Pronouns

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One aspect that makes Japanese so much fun is the wide variety of pronouns. For a language that doesn't use pronouns as often as English, it is strange to see so many!

Please add entries or comments on usage or connotations

THE MANY I'S

NOTE: The beginner should probably only use わたし watashi

  • ♀ Used by female speakers
  • ♂ Used mostly by male speakers
  • 古 Archaic (may survive in some specialised or formal contexts)

  • watashi - the safest most common 'I' in non-formal spoken Japanese used more by female speakers.
  • watakushi - more formal (same kanji)
  • (♀) 私 atashi - a variant of the above used by women (same kanji)
  • (♀) 私 atakushi- ditto
  • (♂) 僕 boku - used by men; less formal. (it uses the same kanji as 'servant 僕 shimobe). Note: Used to mean "you" when addressing young children.
  • (♂) 俺 ore - can be seen as rude, but used by men often usage: *****
  • (♂) わし washi - used by old men ojiisan
  • (♂) あっし asshi - from edo period until now; used by men
  • (古) 手前 temae - used by the merchant class in the Edo period; very humble. In modern Japanese, said てめえ temee a rude word for 'you'.
  • (古) 拙者 sessha - used by samurai in Edo period; humble
  • おら ora - used by children and Crayon Shin-chan; cute!
  • うら ura - used by men in Fukui prefecture :)
  • (古) 我が輩 wagahai - An older form of 'I.' [A very famous quote is the opening line from Natsume Soseki's I am a Cat: 「我輩は猫である」]
  • (古) 我が waga - this actually means 'my.' Used in speeches and formalities
  • (古) 我 ware - Another form of 'wa' series.
  • (♀) うち uchi - used by women and Osaka dialect
  • (古) 某 soregashi - used by samurai (not used now)
  • (古♀) 妾 warawa humble, not used now
  • (古♂) 俺様 oresama See Ore sama and other things you should never say.

THE MANY YOU'S

  • ♀ Used to refer to females
  • ♂ Used to refer to males
  • 古 Archaic (may survive in some specialised or formal contexts)

  • 貴方 anata - the safest most common 'You' (Usually written in Hiragana (no kanji)) usage: *****
  • あんた anta - derived from 貴方 (above) 'you' (Don't say this to your elders!) Usually said to people 'lower' than you. For example older sister to little brother.
  • kimi - usually said to people lower than [or equal to] you socially
  • (古) そなた sonata - archaic
  • 貴様 kisama - a rude, most foul 'You' (if you notice both あなた and きさま have the same first kanji. This kanji means 'nobility.' The 貴 in きさま is obviously used sarcastically :) BE CAREFUL WITH THIS!
  • onore - Very rude. A fighting word. This is an interesting word as it can actually mean 'you' AND 'I.' The 'I' meaning is used mainly in literature and is not rude. But be careful with the 'you' usage!
  • boku - Used to mean "you" when addressing young children, see "I" section for other usage.
  • お前 omae - used as an insult during fights or as a sign of affection by older couples. hmmm. It isn't too rude, but has a ting to it
  • おめえ omee - derived from the above, and ruder.
  • てめえ temee derived from 手前, in modern Japanese a rude word for 'you'.
  • (古) なんじ nanji - you, thou (old word) - the kanji is 汝
  • 貴下 kika - you (to a younger person)
  • (古) お主 onushi - you - In the manga YAIBA, Musashi Miyamoto and Kojirou Sasaki use お主 (おぬし) when referring to people in the second person. It must be a samurai thing.
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