Talking About Yourself – How to Say “I/Me” in Japanese

If you have studied Japanese a little, you might realize there are a few different ways to talk about yourself. While in English, we say “I” or “me” regardless of gender, formality, or who we are speaking to, in Japanese all of these things matter. Depending on the situation, you might find yourself using different words to talk say “I/me.” So let’s delve into the different words you might use or hear and find out what makes each one special. 

私 (わたし) – The Polite Default

“私” (わたし) is the most commonly used and versatile pronoun for “I” or “me” in Japanese. It is neutral in terms of formality and gender, making it suitable for various situations, whether formal or casual. Using “私” is a safe choice in most interactions, conveying politeness and respect. When in doubt, 私 can always be a go-to as it works in any situation. 

Example Sentence: 私は日本に住んでいます。 (わたしはにほんにすんでいます。) – I live in Japan.

私(わたくし) – Formal and Respectful

You might notice that this uses the same kanji as the last one. While that is true, the kanji 私 can also be pronounced “わたくし.”  When saying it this way, it is a more formal and respectful version of “わたし.” It is often used in polite or formal situations, such as business meetings, interviews, or public speeches. Choosing “わたくし” shows a sense of humility and is commonly used by public figures and individuals seeking to show respect and modesty. Although your chances of using this version are slim when you first start out, be aware of わたくし so you can recognize it when you see it in Japanese media.

Example Sentence: わたくしは大変光栄です。 (わたくしはたいへんこうえいです。) – I am deeply honored.

俺 (おれ) – Casual and Masculine

“俺” (おれ) is a casual and masculine way of saying “I” in Japanese. It is commonly used by males among close friends or in informal settings. But make sure not to use “俺” in formal situations or with people of higher authority, as it may come across as impolite or arrogant. You will mostly hear this between younger men, or older men who are close friends. Women generally don’t use 俺. 

Example Sentence: 俺は足が速い。 (おれはあしがはやい。) – I am fast at running.

僕 (ぼく) – Humble and Often Used by Men

“僕” (ぼく) is a humble and polite pronoun used primarily by men. It is suitable for various social settings and conveys a sense of modesty. “僕” is often used by younger men or those who wish to express themselves in a respectful manner. As a counterpart to 俺, you can use 僕 in a bit more formal situations like with coworkers or in casual situations with people you don’t know well. 

Example Sentence: 僕は君をサポートするよ。 (ぼくはきみをサポートするよ。) – I will support you.

うち – Humble and Often Used by Women

“うち”  which comes from the kanji 内 meaning “inside,” is a humble pronoun mainly used by females. It is used in informal or familiar settings, often among family members or close friends. うち can refer to yourself, or your whole family in certain situations. It is often used when referring to your home or family in some way. In some regional dialects, “うち” is used by both males and females.

Example Sentence: うちは家族と一緒に住んでいます。 (うちはかぞくといっしょにすんでいます。) – I live with my family.

自分 (じぶん) – Neutral and Reflective

“自分” (じぶん) is a neutral and reflective way to refer to oneself. It is not as commonly used as other pronouns, but it can be employed to express self-awareness or introspection in certain situations. Think of it as “myself” in English, where you would only use it when referring to your own opinion in a formal way, or referring to yourself from a third-person point of view. It can be used to refer to oneself in a general sense without conveying a specific level of politeness or familiarity.

Example Sentence: 自分の意見を尊重してください。 (じぶんのいけんをそんちょうしてください。) – Please respect my opinion.

あたし – Informal and Feminine

“あたし” is an informal and feminine way of saying “I” in Japanese. It comes from the same kanji as 私 (わたし), but the sound is shortened to make it sounds more casual and friendly. It is often used by women among friends or in casual settings. While “あたし” can create a sense of closeness and friendliness, it may not be appropriate in formal or professional environments. So make sure to pronounce わ instead of あ when you are at work, or in more formal settings. 

Example Sentence: あたしは旅行が好きだよ。 (あたしはりょこうがすきだよ。) – I love traveling.

Copied title and URL