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Chances are you already know that watashi means ‘I’ in Japanese.
We hate to break it you but… there are more than 10 other ways to say ‘I‘. Yikes!
We’ve decided to help you out by writing an entire article on how to say I in Japanese.
Just like Japanese honorifics, deciding how to say ‘I‘ depends on things such as the situation, status, gender and age of the speaker. With so many different ways to say ‘I’, you can bring your personality into conversations because each word has its own unique feeling.
To help you master how to say I in Japanese, we have included guidelines for the formality, gender and frequency of each word.
Table Of Contents
私 / わたし
- Formality: Formal or casual
- Gender: Neutral
- Frequency: Common
Watashi is the standard word for ‘I‘ so it gets the biggest explanation. It can be used by men and women of any age and in any situation.
It’s one of the first words you learn for the Japanese self-introduction known as jikoshoukai (自己紹介 / じこしょうかい). Watashi can mean both ‘I‘ and ‘my‘.
私 / わたし as ‘I‘
Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Antonio desu.
Nice to meet you. I am Antonio.
Watashi wa Italia jin desu.
I am Italian.
私 / わたし as ‘my‘
When used with no (の), the Japanese particle that shows possession, watashi means ‘my’.
Watashi no namae wa Rachel desu.
My name is Rachel.
In everyday conversation, it’s not necessary to use watashi every time you want to say ‘I‘. Native Japanese speakers don’t use it a lot because it can sound repetitive and people easily understand from the context when you are talking about yourself!
Kyou, watashi wa roku ji ni okimashita.
Today, I woke up at 6.
If we remove watashi from this sentence, it has the exact same meaning.
Kyou wa roku ji ni okimashita.
Today, (I) woke up at 6.
In formal situations, it’s better to use watashi but in casual situations it’s considered feminine. For this reason, men prefer other ways of saying I in Japanese.
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- Formality: Casual
- Gender: Female
- Frequency: Common
Atashi is an informal version of watashi used by females. Atashi is only written in hiragana. It has a gentle, softer sound which is considered feminine and is commonly used among young women and girls.
内 / うち
- Formality: Very casual
- Gender: Female / Neutral
- Frequency: Very common
Uchi originally comes from Kansai (Osaka’s region) and is an informal way to say ‘I‘ and ‘My‘. It’s used by women in casual chit-chat and is popular among female school students.
Normally, uchi is written in hiragana (うち) but the kanji (内) means inside. When it’s written with the character 内, it can mean my home/our company/our organization.
うち as ‘I’
Uchi wa saafin ga suki desu.
I like surfing.
うち as ‘my‘
Again, with the possessive particle no (の), you can use uchi to say ‘my’.
Uchi no neko ga kawaii desu.
My cat is cute.
Men can use uchi too, especially in casual conversation but in general it’s considered feminine.
僕 / ぼく
- Formality: Informal and casual
- Gender: Male (occasionally female)
- Frequency: Very common
Boku is the go-to ‘I‘ and ‘my‘ word for boys and men of all ages. It’s more casual than watashi and has a mild but masculine feeling.
You could call boku ‘the nice guy’s word‘. Even though boku is informal, men sometimes use it in the workplace. However, watashi is always the most appropriate in a formal situation.
Boku wa gakusei desu.
I’m a student.
Ramen wa boku no ichiban sukina tabemono desu.
Ramen is my favourite (number one) food.
For men in casual conversation, the choice between using boku, watashi and ore (see below) is based on one’s own personal preference.
Sometimes, girls use boku in anime and song lyrics but it’s considered an artistic use of the word.
俺 / おれ
- Formality: Very casual
- Gender: Male
- Frequency: Common
Ore is the stronger and rougher brother of boku. It’s an informal way of saying ‘I‘ used by men and sometimes sounds a little heavy.
Actually, ore gets its bad reputation from the way it’s used by characters in anime where it can command authority and masculinity.
Ore wa ningen wo yameru zo!
I am done with mankind!
On the other hand, with close friends and family its very common for men to choose ore:
Ore wa butaniku ha amari suki janai.
I don’t really like pork.
Ore is not appropriate for business situations and we don’t recommend using it with strangers or people of a higher status.
自分 / じぶん
- Politeness: Formal and casual
- Gender: Neutral
- Frequency: Common
Jibun translates to ‘oneself‘ and has many uses. We’ll just go over how it can be used as ‘I‘ and ‘myself‘ but it’s important to note that in the Kansai region, jibun means you.
In history, jibun was the way of referring to yourself in the military and within sports teams which gives it the feeling of being less personal and part of something bigger.
Jibun is a popular choice when you want to remain neutral in how you express yourself, neither too feminine nor too masculine.
自分/じぶん as ‘I‘
Jibun wa shai desu ne.
I’m shy / I’m quite shy.
Jibun wa kaigai he itta koto nai.
I have never been abroad.
You can also use jibun + de (自分で)to say ‘myself‘ or ‘by myself‘
Jibun de tsukurimashita.
I made it myself.
私 / わたくし
- Formality: Very formal
- Gender: Neutral
- Frequency: Uncommon
Watakushi is the most polite way of saying
‘ and is written with the same kanji character (私) as watashi.
Watakushi is rarely used except for speeches, official announcements, and ceremonies. People use it to humble their speech and its often used by those working in customer-service.
You are at a restaurant in Tokyo and you ask the man serving you where he is from in Japan.
He may respond like this:
Watakushi wa Hokkaido shusshin desu.
I’m originally from Hokkaido.
By using watakushi, the waiter shows respect to you as a customer when speaking about himself.
How to say I in Japanese
We’ve covered some of the most common ways to say I in Japanese. Believe it or not, there are tons more Japanese words for ‘I’ – but many of the others are regional words, or only used in very specific situations. If you learn all the words in this article, you’ll have mastered all the ‘I’ words you’re likely to hear in everyday life.
While it might seem confusing to have more than one word for the same thing, we hope you can see how it can also be a fun way to express your personality! You’ll soon get the hang of these new words once you start recognising them in conversations, in dramas or anime.
While you’re here, check out these related posts:
- How to Say ‘You’ in Japanese (Without Starting a Fight!)
- 9 Ways to Say Friend in Japanese: From Acquaintance to BFF
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Francesca is a freelance copywriter and teacher, who moved to Tokyo from New Zealand at age 24. A linguistics and ESL major, she spent 3 years teaching at an all-boys high school. Now based in France, she remains a self-confessed Japanophile who loves kanji, cooking, cats and the outdoors.
How many ways do Japanese say I? ›
There are over 100 ways to say “I” in the Japanese language.
Because depending on your age, sex, class, time period, personality, job, role in society, family role, the way you use I is different. Let's begin. I've broken them down into categories.
When meeting someone for the first time, you should use “watashi”. And when you have become somewhat close to them, you can use “boku”. Then when you have become very close to them, you can use “ore.” In a woman's case, “watashi” can always be used whenever, wherever and with whomever you speak.Can girls use ore? ›
If you are a girl, I advise you against using "ore" as a first-person pronoun. It is for "boys," and even among "boys," it's used very informally, by boys who want to sound "macho," "tough, or "important," it can come across as very arrogant.Do Japanese use I? ›
The first-person pronouns (e.g., watashi, 私) and second-person pronouns (e.g., anata, 貴方) are used in formal contexts (however the latter can be considered rude). In many sentences, pronouns that mean "I" and "you" are omitted in Japanese when the meaning is still clear.Do girls use Boku? ›
Boku is for male use only. Men talking among themselves will use it or men addressing female persons will do so, too. Please note, however, that its use is limited to informal settings, such as family or friends. Watashi is for more general use: by men in formal situations, by women in formal and informal situations.Is atashi rude? ›
As mentioned above, the formal version of watashi is watakushi. The same can also be done with the feminine pronoun atashi. Atakushi is the more formal and polite way of using atashi. Similar to watakushi, it's uncommon to hear atakushi used during informal settings outside of anime or manga.How do guys say I in Japanese? ›
By far the most common way to say “I” in Japanese is with the word 私 (watashi). This word is gender-neutral which means that both men and women use it. It is also considered polite, which accounts for the many different situations in which it's applicable.Is Japanese hard to learn? ›
The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.Why does Japan have 3 alphabets? ›
Because they serve different purposes. Hiragana and Katakana are syllabaries, while Kanji is logographic. Kanji is used for the basic meaning of words. Hiragana is used for things like particles, conjugations, prepositions, etc.Is Kimi rude? ›
Informal “you”: 君 （kimi）: used by men toward people of lower status. Typically not rude. (not inherently formal/informal, but makes the status hierarchy explicit, and is therefore better suited to formal situations)
Is Boku wa rude? ›
Boku: Polite, Sophisticate, Humble You can use it among your friends but they may feel you are too polite. It is appropriate word to a person who you meet at the first time.What is Ore wa? ›
“Ore ha” 俺は (pronounced Ore wa) was originally used by samurai, and implies that one is superior. It comes across as incredibly arrogant in post-Meiji era Japan.Can guys say Watashi? ›
"Watashi" is gender neutral, and either gender can use it. Foreigners, unless they're pretty confident with language and familiar with Japanese, they're talking to, are usually encouraged to use "watashi". That's considered polite. Females can also use "atashi" (without "w"), it's a usual female pronoun.What is Boku wa in Japanese? ›
Boku no namae wa translates into- My name is… The term Boku is usually used by boys to address themselves while expressing something, asking, and in conversations. Hope this answer seemed appropriate to you!What does Boku mean Japanese? ›
boku – 僕 (ぼく) : a pronoun meaning 'I' in Japanese. Normally, this is used by boys and young males in casual situations.Why do Japanese say san? ›
The Japanese suffix -san is polite, but not excessively formal. It can be broadly used to: Refer to anyone you don't know, regardless of status or age. Address equals of the same age.What is Watashi no in Japanese? ›
watashi no – 私の (わたしの) : a phrase meaning 'my' in Japanese. Depending on the situation and context, it can also be used to mean 'mine'.How do I say in Japanese? ›
How to Say 'How do you say this in Japanese?' - YouTubeHow do guys say I in Japanese? ›
By far the most common way to say “I” in Japanese is with the word 私 (watashi). This word is gender-neutral which means that both men and women use it. It is also considered polite, which accounts for the many different situations in which it's applicable.What do girls use to say I in Japanese? ›
The Feminine Pronoun: 私 (あたし) — Atashi
Although watashi is accepting of everyone, the pronoun atashi is primarily used by women. Japanese doesn't have helpful articles like the Spanish “el” or “la,” which can make learning about pronouns a little tricky.
Can girls use Boku? ›
Boku is for male use only. Men talking among themselves will use it or men addressing female persons will do so, too. Please note, however, that its use is limited to informal settings, such as family or friends. Watashi is for more general use: by men in formal situations, by women in formal and informal situations.What Japanese pronoun should I use? ›
In general, the pronoun “私(watashi)” can be used in every conversation. It may sounds not that formal in the business scene, but none would criticize it is wrong. On the other hand, it may sounds too formal when you talk to your friends, but it is not incorrect, either.What means desu? ›
What does desu mean? Desu is a polite Japanese linking verb meaning “to be” as well other forms of the verb. Western fans of anime and manga sometimes add it to the end of sentences to sound cute and imitate Japanese.What Boku means? ›
boku – 僕 (ぼく) : a pronoun meaning 'I' in Japanese. Normally, this is used by boys and young males.Is Anata rude? ›
When Japanese people explicitly state “you” in their sentences, it's proper to use the person's name and attach a suffix. You are probably already familiar with “～san”, which is a polite suffix. If you use “anata” with someone who you know, it is rude.Why do Japanese say san? ›
The Japanese suffix -san is polite, but not excessively formal. It can be broadly used to: Refer to anyone you don't know, regardless of status or age. Address equals of the same age.What is orewa in Japanese? ›
Ore wa is an expression men use to mean “I,” and Naru is “become.”What is Watashi no in Japanese? ›
watashi no – 私の (わたしの) : a phrase meaning 'my' in Japanese. Depending on the situation and context, it can also be used to mean 'mine'.What do Japanese call tomboys? ›
Most, but not all, bokukko are tomboys, and not all tomboys are bokukko, as the term revolves solely around the use of the pronoun "boku". While the use of boku most often signals tomboyishness, it can sometimes signal some other situation, such as not knowing correct societal behavior, or lacking polite speech.Is Anata formal? ›
“Anata あなた (You)” is a great word to use when addressing a stranger. It's a pretty formal way to address someone, but it also puts that emotional distance of “I don't really know you” between you and the person you're addressing.
Is Boku rude? ›
Boku: Polite, Sophisticate, Humble You can use it among your friends but they may feel you are too polite. It is appropriate word to a person who you meet at the first time.Is Boku male or female? ›
BOKU is for males and KIMI is referring to a female and is equivalent to ANATA. However in some songs the girls use BOKU as you mentioned.Do Japanese speak in 3rd person? ›
The so-called "third person" in a Japanese (or East Asian for that matter) sense isn't the same as using "he" or "she" to talk about oneself, however. In fact, the "third person" for Japanese people stops at only using one's own name to substitute first-person pronouns (watashi, ore, boku, etc.).Do Japanese say he and she? ›
彼 is a third-person pronoun used for males, like "he" in English, and 彼女 is the female version, like "she" in English.