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Japanese Lesson: Pronouns

I'm by no means an expert at the Japanese language, but I've had years of experience with it, and seeing as people want to learn it, I thought I would try to give it a shot. Since I'm aware that many people just want to speak it and not read it, I will be using both roman letters, hiragana/katakana, and kanji.

In Japanese, there are many pronouns. The thing is that, in most cases, you don't even need to use them.

When you are speaking about yourself, it's best to try and sound humble. This is why sometimes the pronoun is omitted. However, when you do use it, there are a few you can use. They're listen below in terms of politeness. (There are more than these, but these are the most common/well known)

私(わたくし)-Watakushi (This is used in extremely formal situations, less by men and more by women) 私(わたし)-Watashi (This is the standard. It's used by both men and women, but when a man uses it it's typically more formal than not) 僕(ぼく)-Boku (This is basically the male form of 'watashi'. It's most commonly used by males, when a female uses it it is usually a younger, kind of tomboy-ish girl) 俺(おれ)-Ore (Almost always used by men only, this tends to have more of a 'manly' or 'macho' feel to it) あたしーAtashi (This is almost always used by usually young girls only. It's made to make them sound cuter and more youthful, and it's almost never seen in writing, only speaking)

There are also a number of ways to say 'You' in the Japanese language. The most commons ones are あなたーAnata And 君(きみ)-Kimi 君 is usually only used by males with male friends, or in certain cases with a significant other. あなた, similarly, is sometimes used by wives with their husbands, and when it's used like that it has a meaning such as 'dear' or 'honey'. To say 'you', you can also simply say the person you are referring to's name

To say 'her/him/it', it's a little different. While you could say 彼(かれ)ーKare or 彼女(かのじょ)-Kanojo, I've actually never heard them used by a native speaker when I'm speaking to them. Usually, you would say あの人(ano hito)、その人(sono hito)、この人 (kono hito), meaning 'That (far away) person, that (somewhat closer) person' and 'this person'. Like for 'you', you can also just say the person's name. For 'it', there are many ways to say it as well, one of the most common ways being 'その’-Sono

I'm not sure how many people will find this useful, but I do plan (and want) to make more 'lessons' in the future. If there's anything specific you want to learn or have a lesson on, please put it in the comments.

EDIT** 彼 And 彼女 also mean 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend'. They are not used often as 'he' or 'her', and 'watakushi' is simply a more humble form of 'watashi'

October 11, 2016



Hi there!

I'm a native Japanese speaker. ^-^

There is one very important point you have to make when using "kare" and "kanojo".

It literally means "he" and "she", but nowadays, it usually means "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", as well.

So people don't usually use these terms in everyday speech, unless referring to their significant other.

Hope this helped! ^-^




Wow, you're so excited! XD

Well, the thing is, I'm in high school, and am really busy. >.<

However, I can, if you have Google Hangouts..? ^-^


I think I do have it, but I am only 12, and I don't think my parents would let me!


Oh, okay!

But you could ask them, maybe?

Because it's really hard to talk to someone on Duo.... >.<

P.S. I'm 14. XD


I asked my mom once, cause someone was trying to call me, but she said no. I have an idea. We could write each other letters. I know it wouldn't be the same, but I really would want to try!



If you say so. XD

Letters on Duo? ^-^


I was thinking letters in the mail, but you sounded kind of unsure about that. I will not do anything that you do not want me to do.


I think letters by mail is a little weird, since we don't know each other that well. XD

Hey, I really don't wanna spam others here.

Please post a message on my stream, and we can chat! ^-^


Thank you, I've edited it. I knew this already but was pretty stressed because of potential criticism, so I forgot to add it.


If nowadays it would be used for a significant other, then what pronouns would you use for just regular people?


A few short comments based on the six years I spent in Japan:

It also quite common, in certain situations, to use a person's name, occupation or status in a relationship in place of a pronoun (with an honorific like "san" or "sensei" if not referring to yourself), even when refering to yourself or the person with whom you are speaking. In a store, for example, an adult customer being served will generally never be referred to even as "anata" (or, heaven forbid, "Kimi"), but rather as "o-kyaku-sama" (ie, "the Honoured Lord Customer").

I actually don't think that dropping first-person pronouns has anything to do with being humble, since second- and third-person pronouns are also rarely used. I would only use "anata" if I (a) could not simply drop the pronoun and leave it to the context, (b) forgot the person's name AND (c) didn't have an appropriate "relationship" or "occupational" word. Needless to say, I didn't use "anata" (much less "kare" or "kanojo") very often.

"Anata" is actually pronounced differently when used to mean "you" in the generic, formal sense or when used to mean "you" between spouses -- the intonation pattern (not indicated in the written word) changes. I'll leave it to a native speaker to comment further.

Finally, in all-female environments (such as the girls' high school where I taught for five years), women can sometimes use "boku" or "ore" to refer to themselves or and the male honorific "kun" when referring to others. I never quite figured out the rules for when this take place, although I noticed it most commonly among the more athletic girls.


"... or, heaven forbid, "Kimi" ..." can you explain it more please, what did you mean by that? Is "kimi" inappropriate?

[deactivated user]

    kimi is just a casual way of saying you. not inappropriate.


    It’s more commonly used in situations where one person is “superior” or higher in the honorific hierarchy than the other, or they are on the same level and in a very casual context (usually but not always male). For instance, a mother might use kimi towards her daughter, or an older sibling to a younger, or two close friends at school.


    Thank you! I would really like to learn the language!


    "I'm by no means an expert at the Japanese language, but I've had years of experience with it, and seeing as people want to learn it, I thought I would try to give it a shot."

    You don't give yourself enough credit. I'm not interested in Japanese, but I figured I would check this out. It's good for a first lesson and I recommend doing phrases next.


    I don't know how you came to think that わたくし is mostly used by women; it simply is a humble version of わたし and is used equally by men and women.



    And I guess "it" would rather be それ. そのisn't really a pronoun, but rather a sort of "pre-noun adjectival" (連体詞).


    To expand on the above:

    There really isn't a word for "it"... In Japanese you'd use
    This: Kore: これ (close to speaker) That: Sore: それ (close to listener) That over there: Are: あれ (far from both speaker and listener)

    They can be used on their own!

    However, Kono (この), Sono (その), and Ano (あの), which also mean "This" "that" and "that over there" are always followed by whatever noun you're talking about. EG: This book = "Kono hon", That cat = "Sono neko", That pencil over there = "Ano enpitsu". They're never used on their own.

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