I (more pronouns)

Me, Myself and I


As I explained before, there are many words for “you” in Japanese. And, as you could expect, there are many words for “I”.


Of course, English has a few as well. The difference is that the words in English are different for grammar reasons. Japanese are different for social reasons.


私 Wah taw shee


私 is the basic word for “I”. It can be used by anyone and with anyone. Again, Japanese people have a knack for avoiding it.


Add the possessive の (no) to make 私の and it means “my”.


Add に (nee) to make 私に to make “to me”.


僕 bow koo


This word is the polite word for male speech. It can be used with immediate superiors provided there’s some sort of closer association. So if you’re speaking with someone much higher social status than you or someone that you don’t know well, the 私 is the better option. However, it is probably used more by very young boys. At least that has been my experience.


僕 has a boyish image. It’s often used when you are speaking to older people (ones that you’re well aquatinted with). Elementary school boys often use it and it is a word that is ok to be overheard using.



俺 oh ray


俺 is another word in male speech. This word, however, is not polite.  It is used only by males who are friends and only when speaking with someone of the same age or younger. I have heard it used by young men to slightly older men, but only with really close friends. This word is not polite to be overheard using. Although nowadays, social norms are changing.


So the overall advice is to stick with 私 and you’ll never go wrong.


There are other words, but I have never heard them actually used. Most of them are out of date so are only spoken of in conversations about history.



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