Today I’m going to explain how to say “you” in Japanese. As it turns out, there are a lot of different ways to do this!
I’ve categorized them into several groups. The first one that we will cover are the words that are pretty common and the ones that get used most often.
Then we will switch over to rude way to say “you” in Japanese, which don’t get used in real life all that much, but are prevalent in manga, anime, video games, and other such things.
Finally, at the end of the post we will go over how Japanese people typically address one another in real life. Rather than explicitly saying the word “you” in Japanese, they typically use one of these last two strategies.
Common Ways To Say “You”
For most people learning Japanese, あなた (anata) is the very first word that they learn for “you” when they want to address the other person.
The reason is because it’s considered a polite word and can be used when addressing someone of equal or lower status.
This might be a stranger you stop to ask if they can take a picture, or it might be one of your coworkers that’s from another department.
At any rate, it is a gender neutral word which means that anyone can use it. This is a little different from the next word that we are going to cover.
Another possible choice is the word 君 (kimi). This word is informal, and is really only used by men. One typical situation would be a guy speaking to his girlfriend. That’s a case where 君 might be used.
Another one that I’ve seen is when an older male is speaking to one of his subordinates who is also a guy in the work place. This could be the manager of a department speaking to any younger guy who answers to him.
The next word I want to cover is one that I see more in novels than hear people say in real life. It is 諸君 (shokun) and means “you (people)” or “ladies and gentlemen” and such.
In other words, it means “you” but is really only ever used when addressing multiple people. Generally, they will be together in some form. That might be because they are a part of the same crowd at an event, or they may be people in the same party as is the case is a lot of fantasy books.
- yoku yatta yuusha shokun
- Well done (you) heroes
The last word that I want to cover is そちら (sochira) which is a polite word that can mean a lot of different things. The more common meanings are:
- That way
- That one
But it can also be used to mean “you” both in the singular, and also more broadly like “you (and your company)” and such.
It can be made even more respectful by adding on the honorific 様 (sama) to the end of it.
This turns it into そちら様 which is probably something you would hear from a clerk or service employee when they are addressing a customer that they are helping.
It’s really polite, but also really formal so you don’t need to use it when speaking to people that you know well and see pretty often.
Rude Ways To Say “You”
Now we get to the fun part of today’s lesson!
There are a surprisingly large number of insulting words that can be used in Japanese, and they all translate as “you” in English.
There are some differences among them as to the gender of the speaker, and also the feeling that they are expressing. The important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to ever use these in real life (unless you’re playing with friends).
I think it’s important to include them here because you will no doubt encounter them when listening to, or reading Japanese books, shows, games, etc.
The first one is お前 (omae) and is used by men to address someone. Generally speaking, it’s uses from, one guy when speaking to another guy, but I’ve heard it used to address a girl as well.
This word is a part of the Japanese meme from Fist of the North Star:
- omae wa mou shindeiru
- You are already dead
Even though it’s considered a vulgar word, it’s probably the least rude in this section. As I mentioned, a dude might use it to talk to his buddy, so it’s not like there’s any negative feelings from the speaker to the listener.
Another word that is not terribly bad is あんた (anta) and as you can probably tell from the spelling, it is a contracted form of あなた which we covered in detail earlier.
As for あんた, it’s an informal word that means “you” and can be used by both men and women. Generally used in informal situations, and it can sometimes be considered rude.
Generally speaking, I see this word used when one person is a little miffed at someone else.
I remember watching one anime where a group of older women started getting on to a young girl because she cut her hair and they said she wouldn’t be able to get a husband because of it.
In that scenario, they used あんた and had that tone of voice that clearly indicates displeasure.
Alright, we’ve got three words left and they are all insults!
The first one is てめえ (temee) which is considered very vulgar and threatening towards the listener. It’s probably no surprise that this is a male-word (meaning women don’t use it) and is usually a good indication that a fight is about to break out.
It would be like saying “you, bastard!” to someone in Japanese.
If you used it to address your friend, he would probably bust out laughing because it sounds comical when it’s used in real life.
Then we have 貴様 (kisama) which is considered a derogatory word. The equivalent in English is calling someone a “son of a b****” or something along those lines.
I’ve also ready that it’s used between rival men, so it’s also a word that women don’t use in Japanese.
The final word is one that would probably surprise most people. It is この (kono) which is the Japanese word for “this.”
However, like most Japanese words, there are additional potential meanings. One of them is an “emphatic, accusatory, or insulting” way to address a person.
In English this might be like saying “you liar!” or “you thief!”
Imagine that you just found out that the person you’re talking with stole some money out of your wallet. You might look them in the eyes, ball your fists, and then say “you!” as kind of a shortened version of “why, you little punk!”
That’s the kind of feeling that this この has when used to refer to someone.
Using A Person’s Name
We’ve spent a lot of time going over the many different ways to say you in Japanese, but as it turns out most Japanese people address the listener by using their name instead of a pronoun.
This is one of those things that sounds weird from an English speaker’s perspective since we don’t do normally do this. That being said, it’s an essential aspect of the Japanese culture and language.
For example, if you’re having a conversation with someone named Tanaka then you might say something like the following:
- tanaka san wa kodomo ga imasuka?
- Do you have kids?
In this case, saying 田中さん (tanaka san) effectively functions as “you” would if we were speaking English.
This might cause some confusion at first if you’re listening to two other Japanese people talk and you get the impression that they are talking about a third person who is not there.
But then it turns out that one of the two people is the “Tanaka” in the discussion!
All I can say is that you should be aware of this facet of Japanese. It will start to feel natural as you get more and more exposure to the language.
Using A Person’s Title
Another super common thing Japanese people do is use people’s titles or job positions in place of the word “you” when they are speaking to them.
We do this in very rare situations in English, so it’s not a totally foreign concept to us.
- Would it please the king if I presented a present?
- Would it please you if I presented a present?
In Japanese, it is considered respectful to use a person’s title who is above you in status. This might be addressing the company president as 社長 (shachou) instead of “you” or your manager as 部長 (buchou) and such.
If you watch a lot of Slice of Life anime in Japanese, then you’ve probably heard people addressing the class president as 会長 (kaichou) instead of using the word you.
- kaichou wa nan no tsumori desu ka?
- What are you planning to do?
- Literally: What is the class president planning to do?
Wrapping Things Up
Let me finish this post and summarize the information now.
The Japanese language has a lot of different words for “you” and now you know the most common ones. There are a few others, but the information in this article will cover 99% of scenarios.
The best way to address someone in Japanese is by using their title, or their name (along with an honorific).
You can also completely omit the word “you” when the context of the situation makes it clear who you are referring to.
If you don’t know either of those, or if you just want to be on the safe side of things, then just go with あなた and you will be fine.
As a non-Japanese person, you will be given a free pass on a lot of language mistakes when you’re still learning the language.
I hope that you’ve found the information in this blog post helpful. If there is anything that was unclear, please let me know with a comment down below and I will do my best to help.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: