I don't understand the word 自分


I don’t really understand how this pronoun works. It can be used to refer to yourself, but it can also be used to refer to the person you’re talking to, or refer to basically anything. If you want to talk about yourself, couldn’t you just use 私? Or if you wanted to talk about the person you’re talking to, why not just use あなた? What sort of function does 自分 have?

If anyone could help that would be really appreciated.

I believe it’s essentially a reflexive pronoun. You use it like you’d use myself, yourself, etc.


Like… if you want say “everyone bring your own pencil” you could say “自分の鉛筆持ってきてください”

Even in English, it might sound strange to say “Bring your pencil” as if the person has one specific pencil for this purpose. “Bring your own pencil” doesn’t sound like that.

This sounds like a computer you own disappeared

This sounds like “I don’t have a computer.”

Sorry if I can’t explain why though.


彼女に私の手で殺した = I killed her with my hands.
彼女に自分の手で殺した = I killed her with my hands.

That’s what I’m confused about. They should mean the same thing. What kind of implication does 自分 give that would make you want to use that word instead?

自分の手 is “my own hands” not “my hands”.

I mean… if you want to argue that reflexive pronouns are unnecessary in English as well, I’m not sure where to take the discussion from there.


Oh I think I understand now . . . I don’t know why but whenever I read the example sentences I could never understand the difference.

I looked up what a reflexive pronoun was and then it made complete sense.

So from using what you said and what I just looked up, I think I can figure out why those sentences mean what they mean.

自分のパソコンはない = I don’t have a computer
the 自分 implies that you don’t have your OWN computer.

私のパソコンはない = My computer is gone.
the absence of 自分 means that you own a computer. It’s just missing.


Would it perhaps be valid here to think of it as a の-adjective roughly meaning “personal,” rather than a pronoun?

It can also be used a third-person reflexive pronoun as well.

She made (it) with her own hands.

It’s generally used for whenever you would say something like “my own / your own / her own / his own” or “myself / yourself / herself / himself” etc. in English. Sometimes the meaning would be the same and 自分 is used to emphasize that another person wasn’t involved, but other times it does change the meaning as others have pointed out.

I’m not sure if this is that accurate, it is a pronoun (according to the dictionary) and I think “personal” would make for a rather awkward translation or gloss for it. We don’t really say “bring your personal pencil” in most cases, and I think it might lead to confusion over “myself” type sentences.

it is a pronoun (according to the dictionary)

Hm. Rikaikun identifies it as “pn,adj-no,” but both Jisho and Weblio identify it strictly as a pronoun. (Assuming that 「代 」 is Weblio’s abbreviation for 代名詞.) Interesting.

That said, I feel like I’ve usually seen it used in context in a way that’s roughly consistent with the English word “self,” which is a noun rather than a pronoun. The only obvious example I can think to point to off the top of my head, though, is the phrase 「リアルな自分は ちっぽけなんかじゃない」, which comes from a song lyric and may not be the most grammatically reliable example.

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