Many things that seem normal in English look arrogant in Japanese. I think I found a special case where the reverse is true. In Japanese is it normal to speak in the third person when referring to oneself? I have seen this done before on Twitter.

What about in face to face conversation or other conversational situations? Is it normal to refer to oneself in the third person?

Whenever I try to speak in the third person about myself in English I always get accused of looking pompous. This is not the case in Japanese?

What's the difference when using the third person to refer to oneself instead of words like 私、僕、or 俺?

  • 1
    It is also done regularly in English. For example, when you write a CV or an introduction of yourself, the formal way is to refer to yourself in third person. The same is in academic paper.
    – user458
    Jul 30, 2011 at 0:57
  • It's often said that Japanese doesn't have true pronouns and that the words that are used for the purpose are better thought of as nouns. In any case Japanese pronouns diverge from language universals in ways including that they change frequently over time where in most languages pronouns are the least changing word category. Jul 30, 2011 at 10:35
  • I have nuked most of the comments in this thread, as they were off-topic and argumentative.
    – Amanda S
    Aug 2, 2011 at 4:48
  • @sawa: Since I noticed that you tagged this question as [mood], can you add a tag wiki for the tag? I have trouble understanding terms “mood” and “modality” even after reading Wikipedia. Dec 30, 2011 at 2:18
  • @TsuyoshiIto Sorry. That was my mistake. I should have tagged it as "narration" or "perspective". I retagged it as "perspective". Thanks for adding the tag wikis to the tags that I have created.
    – user458
    Dec 30, 2011 at 3:46

3 Answers 3


Update: I didn't comment on the fact that speaking about oneself can also be a matter of using "he" or "she" for oneself, as well as using one's own name.

I have never heard anyone in Japanese use 彼【かれ】(he) or 彼女【かのじょ】(she) to refer to themselves. As far as I can tell, it has more or less the same implications that it would in English, and you can follow the same instincts. So, for example, you might use the third person when writing a bio on a web site when it's understood you're writing about yourself.

The point is that using he or she has no special place in Japanese for referring to yourself.

Using one's own name to refer to oneself, however, is something that is done in Japanese and different from English.

Women up to around 30 or so use their own name in place of a first person pronoun commonly enough. However, it is reserved for certain social contexts, like within their relationship, family, or close friends, and definitely not for circumstances like work or school.

Some people think of the use of one's own name as being "girlish", but that is debatable. I think it's a matter of opinion as well a context.

Men can also use the term, but in even a far, far more restricted sense. A father talking to his young child, or a man in a very specific context with his girlfriend/wife/partner.

For men learning Japanese, I would absolutely recommend not ever using one's own name in place of 私【わたし】, 僕【ぼく】, or 俺【おれ】. If the circumstance comes up when it might work, as it has with me in some relationships, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Or, put another way, if there is a shadow of doubt, you shouldn't do it. (Note I'm not saying it's an indication of closeness, just that it's the result of a context far too specific and complicated to describe here.)

For women learning Japanese, you would have the option to try it, but it's an art, not a science. You would have to watch your female peers as a guide to see if they felt comfortable using it given their age, standing, and social context.

For both men and women learning Japanese, it is far more beneficial to learn how to drop the first person pronoun altogether than it is to master using one's own name for that purpose.

  • Thanks for a very interesting answer. I was wondering why my female Japanese friend does this in Japanese.
    – Lou
    May 16, 2016 at 16:39

A young girl can use her first name to refer to herself in informal situations. And this gives the impression of acting cutesy. There's no rule that says it's only limited to girls, but statistically speaking this method of self-address is more common in girls than boys, men, or even women.

  • 2
    I'd say it's common in young children, period.
    – Amanda S
    Jul 30, 2011 at 6:29
  • No. Definitely a children and female form. I know countless 20-something (women) that commonly use their own name in declarative sentences. I only know of one male: he is over 60 and a professor. The consensus is that it makes him sound: 1) cute, 2) quaint, 3) ever so slightly provincial... I definitely don't think a non-Japanese, non-60-yo-professor male could pull it off.
    – Dave
    Aug 1, 2011 at 7:49

This is actually more complicated than it seems.
The general feeling in conversation of referring to oneself in the third person BY GIVEN NAME(or self chosen name re:Cher, Madonna, etc) has either a childish (one who hasn't learned about the contextual nouns with which one should refer to oneself by in a given situation) or an arrogant slant to it, but again this is context based because if you are a Taoist or Buddhist or in an area with high prevalence of such philosophies you might have attained Mu in which case using self referential pronouns and nouns is no longer appropriate, in this particular case you wouldn't exactly call yourself by your given name but rather say something more like 'X/Some call me NAME' but generally you would be avoiding such use and remove the nouns/pronouns that refer to the self or you as an individual (excepting maybe 'this person') since Japanese doesn't require it and that you have reached Mu would be extremely obvious from looking at you and the context would be readily apparent already. Japanese is very friendly language to this kind of thinking and interaction already, and it isn't unusual to NOT refer to yourself even in formal settings, with many words satisfying the religious/philosophical requirement such as actually meaning 'an unforgivable mistake' rather than meaning 'I am sorry' as they are usually translated.

So to sum up:

  • Third Person: normal with children
  • Third Person: not unusual with young women
  • Third Person: common and normal in highly specific context between those close to you, or when you have a particularly unique and pleasant/ironic/punny sounding name when spoken in Japanese.
  • Third Person: Standard usage if you have only one name and don't 'belong' to any class, group, or caste (ethnicity, job, etc), family, etc. (a highly specific context)
  • Third Person: not uncommon with people with no defined identify or 'self' (both an individualist and someone who reach Mu would could readily do this), this falls into the domain 'children' as well as this is WHY children do as such, usually.
  • Third Person: unusual and condescending/arrogant when used by masculine males or females over a certain age, the aged (but not wise), anyone entrenched in social hierarchy speaking formally.

This was only in conversation, everyone else covered other areas thoroughly. And remember there is nothing wrong with sounding arrogant, or offending people!

  • 2
    Your answer is very terse and difficult to read. Could you consider editing it to make it more readable. If you could also explain a little more about your sources you would be more credible. May 23, 2016 at 3:57

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