When You Don't Know the Name of the Object: これ、それ、あれ、どれ
In speaking, we need to be able to indicate what we are referring to. If we do not know the name of the item, we would say “this thing" or “that one" in English. In Japanese, we have the words これ (kore), それ (sore) and あれ (are). The difference between these three words is location. Let's start with これ (kore):
これ は いくら です か。(kore wa ikura desu ka) How much is this?
これ (kore) refers to an item that is close to the speaker. When responding to a question with これ (kore), the word それ (sore) is used:
それ は さんびゃく えん です。(sore wa sanbyaku en desu) That is 300 yen.
それ (sore) is the Japanese demonstrative that refers to an item that is away from the speaker. The person responding will refer to the item in relation to the person asking. The same holds true if the speaker is asking about an item that is further away:
それ は なん です か。(sore wa nan desu ka?) What is that?
これ は えんぴつ です。(kore wa enpitsu desu) This is a pencil.
If we do not know what item the speaker is asking for, we use the word どれ (dore)
どれ です か。(dore desu ka) Which one is it?
If we are asking about an item that is not near either of the two speakers, we use the word あれ (are). For example:
あれ は えんぴつ です。(are wa enpitsu desu) That one over there is a pencil.