I know that 私たち means "we", but in what sense? Does it simply mean the last two people talked about? Or does it always mean the speaker and the listener? So say I'm talking to Shota about Sawako, and I say


Is it clear that I'm talking about Sawako and me when I use 私たち from the context, or does the word necessarily imply I'm talking about Shota and me?

Please reply in kana or kanji with furigana (私 is fine.)

  • Maybe you should extend the question to ask, is there a difference between "we" and 私たち? (I don't think there is, not in its practical use at least.) – Tim Mar 18 '14 at 2:47
  • 1
    In many languages there is a distinction between "inclusive" and "exclusive" pronouns. The former means "me and you (and maybe others too)" and the latter means "me and others but not you". Neither English nor Japanese has this distinction though. Then of course ~たち is pretty special and is something like a noun meaning "and others". Japanese pronouns are actually very different from pronouns in most languages (other than Korean and Okinawan) for this and other reasons. – hippietrail Mar 24 '14 at 7:26

In your example, you would be talking about just you and Sawako. That said, depending on context it's possible to use it to refer to everyone in the conversation, or all people on a given side of a conversation.

Broadening the context of the question a bit, 〜[達]{たち} can be added to pronouns or names to indicate a group of people associated with someone. For example:

[武達]{たけしたち}は[最近]{さいきん}[暴走]{ぼうそう}していました。"Takeshi [and his friends] have been causing trouble recently."

We only name Takeshi in the sentence, but adding 〜[達]{たち} to his name includes anybody who would be naturally grouped with him in the context.

  • 1
    That's good to know. So it's kind of like "Takeshi and his lot"? – Lou Mar 18 '14 at 6:58
  • Yep, precisely. – Kaji Mar 18 '14 at 10:36
  • 1
    All three responses answered and went beyond the OP with useful and interesting additional information, so I wasn't sure which to accept. So just imagine they're all accepted (^w^). Thanks! – Lou Mar 18 '14 at 17:48

私たち almost always means "we".

私 almost always means "I". It (and other Japanese words usually translated as personal pronouns in English) can mean "you","him",or "her" in cases where it's obvious from the context - though it's a bit unusual for the word 私 or 私たち.

A common example of this 1st to 2nd person pronoun switcheroo happens with the word 僕 (ぼく). 僕 is usually translated into English as "I", but it's usually associated with younger males.

It would be quite natural for my Japanese mother-in-law to say something like


(Are you guys going to eat a snack?)

to my eight year old son and a visiting friend of his (of either gender).

  • 1
    Exactly what I was thinking about saying --- the "second-person" bit when the addressee is a small kid. – l'électeur Mar 18 '14 at 3:26
  • I see. Can you think of an instance in which someone might use 私 or 私たち as a form of 2nd person address? :) – Lou Mar 18 '14 at 7:00
  • 1
    Mimicking the last example in the post above, someone saying "[私達]{わたしたち}はそんなことしません。" to a junior or colleague could be similar to saying "We don't do stuff like that around here" in English. You're saying "we", but you're really directing it at them. – Kaji Mar 18 '14 at 10:39
  • -theoretically accepted- – Lou Mar 18 '14 at 17:49

私たち refers to multiple people within the "in group" (people emotionally or hierarchically close to the speaker). "In group" in this context means "you and your friends" but it could be your family, your classmates, people within your company, etc. They are people you would not consider as "other."

In the case you described, it is clear that 私たち refers to you and Sawako, but carries a slight implication that you are not necessarily friends with Shota.

  • Really? That's interesting. How would you phrase it if Shota was your friend and you wanted to tell him that Sawako was also your friend, without this implication? Or is it just not something the Japanese would discuss with a friend? – Lou Mar 18 '14 at 7:02
  • 1
    IMO, English has similar problems. If I say "he's my friend" I feel like that implies that you are not (that may just be me). I generally say "he is also my friend." かれも私のともだちです。But now another implication arises. I have implied (or perhaps even stressed) that WE are friends. I think it's a matter of personal taste at that point. – RavensKrag Mar 18 '14 at 7:12
  • -theoretically accepted- – Lou Mar 18 '14 at 17:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.