) - eat that (but not other things)". This is more frequent with negative sentences, but still correct with positive ones.
Both are valid uses of は for the example that I posted, so you are correct in that.
Though my point still stands in context of responding to the original post on why を cannot be used in それは何ですか
I hope that all makes sense... The differences between は, が and を, their various uses, and when to use which one over the other can be really confusing, even native speakers get tripped up on when to use which sometimes. It's not easily summarized in a single comment without falling down a rabbit hole of other grammatical situations.
But it could also refer to food.
One of the main goals of the Food 1 skill is introducing the basic ko-so-a-do pronouns. For each new word a certain amount of questions using that word is needed. This sentence specifically is an example of how to use あれ along with vocab used in previous skills you should already be familiar with.
If you speaking to someone, that says a word or phrase you don't understand, you can repeat the word and add
"what is (that thing you say as) [unknown word]"
If you don't want to repeat the word, you can use:
今の表現(いまのひょうげん) /今の言葉(いまのことば) "the expression/word just now"
は何ですか "what is"
You could also substitute [word]＋ということ with
そのこと or それ (If your conversation partner just said something you don't know)
あのこと or あれ (if your conversation partner said something you don't know a while ago and moved to another topic already)
The concept of distance to the speaker and listener is still valid, but in a figurative sense rather than the spatial distance.
There are many more appropriate/polite ways to make someone explain a reference without repeating the word other than using それ and あれ.
"Ko-" is the prefix used to describe objects near the speaker. In this sentence "Kore wa nan desu ka" would be "What is this"
You'll see this prefix in other words like
"Koko" - "Here (Near me)"
"Kochira" - "This way (Towards me)"
"Kono (noun)" - "This (noun near me)"
Similarly "So-" is used to describe things near the listener.
"Sore" - "That (near you)"
"Soko" - "There (near you)"
"Sochira" - "That way (towards you)"
"Sono (noun)" - "That (noun near you)"
and "A-" for things far from both the speaker and the listener.
"Are" - "That (over there)"
"Asoko" - "Over there"
"Achira" - "That way (over there)"
"Ano (noun)" - "That (noun)"
Since English doesn't really distinguish distances, sentences with "That" in them can generally take either "So-" and "A-" words unless the "over there" part is specified.
And "That- (-re ending)" and "That way (-chira ending)" words can also be often used somewhat interchangeably. It's like pointing at an object and saying "That one!" versus gesturing with your hand in the general direction of the object; which can be seen as a bit more polite, especially if the "that one" in question is a person. It's a bit rude to point directly at people.
Neither of those sentences make sense though
In your first sentence を is the object particle, meaning that it marks the noun that a verb is acting upon; but there is not verb in this sentence, only the copula "to be".
I think you're thinking of これをください "this one, please"
(This thing) (object particle) (Please give it to me)
それをください - "That one, please"
(That thing over there) (object particle) (Please give it to me)
あれをください - "That one, please"
(That thing over there) (object particle) (Please give it to me)
In your second sentence えわ aren't particles at all; I'm not sure what they're doing there. I assume you mean maybe "e" へ the direction particle that indicates movement (which doesn't make sense here either since "kore" is not a destination and there is no movement verb), and "wa" は the topic particle (which actually does belong there)
なに 『何』when followed by ですか, is shortened to 『なん』
これはなんですか - "What is this" (This thing) (topic) (what is it?)
それはなんですか - "What is that" (That thing) (topic) (what is it?)
あれはなんですか - "What is that (over there)" (That thing over there) (topic) (what is it?)
No, を is for direct objects and there is no direct object in this sentence. It is used with transitive verbs to describe an action being done to an object.
In this case the copula です is intransitive and describes a state of being, not an action being done, so it takes は.
あれ は 何 です か
(That) (topic) (what) (is) (?)
(On the topic of that thing - what is it?)
I have been confused about what the difference is between a Japanese character that is normal and a Japanese character that has those mini quotation marks... what do you call those and what are they for? I don't understand why the letter ko sometimes has tiny quotation marks above it for instance
They're both normal. Duolingo doesn't explain it except if you happen to click the light bulb for the lessons they happen to be in.
There are two syllabaries, or sets of symbols that map to sounds, used in Japanese. Hiragana is for Japanese words, katakana is for foreign words. They map to the same sounds. The diacritic marks (those mini quotation marks plus the circle mark you asked about) add extra sounds without adding new sumbols... sort of like how there's no special letter for "th" sound in english.
The marks change ko (こ) to go (ご) for example, and hi (ひ) to bi (び) and pi (ぴ), ka (か) to ga (が), he (へ) to be (べ) and pe (ぺ)...etc.
I recommend looking at the wikipedia page or any other basic search outside of duolingo to learn more. And I recommend the open source and free and no-ads program "KaQui" on android for practicing to learn both syllabaries.
I had a tricky time remember which that, is which… There’s something silly that I used to help me. It’s not 100% accurate, but just a way to remember the words.
これ (kore) – This – Just remember the person saying it, is usually ‘keeping’ the item near them or in their hand. (Keep, Kore)
それ (sore) – That – “Somewhere” near the listener. (Somewhere, Sore)
あれ – (are) -- That -- That thing is Around there somewhere… (Around, Are)
Like I said, not 100% accurate, but it can help give you an idea of how to remember the words. If you want to be more accurate Swisidniak was right.
これ - "This" Near the speaker
これは何ですか - What is this?
それ - "That" Near the listener
それは何ですか - What is that?
あれ "That" Far from both speaker in listener
あれは何ですか - What is that (over there)?
Since English doesn't really distinguish between distances, either form of "That" (are, sore) should be acceptable.
In that case you would be asking what the direct object is while knowing the verb and subject. Like: "Did (verb) to what thing...?"
あれは何を食べましたか - (about that thing) (what object) (did it eat)?
Or if the thing that ate and the eating is already known from context, 何を would simply be "what is it (that it ate?)"
あれは何をしますか - (that) (topic) (to what object) (did)(?) - "What thing did that do"
vs が that marks the subject, the thing doing the action
何がしますか (what thing) (did)(?) - "What did it"
but no particles would be used with です since it simply marks a state of being rather than an action.
these are kosoado words. Here is a good article if you want to read about it:
is very casual, and very used as well
どれ is a ko-so-a-do word used for an unknown pronoun
これ - This (one) - near the speaker
それ - That (one) - near the listener
あれ - That (one over there) - far from both
どれ - Which (one) - questioning
From an earlier comment on this page:
何 is "What"
どれ is "which (one)"
あれ is "that (one)"
あれはどれですか - That one is which one (which one is that)
あれは何ですか - That one is what (What is that)
Why not それを? In this lesson it is very confusing. Sometimes it says use が, sometimes を and sometimes は, when actually それ or あれ could be subject or object... I know は is topic, を is object, and が is subject. But here それ can't be known at the moment by the person i'm speaking with... So it should be を not は?
を is for the direct object, the thing a transitive verb is acting on, but there is no transitive verb in this sentence, only the copula です used to note a state of being. You cannot do the action of "be" to something else.
それ is the subject doing the "being what"
は marks known contextual information for the statement you are about to make. This stresses what comes after it. Here we know that 'that' exists but we do not know what 'that' is so we stress the question word "As for that thing, WHAT IS IT"
が marks new important information and stresses what comes before it. We do not use it here because it would add an emphasis to the existence of "that", which wouldn't make sense to do before a question word which is inherently unknown and is the information you actually want to know. It'd be like saying "THAT is the one that is what?"
Answered above as well:
I really don't get this. In a previous answer I got wrong it was for using a version of that or it that was something that was uncertain and in a question, but this one uses the ones from the tip in the same way and the other way is incorrect. I have no clue how to get the character in my phone and no one else is referring to it.
これ = something close to the speaker, and usually gets translated as "this" in english.
それ = something close to the listener.
あれ = something distant from both the speaker and listener.
Both それ and あれ tend to come out as "that" in english and as a result can end up causing confusion. If you are using a mobile device I recommend Takoboto: Japanese Dictionary or any similar app, they are a big help on elaborating at times when Duolingo isn't so clear.