You (the pronouns)
November 30, 2013
As I said in a previous post about suffixes, when I first came to Japan, I never heard the word for “you”. The funny thing that is even though the word for “you” isn’t used much, there are actually several different words!
You あなた (awe naw taw)
First we have あなた (awe naw taw). It is a polite word and as I said, almost never used. Japanese people have a knack for getting around a conversation without having to use it. I find my English speaking brain needing to use it on occasion. So if you need to, it can safely be used by and with anyone.
君 (kee mee)
Another word is 君. This one is used among friends or people who know each other. It is used to people of lower status or to people younger than you, never to anyone older. It was also originally male only speech, but a lot of women use it now too. あなた still seems to be the most refined and can be used with anyone except very small children and babies.
お前 (oh maw eh)
If you are a fan of such things as manga and anime, then you may have come across this word. A very interesting thing to me is that words that were once very formal and polite are now considered very coarse or dirty.
お前 is one of those words. It also means you but it is not a good word to use. It is male speech, even though some young women like to use it, especially in the entertainment industry. However, it should be avoided by any non Japanese person. Young men use it and only use it with close friends who are younger than they are or who are the same age. It is also considered bad manners to use it where you can be overheard.
てめえ (teh meh)
てめえ is another one of those words that used to be very polite. And again, if you are a fan of manga or anime, you may have come across this. In short, don’t use it. In the 11 years that I have been here, I have never used it. Not even in joking around. It is male only speech, but it’s not one that you hear used unless someone is angry. It is a word that can start a fight.
There are still others, but you’ll never come across them unless you look. There are plenty of them that I have never even heard. The best rules to live by is the one I stated in the suffix’ lesson. Avoid the word “you” if you can. Use titles or family names plus san. You’ll be safe.