Common Japanese Mistakes: Pronouns 彼 (Kare) and 彼女 (Kanojo)

「彼」Kare and「彼女」Kanojo


Japanese Personal Pronouns are really hard to get for Japanese learners. In truth, we rarely use them. Not only “I” 「私・watashi」and “you”「あなた・anata」are hard to get, but third person pronouns are also problematic. These include “he”「彼・kare」 and “she” 「彼女・kanojyo」which can typically lead to common Japanese mistakes.


「彼」Kare and「彼女」Kanojo

Generally speaking, in the same way as anata (you), kare (he) and kanojo (she) are rarely used. However, in recent years, perhaps due to the influence of foreign language (particularly English), it has come into use when referring to a person objectively. That said, when used in reference to a socially superior person, it can sound a tad bit impolite. Additionally, it can also be made to sound distant from your family members or other people close to you. Nevertheless, it would still be more natural to call these people by their name or title.

A: あら、今日は一人?お子さんは?
B: 主人のお母さんが見てくれています。
A: いいお姑さんね。
B: ええ、彼女が 母が いてくれて助かってます。

(Kinjyo no hito tono kaiwa)
A: Ara, kyou wa hitori? Okosan wa?
B: Shuji no okaasan ga mite kurete imasu.
A: Ii oshutome san ne.
B: Ee, kanojyo ga haha ga ite kurete tasukatte masu.

(Conversation between people in the neighborhood)
A: Oh, you’re on your own today? What about your children?
B: My husband’s mother is watching them.
A: How good of your mother-in-law.
B: Yes, it is really helpful to have her mother around.

A: ご家族は?
B: 妻と娘一人です。
A: お子さんは、おいくつなんですか?
B: 彼女は 娘は、五歳です。

(Shotaimen no hito to)
A: Gokazoku wa?
B: Tsuma to musume hitori desu.
A: Okosan wa oikutsu nan desuka?
B: Kanojyo wa Musume wa go-sai desu.


(People meeting for the first time)
A: Do you have a family?
B: I have a wife and a daughter.
A: How old is your kid?
B: She My daughter is five.



As for the first-person pronoun watashi 「私 ・watashi」, “I” , would be rarely used in Japanese. This is because in cases where there is a common ground in terms of the setting, the subject of the sentence would be deemed as unnecessary and would, therefore, get omitted most of the time.

(私は) 家庭教師の岡村です。よろしくお願いします。
(Watashi wa) Katei kyoushi no Okamura desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
(Self Introduction)
My name is Okamura, and I am a tutor. I look forward to working with you.

Furthermore, there are some people who do not even use “watashi”. The will refer to themselves by their own title from the third-person point of view.

In these cases, the person to whom they are speaking is clearly a child. For example, a grandfather may say to a grandchild:

“Ojiichan (=watashi) wa wakaitoki wa kakko yokattandayo.”
“Grandfather (I) was good-looking when I was young”

And a teacher may say to a student:

“Sensei (=watashi) ga iu toori ni yattene”
“Do as teacher (I) says.”

Conversely, small children often refer to themselves by name rather than using ‘watashi.’

“Eriko (=watashi) wa ne, ichigo ga tabetai no.”
“Eriko (I) wants to eat strawberries.”

In rare cases, some people still continue to do so even in adulthood (particularly women), but the public opinion is generally divided as to whether this would be considered endearing or childish.

Click this link to read about common mistakes in Japanese, Ki o Tsukete!

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