888 - こそ

JLPT N3: こそ (it is [this time; me; it; etc.] that...)

In this lesson, we're going to learn about the particle こそ.

こそ is used to emphasize the word that precedes it. This emphasis lets the listener know that something is more important than other things. It makes something stand out among all the rest. 

I say "the rest," but these other things won't necessarily be listed in the sentence. When left out, they have to be inferred from the context of each sentence. 

Let's take a look at some examples...


あした こそ はやおき する ぞ。
Tomorrow I’ll get up early for sure.
Literally: “tomorrow + こそ + waking up early + do + ぞ.”

In this example, the speaker is emphasizing that tomorrow will be the day he or she finally wakes up early, having probably failed so many times before that. I'm sure we can all relate to this situation, am I right?


Let's look at another one:

つらい とき こそ えがお で いましょう。
It’s during the difficult times that we should smile.
Literally: “difficult + time + こそ + smiling face + で + let’s be.”

Here we see the speaker emphasizing that it is precisely during the difficult times that we need to smile, as opposed to other times not specifically mentioned but which we can grasp through context. 


🚧 Construction 🚧

こそ follows either NOUNS directly or after the particles that would normally follow the noun if こそ were not being used. 

NOUN +(Particle [e.g. に])+ こそ

↑ Note that including a particle between the NOUN and こそ is possible, as in the following sentence:

この えほん は おとな に こそ よんで ほしい です。
I especially want adults to read this picture book.
Literally: “this + picture book + は + adult + に + こそ + read (and) + wanted + です.”

In this example, the speaker wants to emphasize that it is adults whom he wants to read the picture book. For more on using ~てほしい, by the way, check out this lesson.


In the next example, we'll be seeing a common expression used in Japanese to return expressions of gratitude: こちらこそ.

せんじつ は ありがとう ございました。
Thank you for the other day.
Literally: “the other day + は + thank you.”

こちら こそ。
I should be the one thanking you.
Literally: “me (=here) + こそ.”

Speaker A thanks speaker B, but then speaker B decides to be humble and return the thank you using the expression こちらこそ. You'll see that this kind of thing is very common in Japanese. 


One thing to remember about こそ is that it is not used to emphasize negative things, like in the example below. 

✕ 掃除こそやりたくない。
✕ そうじ こそ やりたくない。
✕ What I don’t want to do is cleaning.
✕ Literally: “cleaning + こそ + don’t want to do.”

As you can see, the translation itself sounds a little strange, which is exactly how it sounds in Japanese. This is why こそ isn't used with negative sentences. Just make sure to only use it with positive ones. 


Well that does it for this lesson. I hope you all enjoyed it!

Don't worry if your understanding of こそ is a little shaky. It takes some getting used to, so get out there and test it out until you feel comfortable with it!