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The first thing you need to know about saying ‘you
‘ in Japanese is that… you probably shouldn’t say it!
Anata (あなた) is the direct translation of
‘ but it’s rarely used by native speakers and sounds offensive if not used correctly.
If you really need to say it, the unspoken rule of how to say ‘you‘ in Japanese, is to say the person’s name + one of the many Japanese honorifics.
Most of the other ways to say ‘you’ in Japanese tread a fine line between rude or affectionate… confusing right?
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of words for you with conditions for use and a politeness rating with 5 being the most polite to help you out.
Now go ahead and choose wisely!
Table Of Contents
- Name and honorific
- Don’t say ‘you’
Name and honorific
名前 + ―さん etc.
- Politeness: 5/5
- Conditions: You know the person’s name and you want to be respectful
The most acceptable way to say ‘you’ (especially in the workplace and with people you’ve just met) is to take the person’s name and add an honorific suffix such as -san. If you don’t know what an honorific is or how to use them, read this article on Japanese Honorifics.
Example 1: At work
I ask my colleague, Yuko Nakamura, if she has plans for the summer holidays:
Nakamura-san wa natsu yasumi no yotei ga arimasu ka?
Literally: Does Nakamura-san have plans for the summer holidays?
Meaning: Do you have plans for the summer holidays?
Natsu yasumi no yotei wa mada nani mo kimete naindesu… Francesca-san wa?
なつやすみ の よてい は まだ なに も きめてない ん です。。。 フランチェスカ さん は？
Literally: I haven’t decided anything yet for the summer holidays… and Francesca-san?
What this translates to is, and you?
Example 2: With a close friend
Your friend’s name is Miyu and you’ve misplaced your keys:
Miyu-chan ni kagi wo watashita no?
Literally: Did I give Miyu-chan the keys?
Meaning: Did I give you the keys?
Remember, you must use a person’s title if they have one so instead of -san you would use an honorific such as -sensei（先生 / せんせい), -buchou (部長 / ぶちょう), -shachou (社長 / しゃちょう) etc.
Don’t say ‘you’
- Politeness: 3/5
- Conditions: Friends/family where the person is right in front you
In casual settings, you don’t always need to use the personal pronouns ‘you’ and ‘I’ to be polite and understood in Japanese.
Going back to Miyu–chan and the keys from example 2 above, the sentence works perfectly without saying ‘you’:
Kagi wo watashita no?
Did I give (you) the keys?
Here, you don’t say ‘I’ (watashi) or ‘you’ (Miyu-chan) but the meaning is implied because Miyu is with you.
This is not appropriate for workplace settings or when speaking to elders / people you don’t know, so when in doubt, use their name + honorific.
- Politeness: 3/5
- Conditions: You are married / a stranger / an advertisement or a computer
Anata is the most common translation of ‘you’ but it’s considered a bit robotic, with a few exceptions.
One is between spouses, where wives use anata for their husbands meaning darling, sweetie or honey.
It’s also used to directly address strangers:
Sumimasen, kore wa anata no kasa desu ka?すみません、これはあなたの傘ですか?
Excuse me, is this your umbrella / does this umbrella belong to you?
Other situations where anata is used is in advertising, computer-generated questions and when people need you to fill out forms because they don’t know your name, but they still want to address you in a personal and polite way:
Anata no nenrei wa o ikutsu desu ka?
What is your age / what age are you?
Otherwise, using anata is like pointing a finger at someone and shows you are distant or even suspicious of them. It’s derogatory when used with a person older than you or of a higher position and should be avoided where possible.
A great video on how to use anata is this one by Hiroko from Japanesepod101.com:
- Politeness: 2/5
- Conditions: Family/friends
Anta is a less polite, short version of anata. Though less common, it’s sometimes used by older family members to younger ones in an endearing way such as ‘dear’.
Kyou wa anta no tabetai mono ni shiyou.
Today I’ll make whatever you want to eat, dear.
Between friends, anta can be a casual way to say ‘you’ but it can also sound like you’re talking down to someone so handle with care.
- Politeness: 5/5
- Conditions: Speaking to clients in a business setting
Sochira means ‘that one‘ or ‘that way‘ but it’s also a polite way of saying ‘you‘ often used during business phone calls:
Kashiko mari mashita. Dewa, kinyoubi ni sochira ni denwa itashimasu.畏まりました。でわ、金曜日にそちらに電話致します。
Certainly. Well then, I shall call you on Friday.
君 / きみ
- Politeness: 3/5
- Conditions: Males speaking to inferiors / Males speaking to a lover
Kimi is an informal, masculine way to say
‘ used to indicate either authority or affection. It’s not used much in daily conversation and should never be used towards an older person or someone of higher rank.
The kanji 君 for kimi is the same as the honorific suffix -kun, but with its Japanese reading (kunyomi) it’s pronounced kimi.
In the workplace, kimi is sometimes used by bosses to employees (male or female), which implies their position in the hierarchy:
Kimi wa kore ni kinyuushite kudasai.
Can you fill this out please?
The other well-known use of kimi is in songs, haiku (Japanese poetry), manga, anime and dramas. It’s used by both males and females (but mainly boys) towards someone they are referring to romantically.
There are numerous Japanese works that start with kimi:
- Kimi ni todoke (君に届け) From Me to You (Romance manga by Karuho Shiina)
- Kimi no na wa（君の名は) Your Name (Romance/fantasy film by Makoto Shinkai)
- Kimi ni sekai （君に世界）This World to You (Song by Eve)
お前 / おまえ
- Politeness: 2/5
- Conditions: Older males to younger males / Between males of the same age / Men when they’re angry
O-mae means ‘the one in front of me’ and is a casual, slightly rough way of saying ‘you‘ commonly used among men towards those younger / lower in status.
Interestingly, o-mae was originally a polite word used for noblemen, hence it begins with the Japanese honorific prefix -O. The polite nuance has completely disappeared over time though.
When I taught at an all-boys high school in Tokyo, every male teacher regularly used o-mae with students, especially when scolding them. To be more aggressive, they would say O-mee (おめえ)。
Nani yattenda, o-mee wa?
What (the heck) are you doing?
O-mae wa nande shukudai yara nain darou?
おまえ は なん で しゅくだい やらない ん だろう?
Why don’t you do your homework?
However, like kimi, o-mae can simply show you are above someone in position / age without being condescending.
Situations where o-mae isn’t necessarily rude:
- Teachers addressing students
- Parents to children (boys)
- Between males of the same age or status
It’s common for boys and men to use o-mae with their friends, especially in a joking way.
O-mae, baka da na!
You’re an idiot! / You fool!
And anyone can use o-mae for a pet:
Kawaii na, o-mae wa!
You’re cute, aren’t you!
O-mae is typically masculine but it’s popular among high-school age girls for addressing boys of a similar age.
貴様 / きさま
- Politeness: 1/5
- Conditions: For your worst enemy
Kisama is a very condescending way of saying ‘you‘ found mainly in manga and anime.
In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta (the villain) often calls Goku (the good guy), kisama. It could be seen more like ‘Oi, YOU (insert swear word)!‘
Kisama wa futari ni senzu wo kuwasete yare!
You @!#%, go give those two the senzu beans!
Like o-mae, kisama was not always rude and originally used by those with high social status in Japan to properly address those below them hence the use of the honorific suffix -sama (様 / さま)。
手前 / てめえ
- Politeness: 0/5
- Condition: You want to start a fight
Temee is the most insulting way to say ‘you‘ on our list. It basically means you’re about to start a fight with someone.
Unlike, o-mae, temee only has a derogatory meaning. It’s along the lines of You bastard!
It appears in Japanese dramas and anime and you will hear it when someone is provoking someone.
We advise against using temee ever, but it’s good to be aware of it!
How to say you in Japanese
Now you know several different ways to say you in Japanese. Yes, it does seem confusing to have more than one word – but remember, if in doubt, just use the person’s name!
- How to Say ‘I’ in Japanese
- 9 Ways to Say Friend in Japanese: From Acquaintance to BFF
- Bad Japanese Words Your Teacher Won’t Tell You
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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.
When Japanese people explicitly state “you” in their sentences, it's proper to use the person's name and attach a suffix. You are probably already familiar with “～san”, which is a polite suffix. If you use “anata” with someone who you know, it is rude.What are some badass Japanese words? ›
- Maji de.
- Meccha (Meccha kuccha)
あなた — Anata
Typically written with hiragana, あなた is the standard, polite way to refer to the listener in a conversation, though generally it is only used when you do not know the name of the person you are speaking to.
Simply using the person's name is the best way to say you in Japanese. In fact, that's what you would use instead of “anata,” which is mentioned below. You should add honorifics like chan or kun to make it sound more friendly.What is Dekimasu? ›
You can express ability or potential if you use the dictionary form of verbs, and attach to it KOTO GA DEKIMASU (can do / Literally, can do the thing of). Let's make a sentence, using KOTO GA DEKIMASU. When you say "I can go," "I" is WATASHI. "To go" is IKIMASU.What is the rudest Japanese word? ›
The worst pejorative I know of in Japanese is baka ("fool; idiot; stupid"), which has a long history going back to at least the 14th century.Is kuso rude? ›
Kuso is used as an expletive to react in anger, shock, disappointment and frustration. Depending on how you say it and in what context, kuso can be as innocent as saying 'damn! ' or as vulgar as 'f*ck' in English. If you just lost a game and you're pissed off, you can say kuso in the same way as saying 'dammit!What is baka Yaro? ›
The expression baka-yarō 馬鹿野郎 is one of the most insulting terms in the Japanese lexicon, but it is vague and can range in meaning from an affectionate 'silly-willy' to an abusive 'jerk-off fool'. Baka-yarō is so widely used that it has become semantically weak and vague.How do you respond to O Genki desu ka? ›
In OGENKI DESU KA (Are you fine?), OGENKI is an adjective GENKI (fine, healthy) with an honorific O before it. If you answer, “Yes, I'm fine,” you say HAI, GENKI DESU.Is Boku polite? ›
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.
1) ANATA WA KAWAII DESU（あなたは可愛いです。） □ It means "You are cute.”. (Can males say Watashi? ›
In formal or polite contexts, “watashi” is gender neutral. However, when it's used in informal or casual contexts, it is usually perceived as feminine. “Boku” is used by men and young boys.Is it rude to say kimi in Japanese? ›
君 （kimi）: used by men toward people of lower status. Typically not rude. (not inherently formal/informal, but makes the status hierarchy explicit, and is therefore better suited to formal situations)
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.What is Arimasen? ›
When we talk about the existence of inanimate things, we use ARIMASU (There is, There are, to exist). Its negative form is ARIMASEN (There are not, not to exist).What is Ikimasu ka? ›
go = 行きます いきます ikimasu. come = 来ます きます kimasu. return; come back; go home = 帰ります かえります kaerimasu.What is kaigi in Japanese? ›
The Nippon Kaigi (日本会議, "Japan Conference") is Japan's largest ultra-conservative and ultranationalist far-right non-governmental organization and lobby group.Does Japan have an F word? ›
Kuso is the more common way to say 'sh*t' or 'f*ck' compared to chikusho (#6). And like chikushou (#11), it's a versatile word that can be used in many different ways. Fun fact, it's one of the most popular words for foreigners and new Japanese learners to use.
Japanese, however, doesn't have a true [f] sound. What it does have is a voiceless bilabial fricative, represented in IPA with the symbol ⟨ɸ⟩, a sound Wikipedia describes this way: For English-speakers, it is easiest to think of the sound as an f-sound made only with the lips, instead of the upper teeth and lower lip.What is the meanest Japanese word? ›
“Baka” is the most common Japanese swear word. The baka meaning usually translates to foolish or stupid. But it can take on a whole range of meanings depending on context, relationship, and other factors. In kanji, it's usually written baka 馬鹿 ばか .
Swear word number 7! Shimatta! This swear word literately means “oh no! It happened” but is usually translated as “crap”, or “damn.”What does Aho mean in Japanese? ›
Aho, a phrase in the Kansai dialect of Japanese, meaning "idiot", see Baka (Japanese word)#Dialectal.What is the prettiest girl Japanese name? ›
- 1) Himari (陽葵) Meaning: “good hollyhock”
- 2) Hina (陽菜) Meaning: “good vegetables, edible greens”
- 3) Yua (結愛) Meaning: “binding love and affection”
- 4) Sakura (咲良) Meaning: “cherry blossoms”
- 5) Ichika (一千花) Meaning: “one thousand flowers”
- 6) Akari (丹梨) ...
- 7) Sara (冴咲) ...
- 8) Yui (佑泉)
Yui can be written using different kanji characters and can mean: 唯, "only, alone, sole"What does Ara Ara mean? ›
Ara ara (あら あら) is a Japanese expression that is mainly used by older females and means “My my”, “Oh dear”, or “Oh me, oh my”.What is Nani in Japanese? ›
The word nani 何 (なに) in Japanese means "what." And depending on the situation, you might, instead, use nan (なん). Which term you use depends on the context, in particular, whether you are speaking or writing formally or informally.What is a saucy baka? ›
1 Answer. “Sussy” and “sus” are words used in the videogame Among Us to describe someone shifty or suspicious, whilst baka means “fool” in Japanese. So to be a sussy baka is to be a suspicious fool, presumably – although it appears that the meme has taken this meaning and ran with it a little.Is saying Omae rude? ›
お前 (Omae) is the Japanese word for “you” that is considered very rude.Do Itashi Mashite mean? ›
With a simple dou itashimashite, or “you're welcome” in Japanese! The dictionary and beginner Japanese phrase checklists would have you believe that's the only way to say “you're welcome” in Japanese.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 like to think of it as a blank canvas.
Boku is for male use only. Men talking among themselves will use it or men addressing female persons will do so, too. Please note, however, that its use is limited to informal settings, such as family or friends. Watashi is for more general use: by men in formal situations, by women in formal and informal situations.Can girls use ore and Boku? ›
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.Does kimi mean you? ›
The most common way to write kimi in Japanese is with the kanji 君. When it is done this way, the meaning of the word is “you” in English.What is kawaii desu ne? ›
Kawaii desu ne means, it's cute, isn't it? Or as a Canadian… it's cute, eh? Trust me, if you spend some time in Japan, you'll definitely hear this phrase… so even better if you learn it now!What is Anata ga Suki? ›
The most formal and neutral way to say 'I love you' in Japanese would be : 私はあなたが好きです。/ Watashi ha anata ga suki desu.What is Watashino? ›
watashi no – 私の (わたしの) : a phrase meaning 'my' in Japanese. Depending on the situation and context, it can also be used to mean 'mine'.Is Boku male or female? ›
僕 (boku) carries a masculine impression; it is typically used by males, especially those in their youth. Japanese words that refer to other people are part of the encompassing system of honorific speech and should be understood within that context.Is Senpai unisex? ›
🧑💼 Senpai (先輩、せんぱい)
As with "Sensei" is used interchangeably by sex, and does not necessarily follows the name. You might find it transcribed as "sempai". Its opposite is "Kohai/kouhai" but it is rarely used when talking to someone.
no – の : a case particle used after a noun or pronoun to make its possessive case. In the example, this is used after “boku” to make its possessive case, “boku no”, which means 'my' in Japanese.Why is Temee rude? ›
Both are used in anime with a voice which usually sounds disrespectful. In the end, temee basically means 'you' or 'bastard'. It is therefore very vulgar. I'd suggest using it only with friends (preferably non-Japanese) or for comedic purposes.
“omae" can be condescending and quite rude. It is used for those below you in age, experience, social status, just anyone you consider to be beneath you. Can be insulting. It's generally a very rude and aggressive way to say "you" to your enemies.Why is it embarrassing to say first name in Japan? ›
Unlike many western cultures, in Japan people generally don't call one-another by their first name. Doing so can be a mark of disrespect, unless you're very close to the other person and in the right sort of casual environment, so you've read.Is Kimi a unisex name? ›
Kimi is a feminine name of Japanese origin.How do you use Anata? ›
あなた can be used often from the third person to second person, such as teachers/tutors to pupils/students, a boss at work to workers. This mean does not always apply the higher position to the lower but I feel the person in lower position is difficult to say あなた to the higher position.Do I use Kimi or Anata? ›
Generally speaking, "anata" is a neutral way of saying "you" while "kimi" is a very casual and rather boyish way of saying it.Is Anata polite? ›
あなた — Anata
Typically written with hiragana, “Anata [あなた]” is the standard, polite way to refer to the listener in a conversation, though generally it is only used when you do not know the name of the person you are speaking to. It is typically used by women.
あんた （anta）： a shortened version of anata, highly informal and generally rude or admonishing in nature.Is Anata too formal? ›
Since あなた is still a somewhat formal-sounding word, it is not as obviously rude as derogatory pronouns like お前, or the very casual version of あなた — あんた. You can use あなた as a formality to sound rational and professional when you communicate negative emotions, such as anger, hatred, hostility, or a sense of rivalry.What does it mean when someone calls you anata? ›
It's a common sort of pet name that wives use with husbands. It's only really used between married couples, so if you call someone you know “Anata あなた (You)” it might sound like you're calling them “sweetheart” or “darling.” That's probably not going to be appropriate with your boss.Is Yabai rude? ›
Just look at “yabai!” It's all yabai to me. “Yabai” (やばい, often stylized ヤバい) actually shares much in common with “f*ck.” The major difference, obviously, is that yabai isn't really an offensive word. (While Japan lacks expletives in the English sense, it does have plenty of rude words – and taboo ones as well.)
Japanese men use those three words depending on who they are speaking to and the situation. When meeting someone for the first time, you should use “watashi”. And when you have become somewhat close to them, you can use “boku”. Then when you have become very close to them, you can use “ore.”Is Omae rude? ›
お前 (Omae) is the Japanese word for “you” that is considered very rude.Does Japanese have any swears? ›
Technically there aren't really swear words as such in Japanese. Instead you'll find that most swear words in Japanese, or ways to swear in Japanese, are done by using more common words or phrases and adding a couple of words or changing the way you say them.What does Anta Baka? ›
In 1995, the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the character Asuka practically uses Anta baka? as a catchphrase, roughly translated as “What are you, stupid?”Is Kimi or Anata more polite? ›
Generally speaking, "anata" is a neutral way of saying "you" while "kimi" is a very casual and rather boyish way of saying it.Can I use Kimi instead of Anata? ›
Anata is the all-purpose “you”. You can address almost anyone as anata, though typically you should call them [Name]-san if you know their name. Kimi is more familiar and informal, suitable for using with subordinates/juniors. It can have an affectionate tone depending on your relationship with the person.Can boys use anata? ›
Note: Men can also use あなた ( = anata ) both verbally or in a written form. Supervisors to subordinates. That means, you should avoid using あなた（ = anata) when you talk to older people or your boss, clients or teachers. Even with someone the same age, using あなた ( = anata), would feel a bit awkward.What does Anata wa dare desu ka mean? ›
(ONAMAE WA NAN DESUKA/What is your name?) than あなたは だれですか。 (ANATA WA DARE DESUKA/Who are you?)