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I know the phrase 我が家 means "our home" or "our family". My question is when would you use it, as opposed to say 私の家 or 私の家族? It seems poetic to me, or something that wouldn't exactly be used in everyday conversation.

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Should this question only be limited to 我が家? What about 我が社 and others if they exist? –  Chris Harris Aug 17 '12 at 23:37
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I don't have an answer, but I do want to share this link: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%88%91%E3%81%8C . Which seems to state other words with 「我が」 and states possible useful information. –  Chris Harris Aug 18 '12 at 1:02
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I don't have an answer either, but 我が家 and 我が子 sound more like "my dear home" and "my dear child" or "my own child", compared to うち, 私のうち, 私の[家]{いえ}, うちの子. –  Choko Aug 18 '12 at 4:13
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I can't give a definite answer either but I used to hear 我が社 quite often in discussions in a traditional company to say "in our company we.." when the speaker wants to identify with the company. When writers refer to 我が国 in essays about Japan they seem to be emphasizing their personal link to subject. –  Tim Aug 19 '12 at 2:50
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我が社 sounds more formal than うちの会社 (or私たちの会社). 我が国 also sounds to me more formal than 私たちの国 –  Choko Aug 19 '12 at 4:51
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

我が家 implies:

  • That you are proud of your home (family) or that you have a deep affection toward your home (family). You could think of it partly as meaning "my dear home" or "my beloved home".

  • Not used in everyday conversation (used more often in the written form) and shows some form of rigidness and politeness. (As Tsuyoshi Ito mentions in the comments, 我が家 is probably more common in everyday conversation than other forms of 我がX, for example 我が家へようこそ would be common I think).

The above also applies to 我が母校、我が国、我が家族、我が妻、我が故郷、etc. They all imply that you have a deep relationship, you are proud of them, show affection, etc. I often hear 我が国 when the prime minister of Japan gives a speech (perhaps the other ones might be used in a speech also). I also feel that it would be more often used by men, but that might be my own personal experience only.

There also is the form 我が子, however, this form doesn't necessarily refer to the person speaking (I feel like there are other examples of this, but I cannot think of any at the moment).

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(1) I am not sure about “not used in everyday conversation.” I think that 我が家 is much more common than other phrases with 我が such as 我が母校. (2) 我が子 is quite different because it means 自分の子 and not necessarily 私の子. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 20 '12 at 2:28
    
@TsuyoshiIto: Thanks for the comments, I'll update my answer. For your second comment, are you talking about how 私の子 doesn't necessarily mean you are blood related? –  Jesse Good Aug 20 '12 at 2:33
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No, I am talking about whom 我 in 我が子 refers to. For example, in a sentence 彼は生徒を我が子のようにかわいがった (He devoted a lot of attention to students as if they were his children), 我が子 cannot be replaced with 私の子 because 我 refers to 彼, not 私. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 20 '12 at 2:38
    
@TsuyoshiIto: Nice insight, I didn't think of that. –  Jesse Good Aug 20 '12 at 2:51
    
Also agree with @Tusyoshi in that I hear 我が家、我が子、我が社 quite often in every day conversation. They are not explicitly written/formal constructions. –  Jeemusu Aug 20 '12 at 3:29
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