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  5. その - "that" or "the"?


その - "that" or "the"?

The course is somewhat inconsistent in the translation of その. There are numerous examples where the English translation offered is merely "the"; yet at other times, if I use "the" in my own translation it is marked wrong. Example:

そのみせに ふたにくは ありますか。

Here they want "that store", not "the store". So, assuming this is not just some oversight, it would be nice if future notes explained what is going on.

June 22, 2017



Yes, I agree with you. This should be more consequent, because it irritates the students and encumbers the progress.

Btw. "that store" is correct here. "The" does not exist in Japanese. In the reverse tree they try to imitate the English definite article, but these sentences sounds very unnatural to me.

  • この this
  • その that
  • あの that over there


Yes, that's how I learned it in class, too, so I was interested to see that その could be "the", at least sometimes.

Quick question about the reverse tree: I'm interested in tackling this, once I am done with Jap - Eng. I guess it turns Duolingo into a Japanese app - how big of a problem is that? How hard is it to figure out which things to tap etc?


Yes, this indeed turns the website and the app into Japanese. I am sorry, but I can´t tell you, how hard it is to figure it out, because I am already able to read Japanese. But the buttons and links are all on the same place, so simply make some screenshots of the main sites to be sure, what´s the meaning.

And a hint: If you use Firefox, there is a really helpful extension called 'Rikaichan'. I would suggest you to install it, then you can translate Japanese text on websites with a mouse over and more.

Regarding the app, I think, it would be no problem. May be if you change to a GUI in Arabic, because the buttons are on the counter side ;-) Bot there are so less buttons, and you can´t fail, just try out.


その has tinge of definite determiner 'the', you can translate その to 'that one'. You can use this illustration to understand it's meaning.

それ = that, これ = this.

その ='that one' and この ='this one'.

Depending on situation you can translate like this in sentences.

その = the (if used far object), この = the (if used for nearer object).

When translating from English 'the' behave strangely as there is no 'the' in Japanese. Rule of thumb, from English to Japanese 'the' can be その, but opposite is not true. If fact, think 'あの,その,この’ as valid translation of 'the' in Japanese. Most of the time this translation works correctly. And for the sentence 'そのみせに ふたにくは ありますか' both translation should be acceptable.


I learned (more or less subtle non-native speaker disclaimer ;) ) that その is the “medial” pronoun. It can refer to either 1) something which is close to the listener (as opposed to この which is close to the speaker and あの which is remote from both), or 2) “the one we have been talking about” (the so-called “anaphoric” function). The same three-way distinction goes of course for all demonstrative pronoun triples formed by こ-, そ- and あ(そ)-.

So unless my (very imperfect) feeling fails me, it is used roughly like this:

  • そのコップの中には何ですか? ‘What’s that in that cup (near to you, i.e. in this case: “in your hand”).’
  • 彼女はセーターを着ていて、そのセーターは緑色でした。 ‘She was wearing a sweater and that sweater (the one I mentioned) was green.’

I guess it can sometimes be translated as “the” in English, especially seeing as the second (anaphoric) function is quite close to the English notion of definiteness. But in general その seems stronger, more explicit to me and I tend to translate it as “that”.


@AbunPang: Interesting - thanks! (Also, my next goal is to drop "anaphoric function" into casual conversation somehow.)

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