Lesson 18: Location Words

Introduction

Describing where things are is an important skill to have in Japanese. Being able to describe where things are not only enhances your ability to describe locations; it also aids you in asking for and giving directions. In order to do so, there is a set of words known as “location” words. These words are used to describe where something is (a noun) in relation to other noun. These words are not used only in the scenarios described in this lesson, but we are just going to focus on their main uses for now.

First, here is a list of the location words and their English equivalent.

To the right of みぎ
To the left of ひだり
In front of まえ
Behind うしろ
Inside なか
On/above うえ
Under/beneath した
Near そば
Next to となり

 

Explanation – Part I

X は Y の “location word” です.

This is the basic sentence structure that you will follow in order to describe where something is. To start with, let’s say that you want to describe where the bank is. If the bank is in front of the library, you would say ぎんこうはとしょかんのまえです。

の must always go between the second location and the location word. As seen in the above sentence, the second location is the library, and the location word is まえ. So, when saying the bank is in front of the library, the word for library must go with the location word. That’s how we get ぎんこうはとしょかんのまえです. If the bank was behind the library instead of in front of it, you would say ぎんこうはとしょかんのうしろです. You can change the location word to any on the above list; just place it in the same place that まえ and うしろ previously occupied in the sentence.

Take a look at the following sentence pairs to see some more examples of how location words look.

A: 本はどこですか。

B: 本はテーブルのうえです。

A: デパートはどこですか。

B: デパート はぎんこうのひだりです。

A: えんぴつはどこですか。

B: 本のしたです。

As you can see, in the final sentence the subject was omitted. Keep in mind that this is acceptable in Japanese as long as the listener knows what the subject is.

Explanation – Part II    

Now that you have an idea of the basic structure for location words, let’s go a little more in depth.

You will recall from an earlier lesson (Lesson #10) the Japanese pronouns それ, これ, and あれ. You were also taught another form of these pronouns (その, この, and あの). Now we are going to learn a third form of these pronouns because these forms can be used with location words. The new forms are そこ, ここ, and あそこ. Take a look at the chart below in case this does not make sense.

それ (that) これ (this) あれ (that over there)
その (that noun) この (this noun right here) あの (that noun over there)
そこ (there) ここ (here) あそこ (over there)

*Note that where it says “noun” in the chart, a noun should be filled in.

Here are the new pronouns in examples:

ぎんこうはどこですか。 (Where is the bank?)
ぎんこうはあそこです。 (The bank is over there.)

ぎんこうはどこですか。 (Where is the bank?)
そこです。(It is there.)

ぎんこうはどこですか。(Where is the bank?)
ぎんこうはここです。レストランのまえです。(The bank is here. In front of the restaurant.)

These pronouns work best when you can point to the location of the building or noun.

Finally, let’s learn how to say that something is in between two other things. You will use this structure.

X は Y と Z のあいだです.

For example, if the pencil is in between the book and the bag, you would say:

えんぴつは本とかばんのあいだです。

This structure also works for buildings.

Practice I

Translate the following from English to Japanese. If you aren’t sure of the Japanese word for a noun, look it up in a dictionary. You may want to purchase a Japanese dictionary or use one online. There is a link to a Japanese dictionary on the right hand menu of this website. Using a dictionary will help you learn new words. Don’t look at the answer key until you have finished the exercises!

  1. The umbrella is under the chair.
  2. The restaurant is near the department store.
  3. The school is next to the bank.
  4. The pen is in the bag.
  5. The book is near the bag.

Practice II

Translate the following into English.

  1. 日本の本はどこですか。
    しんぶんのしたです。
  2. じしょはどこですか。
    あそこです。つくえのうえです。
  3. としょかんはどこですか。
    (としょかんは) ゆうびんきょくとぎんこうのあいだです。
  4. えんぴつはどこですか。かばんのなかですか。
    はい、えんぴつはかばんのなかです。
  5. 水はどこですか。
    水はコーラのとなりです。

Answer Key

  1. かさはいすのしたです。
  2. レストラン はデパート のそばです。
  3. かっこうはぎんこうのとなりです。
  4. ペンはかばんのなかです。
  5. 本はかばんのそばです。

 

  1. Where is the Japanese book?
    It is under the newspaper.
  2. Where is the dictionary?
    It is over there, on top of the desk.
  3. Where is the library?
    (The library is) between the post office and the bank.
  4. Where is the pencil? Is it inside the bag?
    Yes, the pencil is inside the bag.
  5. Where is the water?
    The water is next to the soda.
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