Watashi, boku, ore - How to say "I" in Japanese?

Do you already know the pronouns in Japanese? Do you know how to say "me" in Japanese? Maybe you saw the words watashi boku ore? Which ones to use? In this article, we will see thousands of different ways to refer to yourself (say me) in Japanese.

In the Japanese language there are several ways to say self, and these ways are also used to refer to “me "," us ", and the “Own person”, different from English that we have our own words for this. Not to mention keigo, formality in the Japanese language. 

Watashi and watakushi [私]

The most common and formal way of saying I in Japanese is watashi [私]. Many women also use it in informal speeches, which may sound feminine, but the word can be used by both sexes in formal conversations.

It may eventually be written in hiragana [わたし] to give a soft tone. The ideogram [私] also reads watakushi, another way of referring to I, but in a much more formal way to be used with bosses or important people.

Women can tell atashi [あたし] a more delicate and feminine formal used mainly by girls between 20 and 40 years old. Other ways of saying Atashi are: Atai, Ashi, Asshi, Atai, Ataki, Ate, Atakushi and others.

See the ways of saying I, derived from the ideogram [私]:

  • Watakushi [わたくし] - very formal;
  • Atashi [あたし] - informal women;
  • Washi [わし] - very informal used by old men;
  • Wate [わて] - Popular in the Kansai dialect;

Boku [ぼく] and Ore [俺] - Male pronouns

Young people and male children often use “boku [僕]. This word presents a sense of casual consideration, being quite humble, since its ideogram also means servant (shimobe). That is why children usually use it.

If you are already an adult, avoid using it may sound a little childish or delicate.

The word boku [僕] is also used to refer to you. This happens when the person you refer to used the term to refer to themselves, or to refer to those who probably use that pronoun, as a young boy, being equivalent to Boy.

Another very popular first person pronoun is ore [俺] which sounds quite informal and rude. Usually used among friends by men and boys. When used with too much, it can sound authoritarian, as if you were bossing someone around.

Anime names those who use the first person pronoun are delinquents, evil people, yakuza and others who look like mandachuva. The pronoun ore establishes a sense of masculinity.

Mainly used with colleagues or with younger people or people of lower social status, indicating the status of the speaker himself. Among close friends or family members, its use is seen as a sign of familiarity rather than masculinity or superiority.

Some derived and similar words to Boku and Ore are:

  • Oira [おいら] - Similar to [俺], but more casual. It can give the sense of a hillbilly;
  • Well [おら] - Dialect in Kanto and further north. It gives the sense of a hillbilly;

Bokukko - Women who use Boku

Despite the word boku preferred by men, some rare girls are called bokukko for using the first person pronoun boku. Usually a girl disintegrated from society, from the country or quite manly.

Even with Japanese speech patterns becoming more gender neutral over the years, this would be considered unusual in real life; however, it is a common character peculiarity in Japanese anime and video games.

This speech pattern can also be used to keep a character’s gender obscured - is she a boy girl or a girl boy? The same can happen with another male pronoun ore, where they are called orekko.

Other ways of saying I

There are other ways to say I in Japanese, although some are very unusual or are no longer used.

  • Waga [我が] 額隠 – 神秘的日本白布 It means "mine" or "ours". Used in speeches and formalities;
  • Ware [我] - Alternative to waga.
  • Uchi [家] - Means I, or person himself. Commonly used in the dialects of some regions of Japan;
  • Warawa [] – Used by princesses, ancient form of watakushi;
  • Gusou [ぐそう] 額隠 – 神秘的日本白布 Used by Buddhist Fathers;
  • Jibun [自分] - It means yourself or yourself.

In Japan it is also common to use one's name to refer to oneself. It is mainly used by young children and young women, it can be considered something cute, but sometimes annoying, full of themselves.

Each region in Japan may have a different way of saying “I" In japanese. This happens because of the dialects and the multiple readings that one allows to have in a single ideogram. The image below has more ways to say me in Japanese:

Ways to say me

Archaic Ways to Say I in Japanese

Below we will share a list of archaic Japanese first person pronouns. Most archaic pronouns are masculine, only those derived from watakushi and waga are commonly used by both sexes.

Responsive Table: Roll the table sideways with your finger >>
FormKanjiGrades
adakado仇家人Used as a humble term, literally for a person’s home.
asshiあっしFeudal era.
chinUsed only by the emperor, mainly before World War II.
onoreIt means "yourself".
section拙者Used by ninjas and samurai during the feudal era.
soregashiAncient form of “watakushi”.
waga-hai我が輩,吾輩Literally "my group", but used in a pompous way like me, mine; 
warawaAncient form of “watakushi”.
yo余, 予Archaic singular first person pronoun.

Transforming pronouns into Plural

First-person pronouns can be transformed into a plural with the addition of a suffix. So you will be able to say we with the words you learned in this article. The plural of pronouns in Japanese is called fukusuukei [複数形].

Tachi [達] - One of the suffixes used to leave a plural pronoun. Can be written in hiragana, can also be added to names to indicate a person's group of friends. Examples: [俺たち, 僕たち, 私たち].

Domo [共] - Denotes some sprinkling in the mentioned group, so it can be rude. The word is quite humble and can be used for example in watakushi. Example: [私ども].

Frog [等] - Used mainly with informal pronouns. Its use and mode is more didactic. Examples: [お前ら, 俺ら, あいつら].

Cat [方] - Usually used in second and third person pronouns, it is more formal than -tachi and -frog. Examples: [あなた方].

We also have the word wagasha [我が社] e hei-sha [弊社] which means us. These words are formal and humble, they are used when representing the person's own company. Being hei-sha more humble than wagasha.

Also read our basic article on other pronouns by clicking here. I hope you enjoyed this article, if you liked it share and leave your comments. Did you expect so many first person pronouns to exist?

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