The difference between うち and 私

In Japanese, as I’m sure you all know, there are a lot of personal pronouns. I can name 僕, 俺, 私, うち, 自分 (does that count?), and わし off the top of my head, and I’m absolutely certain that that’s just scratching the surface. My question is: I’ve heard that both 私 and うち are considered to be more feminine pronouns, but I’m having trouble discerning a clear difference between them, sort of how 僕 and 俺 have different connotations. I read on Tofugu’s Gaming in Japanese article that うち is a sort of ‘big-sister type’, but no human language can capture how much I don’t understand what that means.

Does anyone have experience with these, and the general vibe they each give?


私 is not nearly as “feminine” as うち. It’s also worth noting that うち as a personal pronoun is more common in Kansai. My girlfriend says うち when she uses a personal pronoun in a casual situation. We live in Kansai.

There have been many threads on personal pronouns, so those might give you more insight into 私 and others. I personally don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable saying anything other than 私, and I don’t really care what anyone thinks about it.


Well let me tell you what I think about it.

I think it’s a perfectly fine decision to make for yourself, because personal pronouns are personal pronouns.


Thats true, im an exchange student, and everyone says ore, but im to shy to say anything else then Boku because im scared to get comfortable with it and use it while speaking to a teacher, or so so i just go for Boku even though it’s considered for young boys.


Where did you hear that? Yes, it is used by boys, but 僕 is also used by adult males.

Edit to add:

Even in the Tofugu podcasts on personal pronouns, Kanae recommended it as the default pronoun for men to use. And even talked about hearing it used by men even in business situations.


My son uses Ore and Boku (he is 4) and I asked him if it is okay to use “Ore” with his Sensei because I’ve heard that some Youchiens don’t like it but he said it was allowed…he could be telling fibs though…:sweat_smile:

My BIL uses Ore though.


I’ve also heard “わたくし” but only in dramas and only from housewives.


It’s normal to hear わたくし in formal situations, like if someone is speaking at a ceremony or something.


So I had a look online and maybe what I was hearing was あたくし :slight_smile:

The drama i’m thinking of is 美しい隣人 with 仲間由紀恵 (なかまゆきえ)

1 Like

You can use 吾輩 if you’re a cat, である :slightly_smiling_face:


My classmates told me that, also i meant that it is considered as a young boy under boys (for example when you’re the younger brother and your brother has invited his friends you would use it) idk maybe i got this wrong but this is how i understood it.

1 Like

That’s not what the “personal” in personal pronouns mean. It’s just a descriptor for the type of pronoun it is (people or things); such as personal, demonstrative, interrogative, possessive, etc. It’s not personal as in something you select.

But they are “personal” (expressing something about you as a person) in that sense, as well. So I think they understand both meanings that are implied there.


In Japanese, with there being multiple versions of a pronoun for “I” for example, you can sort of choose one. I think for foreigners speaking Japanese, we may not always connect with the connotation that each pronoun brings and go with what we learned first. I have used watashi, boku, and ore but I don’t have the cultural weight to feel the difference as a native might. For example, “boku” is said to be used more by younger people but to a foreigner that understanding would be more academic than emotional, if that makes sense. So you wouldn’t feel much different saying “boku” or “watashi”. In English it doesn’t work that way though. You can’t pick and choose between pronouns.


Yeah, I’m familiar with that. The fact that there are different nuances to them is why I mostly avoid using anything but わたし.


Also by people who choose not to use ore. Most university professors I know are using boku, and they are not young.


I use all three; 私、俺、and 僕. For me the nuance lies within who I’m talking to. When with my Japanese friends (guys and girls) we all use 俺 and 僕 consistently and in a seemingly interchangeable manner. おれ more than ぼく for sure though.

私 otherwise


I mostly use watashi also. Partly, because I know it’s appropriate, whereas the others may seem odd depending on who I’m talking to or where I’m at and I won’t know if it’s odd or not.

It’s funny though, some Japanese people will say that watashi sounds too formal.

Japanese people can also say watashi is rude, when you’ve been friends for some time, and you still speak to them in a formal instead of more familiar manner. At least that’s what one person on this forum reported.


I say boku because at 25, I’m deathly scared to be growing old.