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Four words meaning “You” (あなた)in Japanese

Updated: Aug 31

In Japanese, we use a variety of vocabularies to express “You” depending on the person you are talking to and the context in which a certain word is more appropriate than others. 「あなた(Anata)」、「あなたたち(Anatatachi)」、「君(きみ; Kimi)」、「君たち(きみたち;Kimitachi)」are generally considered as common and frequently used words in conversations and readings. In addition to these, however, there are those slang words which are broadly used only by people confirming to certain groups. 「おまえ(Omae)」and 「貴様(きさま;kisama)」are two of such examples. It is important to distinguish which “You” word to use in spoken and written contexts as an inappropriate choice of words can often lead to an insult against them.


When you show respect towards a person, you use the name of the person instead of 「あなた(onata)」to show respect. At the same time, it must not be overlooked that in Japanese culture and thus in the Japanese language, “You” is likely to be omitted in both written and spoken contexts especially when two people are talking. This is because it is considered to be unnecessary when two of them both understand that such conversations are for themselves. It is only when more than two people are in conversations that “You” plays an important role in clarifying who the speaker is talking to and its significance increases as the number of people in a context increases.

Meanings and contexts in which「あなた(Anata)」、「君(きみ;

Kimi)」are used

「あなた(Anata)」is the formal word meaning “You” and is used in formal contexts. For example, you meet someone for your first time and ask a question, you say 「あなたの出身はどこですか。(あなたのしゅっしんはどこですか;anatano shusshinwa dokodesuka; Where are you from?)」To ask where a person you are talking to is from. In a context of more than two people, you specify 「あなた (Anata)」(a particular person) to start a form of conversation with him/her in the group context.

Example sentences:

Anatano shumiwa nandesuka.

あなたの趣味はなんですか。

あなたのしゅみはなんですか。

(What is your hobby?)

Anatano namaewa nandesuka.

あなたの名前は何ですか。

あなたのなまえはなんですか。

(What is your name?)


Anatano kotoni tsuite oshietekudasai.

あなたのことについて教えてください。

あなたのことについておしえてください。

(Tell me about yourself.)

As you can see from these above three examples, “あなた(Anata)” is used mostly in contexts of asking formal questions when two or more parties meet for the first time.

「君(きみ;Kimi)」is also used but only in contexts, including conversations among friends and people aged lower than you and often when a person in an upper position of a hierarchy uses to mean someone in a lower position. Also, it is often used in literature, manga, TV dramas, films, songs to show personal affection towards a certain person.

Example sentences:

Kimi, chotto jikanwa arukai?

君、ちょっと時間はあるかい?

きみ、ちょっとじかんはあるかい?

(Do you have some time?)

Kimino utagoeni hikareta.

君の歌声に惹かれた。

きみのうたごえにひかれた。

(I was attracted to your singing.)

Kimiwa totemo kireida.

君はとても綺麗だ。

きみはとてもきれいだ。

(You are very beautiful.)

In this case, the first example sentence is used in company office settings, where those in higher positions at work ask or instruct those in lower positions for whether they one has enough time for a task, while the latter two show emotional affection.

「おまえ(Omae)」、「貴様(きさま;kisama)」are informal slang words

「おまえ(Omae)」and 「貴様(きさま;kisama)」are not usually used in conversations. However, it is common to appear in manga, anime, literature (novels), films and other similar forms of Japanese popular culture to show hostility, anger, unequal relationship, and thus used by those in higher ranks to lower ranks in a context. 「貴様(きさま;kisama)」is often used among male friends in conversations and especially in contexts of conflicts.

Example sentences of 「おまえ(Omae)」、「貴様(きさま;Kisama)」

Omaeno seida.

おまえのせいだ。

(Fault is on you)


Kisama!, zettaini yurusanai.

貴様!絶対に許さない。

きさま!ぜったいにゆるさない。

(You! I will never forgive you)

First example using 「おまえ(Omae)」is to show anger and blame towards a person, especially a friend or those in lower positions than yourself in terms of age and any ranks. An example using 「貴様(きさま;kisama)」also shows anger.



Conclusion

It is essential to understand different contexts in which the same word “You” is used and what the choice of a certain form of “You” suggests about the emotion and personal relationship among people in conversations. At the same time, it must be pointed out that “You” is actually not a very used word in spoken contexts particularly and thus omitted.

Chisaki Yamaguchi

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