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Grammar detail: personal pronouns

personal pronouns
355 words
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Japanese contains a large number of personal pronouns - ie, words that substitute for the name of a person. However, in many cases, if it can be understood from the context, pronouns are simply omitted. (This often makes individual sentences taken out of context ambiguous.) Choice of pronouns is dependent on several factors, primarily the level of politeness of the speech, the age and sex of the speaker, and the social status of the speaker relative to the listener.

1st person singular pronouns (English 'I')

わたくし• most polite
• used by men and women
• used in official conversations, and in speech with social equals or superiors
わたし• widely used by older men and women, and younger women
• increasingly uncommon in younger male speech
ぼく• only used by males
• increasingly common as standard form
おれ• only used by males
• used with social inferiors or in very casual speech with equals
わし• old-fashioned male term
あたし• old-fashioned female term
あたくし• old-fashioned female term
じぶん• military or official term

1st person plural pronouns (English 'we')

わたしたち• general purpose polite term
われわれ• most formal polite term
われら• informal term
• somewhat old-fashioned

2nd person pronouns (English 'you')

あなた• mostly used by females
• increasingly common as standard form (original considered polite)
きみ• only used by males
• used with equals but not family
あんた• mostly used by females
• used with equals but not family
• when used by males, considered very casual to rude
おまえ• used by men and women
• considered quite rude or 'superior'
きさま• only used by males
• considered rude
あなたさま• old-fashioned term
• considered polite
おまえさん• old-fashioned term
• used with social inferiors

3rd person pronouns (English 'he', 'she', 'it', 'they')

あのかた• he / she
• most formal
あのひと• he / she
• most widely used term to refer to either sex
かれ• he
• most widely used term to refer to males
• means boyfriend when used by a female
かのじょ• she
• most widely used term to refer to females
• means girlfriend when used by a male
あのとと, かれ and かのじょ can all be pluralized to 'they' by the addition of たち.
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