Kimi / Omae? Confused - can you help?

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Kimi / Omae? Confused - can you help?

Post by Carma » Mon 10.10.2005 7:10 am

I know that according to the grammer books the Japanese tend to avoid saying 'you' but I have heard the words 'anata', 'kimi' and 'omae' used a lot while watching anime and j-dramas.

Would someone mind telling me the difference between these and if they are gender specific? For example, there was a translators note in one anime I saw saying that kimi was mainly used by females and that the male character had freaked out another male character by using it. Is this correct?

Also, are there any cases when using one of these words would case major offence? I saw in a previous thread that someone had offended his girlfriend by using omae but he did not explain why this was so bad!

Finally, in day to day Japanese, are these words completely avoided or is it the case that you need to be very confident in the language/situation to use anything other than the other person's name + san?

Very grateful for the help!

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RE: Kimi / Omae? Confused - can you help?

Post by InsanityRanch » Mon 10.10.2005 8:58 am

Ah, the tortured tale of Japanese "pronouns". I'm sure this has been covered here before, but!

First of all, Japanese frequently leave out pronouns, partly because they frequently omit the subjects of sentences. If I want to ask an acquaintance if s/he is going to a party, I wouldn't use a pronoun at all -- I'd simply say, "paati ni ikimasu ka?" Context supplies the subject of that sentence, and the Japanese think it odd to keep repeating what they already know.

That said, "you" is particularly tricky. If you are talking to a friend, "anata" can seem too distant. "Kimi" and "omae" can seem too familiar, and are used by males mostly. In most cases, the way to go is to use the friend's name plus "san", for instance "Aya-sanni kikitai koto ga arimasu ga..." (Would you mind if I asked you something, Aya?)

As for which pronoun to use. Women mostly use "watashi" / "anata". Men use these to be polite (for instance to superiors). Men use "boku" / "kimi" in many situations, and I believe "kimi" can apply to either men or women. "Ore" / "omae" is quite informal and is used among (mostly male) friends. Also I think "ore" and "omae" wouldn't be used with polite verb forms, while the others above can be.

There are also forms of you that are *meant* to be rude, for instance, kisama and temee. My Japanese teacher tells me a story of when she was in jr. high and one of her teachers felt some girls were treating him disrespectfully by talking in class and so on. He picked my teacher up by her uniform and growled "Kisaaaama!" <shrug>

The bottom line is that Japanese people adjust their language very carefully to express the relationship of speaker and listener. Pronouns and verb forms are the most obvious part of this adjustment, and the most noticeable to outsiders. But I think it takes a lot of experience and cultural sensitivity to get these choices exactly right.


"Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." -- Vilfredo Pareto

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RE: Kimi / Omae? Confused - can you help?

Post by skrhgh3b » Mon 10.10.2005 1:07 pm

um... as always, there really is no easy answer. everything about the appropriateness of the words you choose in japanese will depend entirely on your relationship with whomever you're speaking. the best thing to do is to address whomever you're speaking to by their last name and the suffix san until they let you know it's ok to do otherwise. as far as understanding what you hear other people say among themselves, pay attention to their social relationship to one another, and you'll begin to get a feel for what's appropriate and when.

one quick note on お前(まえ), if you stop and look at its meaning for a second, you'll realize it's a "you" that means "in front of (me)." that's a little impersonal, and it tends to be used in an abrupt sort of speech like 俺(おれ). on the other hand, in an intimate relationship, 君(きみ) would be a perfectly affectionate "you." but i think it would only be appropriate in a close relationship or with someone who is a clear social subordinate because it's not very respectful to address anyone as "you" in japanese....
♪夢も見たくない 幸せなんか要らない
恋もしたくない お金なんか要らない

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