I am generally familiar with the usage of こそあど words, however I wanted to verify which would be best to use in a store when asking you want to purchase something.

I assume if you are pointing at a menu, you would use "これください", but if you are pointing to something a few meters away (like something behind the counter) you would use "それください".

My main question is whether it would be appropriate to use "あれください" in a restaurant? I know that あれ can have a strong connotation and wanted to see if it is safe to use, or if I should stick to これ or それ.

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    +1 This question is almost always answered improperly by native speakers and J-learners alike. Admittedly, I was one of those silly native speakers myself when I was younger. Hint: Physical distance vs. psychological distance. Luckily, you already know enough Japanese to not fall for the typical "here, there and over there" kind of answer. – l'électeur Jun 25 '16 at 1:12
  • I'm a bit confused why something like this would be improperly answered by a native speaker, can you elaborate? If you were in a store, and saw something 1 meter away (or 4 meters away), what would you say? My problem is I don't know whether I can consider just physical distance, or if I have to consider physical and psychological distance. thanks. – Locksleyu Jun 25 '16 at 2:59
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    psychological distance っていうのは、例えば「いつものあれください」とか、「ほら/あの、(名前が思い出せないけど、) 冷たいうどんの上にアボカドとトマトのってるやつ、あれひとつください」とか、「そばに山芋のすりおろしと生卵のってる…」「月見そばですか?」「そう、それひとつください」とか。 – Chocolate Jun 25 '16 at 4:41
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    @Locksleyu I think it's quite alright to use あれ for something far away from both the speaker and the listener, for example... in a restaurant when you're ordering some dish in the photo on the wall far from you and the waitress, you might say 「すいません、(あそこに貼ってある) あれ 、ひとつ(ください/お願いします/もらえますか etc.)。」, or when you want something that another customer is eating, you might say 「すいません、あそこのお客さんが食べてる、 あれと同じもの(お願いします/欲しいんですけど)。」, or in a store when you can't reach an item on a high shelf, you might say 「すいません、 あれ 、ちょっと見せてもらえますか。」 – Chocolate Jun 27 '16 at 7:23
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    Thanks Chocolate. I think this last comment of yours is the best answer to my question so far. Feel free to create an answer and I will select it unless something new comes in soon. – Locksleyu Jun 27 '16 at 16:03

Provided that:

  • you are referring to something exists in your range of view, not your memory
  • you are talking to the store's staff, who is not your acquaintance

You can use...

これ when:

  • the item is in your hand, directly under the tip of your finger, or nearly no distance; or
  • you point at an item that is clearly nearer to you than to the hearer; or
  • you point at the one nearest to you while there are several options in topic

それ when:

  • you point at an item that can be perceived from both you and the hearer, and the distance from you and them are roughly the same or nearer to them; or
  • the item is in the hearer's hand, or they already point at it; or
  • the item is just mentioned by other than you in the range both you and the hearer could perceive

あれ when:

  • you point at an item so far away, or in the direction requires hearer to move their eyes or body to trace what you refer to

If the item meets multiple conditions, I think either of them will work.

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(Basically copying comment)

It is considered that it's quite alright to use あれ for something far away from both the speaker and the listener, for example...

In a restaurant when you're ordering some dish in the photo on the wall far from you and the waitress, you might say:

すいません、(あそこに貼ってある) あれ 、ひとつ(ください/お願いします/もらえますか etc.)。

or when you want something that another customer is eating, you might say:

すいません、あそこのお客さんが食べてる、 あれと同じもの(お願いします/欲しいんですけど)。

or in a store when you can't reach an item on a high shelf, you might say:

すいません、 あれ 、ちょっと見せてもらえますか。

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これ is used for something close to the speaker.
それ is used for something close to the listener.
あれ is used for something far from both the speaker and the listener.

So if you want to point to something that is far away from you and the listener, you HAVE to use あれ.

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To be honest, I've spent multiple years in Japan and never used or heard anyone else use あれ. But in theory, yes, you can use あれ in your suggested context, or at least I know of no reason why not.

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これ、それ、あれ are demonstrative pronouns that simply indicate the object in association with its physical distance. The English counterparts to これ、それ、あれ are "this (one right here)", "it (just there)" and "that (over there)."

In both Japanese and English, you wouldn't say "あれ下さい / Give me that" by pointing roast beef shown on the menubook in your hand with your forefinger. You wouldn't say "これ見せてください / Show me this" by pointing at a pair of shoes displayed on the shelf far behind the counter. 

It's simple and crystal clear. There's no room for giving you an improper answer. Just watch and listen to how three-year-old children say. They wouldn't confuse usages of これ、それ、あれ. Nothing is complicated as you think. Forget about "こそあど," which even most Japanese don't understand. Don't overthink and get confused unnecessarily.

If you step into "derivative" uses of これ、それ、あれ, you'll be strayed. For example;

あいつには"これ"がいるんでね - He has a love.

彼女はあいつの"れこ"(reverse of これ)だ. - She is his love.

家の"あれ"が煩いんだ - My wife is fussy and nitpicky.

あれかい? - Do you mean that (thing, object, subject)?

あれ、それ、何つーたっけか - Well, whatchamacallit.

あれから3か月 - Three months after then.

I can spin out endlessly. But all of these are different beasts from original and proper これ、それ、あれ. Forget about it.

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    You don't seem to be making any attempt to understand me. This/that refer to distance, but "it" does not. – debrucey Jun 26 '16 at 11:40
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    (3) ("it" is) used in the normal subject position in statements about time, distance, or weather ← I think it's talking about the "it" in sentences like "It is three o'clock." "It is three miles to the river." "It looks like rain." – Chocolate Jun 26 '16 at 21:45
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    Yeah, "it" is a placeholder subject with no antecedent in such sentences, especially sentences like "It's snowing", where there is absolutely no noun that can replace the pronoun and sound natural. – Nick O. Jun 26 '16 at 22:24
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    For a non-distal use of the Japanese demonstratives: If I were telling someone about an old classmate of mine, I would use その人 instead of あの人, even though my old classmate is nowhere near the listener. Only if the listener also knew that person would I say あの人. This is a more subtle difference between the two... It may be that Japanese people feel that this is the same as the other usages, but it's so different from the English way of thinking that we can't determine which to use without a lot of practice and experience. – Nick O. Jun 26 '16 at 22:27
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    It might be that we don't feel any connection to distance since we're native speakers of the language, and don't think too much when choosing to use the word "it". If there is a distal aspect, I can't really understand it without seeing an example. If I'm holding something, someone might ask me, "what's that?", and I'll say "it's ice cream," or just "ice cream". If someone holds something up and asks "what's this?", I'll answer "that's a game" or "it's a game". If someone points into the distance and asks "what's that mountain called", I'll say "that's Mount Shasta", – Nick O. Jun 27 '16 at 6:56

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