What's the difference between 自分の and 自らの?

Both can be used to mean "oneself", but is there a difference in their nuances / usages?

(e.g. what would be the difference between あの子は、自らの命と引換に… and あの子は、自分の命と引換に… ?)

1 Answer 1


I can think of two differences:

  • 自分 can only be used for referring to singular, you can use 自ら for referring to a group of people.




  • 自ら can have implied meaning of "not relying on others" or "by one's own will".




In the above, 自分で simply means by "oneself". However, 自ら has the implied meaning that you have not relied on others in anyway. For example, no one has told you to study, you are doing it by your own will.

Otherwise, the two can be used interchangeably as shown in your example.

  • Hmm, does the "not relying on others" meaning apply to the sentence 「あの子は、自らの命と引換に…」?
    – Pacerier
    Jan 22, 2013 at 13:23
  • Possibly. In the sentence 自ら命を絶つ, it implies that much stronger, but it depends on what comes after in your example sentence.
    – Jesse Good
    Jan 22, 2013 at 20:26
  • btw would substituting 自分 with 自ら make a sentence sound literary? For example, is there a case where a sentence using 自分 will sound weird when we replace 自分 with 自ら?
    – Pacerier
    Jan 23, 2013 at 13:38
  • 1
    Yes, using 自ら would sound more literary. Also, since 自ら can imply "not relying on others", etc. It is best to use it in that sense. You also made me realize there is one more difference, in modern Japanese 自分 is can be used to mean 私, for example, 私は日本人 can also be 自分は日本人. However, you cannot use 自らは日本人 in this sense (when referring to first person). Fun fact: In 関西 dialect, 自分 can mean "you" also.
    – Jesse Good
    Jan 23, 2013 at 21:09

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