Which Japanese first person pronoun do you use and why?


#1

For those of you who don’t know already Japanese has a ton of first person pronouns (= ways of saying me/I). Which one you choose depends on your personality, your gender, and sometimes even who you’re talking to or what context you’re speaking in.

Choice of first person pronoun really does matter, and using the wrong one can come off as childish, unserious, or even rude. That said 私(わたし)is the “safe” option for everyone, although for many guys, this can come off as more feminine than they probably want.

I set up these polls with the “sane” options. If you’re a girl and you want to tell me you use 俺, or if you’re a guy and you want to tell me you use てまえ, I don’t believe you. When you have answered one of the polls, give an explanation for your choice!

I am a guy and in everyday speech I use…

  • 私(わたし)
  • 私(わたくし)
  • 僕(ぼく)
  • 俺(おれ)
  • Something else? (please clarify)

0 voters

I am a girl and in everyday speech I use…

  • 私(わたし)
  • 私(わたくし)
  • 僕(ぼく)
  • あたし
  • Something else? (please clarify)

0 voters


#2

I’m a dude in my 20s, I’m usually pretty soft-spoken, and using 俺 always felt weird. I tested the waters by using 俺 when talking to a Japanese female friend, and she just laughed, so that was the end of that lol. She also told me not to use 私 outside of formal situations as it sounded too feminine to her ears.


#3

I’m in my early 20’s and use 僕 when it’s the first time I meet them and 俺 anytime after that after I feel like we’ve become friends. I also only use 僕 when talking to my girlfriend’s family.


#4

I’m 22 yo male.
I use 私 in the early days of knowing someone.
The moment we start talking about personal aspects of our lives, I start using 僕.
I never used 俺.


#5

17 y/o male. While in japan I talked to people I didn’t know very well and always used 私. Never got any weird looks or corrections so all seemed to be fine.


#6

My vote doesn’t really count, since I have no experience with actually talking to Japanese people.
But I love あたし, even though it is a bit childish to use at 31. It’s just so cute! <3


#7

I use 私 because that is the closest to gender neutral there is. I really don’t like the Japanese gendered language in general.


#8

I’m 26 and uh… sort of a girl? Mostly?
When I first meet people, especially if it’s a written conversation, I tend to default to 私. But once someone kind of knows me I feel safe using あたし which is what I prefer and use most often. あたし feels like me.


#9

I use 吾輩 because I am a cat.


#10

I’m female/early 20s and always use 私.

My current boyfriend (Japanese) always uses 俺 around me, but switches to 僕 when he switches to keigo/teineigo. I had kind of pinned him for the 僕 type, but we’re the same age so he only keigo when we joke around.


#11

I just bought that book (I am a Cat)!


#12

I really love this topic! It is also interesting to see how few men use 俺. It might be because language learners tend to be younger. I use 僕 but my boyfriend uses 俺. I briefly talked about how he felt when I used 僕, and he did confirm that it made me seem a bit more boyish. I just don’t really identify as a grown man yet haha.

Also a very good point. I agree that pronouns beyond 私 definitely require a sense of ease and personality that language learners just can’t express quite yet.


#13

English, surprisingly, is a very gender neutral language. I also speak French, and it occurred to me how tricky it is to hide your gender in written conversation. Japanese is slightly better, I suppose.


#14

I use both 私 and 僕, pretty evenly. But I figured 僕 would be the less popular option, so I picked that for your poll (since you don’t allow multiple answers). I feel like I’m a “Boku Girl” (seen it as a thing on Jisho, forget the exact term).

I would definately use 俺 too while joking with friends (especially male friends). I’m a tomboy comedian. *sticks her tongue out and shrugs*

Yep!

… So far most of the Japanese I speak is just aloud to my empty apartment.


#15

I often use「ウチ」which comes from Kansai-ben speaking relatives. 関西弁 just feels friendlier to me.

But I did go through a phase of using 僕 when I was a child, to the GREAT annoyance of my mother.

Note: I’m half Japanese, with “naturally acquired” (if I can really call it that) sense of grammar, pronunciation/speaking, but an abysmal writing/reading ability and probably a middle school vocab level. Hence Wanikani.


#16

I think it’s more because language learners are language learners. A Japanese guy with a similar character to me would definitely use 俺. However, unless your spoken Japanese is very good (and mine isn’t), foreigners using 俺 come across as a bit strange to most Japanese - both my own feeling, and the opinion of the few natives I’ve discussed it with (who made it seem like it’s kind of cringey to hear).

Overall, even though Japanese does have many first person pronouns, as a foreign learner the rules are actually pretty hard and fast:

If you’re a girl, use 私. End of. I’ve seen lots of comments in the past about people saying they want to seem more boyish or challenge gender stereotypes, but the average Japanese person isn’t going to pick up on that. They’ll either think you’re making a mistake or have watched too much anime.

If you’re a boy, 私 for formal situations and 私 or 僕 are both fine in casual situations. If you’re in a position to use 俺 you’ll know it yourself. (Hint: If you’re still at a stage where you need to ask for outside advice on which personal pronoun to use, you shouldn’t use 俺.)


#17

Asked a Japanese friend about this exact same question. Asked her the difference between using 僕 and 俺 and she said that she’d prefer if I use the first. 俺 sounds rough and she said that hearing a foreigner use it makes it sound really strange? Especially when one is not so good at Japanese yet. That seems to be the consensus among the people I’ve talked to about this. 僕 with friends, 私 with coworkers and people you don’t know.


#18

I use 私 but I typically avoid using any at all whenever possible haha.

I really wish there was a less gendered option to use…outside of formal contexts 私 can be feminine but there’s really no other option that I like/feel comfortable using

But yeah unless your Japanese is pretty good (or even sometimes regardless of level) most people will find it strange to hear girls/guys use anything other than 私/僕 (and even some of my guy friends have said a few Japanese people think 僕 is strange for them to use as well)

I have a friend that is really good at Japanese who uses あたし and people tend to kind of laugh a little whenever they catch her using it.


#19

Oh is ウチ specifically Kansai-ben? I hear it pretty often among female friends around the same age as me (early 20s). I asked them if they thought ウチ might suit me and they said it probably would; some of them use ウチ and some use あたし and it just seems to be a matter of what they feel suits them best.

Since most of the chances I have to speak Japanese are at work these days though, I mainly just use 私 in the end. I wish there was a female equivalent of 僕 - not too formal, but not too casual either.


#20

うち isn’t exclusively Kansai-ben but it definitely has a “dialect” feel to it.

Anyway, I use 俺様 because I am the greatest person ever. I also demand everyone address me as 殿