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I've recently begun learning Japanese and was tasked with translating the sentence "The toilet is over there.". My first intuition would have been

トイレはあそこです。

However, it was suggested that

あそこはトイレです。

is also correct. From my admittedly very rudimentary understanding, it seems like the first would correspond to "The toilet is there", while the second seems more equivalent to "There is the toilet." Specifically, the first making the toilet the topic, while the second makes あそこ (over there) the topic.

I would like to know if these two sentences are equivalent and interchangable, or if one is "technically correct but sounds odd", or if there are subtle differences between those two sentences.

1 Answer 1

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Basically your understanding is correct. Both are natural by themselves, but used in different contexts.

Suppose you have a friend in your new house.

  • トイレはあそこです is an answer to the question "where is the toilet?"
  • あそこはトイレです is an answer to the question "what is that room/door?"

A complication may be that あそこトイレです is (more) an answer to "where is the toilet?", i.e., similar to トイレはあそこです.

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  • Thank you for the very comprehensive answer. It really helped my understanding.
    – MechMK1
    Sep 28, 2022 at 15:26

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