Japanese Slang: Moto Kare (元カレ) and Moto Kano (元カノ)

When you are learning a foreign language, studying slangs is a nice and fun way to widen your vocabulary. Not only will you speak more fluently but you will sound more like a native speaker. Moreover, slang gives you an interesting point of view on society. Let’s learn more about the expression “moto kare【元カレ】 and “moto kano”【元カノ!

Talking about Exes?
Example Sentences

Talking about Exes?

We frequently read in the news that Japanese people are less and less interested in love story and date. Well whether the statistics are sounded or not, the fact remains, some Japanese are indeed having some love life! We previously wrote about the slang for picking up someone in the street to share a drink or to go to karaoke and how to ask someone out in Japanese. But sometimes love doesn’t work out as it should and couples break apart. How do Japanese people refer to their exes?

With the Prefix “元 (Moto)“!

Moto covers a lot of meaning, but there is the idea of origin and “previous” with the kanji “元”. In this context it is used in the same way as the prefix “ex-” is in both English and French. The word for girlfriend “kanojyo” and the word for boyfriend “kareshi” are then shortened to “kano” and “kare”.


Example Sentences

Japanese Example 1
A:Wakaretekara hantoshi ga tatsu no ni, mada moto kano no koto ga wasurerarenai.
B:Tsurai o kimochida. Wasurerarenai kimochi ga sugoku wakaru…
English Translation
A: We split up 6 months ago, but I can’t get over my ex-girlfriend.
B: It is a painful feeling. I really understand that you feel like you cannot forget…
Japanese Example 2
A: Gakusei jidai ni sū-nen tsukiatta moto kare ni 2-nen-buri ni gūzen deaimashita.
B: Sōdesu ka. Daijōbu deshita ka.
A: Hontōni sukoshi shika hanasu koto ga dekimasen deshita ga, totemo ureshikatta desu.
B: Sore wa yokatta desu ne.
English Translation
A: Yesterday, I met by accident for the first time in two years my ex-boyfriend that I dated a few years in college.
B: Is that so? Were you okay?
A: We could only speak a little but I was really happy.
B: This is good then.
Japanese Example 3 
A: Denwa yo.
B: Dare kara?
A: Anata no moto kano kara yo. Okotteru mitai.
B: Inai tte itte yo.
English translation
A: You have a call.
B: Who is it?
A: It’s your ex. She sounds angry.
B: Just tell her I’m not here.

Moto kare and moto kano are broadly used by Japanese. If you enjoy watching drama (Japanese TV Shows) or reading manga, you will come across this slang very often. If you want to speak about your current lover, you will use “kareshi” or “kanojyo” but in colloquial context, you can use a structure similar to “moto+kare”, with the word “ima” which means “now”.

  • Imakare, 今カレ: Current Boyfriend
  • Imakano, 今カノ: Current Girlfriend


Click on this link to learn more about a common mistake in Japanese: the use of anata

Credit CC BY 2.0: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)
Title: Fall / 秋(あき)
source: Flickr

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo, we offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learner. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo – please visit our contact page here.


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