First-person singular pronoun: 私 ( = watashi) + 自分 ( = jibun)

Hi everyone!! !ochame!

First, do you know what today is? Yes, it’s August 5th, but do you remember what day that is? Yes, that’s right! It’s our anniversary. I started making lessons here two years ago! I am just amazed at how many wonderful people I’ve met through this site.

Thank you so much for all your support!

OK, let’s get to today’s lesson. Today’s lesson is about first-person singular pronoun. I received this lesson request about a year ago.  I did make a lesson half-way and left it for a long time. Here’s the question/request.

:u:

“I tend to wanna default to , even though I’ve only recently started my Japanese study and should probably get myself in the habit of before I start getting casual about things, but I was just curious about the usage of 自分. It seems pretty common, but how does its usage differ from the basic 、or ?”


This is a good opportunity to learn the first person pronouns for those who have just started to learn Japanese.
****************************************************************************

!heartsippai!  The first person pronouns :

Before I start this lesson, let me clarify one thing. We often skip subjects in Japanese. So a lot of times, you might get to confused in conversations. But eventually you will get used to it.

Now as all of you know, the most common first person pronoun is 私 = watashi).

 

Ex. 私はマギーです。

=Watashi wa Maggie desu.

=I am Maggie.

 

Note : This is the most common first person pronoun and is used in written for by both for men and women. 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.
It is rare for men to call themselves 私 ( = watashi ) when they are with their friends or family. It sounds a bit too formal.

(But of course, there are exceptions.)

:qq: わたくし= “watakushi”. This is the most formal one. We use the same kanji, .

Ex. 私はマギーと申します。

=Wataskushi wa Maggie to moushimasu. (very formal)

=I am Maggie.

Note :We also often omit the particle  (は = wa)  when we speak.

:ee:アタシ( or あたし)=atashi : Very casual. Not that common but it is used by young girls (very casual and it may sound a little shallow or childish.)

Ex. アタシ、マギー!

=Atashi Maggie!

=I’m Maggie!

:ee:  One’s first name or first name with ちゃん = chan (= girls / sometimes boys)  or = kun (→boys)

Children often call themselves with their first name or their first name with ちゃん= chan

Ex. マギーとっても嬉しい!

= Maggie tottemo ureshii!

=I, Maggie, am very happy!

Ex. これ、マギーちゃんの!

= Kore Maggie-chan no!

= This is mine (Maggie’s) !

Not just children but some young girls also have the habit of calling themselves by their own first name when they talk with their family or friends.

Ex. マギー行きたくない!

= Maggie ikitaku nai!

= I (Maggie) don’t want to go!

:mm: Now if you are a boy, you can use

:purple: 僕 ( = boku)

Ex. 僕はクッキーです。

= Boku wa Cookie desu.

I am Cookie.

Note : Adults talk to a child with 僕  ( = boku) (with boys) or 私  ( = watashi) (with girls) instead of using their name or “you”.

Ex. 僕、いくつになるの?

= Boku ikutsu ni naruno?(talking to a boy)

How old are you, kid?

Ex. わたし、お名前は?

= Watasih onamae wa?(talking to a girl )

What’s your name, little girl?

:i: Which one to use, 私  ( = watashi) or 僕  ( = boku) at work?

Although it is a pretty common first person pronoun for men, for  some Japanese, 僕  ( = boku) sounds very casual and childish. But we do hear adults, even people from the older generation using  this pronoun often.

A little while ago there was an interesting TV program where they discussed which they should use,   ( = watashi), or 僕   ( = boku) at work.
Even a famous news caster chose  僕  ( = boku)  to talk to the guests on his show or when he speaks to the TV staff.

But I would say you can use 僕 ( = boku) at work but avoid using it in a very formal situation, like in business meetings with other companies, official letters, etc.

:n: If you are a man and show yourself a bit more wild or tough, you can use

:rrrr: 俺  ( = ore)

Ex. 今日、俺んち来る?

=Kyō orenchi kuru?

=You wanna come over my house today?

(Note : んち ( = nchi)  is a casual way to say の家  ( = no uchi) 

:rrrr: Ex. わたしんち  ( = watashinchi)  = 私の家 (= watashi no uchi)  my house

Ex. 俺、今日、お金ないんだ。

= Ore kyō okane nainda.

= I don’t have money today.

:i: Which one to use,   ( = boku) or 俺  ( = ore) ?

If you are a man and speak Japanese, eventually you have to chose which one 俺  ( = ore) or   ( = boku) you would use when you are around your friends. As I mentioned above,   ( = ore)  generally sounds a bit blunt and “macho”.  They use it with someone very close to them such as  their family, or friends.  Avoid using it with someone superior. On the other hand,  僕  ( = boku) gives a softer or more friendly impression than 俺  ( = ore) .

:s:ワシ/わし  = washi : This is a sort of fun one.

It is used when an aged man talks about themselves.
Personally I rarely hear someone actually using this in real life but this is a stereotypical first pronoun for a (stubborn) old man so that you will see/hear this a lot when an old man appears in books, comic books, animations or movies.

Ex. こんなものわしはいらんぞ!

= Konna mono washi wa iranzo!

= I don’t need such a thing!

 

*************************

Now back to the question, when we use 自分  ( = jibun) and what the difference between this and other pronouns.

自分 ( = jibun) means “(one)self” It is reflexive pronoun but they are different from English one.

There are cases we use it as the first pronouns.

Ex. 私はそう思いません。

= Watashi wa sou omoimasen.

I don’t think so.

自分はそうは思いません。

= Jibun wa sou wa omoi masen.

= I don’t think so.

Ex. 散歩? 私はしないけどマギーは?

= Sanpo? Watashi wa shinaikedo Maggie wa?

Going for a walk? I don’t do that but how about you, Maggie?

散歩? 自分はしないけどマギーは?

= Sanpo? Jibun wa shinaikedo Maggie wa?

Going for a walk? I don’t do that, but how about you, Maggie?

There are people who call themselves  自分 ( = jibun), but it sounds a little more distant than the other pronouns. It sounds like one is drawing a line between themselves and the listener.

Also sometimes it sounds  more rigid because it is a typical soldiers’ type of speech.

Ex. 自分は名古屋に住んでおります。

= Jibun wa Nagoya ni sunde orimasu.

I live in Nagoya.

Note : In 関西 =  Kansai area, west part of Japan, people use it as the second pronoun, “you”.

Ex. 自分、どこから来たの?

= Jibun dokokara kitano?

Where are you from?

Ex. 自分はカレー好き?

= Jibun wa karee suki?

Do you like curry?

Ex. 自分はどう思うの?

= Jibun wa dou omouno?

What do you think about it?

!ochame! I had an interesting experience a long time ago while talking to a 関西人 ( = kansaijin)Kansai person. He kept asking questions saying 自分 ( = jibun). And at first I got really confused and wondered why he was asking about “himself” so much.

:u:

 

However, we do use 自分 ( = jibun)  as the second pronoun when we emphasize “yourself” or “yourselves”

Ex. そんなの自分 (あなた)が悪いんじゃない!

= Sonnano jibun( ←anata) ga waruin janai!

It’s your (own) fault!

Ex. 今忙しいから自分で(あなたが)やって!

= Ima isogashii kara jibun de (←anata ga) yatte!

I am busy right now so do it yourself!

!lotsofhearts! More examples : (As I warned you in the beginning of this lesson, a lot of the sentences below don’t have a subject but unless it is a question or a command or a suggestion for other people, the speaker should be the subject.)

1) 自分の = jibun no =one’s

• 私の家 = watashi no ie

means my house.

If you say

自分の家 = jibun no ie

it means one’s own house. It could be your house or someone else’s house.

Ex. 自分の家でくつろぐのが一番いいでしょ。

= Jibun no ie de kutsurogu no ga ichiban iidesho.

Relaxing at your own house is the best, isn’t it?

Ex.自分のことは自分でやって。

= Jibun no koto wa jibun de yatte.

Do your things yourself.

!star! When to use:

:kkk: When you refer yourself (or others) objectively:

Ex. 自分で自分を褒めてあげたい。

= Jibun de jibun wo homete agetai

I would like to praise myself.  (This is a famous quote by Japanese marathon runner, Yuko Arimori)

Ex.自分(←私)は嫌われていると思う。

= Jibun(←watashi) wa kirawarete iruto omou.

=I think people don’t like me.

Ex. 自分が何をしたいのかわからない

= Jibun ga nani wo shitai no ka wakaranai

I don’t know what I want to do

Ex. 自分(←私)はここにいていいのかなって思うことがある。

= Jibun (←watashi) wa koko ni ite ii nokanatte omou koto ga aru.

There are moments when I wonder if it is OK for me to be here.

Ex.どうしようかと迷う自分 (←私)がここにいる。

= Doushiyou kato mayou jibun(←watashi) ga kokoni iru.

Here is myself, wondering what to do here. (literal)

Ex. 自分を大切にしたい。

= Jibun wo taiestsu ni shitai.

I want to take care of myself.

Ex.自分がやりたいことをやりなさい。

= Jibun ga yaritai koto wo yarinasai.

Do what you want to do.

Ex. 本当の自分がわからない

= Hontou no jibun ga wakaranai

I don’t know who I am. (I don’t know my true self.)

Ex. 自分がもどかしい

= Jibun ga modokashii

=I get frustrated myself.

Ex.自分がどれだけ彼のことを愛していたか気づかなかった。

= Jibun ga doredake kare no koto wo aishite ita ka kizukanakatta.

I didn’t know how much I loved him.

:kkk: When you emphasize just “oneself:

Ex.自分(達)ばかりおいしいものを食べてずるい!

= Jibuntach(tachi)  bakari oishi mono wo tabete zurui!

It is not fair for you to eat something yummy (without me!)

Note : 自分達  ( = jibuntachi ) plural form of 自分  ( = jibun),   (more casual) 

Ex. 自分がやりたいと思わなければ何も始まりません。

= Jibun ga yaritai to omowanakereba nanimo hajimarimasen.

Unless you (yourself) want to do it, nothing will start.

Ex.  あの人は自分がかわいいだけなんだ。

= Ano hito wa jibun ga kawaii dake nannda.

That person(he/she) only care about themselves.

Ex. 自分が食べたいものを作る

= Jibun ga tabetai mono wo tsukuru

I cook what I want to eat.

Ex. 近所の人には自分から声をかけましょう。

= Kinjyo no hito niwa jibun kara koe wo kakemashou

Say hello to neighbors from you (your side).

:kkk: By oneself, one-selves alone, for oneself : 一人で ( = hitori de)

Ex.そんなこと自分でやりなさい!

= Sonna koto jibun de yarinasai!

Do that thing (<– minor thing) yourself.

Ex. 自分で考えなさい。

= Jibun de kangaenasai.

Figure it out yourself.

Ex. 自分達の(←私達の)力でがんばる。

= Jibuntachi no (←watashitachi no) chikara de ganbaru

To try to do the best by themselves.

Ex. 自分でやれるから心配しないで。

= Jibun de yareru kara shinpai shinaide.

I can do it alone so don’t worry.

Ex. 料理ぐらい、自分で出来ます。

= Ryouri gurai jibun de dekimasu.

(It’s just cooking!) I can cook myself.

:kkk: your own:

自分の(←私の)言葉で伝えたい。

= Jibu no (←watashi no) kotoba de tsutaetai

I want to say it with my own words.

:kkk: as reflexive pronoun:

When you refer to yourself, we also say

自分自身 = jibun jishinn = myself

pronoun + 自身  ( = jishin) → oneself

私自身 = watashi jishin = myself

あなた自身 = anata jishin = yourself

彼自身 = kare jishin  = himself

彼女自身 = kanojo jishin = herself

マギー自身 = Maggie jishin = her (Maggie) self

Ex. それはあなた自身の問題です。

= Anata jishin no mondai desu.

That’s your own problem.

If you say,

Ex. それは自分自身の問題です。

= Sore wa jibun jishin no mondai desu.

That’s your own problem.

The target can be anybody. It can refer to him, her, you, me….anybody.

I will make a lesson on how to address other people sometime!

:rrrr: (Sept. 5th) As I promised, I made the lesson. Check  Is it OK to use あなた(=anata) + 2nd-pronouns + nicknames lesson.)

マギー先生より = Maggie sensei yori = From Maggie Sensei

私は何があっても自分のことがとっても好きです。 :)

= Watashi wa naniga attemo jibun no koto ga tottemo suki desu.

= I  love myself no matter what.



You may also like

48 Comments

  1. Hello, Thank you for making this post!

    I know of a quote I’ve heard and was wondering how 自分 is used here..

    昨日の自分より強く”!!! Was wondering what it was referring to in this phrase? Thanks in advance.

  2. 面白いレッソンありがとうございます !happyface!
    日本語では一人称代名詞が多くて使い方は難しいですけど、女の子ですから、名乗ることはそんなに複雑だと思います。日本語を始めて以来「私」だけ使っても大丈夫です。男性より楽だと思います。(笑)
    ですけど、友達と話すときに、話し方で少し変化に気づきました。例えば私の友達は、最初は「僕」を使いましたが、今はよく「こっち」を使うようになりました。「こっち」とか「そっち」とかは、友達でよく使われていますか。

    1. @jolie

      こんにちは、Jolie
      そうですね、男性は、私、僕、俺などの言い方がありますが、女性はその点、楽ですよね。
      こっち、そっちですが、そうですね、目上の人には使いません。
      電話やメールなど二人の距離(きょり)が離(はな)れている時に使うことがあります。

      「こっちは元気だけどそっちはどう?」

      丁寧(ていねい)な言い方は「こちら」「そちら・そちら様」です。

      このレッスンで少し説明しているのでよかったらみてください。
      「ちょっと&曖昧表現」

      1. あ、私のコメントには間違いがあって、恥ずかしい>_< ”そんなに複雑じゃないと思います。”
        先生、ありがとうございます ^_^
        「こっち」「そっち」とかはメールや電話でしか使わないんですか?それに、「こっち」「そっち」を使うほうが親しい感じがありますか?

        1. @jolie

          そうですね、「そっち」、「こっち」は英語でいう your side, my(our) side というニュアンスが入るので相手と自分の間に線をひくので使い方によっては親しいというより距離を出すことがあります。
          名前で呼んだ方が親しい感じがしますよ。

          1. そうですね。
            私にとって名乗ることはあまり問題じゃないですけど、話すとき、相手の言い方を聞いて感情を読むことは難しいと思います。(笑) これから時々「こっち」「そっち」を使ってみます。
            それに、外国では会話であまり名前で呼ばないので、まだ慣れないですけど、日本では相手が名前を呼んでくれたら本当に親しい感じがします。それは、いいと思います。(笑)
            先生、答えてくれてありがとうございます。

          2. @jolie

            そうですね、すでに「こっち」「そっち」を使っている人だったら練習に使ってみて下さい。
            Ex. 私は元気だけどそっちはどう?etc.

  3. So ore means that you regard yourself highly? Why can’t women use it? what would the Japanese think if I used it ?

    1. @Anna

      I don’t know if they want to think themselves higher than others.
      Compared to 僕 (=boku) 俺 (=ore) sounds more blunt and “macho”.

      If you use it, people would think you learned Japanese wrongly from anime or something.
      If you are interested in “female speech”, go check this lesson → female speech lesson

  4. I used to use uchi(うち) sorry for the terrible hiragana and no kanji, I’m still learning. Anyway, I used to use uchi, but I started using jibun instead because it’s technically gender-neutral but used more by men and I find it suits me. I only use that informally and just use watakushi or watashi in formal situations. Is my usage correct?

    1. @Kii-kun

      Basically if you and people around you are fine you calling yourself 自分,then fine.
      In Kansai area, some women address themselves うち but in general, when you use うち, it refers to your family or home/house.
      And as I mentioned in my lesson, 自分 sounds a bit distant and in some cases it sounds like military speech.

      But if nobody has told you anything then that’s fine.

  5. Hi maggie sensei!

    How should we address ourselves, hiding the gender on the internet? Is using jibun or watashi the answer?

    1. Hello Heivia,
      like マギー先生 said: “There are people who call themselves 自分(=jibun), but it sounds a little more distant than the other pronouns. It sounds like one is drawing a line between themselves and the listener.”, also I think that, in this case, 自分 is mostly used by males with high ego. Therefore I don’t prefer to use 自分. The most natural way is just to use「私」, if you want to hide your gender on the Internet.

  6. hey maggie ! so yeah just couldn’t understand when to use jibun , like . . . is it equivalent to boku or watashi ? and when can i use it ? please give me simple example. . . I always hear it when Japanese people speak and I know it translate to “myself” i think : |

    1. @Brandon

      Hi Brandon!
      First we usually use 1st person pronouns such as 私, 僕 to refer to yourself more. When to use jibun? There are times you refers to yourself with 自分 when you see yourself more objectively.

      Ex. 自分は日本人です。= I am Japanese
      →私(僕)は日本人です。is more common

      Ex. これは自分のものです。 = This is mine.
      →これは私のものです。is more common

      Ex. 自分のせいです。= It’s my fault.
      →私のせいです。= Watashi no sei desu.

      But as I wrote in the lesson
      “it sounds a little more distant than the other pronouns. It sounds like one is drawing a line between themselves and the listener.
      Also sometimes it sounds more rigid because it is a typical soldiers’ type of speech.”
      I would stick to the regular first pronouns to refer to yourself.

      However when you use it to focus on “oneself” , you use 自分
      Ex. 自分でやります。 = I will do it myself.
      Ex. 自分のために生きたい。= I would like to live for myself.

      And as for your other question that you asked me on Twitter,
      Q : If i say 自分の家 does that equal my house? or could it also mean one’s house which means could be another person’s house?

      It depends on the context but it could be either your own house or another person’s house.

      A : 宿題は自分の家でやります。= 私の家(=watashi no ie)
      = Shukudai wa jibun no ie de yarimasu.
      = I will do my homework at (my own) home.

      B : 宿題は自分の家でやりなさい。= あなたの家(=anata no ie)
      = Shukudai wa jibun no ie de yarinasai.
      = Do your homework at (your own) home

      But when you invite someone to your house, we say
      今日、私(僕)の家に来ない?
      = Kyou watashi (boku) no ie ni konai?
      = Do you want to come over my house today?
      And usually we don’t say
      X 今日、自分の家に来ない?
      = Kyou jibun no ie ni konai?

  7. Hello, Maggie! I want so bad to study Japanese and found your site. I don’t know anything about this language yet(I just recognize some words in romanji) and I wanted to start with the first lesson. I thought this would be the one, but it seems too difficult. Do I have to learn the basics from somewhere else or is there another lesson that is meant to be the first one for the beginers? Thanks! :)

    1. @Regaux

      Thank you for your message. I am sorry that I haven’t made many lesson targeting real beginner people yet. You can use hiragana, katakana lessons first and go to Super Basic Words series or Daily Basic Phrases to begin with.
      Either way, I would use my site as sub-material to learn Japanese. Get a good textbook or go find good site where you can learn basic Japanese.
      But feel free to ask me questions here. I can help you anytime.

  8. Awesome post as always. I read another post about 自分becoming more popular with young people recently, even using the phrase 自分のなかで to say “I” with a real sense of reservation. If I remember right, it had to do with opinions or likes and dislikes, and was a way of de-emphasizing themselves in the conversation. ie 自分の中でにんじんあんまり好きじゃなくて...Has this been your experience, recently? I will be visiting my host family at the end of the month and wonder if it will impress them if I throw this in the conversation once in a while…

    1. @applezoid

      Ah, like 自分の中で好きな〜, 自分の中でブーム(=マイブーム)、自分の中でホットな~ , etc? You are right. More people have started to say this and I am sure you can impress your host family if you use it once or twice. :)

  9. I find it so tough to use 俺… it just feels like a false show of bravado, like swearing or something which I don’t like to do. When I was on exchange though, all the guys I met would only use 俺 and I felt kind of forced to do it. I always tried to avoid using 僕 or 俺 if I could, and I would rush through the word like I didn’t want to say it the times I did use it. Sounding manly in Japanese is too difficult…;;

    1. @Matisyahu

      Thank you for your comment. I’ve always wondered how you all pick 俺 or 僕 which possibly represent two different personalities.
      But a lot of time you can just omit the subjects in Japanese. So you can avoid picking one of them.

  10. Thanks for this lesson, sensei! I’ve always found first person pronouns a bit confusing.

    I’m a few days late but…
    Happy 2nd Blogiversary!!!

    Wishing you more blogiversaries to come!

  11. sensei, I don’t understand the part about talking with little children. So when adult talking to children, boku and watashi means ‘you’ instead of ‘I’? Very odd.

    Thank you for the lesson! I just started following and can’t wait for more! (must also check the archive)

    1. @mee

      Hi mee! Thank you for visiting this site!
      OK, it’s a bit confusing, isn’t it?
      When you talk to a boy, you refer to the boy with ぼく and when you talk to a girl, you refer to the girl with わたし instead of using “you”.

      Talking to a boy :”How old are you?” : It should be あなたは何さい(ですか)? but we say “ぼくは何さい(ですか)?”

      Talking to a girl : “How old are you?” will be “わたしは何さい(ですか)?”

      Yes, there are tons of lessons. Hope you find them useful.

  12. 始めまして!授業をありがとありがと!!大阪の友達の近畿方言は ちょう面白いですよ!:)

  13. 関西弁ステキ ❤
    すっごくよく分かった!先生ありがとう!
    関西弁で、アホってバカの意味があるでしょう?
    そして、めちゃくちゃって言い方の使い方教えてくれる?
    ところで、先生は名古屋市に生まれたの?

    いつもありがとう!*♥*・:・:・*♡*

    1. @Aki
      I love Kansaiben,too! It is fun!
      そうそう、関西ではバカはアホって言います。
      めちゃくちゃ + adjective = super + adjective 
      めちゃくちゃ + verb = to do something a lot

      Ex. めちゃくちゃ面白い!= It is very funny.
      Ex. めちゃくちゃ楽しかった!= It was so much fun.
      Ex. めちゃくちゃ食べた!= I ate a lot.
      Ex. めちゃくちゃ好き! = I love you a lot. / I like it a lot.
      Ex. めちゃくちゃかわいい!= Super cute!
      Ex. めちゃくちゃ歌がうまいね!= You are a very good singer!

      In Kansai or some other areas, they say めっちゃ= meccha

      And yes, I was born in Nagoya! Nagoyakko!

    1. @Yahia

      はじめまして!!コメントありがとう!!またいつでもこのサイトに来て下さいね!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *