Figuring out what Japanese pronoun to use

This is something I’ve always wondered about, like I know there exists pronouns for older people, do they just wake up one day and decide to start speaking like an old man? And for school kids, I have to imagine it’d be a bit odd if they decided to start using a different pronoun and their friend get a bit confused.

That also brings me to what do I use? I guess 私 is safe, but feels a bit feminine when not used in a formal situation. 俺 feels pretty easy and natural to use, but it’s kind of rude and I don’t think I’m making any Japanese friends any soon. 僕 would probably be a good one but it just doesn’t come naturally to me. Ultimately I feel like I’d probably have to alternate between 僕 and 私

Another thing I wonder is am I the only one who feels like using a pronoun that’d be odd for your gender to use? Like あたし, despite being a girl’s pronoun comes out naturally to me. Well I know there’s some rare cases where men use it but I don’t intend on sounding like a weirdo to everyone.

What do the rest of you use, and what do you want to use?


I (31M) use 俺 when talking with people of my age and friends and 私 at work or other formal situations.
I have met Japanese guys who would never use 私 and just alternate between 俺 and 僕, though.
Also Japanese guys who used 私 most of the time, too. It really depends.

About using pronouns that are not regularly associated with your gender, I totally understand why one would want to do that (and I have seen Japanese gay men doing that when in gay bars), but my warning would be that as a foreigner you are in the worst position possible to go all “Language is free and I talk as I feel comfortable”.
Even when you are doing it intentionally, chances are you will keep getting corrected all the time, unless you already got to near-native speed and pronunciation.


Oh for sure, I’d never actually use it regardless of my fluency.
I suspect it comes natural to me, probably because I have learned a lot off of anime and manga, my favorite male characters have probably been using 俺 and あたし for the female characters.

Just kind of sucks I have to use 僕 a lot, despite being the worst to roll off my tongue. I’d be fine with 俺 but I need to be honest with myself, I’m never going to get the chance :sweat_smile:
And it’s truly 残念 about あたし

I also realized I never said it, but I am (20M). Though I’m sure you guessed by now.


(38M here) I don’t have enough confidence for 俺 and I don’t feel like using 僕 either, so for better or worse, for now I’m sticking to 私 :wink:


i feel like it’s less this, and more that the pronouns and language that they used when they were younger (and therefore carried into adult life) fell out of use as the years went on, and now are only associated with the older generations who still use them. plus regional variations, ofc


わし comes from わたし and I think the shortening of it is a natural thing for people to do as they get older. They just don’t have time to enunciate anymore (I’m half joking, but it’s got that energy). They were not saying わし when they were young.


Just recently learned at my Japanese uni that 僕 is the most neutral of them. Like, while 私 is considered to be more femininen or normal and 俺 can be more informal or rude depending on the context, most Japanese people just overhear 僕 or have no connitation associated to it anymore. Especially for young men and women now, 僕 seems to be the standard. At least where I studied.

Just pick whatever feels most natural to you.
Personally, 私 just stuck with me because I’m a girly girl and I tend to feel most comfortable speaking politely to everyone (kind of became my character quirk in Japanese haha).


I (M21) want to use 俺 but I’ve learnt first-hand that it’s not the most appropriate pronoun to use when presenting yourself to someone for the first time lol.

When students from ふくおかだいがく came pay us a visit as part of a short language exchange program, I always used 俺 and I’ve became known as 俺の人 because my name is too hard for Japanese speakers to remember (and the fact that I was the only non-Japanese uni student using it). You could tell that my usage of 俺 really left an impression on them. It was quite funny.

When I asked the (female) students that I befriended if it was weird for me to use 俺 when talking with them, they said it was fine.

Personally, I am not a fan of 僕. It sounds too boy-ish for me, I can’t imagine myself using it. I’d rather use 私, if I can’t use 俺.

In the end, I figured I’d now use 私 when talking to strangers and people older than me (and in formal situations but I don’t expect to attend a formal situation in Japanese any time soon) and 俺 in other cases. However, I’m still undecided on what’s the appropriate pronoun to use when chatting in a forum or Discord server related to a hobby whose demographic is typically people of the same age as me. In doubt, I use 私, or try to omit the pronoun.

While we’re on this topic, another thing that really confuses me is how sometimes a speaker just switches pronouns in the middle of a conversation with the same person.


I honestly think that most of it is a lot more because of the image that “foreigners don’t use 俺” than because it would somehow be unnatural for the setting you were. (hence the female students saying it was OK)

One of the very first things Japanese will do when mimicking a foreigner speaking Japanese is putting 私 before everything. (not only because of the 私僕俺 thing, but also because foreigners tend to use pronouns a lot more than would be natural for a native).

Since most likely everyone else fit in the stereotype they had, yes you would be the outlier giving them an impression.
But Japanese male students use 俺 among themselves all the time. Even when talking in Keigo with a senpai or such. As long as the other person is another student, why not?


Both the first and second person pronouns in Japanese are fascinating to me, and I mess around with them probably too much. I’ve slipped up more times than I can count and said 俺様 to people obviously above me in rank, but I say it so much with friends I forget how ridiculous the word actually is. I also have a bad habit (that I have little intention to break) of needlessly using 二人称代名詞, but I can’t help that, お主 is just too much fun.

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Can’t tell if trolling or serious


100% serious

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So you just have fun using weird pronouns?


Yes! Although among all the pronouns in Japanese 俺様 is certainly one of the more common

Among real people?

I mean, even in fiction it’s not “more common” than others being discussed here. But we’re talking about real life here.


Really? Any sense if it would be normal for a more middle aged woman to use 僕?Not that I’m honestly likely to switch, I’ve got enough other things to worry about in 日本語 to try and waste any brain power on using a different pronoun. But in theory, I like the idea of 僕 better than 私.

Now if I could just get an idea of what’s a good word to use for husband. I use 主人 because that seems the most standard, and I’ve gotten conflicting answers about the appropriateness of any of the alternatives. But I don’t love it.

I (23F) use 僕 with my Japanese friends, 私 with strangers. I guess I would also use 私 if I’ll ever be in a formal situation.

In the beginning, I asked my Japanese friend if it was ok for me to use 僕. He said it was perfectly fine. I took his word for it (I hope he wasn’t just saying “yes” to be polite :joy:), and now just use it every time.

I felt like 私 was too ‘stiff’, formal, and overused. On the other hand, 僕 feels more ‘personal’ to me, as if it’s actually MY pronoun. I’m a total tomboy, so I also fit that stereotype to a T :joy:


reads this thread 自分ly

i definitely struggled with the question of which self-pronoun to use when i lived in japan, and when i settled on a more masculine one i found that - like @SyncroPC said -

and i was, constantly, corrected for my intentional use of a masculine pronoun. i only chose it because i have quite a tomboyish personality and didn’t want to align myself with anything that might make it seem like i was trying too hard to be more feminine.

i eventually noticed that 自分 was picking up in popularity as a casual neutral pronoun. my favorite youtube couple, ヒゲと私, both use 自分 for themselves and they are quite mature personality-wise, so i feel better about latching onto it for myself.

this being said, i absolutely always revert to 私 in any formal or even semi-formal situation. the original question of whether or not it’s weird to switch to a new pronoun one day isn’t actually weird at all, since many people will switch personal pronouns multiple times throughout the day depending on the conversation they’re having.


I started watching Inital D with subs at the weekend and noticed that everyone refers to themselves by their own name. With the show being about a bunch of testosterone charged high schoolers, I expected a lot of 僕s and 俺s but apparently not. Guess it’s just a quirk with the script writer (I haven’t touched the manga so I couldn’t compare).

I’m tempted to fully embrace my juvenility and go full オレ and use おす at the end of every sentence like an Animal Crossing character.

I’ve never watched Initial D so I don’t know if this is some in-universe joke, special setting where they talk like this, something the author does or anything like that, but that’s definitely uncommon.

While referring to yourself by your own name is possible, it’s considered cute if anything and testosterone charged high schoolers are definitely the last group expected to talk like that. It’s heavily associated with children (and women in some cases).

Japanese googling “First-pronoun own’s name” gives a list of pages that talk exclusively about women who do that.

If you add men to the search, the first result is an “is it weird?” yahoo question where the best answer is “Wouldn’t say weird, but childish.” and even finishes saying that they believe a lot of people would see it in a negative way.

幼いとは思いますが、 キモイとは思いません。

And the most frequent words in the articles that do discuss men talking like that seem to revolve around “childish”, “spoiled”, “child”, “immature”, etc.
Definitely not something usually associated with masculinity.