What does “anata wa” mean in Japanese?Japanese learners often say “anata wa” in order to mean ‘and you?’ This phrase is understandable, but honestly it can sound weird to Japanese native speakers. In this blog post, therefore, I will explain “anata wa” in detail based on its components and also why it can sound weird to native speakers. Let’s get started!
- Definition and meanings of “anata wa”
- Why can “anata wa” sound weird?
- Example #1: how to say “you are” in Japanese
- Wa as a sentence-ending particle
- Example #2: how to use “anata wa”
- How to say “and you” in Japanese
- Example #3: conversation without “anata wa”
Definition and meanings of “anata wa”First of all, let me start with the definition and meanings of “anata wa”.
- anata wa – あなたは : a Japanese phrase for ‘you are’. It could also be used like “and you?” with the pitch raised.
Definition and meaning of anataLet me start with “anata”.
- anata – あなた : a pronoun meaning ‘you’ in Japanese.
Definition and meaning of waBelow is the other component.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. This hiragana character itself corresponds to the “ha” sound. When it is used as a particle, however, it is pronounced “wa” instead. This is a pronunciation rule in the Japanese language.
From these two components, we can understand that the phrase, “anata wa”, literally means ‘you are’ in Japanese.
Then, let’s take a look at the reasons it can sound weird to Japanese native speakers.
Why can “anata wa” sound weird?In my opinion, there are two reasons it sounds weird to native speakers.
Reason #1: it sounds strongJapanese native speakers quite often omit the subject word in a sentence. So, when they use it intentionally in a sentence, it sounds strong.
“Anata” is a pronoun meaning ‘you’ in Japanese. “Wa” can work as a case marker. So, when they are used together, “anata” can work as the subject word.
From these two facts, we can understand that “anata” in the phrase, “anata wa”, sounds strong. Honestly, it sounds much stronger than the English pronoun, “you”. So, “anata wa” that Japanese learners use in the same way as they use “you are” sounds very strong to Japanese native speakers. This is the first reason the phrase sounds weird.
Reason #2: it is not familiar to native speakersSo far, I’ve explained “anata” as a pronoun. But, it has another role in Japanese. It can be used by a wife to call her husband. Honestly, this usage is much more common than the other one. So, Japanese native speakers are not much familiar with its usage as a pronoun. This is the second reason.
I’ve explained the two reasons why “anata wa” sounds weird to Japanese native speakers. Yet, it is still understandable and in use. To understand how to use it, please take a look at the example sentence below.
Example #1: how to say “you are” in Japanese
Below are new words used in the example sentence.
- gakusei – 学生 (がくせい) : a noun meaning ‘student’. It can also be used as a plural noun meaning ‘students’. Learn more about Japanese plural.
- desu – です : an auxiliary verb put after a noun or adjective to make it polite. Perhaps, it is well known as a part of Japanese desu form. In the example, it is put after the noun, “gakusei”, to make it sound polite.
- ka – か : a sentence-ending particle used to make a question. As its definition suggests, it is put at the end of the example sentence to make the question.
This example shows the relation between “anata wa” and “you are”. Yet, Japanese learners often use this Japanese phrase to mean “and you?” as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog post. How can we see the relation between these two? In order to answer this question, let me explain the role of “wa” in a question.
Wa as a sentence-ending particleAs I explained, “wa” is a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. In reality, however, Japanese native speakers quite often use it like a sentence-ending particle. The reason why this happens in real conversations is that they often omit all words after “wa” in an interrogative sentence when those meanings are understood from the situation and context. As the result of this omission, “wa” can work like a sentence-ending particle. This is how the phrase, “anata wa”, is made and also why it can be translated to “and you?”
As you may have noticed, the use of “anata wa” highly depends on the context and omitted words. We have to guess what is omitted and also speaker’s intention behind. Sometimes, therefore, “anata wa” is very confusing even to Japanese native speakers.
For a better understanding, please take a look at the example below. It is a conversation between two Japanese, Haru and Aki.
Example #2: how to use “anata wa”
Below are the new words used in the example.
- genki – 元気 (げんき) : a noun meaning ‘vitality’, ‘health’, or ‘energy’. It can also be used like an adjective meaning ‘healthy’ or ‘fine’.
- watashi – 私 (わたし) : a pronoun meaning ‘I’.
- mo – も : a binding particle used to add the nuance of ‘also’, ‘too’, or ‘as well’ to the preceding word. Learn more about “mo” through the phrase “watashi mo“.
The second line is also very clear. It is just an answer to the question.
In the third line, “wa” is used like a sentence-ending particle. This means that all words after the particle have been omitted. A full sentence would be “anata wa genki desu ka?” meaning ‘how are you?’ In this conversation, the context is very clear, so we can easily guess what is omitted and also speaker’s intention behind the shortened question. When we can’t, however, the phrase, “anata wa”, could get to sound weird.
The fourth line is also just an answer. Japanese people often use the phrase, “watashi mo”, to say “me too” in Japanese. Its meaning depends less on the context, so is usually clear.
How to say “and you” in JapaneseSo far, I’ve explained how “anata wa” can sound weird. Then, your next question would be “how can people say ‘and you?’ naturally in Japanese?” My answer to this question is “they can’t”. Sometimes, we cannot translate simple phrases or expressions into other languages with keeping their original meanings. We need to understand that there is no Japanese expression which completely corresponds to “and you?”
But, we want to have something can replace the work of “and you?” One possible solution I can imagine would be repeat the same sentence. When someone asks us something, we can reuse that question to him/her. Let me explain this through the example conversation below.
Example #3: conversation without “anata wa”
This example shows how we can reuse the same question. Honestly, this conversation sounds more natural than the last example. So, repeating the question is much better than using “anata wa” with a word omission.
SummaryIn this blog post, I’ve explained “anata wa” in detail based on its components and why it can sound weird to Japanese native speakers. Let me summarize them as follows.
- anata wa – あなたは : a phrase meaning ‘you are’. It could also be used like “and you?” with the pitch raised.
- anata – あなた : a pronoun meaning ‘you’. Japanese people do not use it that often because it is used by a wife to call her husband. This is one reason why “anata wa” can sound weird to them.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. It can also be used like a sentence-ending particle to make a shortened question like “and you?”
Hope my explanations are understandable and helpful for Japanese learners.
Learn more vocabulary on the app!
You can improve your Japanese vocabulary with our flashcards.