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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… Is it bad to say ANATA?
In English, you can say “Are you going to school today?”, but the literal equivalent in Japanese, “anata wa kyou gakkou ni ikimasu ka?” sounds very robotic and unnatural. So what would you say then? Isn’t “anata” same as “you”?
The most common place where Japanese people actually use “anata” is when they don’t know anything about the person. For example, someone drops a handkerchief on the street, and then you want to get their attention. In this case you can call the person ‘anata’ because you don’t know the person’s name or anything about him or her. You would say, “kore wa anata no hankatchi desu ka.”
The other place where Japanese native speakers use “anata” is when women are speaking to their husbands. In this case, it’s similar to “my darling” and “my sweetie” in English.
You might have heard “omae” which also means “you”. Husbands tend to use “omae” when they’re talking to their wives instead of “anata”. Also, “omae” is often used by men when they are talking to their close friend.
This means you have to be careful about using “anata” and “omae”.
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. So it’s better to use name plus san.
You might already have known that Japanese people often leave out ‘watashi’, because you say, for example, “Hiroko desu.” to mean ‘I’m Hiroko.” We leave out “watashi” when it’s obvious. The same thing happens with “anata” and you can just leave “anata” out of your sentences, when who is “you”’ is obvious. Therefore, when you ask someone “are you going to school today?,” you can just say “kyou gakkou ni ikimasu ka” without saying “anata”.
I hope this makes sense to you.
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!