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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Absolute Beginner Questions Answered by Hiroko, where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is… Should I be using WATASHI?
In Japan, there are many words for talking about oneself. For example, watashi, boku, ore and so on. Therefore, you may be confused about which is the most appropriate one. Is there a difference between how a boy and a girl say “I”? Wouldn’t the use of “Watashi” be incorrect for males?
Let’s think about the differences between “watashi”, “boku” and “ore”.
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.
“Ore” is also used by men a lot. It can be seen as rude depending on the context. It establishes a sense of masculinity and emphasizes your own status when you use it with peers and with those who are younger or who have lower status. Among close friends or family, using it is a sign of familiarity rather than of masculinity or of superiority.
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.”
In a woman’s case, “watashi” can always be used whenever, wherever and with whomever you speak.
And here’s one more word to mean "I"; "watakushi."
"Watakushi" is the humble word for "I" and it is an extremely polite version of "watashi." People don’t use it often in daily conversation, but it is often used in the service industry when staff member talk about themselves while talking to guests. Also, it’s used in other formal situations such as in a business setting. Since it is a gender-neutral word, both men and women can use it. I hope this makes sense and you’re able to distinguish between the usage of "watakushi," "watashi", "boku," and "ore."
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!