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気取らない彼が好きです。 I like him, who doesn't put on airs.

My first reading of this sentence was to assume that 彼 was referring to the boyfriend meaning of 彼, and thus my interpretation was "I like an unpretentious kind of boyfriend". My second interpretation was wrong as well= "I like a guy who doesn't put on airs." The correct interpretation is the definite pronoun, him.

However, can 彼 be used to mean guy or man in the same way that words like やつ and 男 are used as indefinite pronouns?

Don't be that kind of guy. : あんなやつみたいになってはいけないよ。

Don't be that kind of guy. : あんな彼みたいになってはいけないよ。(I now think this interpretation is incorrect)

I like a kind-hearted kind of guy: 心優しい彼が好き。I suppose the right interpretation of this sentence would be, "I like him, who is kind hearted" (I like him because he is kind hearted)

Would this be correct?

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This question made me think about something I had not thought of before after Hyperworm's comment to my answer. –  sawa Dec 23 '11 at 23:52
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1 Answer 1

can mean either 'boyfriend' or 'male person,' but the problem with your original interpretation or the one you were told is that they are interpreting as an indefinite person, translating it with a(n). A better counterpart is him. And note that the relative clause in this case is a non-restrictive one, not a restrictive one. Depending on the context, it can either mean:

'I like him, who does not put on airs.'
'I like my boyfriend, who does not put on airs.'

When in a sentence can in principle be interpreted either as definite or indefinite, the preferrence for the definite interpretation is so strong that the indefinite interpretation is blocked and is impossible. Only when the definite interpretation is logically impossible, the indefinite interpretation comes to the foreground. One such example is given by Hyperworm in the comment below:

彼が欲しい
'I want a boyfriend.'

In this case, the verb 欲しい 'want' presupposes that the person does not have a boyfriend, which makes the definite interpretation of as 'boyfriend' impossible. In such case, an indefinite interpretation becomes possible. Note that, when you take the here as 'male person', then it loses the indefinite interpretation because the definite interpretation becomes possible:

 彼が欲しい
 'I want him.'
×'I want some man.'

Your use of the word guy is also problematic. [奴]{やつ} can be translated as such, but or does not have such coarse/rude nuance. And unlike , the words and can be used to refer to an indefinite male person.

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just to be clear, can 彼 ever be an indefinite person? In these sentences why would it likely not be an indefinite person? –  yadokari Dec 23 '11 at 20:28
    
@sawa Your argument seems to imply that 彼が欲しい (I want "a" boyfriend) is not valid Japanese ... or am I misunderstanding? –  Hyperworm Dec 23 '11 at 23:15
    
@Hyperworm That is an excellent point. Hyperworm made me think, and I realized that my answer and my pervious comment to yadokari were not correct regarding the possibiliby of indefinite interpretation of . I corrected it. –  sawa Dec 23 '11 at 23:47
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@yadokari That is possible. The crucial thing here is that the boyfriend is a fixed (definite) person. –  sawa Dec 24 '11 at 6:09
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@yadokari You can interpret it as definite, so indefinite interpretation is not allowed. There is another factor that makes this strange. In younger generation's conversation, meaning 'boyfriend' only refers the speaker's boyfriend. For boyfriend in general, 彼氏 "KAreshi (high-low-low)" sounds more natural. There is also the one with 平板化アクセント: 彼氏 "kaRESHI (low-high-high)", which means the speaker's boyfriend like . –  sawa Dec 24 '11 at 19:25
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