In English, a convention is to always say yourself last in a list of people:

(1) Mr. Tanaka and I drank tea. // <--- natural
(2) I and Mr. Tanaka drank tea. // <--- grammatically correct but extremely unnatural

what about Japanese?

(1) 田中さんがお茶を飲んだ。
(2) 田中さんがお茶を飲んだ。

How does #2 sound?

I was instructed to form English lists this way out of deference to others. Same idea as let guests sit-down first in a meeting, let guests begin eating first if you are the host, etc. Yourself is always last.

Does Japanese have this convention with regard to lists of people? For the same reason?

  • 3
    The situation in English isn't quite like you describe, but I don't want to start a long off-topic discussion in the comments section, so I'll refer you to Thomas Grano's thesis, "Me and her" meets "he and I": Case, person, and linear ordering in English coordinated pronouns, in case you'd like to read more about the topic. But +1 for a good question :-)
    – user1478
    Jul 12, 2016 at 15:12
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    My guess is that the order is less relevant in Japanese. For example, there is the drama "僕と彼女と彼女の生きる道" title where the "I" is first.
    – Locksleyu
    Jul 12, 2016 at 16:16
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    @snailplane My sweet mother "taught" me that the grammatical convention of placing 1st person pronouns last in a list derives from a core tenant of advanced liberal societies. The wants and needs of others are always placed first. Even though this is a little white lie, it is a good heuristic that teaches manners to children!!! When I saw my brother's son eat the last piece of pizza without asking... I was disappointed (in my brother). Jul 18, 2016 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


Order is not really important in most cases. Sentence 1 and Sentence 2 sound almost the same to my ears in the Japanese versions. BCCWJ Corpus has roughly the same number of examples of 私とあなた (43 hits) vs あなたと私 (35 hits). And "order in a list of people is important" is what I learned in English classes at school :D

I vaguely feel that order can be important even in Japanese in the most formal writings between companies, but could find nothing worth citing here. It was a lot easier for me to find articles about how important the order is in English. When I have to write something very formal in Japanese and want to play it safe, perhaps I will follow "the English rule" even in Japanese, but I don't know how important it really is.

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