“I” for a 50 year old man?

I heard somewhere that in casual conversation, men should consider avoiding saying “watashi” because it can sound feminine in that context.

I’m too old for “boku” probably. Do I say “ore”? Something else?


ぼく seems ok.
わし if you want to sound like a real old man.
あっし thug life
わがはい old arrogant person from way back
おい just to throw some Kansai ben into the mix :wink:


内の〜は〜、僕 so many times it is left out…I am speaking from living here in Japan half of my life ( going on 26 yrs. ) hope that counts for something…the fact that you’re talking in the first person is inferred


Yeah but sometimes you can’t avoid it.

Use 朕 and suddenly people think you’re not an ordinary 50-year-old man any more…


I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using watashi or boku as a 50 year old man. I’ve seen both used by people in that age group on twitter for example.

A 50-year-old gentleman would never be as bold as to say I, while a 50-year-old lady may occasionally refer to herself as we :grin:

The way I look at is how you’d want to portray yourself. Technically, 私 is a general neutral pronoun, but because it’s polite it can lean toward being feminine. This is because women are more likely to embrace polite speech over men. The question is how important is it to you to be construed as being polite? If politeness is the aim, the 私 is something you’d probably should use. I’ve heard older men use 僕, but I believe it’s meant to be more humble. 俺 tends to be more casual. I’m basing this on how people I’ve worked with changed their pronouns over time. In the end, I think it doesn’t matter because Japanese learners held at different standards than native speakers.


As a big fan of 孤独のグルメ, I can confirm

Does it cause a bunch of gossip when someone changes their regularly used pronoun? (I’m actually curious)


I don’t know any 50-year old Japanese natives, but I’ve watched quite a few Japanese dramas, and I’ve seen men in that age range use anything from 私 and 僕 to 俺., or even 自分. Tofugu has an interesting article about first person pronouns that you might want to read.

In the anime Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, one of the characters is an older man, and he uses あたし, which I understand is a feature of an older Tokyo dialect (source).

The Reddit user who wrote the post about あたし is a Japanese native who had a blog where he wrote a lot of useful things for Japanese learners (the best part is he wrote every article in both English and Japanese). His blog has since disappeared from where it was hosted, but I managed to find an archived version. Here is an article about first person pronouns that he wrote.

Feel free to browse the rest of the blog, as it’s very interesting.


It seems to be entirely avoidable. There are people who will virtually never use personal pronouns. It’s good practice to get comfortable dropping it anyways. I would steer clear of 俺(おれ)entirely unless you are extremely comfortable with it. It could make you sound like a jerk, someone who didn’t study Japanese properly, a kid, etc. 私(わたし) is not inherently feminine sounding, and it is your best bet for situations where you don’t know which to use. Men use it quite frequently. It is also the sort of standard pronoun for learners of Japanese, because you don’t have to worry about giving off the wrong message. How “feminine” or “old” you sound is more dependent on intonation, speech style, and other word choices than just the pronoun you use. If you have to ask which pronoun to use, stick to 私.

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In my experience, people usually use different pronouns to fit the situation, rather than having “one” pronoun they always use. So I mean… maybe at certain points in their life they’ll change which ones they use in various situations, but changing from conversation to conversation is normal.

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Exactly, with you friends you may use 俺, with your parents 僕, with a stranger 私, etc. It’s not different than how English speakers change their intonation and word choice depending who they are speaking with.

Right, I was curious if you went from using 僕 to 俺 with your coworkers (not your boss), would people talk about it.

I expect you could, if a new kouhai joined a while after you. You’d refer to yourself as 俺 to your kouhais, and as 僕 to your sempais.

This thread made me so extremely glad that I’m a woman who can get away with only using 私 ever. (And who’s picked up some mild gendered speech style when she wasn’t looking …)


I’m a guy and have never had a conversation in Japanese, but I think I’d feel weird using anything other than 私.

The 44yo husband of my calligraphy teacher uses わたし, I am pretty sure. Of course in a different context he might use different pronouns, which I’ll probably never hear :joy: .

When he came to visit my Japanese class he switched to full on keigo, and I noticed he even used わたくし to refer to himself.

On the other hand, my 44yo ペラペラ Japanese speaking (Dutch) Japanese teacher himself uses おれ。But I didn’t remember what he used when the calligraphy 夫婦 came over. I think he probably used わたし, now that I think about it.

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Like what Leebo mentioned, it seems like changing pronouns is a thing people are aware of. I can tell you one thing with regard to the coworker (and a boss of mine who’s in his mid-thirties), when they started at my job, they both used わたくし and used humble speech and polite speech. This was problematic for me because I hadn’t used humble speech before and had no idea how to respond to my new boss. As time went on, わたくし evaporated and 俺 became the normal with more plain and polite (です/ます) speech for my boss. The coworker, who’s in his mid-forties, persisted in using 私. He later caused a stir among my middle-aged female coworkers by using 僕 in an email because they felt he was “pretending to be something he wasn’t” both youthful and humble, which they felt that he was neither. Of course, this wasn’t said to his face so I’m sure people have opinions about people’s choices of pronouns.

Personally, I err on the side of politeness and use 私. With good friends, I do use 俺, but in mixed company (i.e., when people I don’t know well are also around) I use 私. But I try as much as possible not to use a pronoun, which is surprisingly easy.


I’m confused myself (and I’m 54, but I’m a vastly young 54–I run a theatre company in my spare time, do parkour, and generally surprise people with my 54-ness). And I’m super-polite, because I’ve read too many 19th century novels, not to mention Miss Manners, and I went to an elite private boys school. I’m also very casual and friendly.

Everyone I will speak to in Japanese will be: a hotel clerk, a concierge, a server, a ticket agent, a barista, etc. I’m not moving there, I have no Japanese friends, all this learning is in the service of a 12 day trip. I’m male, I’m polite, and I’m friendly, so I’m stuck. It seems in Japanese you have to choose between friendly or polite … can’t I be both? Is it better to say 僕 boku in a polite way, or 私 watashi in a friendly way? Help!

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