- Before checking anata wa meaning
- Anata wa meaning from its components
- Wa as a sentence ending particle
- How to say “and you” in Japanese
Before checking anata wa meaningI need to explain how often Japanese people omit subject words in sentences. We can also omit them in English, but from the grammatical point of view, basically they are necessary. English subject words still have a strong presence. Contrary to this, Japanese ones are very weak. To be honest, they are very neglectable even in formal situations. When Japanese people use subject words intentionally, they could sound very strong. What I want to say here is Japanese people usually do not use a pronoun, “anata”, which is a possible subject word in conversation, meaning ‘you’. Using pronouns itself could be weird to Japanese people.
In addition to the above, “anata” is widely used in a different way in Japan. It is used by a wife to call her husband. To tell the truth, Japanese people are not much familiar with its use as a pronoun.
I’ve explained some backgrounds required to understand why the phrase, “anata wa”, can be weird. In the next paragraphs, I will explain “anata wa” meaning from its components.
Anata wa meaning from its componentsObviously, the phrase, “anata wa”, consists of two different parts. Below are the ones.
- anata – あなた : a pronoun meaning ‘you’. It can be written in kanji like “貴方”, but its hiragana expression is widely used.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case maker or topic maker. This hiragana character itself corresponds to a sound, “ha”. But, as a particle, it is pronounced “wa” instead. This is a kind of general rule in Japanese.
Example of anata wa
- gakusei – 学生 (がくせい) : a noun meaning ‘a student’ or ‘students’. Learn more about the border between Japanese singular and plural.
- desu – です : a plain form of this auxiliary verb itself. It’s put after a noun or adjective to make its polite expression. Perhaps, this auxiliary verb is well known for a part of desu form.
- ka – か : a sentence ending particle used to make simple questions in Japanese.
This is a typical use of the phrase, “anata wa”. The example shows the relation between “anata wa” and “you are”. In the first paragraph of this blog post, however, I told that Japanese learners often say “anata wa” to mean “and you?” in Japanese. Why its translation is different in the example above? In order to answer this question, let me explain the particle, “wa”, more.
Wa as a sentence ending particleAs I explained, “wa” is a binding particle working as a case maker or topic maker. In reality, however, Japanese people often use it like a sentence ending particle. From the grammatical point of view, it is not. But Japanese people put it at the end of sentence quite often. A reason why this happens is that they often omit all words after “wa” in interrogative sentences. So, in a way, we can consider “anata wa” as an abbreviated form of questions. As a result of this kind of omission, “wa” appears to be 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 realized, the phrase “anata wa” highly depends on context and other words not used together, in other words, omitted words. We have to guess what is omitted and also speaker’s intention behind. Sometimes, therefore, “anata wa” can be confusing to Japanese native speakers.
For a better understanding, please take a look at an example below. It is a conversation between two Japanese, Haru and Aki.
Conversation using anata wa
- genki – 元気 (げんき) : a noun meaning ‘vitality’, ‘health’, ‘energy’ and so forth. It can also be used like an adjective meaning ‘healthy’ or ‘fine’. Learn more about adjective like use of nouns.
- watashi – 私 (わたし) : a pronoun meaning ‘I’.
- mo – も : a binding particle used to add a nuance of ‘also’, ‘too’, ‘as well’ or such. It can also be used for emphasis.
The second line is also very clear. Just an answer to the question.
For the third one, “wa” is used like a sentence ending particle. This means, other words after it have been omitted. A full sentence could be “anata wa genki desu ka?” meaning ‘how are you?’ Here, the context is very understandable, so it is easy to guess what is omitted. Depending on situations, however, it could be very difficult. When saying “anata wa”, we have to understand context. Otherwise, it can sound weird. This would be another reason why the phrase,”anata wa”, can sound so.
The fourth one is also just an answer. The phrase, “watashi mo” corresponds well to English expressions like “me too” or “blah blah too”. Its meaning is always very clear and depends less on context. So, normally we can use it easily. However, surprisingly, we can find another omission here. Most probably, words like “genki desu” have been omitted after the binding particle, “mo”. Therefore, a full sentence could be “watashi mo genki desu” exactly meaning “I’m fine too”. But, again, it depends less on context and has a clear meaning, so the shortened expression is quite understandable.
How to say “and you” in JapaneseSo far, I’ve explained how “anata wa” can be weird, meaning ‘and you’ in Japanese. Hope you could understand my explanations. 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, simple phrases or expressions cannot be translated to other languages with keeping their original meanings and nuances. So, we need to understand there is no expression in Japanese which completely corresponds to “and you?” When you want to ask someone the same thing you are asked, you could just repeat it. Below is a conversation between Haru and Aki again.
Conversation without anata wa
SummaryIn this blog post, I’ve explained “anata wa” meaning from its components and why it can sound weird to Japanese people. Let me summarize them as follows.
- anata wa – あなたは : a phrase meaning ‘you are’. It can be used like “and you?” with the pitch raised, but this use can sound weird.
- anata – あなた : a pronoun meaning ‘you’. Japanese people do not use it that much because it is used by a wife to call her husband. This is one reason why “anata wa” can sound weird to the Japanese.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case maker or topic maker. It can also be used like a sentence ending particle to make shortened questions like “and you?” Yet, guessing what is omitted after this particle can be difficult.
Hope my explanations help Japanese learners to improve their skills.
Japanese Particles Master
Masaki Mori is a Japanese particles master. Through teaching Japanese language, he is trying to spread the culture of Japan. His goal is to preserve it as much as possible.