Consider the following conversation quoted from a textbook used in my class. 鈴木 is the mother of 鈴木伸.



In my understanding, お母さん is used to refer to mothers of other people, and 母 is used to refer to the speaker's own mother. So 母 is not possible in this case.

When referring to herself, is there any pronoun other than お母さん when speaking to her children?


3 Answers 3


The short answer is that the list would be somewhat long if not endless.

Why so? Because whatever word a kid uses to address his/her own mom with, the mom will use that word to refer to herself with as if it were a first-person pronoun. You would almost need to forget English to appreciate this phenomenon in Japanese.

(Your second paragraph from the bottom worries me slightly because, frankly, the 母{はは} vs. お母{かあ}さん issue has nothing to do with the matter.)

How kids address their moms differ from one family to another. The more common words would include:

「お母さん」、「母さん」、「おかあちゃん」、「かあちゃん」、「ママ」, etc.

None of these are "pronouns" by the book, but regardless of what dictionaries may name them, they are used just like first-person pronouns in real life. When speaking to their own kids, moms use those words to refer to themselves while the kids are young.

When the kid reaches a certain age, the mom starts using a "real" first-person pronoun such as 「わたし」, 「あたし」, etc. to refer to herself when talking to her own kid. When that happens, again, differs from one family to another.

In my own case, my mother, who had originally referred to herself only as 「お母さん」 when talking to me, started using a combination of 「お母さん」 and 「わたし」 while I was in junior high or high school and she completely switched to 「わたし」 after I graduated from high school if I remember correctly.

  • I would say that referring to oneself as “Mommy” or “Daddy” happens often enough with young children, though it would certainly be very surprising to hear anyone doing this to high school-aged kids.
    – Casey
    Dec 3, 2021 at 21:00

Actually, it is natural to use お母さん in the situation. Although お母さん means mother, but the usage is different from English. In Japanese family, when you say お母さん, it does NOT mean my お母さん, but it is お母さん of the youngest child in the family.

Here is why お母さん can refer to herself:
お母さん of the youngest child in the family
= お母さん of 伸
= herself

This calling system based on the youngest child is common in Japan because people in the family want the youngest child to remember what to call them.

So in the situation, all the word which means "mother" can refer herself. お母さん and ママ are very common.

Off course, the mother also can say 私 to refer herself. It sounds the child (伸) is more mature as his mother already finished the education on how to call his mother.


It's 私.

It's not necessarily impossible to use はは in that case, though it sounds outrageously out-dated.

You use お母さん when you are in a position where you should look up to her. So, you use it when you refer to your own mother in speaking to her or other member of your own family.

On the other hand, you use はは when you should look up to the listener compared with your mother, that is, when you are speaking to people outside your own family.

Kids are allowed to be ignorant at Standard Japanese. So they may always say お母さん.

  • 1
    This answer confuses me. It first seemed that you've misunderstood the question, but on a re-read it seems you're just answering a subset of the question?
    – oals
    Jul 26, 2015 at 15:35

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