Personal pronouns

This is honestly one of my favourite things about the Japanese language, especially as a fiction writer; working out which pronouns my characters would use and when actually gives me a lot of insight into them.

I personally like 僕, which in media I often see used by young boys and boyish girls; as someone who identifies as non-binary, I love it. (Though I assume should I actually use it, as a thirty year old englishwoman, most would consider it a mistake.)

So, what are your favourite pronouns, both for yourself and in general?

(This one also likes 自分, for instance.)

16 Likes

I’ve definitely grown a bit attached to 僕. Like, probably more than I should; I’m a bit worried I’ll end up in a situation requiring a higher level of formality, and being unable to stop myself from starting every other sentences with 「僕はぁぁ。。。」.

I think I read early on that 僕 was used by guys who gave off a gentle or possibly slightly feminine vibe, which suits me fairly well. Since it was one of the first words I learned, it’s always standing by at the tip of my tongue.

8 Likes

We all know 吾輩 is the true superior pronoun

Edit: For real now, I like 俺 the best, but still end up using 私 all the time, because I’m still not sure what all the nuances are.

11 Likes

I use 僕. I don’t think it’s feminine. I’d say it’s neutral but masculine-leaning where as 俺 would be full masculine, if that makes sense. My friends were actually discussing this recently and they all agreed that 僕 suits me because I’m 優しい (according to them)

Another reason I use 僕 is because it’s fairly flexible when it comes to levels of formality, in that it doesn’t sound particularly weird in polite or casual speech. Though you might have to switch to 私 in a very formal situation. If I get more comfortable with being able to read the air I might switch to 俺 in casual situations when I get older.

Plenty of adults even up to their 30s use 僕 from my experience

私(わたし) would be neutral to veeery slightly feminine leaning and 私(あたし) would be full feminine

(take these claims with a grain of salt, though. They’re just intuitions from an L2 speaker)

8 Likes

For what it’s worth. From what I’ve heard from Japanese people who identify as non-binary. 私 seems to be the most common. Though ぼく does get some use. Also, it can often be one versus the other in speaking vs writing.

自分 gets some use as well . But I think the fact that it is both, a.) Used in some places as a second person pronoun and b.) Comes with some baggage that makes it a less than ideal choice. Namely that as a first person pronoun it is used mainly by men, especially among hardcore sports people (likely owing to its older usage in the military).

Anyway, I’m not an expert and this is still rather a rare topic in Japan. So these things can change.

4 Likes

The “villain” in a children’s cartoon I watched a while ago calls himself 俺様 and that’s clearly an impeccable choice :stuck_out_tongue:

14 Likes

I use 僕 as the default and 俺 with people to whom I’m closer.

3 Likes

Huh, I always thought it was more self-effacing, a humble and kind of distancing pronoun; mostly because of its military use, wherein you are, technically, serving the people.

2 Likes

I love that jisho says ‘nuances of arrogance’ for this. NUANCES, please, there is nothing nuanced about it.

2 Likes

Well when it was used in the military, it was more about the commander - subordinate relationship rather than the soldier - public one.

1 Like

I generally use 僕 as well. :thinking: I don’t use 俺 because it’s a bit too strong for my taste (Also it’s kinda manly ehe). Either that or if I wanna be formal 私
And if I wanna be a BSD nerd I use やつがれ :sunglasses: :v:

2 Likes

Same here. I used to use 私 in the past, but only until I heard 僕 while watching ナナ in my teens and then it somehow stuck. 俺 would be too much. I don’t think I’d use it even among friends. Then again, I’d probably overuse です as well ^^".

1 Like

My pronoun goal is generally to stop using them as much as possible, I really am trying to drill it into my head that everyone around me will know who the subject is. But when your mother tongue is based around absolutely needing I, they etc. it’s one of the hardest things I’m finding to stop.

6 Likes

I’m also non-binary and use 僕 90% of the time (私 for everything else…or when i don’t feel like outing myself :sob:). I really want to get on this guy’s level though when I can grow a beard without looking without looking like trash

3 Likes

Just here to mention わし (I think as 儂?) because Dot Pixis from Attack on Titan uses it and I didn’t see it in the thread yet. I think my goal is to hold on to 僕 as long as I can, and then at some point directly switch to 儂 :upside_down_face:

2 Likes

It’s a great way to get people to stop talking to you.

2 Likes

also in the why use pronouns camp, they’re just not as necessary as people tend to think. in exercises they can very often be left out. when needed, 私 is probably appropriate for me, with maybe a 僕 when hanging out in a punk bar and feeling confrontational ^^

1 Like

I’m genderfluid and I would really like to use 俺 when I’m feeling masculine. I worry people will think it’s a foreigner mistake though, since most people perceive me as female. I’m probably safer with 僕 but I don’t like that one quite as much.

3 Likes

The biggest advice I have, to anyone really, is that if you don’t make a big deal about it then (most) Japanese people won’t. I see foreigners make about 700% more of a deal about this than Japanese people do. (Unless you’re doing something really bizarre like going to work and repeatedly saying 俺様 while calling everyone else てめえ)

13 Likes

For some more opinions I asked about 俺 and 僕 on HelloTalk. Here were some of the comments (my translations might be a bit off so I included the original text):

僕のほうが丁寧でどちらかという知的に感じます、俺を使う人は偉そうで少し頭が悪いように感じる

“僕 is more polite, and it gives off a more intellectual vibe. People who use 俺 come off a bit arrogant and can come off as not the smartest.”

  • (F in 20s)

男性が僕っていうの好きだな~

“I like it when guys use 僕~”

  • (F in 20s)

I think that…[僕] feels like a gentleman (sic)

  • (M in 20s)

Just stay as 僕
No judgment but non Japanese using 俺 is a bit awkward

  • (M in 20s)

個人的には「僕」のほうが好印象

“To me, 僕 gives off a better impression”

  • (F in 30s)

知らない人にでも当然のように僕という人は育ちが良さそうに感じてしまいます。好きです

“People who naturally use 僕 even to people they don’t know give off a feeling that they were brought up well. I like that.”

  • (F, age unknown)

Overall pretty interesting, I disagree with the person who says foreigners using 俺 is awkward, but I think I can understand why they might think that. The focus was more on 僕 in the comments since I was talking about potentially switching to using 俺 in the moment, and that I had read that 僕 sounded childish from some articles online.

13 Likes