The I form of 吾 (waga)


I recently learned the I form of わが and was not able to find out online in which situations this form is often used. Jisho uses in its examples for some reason, which doesn’t really help with knowing how it is used.

Is わが some sort of handy kanji that avoid you from having to use a が after ? Am I just not understanding the examples Jisho gives?

Thanks for you reply!

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It appears that 我 is also sometimes read わが.

Googling a bit, I also found this, which I’m guessing you can read faster than me:





I haven’t really focused well on grammar as of yet, so I’m as mystified as you are currently.

我侭 わがまま


WK doesn’t teach 吾 as わが, as a vocab word meaning I, does it?


I don’t have a straightforward or conclusive answer, and also kanji / writing is not quite my forte, but here’s my best guess.

Short answer. It seems 吾 = 1st person singular (I) only / 我 = possible plural and reflexive (oneself). Whether this was always enforced in writing, I do not know.

Long answer. If you look up 我 and 吾 in the dictionary, you’ll actually find that 吾 is listed as the first kanji for あ(れ) and 我 for わ(れ). But both appear as alternative kanji for both words and I have no way of checking that this usage was consistently enforced, though this would be in line with Helix’s link above (as well as a couple other Google links I could find), as I’ll explain below.

So let’s assume 吾=あ and 我=わ. What does it tell us? Well, first, あ(れ) doesn’t exist anymore in modern Japanese. If you hear あれ, you’ll think it’s the demonstrative “that there”, but actually it used to be a first person pronoun “I” long ago (and still in the literary language). And according to both the traditional view and modern scholarship (see for example Frellesvig’s History 3.8.2, quoted below) あ was the exclusive first person, while わ was used both for plurals and sometimes reflexively (think じぶん), though there were overlaps in usage.

Among the 1st person forms, the a- forms are only used for exclusive, singular reference (‘I, me (alone)’), whereas the wa- forms also are used for inclusive and plural reference (‘me/us (including you)’) and also reflexively (‘myself, oneself’), suggesting that the wa- forms reflect an earlier indefinite personal pronoun ‘one’. The wa- forms were used more than the a- forms and there is also some overlap in usage, indicating that a shift from a- to wa- as the 1st person pronoun was in the course of being completed; the a- forms went out of use and are not used in EMJ.

In any case, this has little influence on modern Japanese; the distinction would be considered classical at best, but you’ll find 吾 read as あ or あが in kun compounds more often, I believe. As for okurigana usage… well, classical orthography was all over the place, so particles may or may not be written explicitly. So 吾 can be あ、あれ、あが、わ、われ、わが、…

P.S.: To clarify, I am not suggesting that 吾 should always be read as あ even in classical texts; since あ as a pronoun went out of favour before Early Middle Japanese, when the literary/classical language was kind of fixed, it is very possible (again, pure speculation on my part) that some distinction was retained in the writing (kanji) long after it fused in actual word usage as わ everywhere; this is evidenced by the fact that people today still claim there is a difference depending on the kanji you use though it’s only one word now. Anyway, take my opinion with a grain of salt; as I said, kanji is definitely not my strong suit.


This seems quite clear, thanks. Bit weird then that it is selected as a joyo kanji.

No, I have only learned the kanji yet, but whenever I encounter an I form, I try to learn its use and nuance as quickly as possible. Too quick in this case apparently :sweat_smile:

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I don’t think it is jôyô; where did you see that?吾 says jinmeiyô


Is that a Persona reference :thinking:

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It might be, but it’s also a book. :stuck_out_tongue:


Yeah, I was referring to the book. (It’s also Kuma’s first line in the anime Sketchbook: Full Colors. That’s also a reference to the book.)


Ah, I think I assumed too much. My mistake :blush:

Yeah… we regularly get questions from people about why not all of the jouyou kanji are taught… but I think a better question is why are so many non-jouyou kanji taught? It’s several levels worth at least.

I almost think the site would be better without those, even if you didn’t fill them in with jouyou kanji. It’s really difficult to maintain them after you leave WK, since they can be really rare, or even just mainly used in names.

If people want to tackle jinmeiyou or beyond later, that’s another thing.


Yeah, no matter how you sort the kanji there’s some curious omissions and inclusions. WaniKani teaches kanji that aren’t in the “2500 most frequently used kanji in Japanese newspapers” list, but doesn’t even teach all of the kanji in the 1000-1500 range. WaniKani teaches kanji that aren’t in the JLPT lists, but comes short of teaching all the ones in N1 (though at least all of N2-5 is covered).

Then there’s the handful of kanji that are in the Joyo kanji, and are introduced as radicals in WaniKani, but still aren’t taught, like 串 or 曽. (Also, I honestly think it’d be good to at least mention 壱 or 弐 and so forth so people know why they’re plastered all over Japanese money.)


So, I just found a 吾輩は猫である coloring magazine (?) in Spanish at a random supermarket. .-.

I didn’t buy it, because it looked a little fishy, and I also haven’t read the book, so I didn’t want to just be spoiled some quotes or stuff like that for a coloring book. :eyes: But now I’ll be curious forever.

Edit: I’ll probably buy it next time. :joy:


Do it! And share!

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I don’t have a camera! But I’ll try.

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What is this, the 1800s?

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ばれちゃった. D:

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