- Definition and meanings of anata wa
- Why it sounds weird
- Example of anata wa
- Wa as a sentence ending particle
- Example: conversation using anata wa
- How to say “and you” in Japanese
- Example: conversation without anata wa
Definition and meanings of anata waFirst of all, let me start with the definition and meanings of “anata wa”.
- anata wa – あなたは : a phrase meaning ‘you are’ in Japanese. 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 maker or topic maker. This hiragana character itself corresponds to the “ha” sound. When it’s used as a particle, however, it’s pronounced “wa” instead. This is a kind of general rule in Japanese.
From the two components explained above, 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 it sounds weirdIn my opinion, there are two reasons it sounds weird to native speakers.
Reason #1: it sounds strongJapanese people quite often omit the subject word in a sentence. Or perhaps I should say, it is not always necessary in Japanese. So, when Japanese people use it in a sentence intentionally, it gives us a bit strong impression.
“Anata” is a pronoun meaning ‘you’ in Japanese. “Wa” can work as a case maker. So, when they are used together, “anata” basically needs to work as the subject word. This means that “anata” in the phrase, “anata wa”, gives us a bit strong impression due to the reason explained above. Honestly, it sounds much stronger than the English pronoun, “you”. Therefore, although their meanings are the same, they sound very different. This is one reason the expression, “anata wa”, can sound weird when Japanese learners use it.
Reason #2: it is not familiar to native speakersSo far, I’ve explained only one usage of “anata”. To tell the truth, however, there is another usage of it. In Japan, it is used by a wife to call her husband. Honestly, this usage is several times as common as the other one meaning ‘you’. So, Japanese native speakers are not much familiar with its usage as a pronoun. This is another reason “anata wa” sounds weird to them.
I’ve explained the two reasons why “anata wa” sounds weird to Japanese people. To go further details, please take a look at the example below.
Example of anata wa
Below are new words used in the example sentence.
- 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 : an auxiliary verb which is often put after a noun or adjective to make it polite. Perhaps, this auxiliary verb is well known for a part of desu form. In the example, it is put after the noun, “gakusei”, to make it sound polite.
- ka – か : a sentence ending particle put at the end of a sentence to change it to a question. It is often used with the raised pitch.
This example only shows the relation between “anata wa” and “you are”. Yet, as I told you in the first paragraph of this blog post, Japanese learners often use “anata wa” to mean “and you?” How can we see the relation between these two? 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 can happen is that they often omit all words after “wa” in an interrogative sentence. So, in a way, we can consider “anata wa” as an abbreviated form of question. 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 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: conversation using anata wa
Below are new words.
- 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’.
- 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 relatively easy to guess what is omitted. Depending on the situation, however, it could be very difficult. So, when saying “anata wa”, we need to be careful with context and try to communicate it to others perfectly. Otherwise, it can sound weird.
The fourth one is also just an answer. The phrase, “watashi mo” corresponds well to English expressions like “me too”. Its meaning is always very clear and depends less on context. So, normally we can use it without any problem. However, interestingly, 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” which exactly means “I’m fine too”. But, again, it depends less on context and has a clear meaning, so the shortened expression is usually quite understandable.
How to say “and you” in JapaneseSo far, I’ve explained how “anata wa” can be weird. 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 into other languages with keeping their original meanings and nuances. So, we need to understand that there is no expression in Japanese which completely corresponds to “and you?” When you want to ask someone the same question they asked you, you can just repeat it. Let me explain this through the example below. It’s a conversation between Haru and Aki again.
Example: conversation without anata wa
This is how Japanese people ask others the same question. Normally, they just repeat it. This conversation sounds much more natural than the one in the last example. So, repeating the question is much better than using “anata wa” with omission.
SummaryIn this blog post, I’ve explained “anata wa” in detail based on 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.
- 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 Japanese people.
- 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 are understandable and helpful for Japanese learners.