How to Say 'I' in Japanese (2024)

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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

  1. Watashi
  2. Atashi
  3. Uchi
  4. Boku
  5. Ore
  6. Jibun
  7. Watakushi

Watashi

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‘.

For example:

私 / わたし as ‘I‘

Example 1:

Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Antonio desu.

初めまして。はアントニオです

はじめまして。わたしはアントニオです。

Nice to meet you. I am Antonio.

Example 2:

Watashi wa Italia jin desu.

はイタリア人です。

わたしはイタリアじんです。 

I am Italian.

私 / わたし as ‘my‘

When used with no (の), the Japanese particle that shows possession, watashi means ‘my’.

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!

For example:

Kyou, watashi wa roku ji ni okimashita.

今日、は6時に起きました。

きょう、わたしはろくじにおきました。

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.

今日は6時に起きました。

きょうはろくじにおきました。

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.

Want to learn how to read Japanese? Download your free hiragana and katakana workbook here!

Atashi

あたし

  • 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.

How to Say 'I' in Japanese (1)

Uchi

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.

うちはサーフィンが好きです。

うちはサーフィンがすきです。

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.

うちの猫が可愛いです。 

うちのねこがかわいいです。

My cat is cute.

Men can use uchi too, especially in casual conversation but in general it’s considered feminine.

Boku

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.

は学生です。

ぼくはがくせいです。

I’m a student.

Ramen wa boku no ichiban sukina tabemono desu.

ラーメンは僕の一番好きな食べ物だ。

ラーメンはぼくのいちばんすきなたべものだ。

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.

Ore

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.

For example:

Ore wa ningen wo yameru zo!

は人間をやめるぞ!

おれはにんげんをやめるぞ!

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.

は豚肉があまり好きじゃない。

おれはぶたにくがあまりすきじゃない。

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.

How to Say 'I' in Japanese (2)

Jibun

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.

自分はシャイですね。

じぶんはシャイですね。

I’m shy / I’m quite shy.

Jibun wa kaigai he itta koto nai.

自分は海外へ行ったことない。

じぶんはかいがいへいったことない。

I have never been abroad.

You can also use jibun + de (自分で)to say ‘myself‘ or ‘by myself‘

Jibun de tsukurimashita.

自分で作りました。

じぶんでつくりました。

I made it myself.

Watakushi

私 / わたくし

  • Formality: Very formal
  • Gender: Neutral
  • Frequency: Uncommon

Watakushi is the most polite way of saying

‘I

‘ 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.

For example:

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.

は北海道出身です。

わたくしはほっかいどうしゅっしんです。

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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How to Say 'I' in Japanese (3)

Francesca Rex-Horoi

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 to Say 'I' in Japanese (2024)

FAQs

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.

What is atashi? ›

atashi. あたし informal. females (but see notes) A feminine pronoun that strains from わたし ("watashi").

Does Japanese have a word for I? ›

Watashi (わたし/私)

Most-frequently-used word to say 'I/me. ' It's a modest way to express yourself in any situations.

What is Watakushi? ›

And here's one more word to mean "I"; "watakushi." "Watakushi" is the humble word for "I" and it is an extremely polite version of "watashi." People don't use it often in daily conversation, but it is often used in the service industry when staff member talk about themselves while talking to guests.

Can girls use Boku? ›

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.

Is Aitsu rude? ›

You can use it to call things, in some cases, あいつ (aitsu) is often used to talk about a “love interest”, and some people just considered these words as straightly rude! *Men might use these words when they're angry. So basically it's equivalent to an insult.

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.

Should I use Boku or ore? ›

Boku is somewhat more casual and is only used by males, mainly non-teenagers (so kids, and adults). Ore is considered "vulgar" (vulgar in the sense of popular slang), and is extremely common among teenage boys. You wouldn't use it when speaking with people you don't know or those with a higher status than you.

What is Jibun? ›

Let me summarize them as follows. jibun – 自分 (じぶん) : a pronoun meaning 'I', 'myself', or 'you' in Japanese. These two kanji characters mean 'my' and 'part' respectively, so this pronoun literally means 'my part' in Japanese.

What does Boku wa means? ›

boku means "I" wa is topic marker. See a translation. 1 like.

What does Yatsugare mean? ›

やつがれ yatsugare. Parts of speech pronoun, nouns which may take the genitive case particle `no' I; me.

What does orewa mean? ›

Ō: place of; rewa: a native tree, a contraction of rewarewa. Ōrewa originally referred to the river rather than the beachfront.

What is Kimi in Japanese? ›

Meaning:upright, righteous. Kimi is a feminine name of Japanese origin. A variant of Kimiko, this name means “righteous” and “upright,” making a wonderful reminder to live a just, honest life.

Is Watashi wa used? ›

If you are with a group of strangers and you decide suddenly to introduce yourself , you can say 'watashi wa'. But after you introduce yourself, you would continue talking without 'watashi wa' since it's obvious you're talking about yourself.

How do girls say I in Japanese? ›

Watashi(私/わたし)

“Watashi” is the standard, gender-neutral way to say “I.” You will always find it on Japanese language textbooks and it is the best choice for all beginners. However, it is often seen as feminine, especially if you are a conversation with a group of men. In this case, you may use the term “ore.”

Can girls use Jibun? ›

But generally speaking, in conversation, while women use it all the time to indicate themselves both among friends or in formal situations, men tend to use it only when they talk to superiors or in formal situations.

What does Bifauxnen mean? ›

Bifauxnen are — from an artistic standpoint — everything that is positive about masculinity while not losing anything fundamentally female. Many characters, in fact, simply associate with traits typically praised in men; the appearance is just another path to that.

Do tomboys use Boku? ›

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 Urusai rude? ›

うるさい (urusai) may be one of the most common Japanese words people use in everyday life. It usually describes situations and things in a negative way and can even be rude at times. So be careful how you use this word! It is super useful, but it can get you into trouble too!

How do you scold in Japanese? ›

"scold" in Japanese
  1. 搾り上げる
  2. 叱る
  3. 怒る
  4. 呵る
  5. 絞り上げる
  6. 決めつける
  7. 決め付ける

Do Japanese use pronouns? ›

The Japanese language has a bulk of personal pronouns with different degree of politeness, though they are at peripheral place in the language system. They are not frequently used.

What is the difference between Watashi wa Boku wa and Ore Wa in Japanese? ›

Watashi is the gender neutral personal pronoun used in formal environment such as the workplaces. Boku is a semi formal male pronoun. Can also be used formally. Ore is a rude, more “vulgar” pronoun used between family or friends.

Is ore only used for boys? ›

'Ore,' meaning 'I,' is a word used only by men. There are strict rules in Japanese what can be used by men and by women; different words, different ways of expressions, etc. 'Ore' is, as mentioned earlier, such an example; it is used by men to address themselves.

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. Ore: Not formal, Masculinity Most of men use "ore" in the conversation with close friends, classmates and colleagues.

What is Wagahai? ›

Wagahai (吾輩) is a classical way to say “I” that was used by older men of high social stature. You will find this in the title of Natsume Soseki's famous work, 吾輩は猫である (wagahai wa neko de aru / I am a cat).

What is Piko in Japanese? ›

From Japanese 飛 (pi) meaning "to fly" combined with 鼓 (ko) meaning "drum".

What is Tsuite? ›

It means "about" "concerning"

What is tabun Japanese? ›

Native speakers say “tabun” to mean 'maybe' or 'probably' in Japanese. They use it when they are uncertain if something happens or if something is true. So, not only its meanings but its usages as well are very similar to those of the English words, “maybe” and “probably”.

What does Shourai mean in Japanese? ›

shourai – 将来 (しょうらい) : a noun meaning '(the) future' in Japanese.

What is Watashi wa? ›

"Watashi wa" (私は) in Japanese means "I am".

What is Boku no in Japanese? ›

What does boku-no mean? Boku means “me” or “I.” No is a particle indicating possession or relative connection. Therefore, boku-no simply means “my.”

Is Watashi wa formal? ›

So let's learn the nuances for each word that mean “I” first. because わたし can give a softer impression than 私 in kanji. This 私 (watashi) is used mainly in formal speech.

Why does Akutagawa say Yatsugare? ›

Yatsugare is a way to humble yourself. But it can be interpreted like a way to humiliate yourself too. But that might be not the main reason. Real Akutagawa stories where inspired by stories of ancient times like in XII or XIII century.

What means Wa in Japanese? ›

Wa (和) is a Japanese cultural concept usually translated into English as "harmony". It implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal interests.

What does desu mean in anime? ›

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.

How do you say myself in hiragana? ›

How to Introduce Yourself in Japanese | Innovative ... - YouTube

Do girls say atashi? ›

Atashi is mainly spoken by women and sounds effeminate when used by men. Men use watashi or boku in daily conversation if people know who is being spoken about, the pronoun is dropped altogether.

Is Anta rude? ›

あんた (anta): a shortened version of anata, highly informal and generally rude or admonishing in nature.

Does Japanese have gendered pronouns? ›

In contrast, Japanese, both spoken and written, can get by with far less use of pronouns, and indeed feels no need to indicate the gender of a person in any number of sentences describing them.

Is Japan family oriented? ›

Family (kazoku) is a foundational part of Japanese society. An individual's identity, reputation, obligations and responsibilities are deeply connected to their family. Japanese family structures have been influenced by Confucian ideas of filial piety and defined hierarchical social relationships over the centuries.

Can girls say Ore wa? ›

Saying ore in formal contexts is never appropriate, no matter your gender. With your friends, virtually anything goes, just be aware that because girls virtually never use it, it will be percieved as weird.

Should I use Boku or ore? ›

The word ore is a informal way to say "I" usually used by men with people they are close with. For example kids in high school would use this when talking with friends. Where as boku is the midle formality and the most common "I" for men, in day to day use.

What is Boku no in Japanese? ›

What does boku-no mean? Boku means “me” or “I.” No is a particle indicating possession or relative connection. Therefore, boku-no simply means “my.”

Is Anata mo rude? ›

If you use “anata” with someone who you know, it is rude. So it's better to use name plus san. You might already have known that Japanese people often leave out 'watashi', because you say, for example, “Hiroko desu.” to mean 'I'm Hiroko.” We leave out “watashi” when it's obvious.

Is it OK to use Anata? ›

The pronoun "anata" is the supposed neutral way to refer to someone whose name you're not aware of, and it's OK to use it to a stranger if you can't think of any other way to phrase the thing you want to ask.

Is Anata wa polite? ›

あなた is neither polite nor rude. But, it could be either. あなた is, most of the time, neutral. I've seen many "warnings" towards learners that they should never use あなた.

What is Kimi in Japanese? ›

Meaning:upright, righteous. Kimi is a feminine name of Japanese origin. A variant of Kimiko, this name means “righteous” and “upright,” making a wonderful reminder to live a just, honest life.

What does orewa mean in Japanese? ›

Ore wa is an expression men use to mean “I,” and Naru is “become.”

What languages have no gender? ›

There are some languages that have no gender! Hungarian, Estonian, Finnish, and many other languages don't categorize any nouns as feminine or masculine and use the same word for he or she in regards to humans.

How many kids can u have in Japan? ›

A two-child policy is a government-imposed limit of two children allowed per family or the payment of government subsidies only to the first two children.

What happens if you have more than 2 child in Japan? ›

Under the policy, those with more than two children will not be able to get government jobs or avail benefi ts like government housing or contest local body elections. ET Magazine takes a look at other such restrictions imposed by countries across the world and also incentives offered for people to have more kids.

Who pays for wedding in Japan? ›

When it comes to weddings in Japan, who pays what usually? The couple pays for everything (with help from the guests, as money is the traditional wedding gift in Japan). How much does a ceremony costs and how much in advance one must make reservations?

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