Personal pronouns

It doesn’t have to be that formal. The example above with the calligraphy class is where it is fine. It is not like “talking to the Emperor only” levels of formal. But わたくしは何々と申します is normal enough for a polite introduction.

I’m partial to あたし、but have mostly used 私when i was in Japan because my Japanese teachers drilled it into our heads that everyone should use that. they also said 俺 is extremely rude and you should never use it but i feel like i heard it more than the others while i was there, whether it be from arcade gamers or grade school students. i remember asking one of my co-workers if it was ok that so many students used 俺 because I’d heard it was rude and she basically shrugged and said “no, that’s fine”

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Students often speak in ways that would not be considered acceptable for adults. They will regularly use plain language toward teachers (rather than です・ます). It’s “okay” for them because that’s just normal for kids. But if an adult used 俺 in an office setting it would very likely be considered rude. Japanese teachers usually aren’t preparing their students to be elementary school kids in Japan or something.

But sure, if they told you it is unequivocally, always extremely rude, then that’s just wrong.


I have said a few times now that I think people and teachers make things a bigger deal than they really are. But at the end of the day, saying that it’s rude is probably better than trying to say, “Well if you’re the 部長 you can talk pretty much however you want.”

It’s certainly easier than explaining that as a boss this is cool.


they made it seem like it was specifically inappropriate to say to your teacher lol which is why i was confused. the teacher student dynamic over there seems a lot different compared to the US though. one time i saw a 1st grader jump kick one of the teachers and he just laughed out off. that would not have flown at my elementary school lol.

but yeah, definitely wouldn’t just it with my office superiors but it seems fine in most casual situations.

Occasionally you’ll hear singers, etc., using わたくし too. Might just be an enka singer thing though, but I’ve heard it an awful lot in that environment.

My native friends (Japanese, mid 20s female) have said that outside of anime it’s a bit odd for adults to use あたし unless they have a very childlike style/personality. It is a pronoun mainly used by children, kind of like baby talk. So, in the same way as English cutesy baby talk, some adults can pull it off and for others it doesn’t suit them and comes across as strange. If that makes sense. Some contexts where it’s more freely used is between couples or when whining/complaining in a lighthearted way. Of course I claim to be no expert on this so there may be other interpretations I don’t know about, but I hope that helps :slight_smile:

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As a woman I want to use 僕 in everyday life because to me, it has always sounded the cutest. I honestly can not get my mind to interpret this pronoun as “masculine” because it has such a light, fun, flirty and feminine sound to it (in my opinion.) BUT I know that it’s a bit odd for women to use who aren’t like tomboys or rock stars (neither of which I am) so I stick to 私 and keep my secret longing to use 僕 to myself lol.

Though I must say I get excited whenever my boyfriend talks to someone else about something he and I are doing and says 「僕たちは。。。」and I think to myself “yes, finally I am 僕 by proxy~” :joy:


In terms of expressing gender through personal pronouns (NB 僕 here), I’d say there’s no hard or fast rule. Take Hikawa Kiyoshi, who hasn’t put a specific label on it but is very much not a cis male. They use わたし most of the time, but since coming out they’ve used あたし (and got pulled up on it on TV), わたくし (again, enka singer things, but it’s also neutral), the occasional 僕, a hell of a lot of 自分, うち… they’ve switched it up mid-sentence before.

Maybe I’m naive, but I do feel like it’s something that you can play around with, and the only borders are the potential judgement of someone thinking you’re messing up. Which may or may not bother you. I know for a fact I don’t look like a 僕, but it’s what makes me comfortable and feels right for me, so balls to it!


You’re right, in America a student will kick a teacher and then the parents will complain about how the teacher is making their sweet little kid violent and try and get the teacher fired.


uh, no, that’s not remotely how it would’ve gone down where i grew up. what a weird thing to say.

Well, I would love to know this magical Karen-less utopia you came from.

I identify as non-binary and usually I’m ok with not using any pronouns at all and I would try to omit them in a sentence. However, when I do need to use pronouns I would love to use 自分 but I heard it sounds a bit weird when referring to yourself like “I”. I don’t know much I’m mostly beginner but if that’s ok to use I would use it if not I have to look for another one to use in case I would ever actually need to use pronouns.

i use 僕 because 俺 just feels too…idk…rough and masculine? maybe it’s just me but 俺 doesn’t fit my personality, and for some reason i always associate it with mha characters who are trying to hard lmao

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Then probably わたし would be the most neutral, especially in slightly more polite contexts :slight_smile: . I might be wrong, but I think 自分 works a little differently and it’s not exactly a personal pronoun, but something you use when talking about stuff related to “self” (yourself, oneself, etc.).


My go-tos are 僕 for formal situations and 俺 within more casual circumstances. Though, I use 私 solely for educational purposes.

That’s the standard usage of it.

Using it as a first person pronoun has a bit of a stereotypical jock feel to it. I don’t believe it’s a particularly popular choice for first person pronoun.


Thanks! Yeah I know in polite contexts 私 is completely neutral so I guess I could stick with that in those kinds of situations.

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I had a teacher from Kyoto say that 自分 can mean “I” or “you”, and that it’s more common in 関西弁 than standard japanese