Stop using WATASHI (= I ) – The real way to refer to yourself
I’m going to tell you the secret that native speakers don’t tell you (for some reason)!
If you watch enough anime, you’ll notice that
there are so many variations of the pronoun “ I ” in Japanese.
You look at the translation “I” in English, but you clearly hear different words in Japanese.
Each word for ” I ” has different nuances, so Japanese people use them
depending on situations and one’s characteristic.
Funnily enough, though we have tons of different pronouns for everything,
we love to omit them.
Because if you use too much ” 私 / わたし (watashi = I)” in a sentence,
it sounds like “ME ME ME, I want all the attention ♡“.
So when it’s clear who the speaker is talking about,
and you don’t have to specify the subject, we always omit it.
The problem is that we still omit pronouns and sometimes it’s not clear.
Ningen desu kara, dare demo machigai wo shimasu
= Well, we are all humans. Everyone makes mistakes.
Then you can ask
「誰が？」 “dare GA”= Who (does / will / did)?
*が particle indicates WHAT / WHO takes the action*
So let’s learn the nuances for each word that mean “I” first.
The very basic one you learn from the textbook :
You can write this in kanji like : 私
I personally use hiragana わたし
unless I write some official documents or essays at school
because わたし can give a softer impression than 私 in kanji.
This 私 (watashi) is used mainly in formal speech.
A lot of women use it also in informal speech and
most female characters in anime / manga use this.
(And I use it too.)
But it’s strange when men use this in informal speech.
Some male characters in anime use it.
Usually characters who are the boss in charge of something (or bossy)
or someone who has to be a bit formal.
This kanji 私 has another reading : わたくし (wataKUshi)
You would only use it in very formal business situations.
You can still use わたし to talk to your boss,
but it depends on the company if you should use わたくし or わたし.
Also sports commentators use わたくし.
Normal people would never use this in real life in informal speech.
Some anime characters do. Usually girls from rich families do.
(Toaru Majutsu & Kagaku) Tachibana Marika (Nisekoi)
Although a lot of women use わたし,
there are other variations that are used in informal speech.
あたし (Atashi) This one is quite popular too.
Usually used by women between the age of 20 to 40.
I think my older sister uses (or used to use) this one.
When a teenager uses it, it has a bit of a “popular-girl” vibe.
Another quite popular one is
This one can mean “home” in this kanji 家,
but as “I” it’s always written in Hiragana.
Around the Tokyo area, this うち is used mainly by teenagers.
I used to use it when I was younger. But I stopped.
But around Kansai area (e.g. Osaka), this one is very common
and used not only by teenagers.
If you watch anime set in Kansai area, girls use this うち.
However the intonation of Tokyo UCHI and Kansai UCHI differ.
Characters from Kansai area and use うち:
Some girls use their own names.
Usually those types of girls are considered to be
“burikko” is a slang term for a type of a girl who pretends to be/acts cute
in front of guys to get attention and be popular.
But that sort of a girl usually has a horrible personality and girls hate it.
Example of ぶりっこ in anime / manga :
Usually there is one burikko in girly manga as a rival against the main girl.
But a lot of girls use their own names in front of their boyfriends.
Because it sounds cute.
Now move on to the male version of “I”.
俺 おれ オレ ORE
A lot of teachers and Japanese people might tell you
that this おれ is rude and you shouldn’t use it.
But that’s a load of rubbish.
That’s almost like being racist…!!
Well, they are not, but they just don’t think much before answering.
Or some people are just very conservative.
If you go to Japan and talk to guys actually, they use おれ when talking casually.
Don’t worry and use it.
My stepfather uses it. My grandpa uses it. All my guy friends use it.
And they are all nice. Not rude at all.
Just need to be careful and use わたし in formal speech.
There are lots of characters that use おれ.
And they are usually normal / cool type of guys.
Another one is
僕 ぼく BOKU
For some reason some Japanese people tell you to use this one.
I’m quite upset that they tell you to use it although they use おれ themselves…
This one usually has a childish vibe like a mummy’s boy if you use it in informal speech.
The anime character who uses ぼく to give the soft and “good boy” feeling :
The characters that use ぼく to sound “uncool” (ちょっとかっこわるい)
Wow, they look similar, don’t they…
By the way, in the Japanese translation of the comedy show “Friends”,
Ross uses ぼく while Joey and Chandler use おれ.
You can get the image of what kind of guys use ぼく even when talking to friends.
It’s up to you if you want to sound like Ross or Joey and other guys. ;)
0:04 Ross says
「ぼくはゲラー教授だ。」 (BOKU wa geraa kyouju da)
= I’m professor Geller.
0:34 Joey says
(kanojo ni wa suteeki to robusutaa. ORE mo onaji no de ii)
= Get her steak and lobster. I’ll get the same, too.
Rachel’s voice is a bit weird…but who cares xD
However this ぼく is often used as “I” in blogs
when the author doesn’t want to be mistaken as a woman,
but still doesn’t want to sound too casual like おれ.
Also when guys use different ones depending on the situation,
a lot of men use おれ when speaking to their friends,
ぼく when talking to 先輩 (senpai =socially more experienced / older people)
that they feel close (but not exactly a “friend”.)
Or to anyone who you don’t have to be too formal,
but still have to talk a bit formally (like to strangers on the street).
And わたし (or わたくし) when talking to their boss or clients.
While girls can just stick to わたし and it’s fine in all the cases,
it’s a lot of hassle for men…good luck… xD
You’ll hear girls using ぼく in anime.
Those girls are called 「ボクっ娘」 (bokukko).
It’s a combination of ボク (boku) + 娘 (ko /musume = maden / daughter).
They are usually not girly and want to be a man or something is wrong with them…
There are few girls who use it in real life,
but it’s イタイ (itai).
痛い (ita-i) literally means “painful”,
but in a slang termit means “shameful / embarrassing yourself”
to describe someone who seems to be out of place.
The English translation would be ‘cringe’ and you can use it the same way
And describe something/someone as ‘cringe’.
So girls who use ぼく are considered to be weird.
Characters who use ぼく but a girl :
And finally some people use
自分 じぶん jibun
which literally means “oneself”.
They use it because they don’t know what to use in formal speech.
わたし sounds too formal but ぼく sounds childish…
And this is the solution they came up with.
But use わたし anyway if you want to be polite.
There are actually a lot more that you will hear in Anime,but they are not used in real life.
So I may add them on the listlater, but for now, remember these ones I listed above.
Remember, these are terms used around Tokyo.
I’m not an expert of other dialects.
If you go elsewhere in Japan, you might hear differently.
Let me know if you do!