I’m currently going through the grammar hub articles on Tofugu, and I am on the one about pronouns. I have been studying Japanese (poorly) for a couple years now, but haven’t been doing it quite right, so now I’m trying to go back and hit some basics.
One area that is tripping me up is pronouns. I understand that, as a dude, I can basically choose one of the two in the title, since 俺 is risky. I also understand that 私 would be the way to go for most formal situations, since it’s a safe bet.
BUT, in situations where I’m talking to, say, family, in a casual setting, like a messenger chat or something, and I don’t want to sound feminine, it seems like it would make sense to use 僕. However, I’m also 30, and I have read this is kind of a “boyish” thing to say.
It’s worth noting that this is purely academic, since only a couple family members speak any Japanese and it’s not a ton at that. But it’s an interesting question (for me anyway). Are my only options to sound girlish or boyish? Or is there some kind of nuance here? Or is it entirely personal preference? (Obviously the preferred option is to never use pronouns, but that’s a cop out!)
I think 私 is pretty uncommon for men in casual conversation nowadays.
僕 sounds like a nice guy pronoun. It’s boyish if used by women.
Hm, good to know. Wasn’t sure if it would make the speaker sound like a kid or something like that.
No, it’s a default pronoun for many men. Although they may use 俺 when chatting to guy friends to sound more manly and cool. But they’d use more crude language too, otherwise 俺 would sound silly. That’s the reason foreigners are advised against using it unless they are fairly fluent and know what they are doing.
According to a 2009 study of college students referenced on Wikipedia, men had the following stats:
87% of pronouns used with friends were 俺 (4% うち, 2% 私 and 2% 自分)
88% of pronouns used with family were 俺 (5% 僕, 5% 自分)
46% of pronouns used in class were 私 (28% 自分, 22% 僕)
36% of pronouns with an unknown stranger were 僕 (29% 自分, 22% 私)
38% of pronouns used to the class teacher were 自分 (29% 僕, 22% 私)
So yeah, 俺 is pretty bog standard for friends and family. 僕 tends to be used in formal/less intimate contexts. 私 is close to the same, but slightly more formal.
Anecdotally, Japanese people I asked about it said using 僕 in informal contexts as a man tends to sound feminine/otakuish. 俺 is more expected in informal contexts (which includes parties and such). 私 is common when customer facing, but within business 僕 isn’t at all weird (along with うち, though usually for woman).
Interestingly, until the 60’s, 僕 was actually more masculine than 俺. Which is plays a part in why you will hear older men use 僕 more.
Haha, I was recalling that many guys in a documentary about some Japanese anime studio used 僕. But I guess it’s not only that they are otaku but also that it’s an office environment, so 俺 may be too casual.
Since you’re not a native Japanese speaker, no one is going to care if you just use 私. Or 僕. The exception would be if you are clearly a very advanced speaker, then they might read into it, but I still don’t think many would care that much.
Sounds like something taken from the last chapters of 電影少女 where the video girl was making fun of a boy using 僕, so she pretended it’s his name .
The explanation I heard recently from a Japanese YouTuber (Japanese Ammo with Misa) is that 僕 has a strong “mama’s boy” connotation, so that even the guys with a more otaku image usually prefer using 俺 with friends.
Taken together with the replies above, I’d say she was accurate in describing how Japanese students and young adults predominately use that pronoun among their own generation, but if you are in your 30s, married, and/or a parent then IMHO, those are good reasons (apart from being a non-native speaker) for 僕 to be appropriate and not carry the same connotation.
For my personal case, my fiancée is Japanese and recommended I generally use 僕 outside of formal situations. I assume we aren’t representative of most people, but for us it works because I don’t try to sound cool or manly even in my native language, and Japanese has so many other ways to express being casual or close with someone (verb forms, slang, nicknames, and usage or omission of suffixes).
This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.