I'm fairly certain there's a certain stigma surrounding second-person pronouns in Japanese. Even in Chinese, it's generally considered polite to avoid them (and refer to a person by surname, title, position or similar), although this practice has been declining somewhat as 您 is seen as a respectful way of saying "you" that one would generally use in the presence of parents and authority figures.

With that being said, I am curious to see which characters from Classical Chinese, including those popular in ancient texts, continue to be used in Japanese today.

Are these characters used, and if so, what are the connotations behind them? Have Japanese texts referred to these characters, even if in only ancient writings? These would be: 汝, 爾, 乃, 而, 若, 伊, 子, 君, 卿, 您, 你, etc.

  • Would you exclude classical Chinese literature translated into Japanese? If you include, I think it's not surprising if you can find most of them. Oct 29, 2023 at 3:06
  • This is partly related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/78836/43676
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 29, 2023 at 3:08
  • And this talks a little about 汝: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/15537/43676
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 29, 2023 at 3:14
  • Classical Chinese translated via kanbun is probably trivial. I just mean Japanese-written, locally-used language in popular use.
    – dreamforge
    Oct 29, 2023 at 7:22
  • Would 貴方 be understood as the second person in Chinese, ancient or modern?
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 29, 2023 at 22:27

1 Answer 1


I would say only [君]{きみ} and [汝]{なんじ}.

君 is common. It's used for someone on the same level of social status like a friend, or lower like a subordinate at work. It has condescending or pretentious overtones to it.

汝 is archaic like thou in English. It's only used in literature if not jocularly.

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