How to Talk about or Refer to Yourself in Japanese – Boku, Ore, Watashi

In Japanese there are three ways to refer to yourself. In this article we will learn how to differentiate between the three methods and which one is best for you to use.

Posted by on March 11, 2015 – Japanese Study
How to Refer to Yourself in Japanese

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Ore, Boku, or Watashi? How to Refer to Yourself in Japanese

In Japanese, there are many different ways to refer to yourself: boku, ore, watashi. In this article we will learn how to differentiate between the three methods and which one is best for you to use.

Typically Japanese Women use mainly “watashi”, but for men there are other options such as boku, ore and more. Typically you will find that Japanese people typically select the first-person pronoun based on the context of the conversation and who they are talking to.

how to call yourself in Japanese

Let’s have a look at the different characteristics of boku, ore, watashi.


Watashi – 私
Boku – 僕
Ore – 俺


Watashi – 私

A polite way to refer to yourself, this is the most general expression that is used by both women and men everywhere from formal occasions to business and public situations. If you are not really close to the other party you are talking to, this word would be your best bet to avoid any offence.

But as most Japanese typically avoid referring to themselves, they’d usually just drop the “Watashi” from their sentences. For example, instead of saying (私は)和菓子が好き, they would just say 和菓子が好き to indicate that they like Traditional Japanese Sweets.

An even more polite pronunciation of 私 is わたくし (watakushi) – which is often used by girls in very formal situations. 

Boku – 僕

Boku is an expression used only by men. Originating from words like geboku (manservant) and kouboku (public servant), this word’s popularity began to spread among the younger generation as they’d use this to refer to themselves in a humble manner.


Today, it is more commonly used in close relationships or as a softer alternative to the word Ore (see below). However, it can also be used as a second-person pronoun to refer to small boys, e.g. “僕は何歳ですか – Boku (Small Boy), how old are you?”


Ore – 俺

As a first-person pronoun with an extremely rough image, it is only used in a casual setting between people who are very close. Because it creates a very rough image for someone who is not fluent in Japanese, be careful when you use it.

Even in close relationships, Ore and Boku create different images. Which one to use can differ from person to person. Once your level in Japanese has improved, it may be a good idea to try and change the first-person pronoun you are using. This can change depending on your character, the setting, or even your conversation partner.

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After learning how to refer to yourself in Japanese, how about learning to introduce yourself to someone else? Learning about self-introductions and “Jikoshoukai” here!

Do you know the appropriate ways to refer to other people in Japanese? Learn about common mistakes when referring to others in Japanese

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