Your Guide to Japanese Personal Pronouns

By OptiLingo • 5 minutes read

Learn all about Japanese personal and demonstrative pronouns

Do You Even Need Japanese Pronouns?

Japanese pronouns may be omitted from sentences. Some say this is in contrast to English, but there are many times in everyday speech where this happens in English. For example, “Wanna go?”. Clearly, “you” is inferred. Japanese operates similarly, but the omission of pronouns is not reserved for informal speech.

On the one hand, this makes learning Japanese easier. If you don’t need to say a lot of words, speaking Japanese is a lot simpler, right? Well, not exactly. There are literally dozens of words for the pronouns “I” or “me”. And even more Japanese pronouns that can be translated as “you”.

So, even though you won’t use Japanese pronouns as often as in other languages, you need to learn them and the slight differences between them.

What Are Pronouns?

Pronouns are the words you use instead of the subject’s name. In English, personal pronouns are “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “we”, “you” plural, and “they”. So, as you can see, pronouns are a very important part of English. And you shouldn’t underestimate them in Japanese either.

Why Are There So Many Different Pronouns in Japanese?

In Japanese culture, showing respect is extremely important. So, how you address your parents, elders, bosses, and close friends matters. This honorifics system isn’t unique to Japanese, but having this many pronouns to reflect it definitely is.

In most cases, the Japanese pronoun used will vary depending on the age, gender, and social status of the speaker, and his / her relationship to the person being addressed. So, these slight differences are the reason there are so many different pronouns in Japanese.

Give me more Japanese pronouns!

List of Japanese Personal Pronouns

Below are some of the more common Japanese pronouns. This list is by no means exhaustive. And we deliberately left out the Japanese pronouns that show contempt or disrespect. When you’re visiting Japan, the last thing you want to do is offend the locals.

You can see all of these Japanese pronouns written in Kanji and Hiragana. Additionally, you can also see the Romaji spelling, so you know how to pronounce it. The quality that really matters for these pronouns though is the formality level and which gender they apply to.

Japanese Pronouns for “I” or “me”

Kanji
Hiragana
Romaji
Formality
Applies to
わたし
watashi
moderate
males and females
わたくし
watakushi
very formal
males and females
我, 吾
われ
ware
very formal
males and females
我が
わが
waga
very formal
males and females
おれ
ore
informal
males
ぼく
boku
informal
males
わし
washi
moderate
males (mostly)
自分
じぶん
jibun
moderate
males (mostly)
家, 内
うち
uchi
informal
females (mostly)
小生
しょうせい
shōsei
formal
males

Japanese Pronouns That Mean “you”

Kanji
Hiragana
Romaji
Formality
Applies to
貴方, 貴男, 貴女
あなた
anata
moderate
males and females
お宅, 御宅
おたく
otaku
formal
males and females
お前
おまえ
omae
very informal
males and females
きみ
kimi
informal
males and females
貴下
きか
kika
informal
males and females (typically younger)
貴官
きかん
kikan
very formal
both
御社
おんしゃ
on-sha
formal
males and females
貴社
きしゃ
ki-sha
formal
males and females

The Pronouns for “he” or “she”

Kanji
Hiragana
Romaji
Formality
Applies to
あの方
あのかた
ano kata
very formal
males and females
あの人
あのひと
ano hito
moderate
males and females
やつ
yatsu
informal
males and females
かれ
kare
moderate
males
彼女
かのじょ
kanojo
moderate
females

“we” In Japanese

Learn Japanese personal and demonstrative pronouns

Kanji
Hiragana
Romaji
Formality
Applies to
我々
われわれ
ware-ware
formal
males and females
我等
われら
ware-ra
informal
males and females
弊社
へいしゃ
hei-sha
formal
males and females
我が社
わがしゃ
waga-sha
formal
males and females

The Pronoun “they” in Japanese

Kanji
Hiragana
Romaji
Formality
Applies to
彼等
かれら
kare-ra
moderate
males and females

Demonstrative Pronouns in Japanese

To enhance your vocabulary even further, here are the most common demonstrative pronouns in Japanese. Usually, these are written in Hiragana, but we also provided the kanji spelling.

Romaji
Hiragana
Kanji
Meaning
kore
これ
此れ
this thing / these things (near speaker)
sore
それ
其れ
that thing / those things (near listener)
are
あれ
彼れ
that thing / those things (distant from both speaker and listener)
dore
どれ
何れ
which thing(s)?
kochira or kotchi
こちら / こっち
此方
this / here (near speaker)
sochira or sotchi
そちら / そっち
其方
that / there (near listener)
achira or atchi
あちら / あっち
彼方
that / there (distant from both speaker and listener)
dochira or dotchi
どちら / どっち
何方
what / where

How to Learn Japanese Pronouns

Of course, seeing this much vocabulary for one lesson is intimidating. So, we compiled some quick tips and tricks you can use to quickly and effectively learn all Japanese pronouns. Follow these steps to make the most of your Japanese lessons.

  1. Practice them in a sentence: Even though you can (and usually will) ommit pronouns from sentences in Japanese, you can still put them in to emphasize the subject of the sentence. So, pretend like you constantly are for the sake of learning them all.
  2. Say them out loud: While writing these Japanese pronouns is an awesome exercise, you really want to master their pronunciation most. Make sure you know how to say them out loud, should you ever need them.
  3. Use spaced repetition: Spaced repetition is the key to language learning. Basically, you need to periodically review this lesson until you remember every single Japanese pronoun correctly. This is the trick to improving your memory.

Learn More Than Japanese Pronouns

Of course, knowing how and when to use Japanese pronouns doesn’t mean you’re fluent in the language. Even if it’s a necessary lesson, you need a reliable language learning method to truly master Japanese. And what better and easier way to do that than with OptiLingo?

OptiLingo is an app that isn’t just convenient. This Japanese app can help you reach fluency faster than any other. By only focusing on the most common Japanese words and phrases it saves on study time. So, you can focus on your daily routine more and progress with Japanese as efficiently as possible. Achieve Japanese success with OptiLingo easily!

OptiLingo

Dreaming of learning a new language? With OptiLingo, you can learn 20 languages in just 20 minutes per day. www.optilingo.com

LOGO

What is OptiLingo?

Dreaming of learning a new language? OptiLingo was founded in 2016 to help people who truly wanted to learn a new language but struggled and failed too many times to think it was possible. With OptiLingo, you can learn 20 languages in just 20 minutes per day.

"Our mission is to breathe life into those dreams again."