5 Ways to Say “I” in Japanese

The other day, one of my followers on DN’s Instagram asked us a question about how men and women use the word “I” differently in Japanese. (Thank you!)
In Japanese, many words mean “I.” We introduce five major words that are actually used daily.


Pronunciation: watashi, watakushi

Plural: 私たち (watashi-tachi), 私ら (watashi-ra *casual)

Situation: casual and formal

Used by: mainly women (and men for formal situations) 

This is the most basic way to say it. You can use it in both casual and formal situations. In informal situations, it is mainly used by women, but in business situations, it is used by both men and women.

It is usually pronounced “watashi,” but the kanji can also be read as “watakushi.” “Watakushi” is a very polite and formal way of saying “I.” Except for important formal presentations or press conferences, “watashi” is fine in everyday business situations. You can use “watashi” even in job interviews.

Also, in casual situations, women sometimes say or write “atashi” instead of “watashi.”

Pronunciation: boku

Plural: 僕たち (boku-tachi), 僕ら (boku-ra *casual)

Situation: casual and formal

Used by: men 

This is the most common way for men to refer to themselves. You can use it in both casual and formal situations, but for business, it is more polite for men to say “watashi.” If you are talking to a colleague, “boku” is fine.

Pronunciation: ore

Plural: 俺たち (ore-tachi *casual), 俺ら (ore-ra *casual)

Situation: casual

Used by: men 

This is often used by men in casual situations. In business situations, some people use “ore” when talking to a close colleague or junior colleague in the company. (It isn’t polite to use it with your boss or people outside the company, though.) It is widely used by from elementary school boys to older men.


Pronunciation: uchi

Plural: うちら (uchi-ra *casual)

Situation: casual

Used by: women

Originally, it was used by women in western Japan, such as in the Kansai area, but nowadays, I often hear young girls using it in Tokyo as well. Many women around me usually call themselves “watashi,” but when they want to say “we (plural),” they say “uchira” instead of “watashira.”


Pronunciation: jibun

Plural: 自分たち (jibun-tachi), 自分ら (jibun-ra *casual)

Situation: casual

Used by: mainly by men

Some people, especially men, use this expression when they want to say “I.”
*If you go to Osaka or other areas in the Kansai region, “jibun” will mean the exact opposite: “you.”

If you have questions about how to use it, you can always ask us on our Instagram or Twitter!

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