I saw this question, How is おい used?, but I don't think this would be a duplicate of any existing question yet.

There, they say that おい is a curt "hey" or "yo" that can come across strongly. But since I'm still fairly new to Japanese, the most memorable instance of おい I can recall is Link's little sister from The Wind Waker.

Similarly, I'm most familiar with ねえ from music (this is just my favorite artist and one of his songs that uses ねえ). It seems to just mean "hey" like it would in English.

However, it'd be nice to have a contextual contrast of how these are actually used beyond anime, music, and video games. Could you explain what their differences are?

1 Answer 1


Stopping a total stranger in the real world using おい is out of the question, as I mentioned in the existing answer. In fiction, you may often see tough guys and impertinent characters use おい as the very first word they utter.

But when it comes to おい used between friends or family members, that's another story. It's more like "wait", "hey" or "come on" used when someone said something funny. おいおい sounds like "come on" or "gimme a break." It may still sound a bit tomboyish for a fictional girl.

And a loud おーい used to attract attention from a distance is not particularly impolite, either. That's just "hey" or "hello". You can say "おーい、誰かいるか!" ("Hello! Is anybody there!?") looking into a deep and dark well.

I don't know how the little sister usually speaks. If you can cite the exact line including おい, I may tell which kind of おい it is.

ねえ as an interjection tends to be preferred by females and children, and it means "listen" (as the starter of a conversation), "please", or "yeah" (as a sign of agreement). It's never used to stop a person on the street. I can't think of a situation where ねえ and おい are interchangeable.

  • It was definitely your third case, she just shouted it from a distance, one of the few voice acting pieces from the game. Also, I feel like you missed my main question...what makes it different from ねえ?
    – user22337
    Jun 16, 2017 at 3:26
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    The difference is that they can have the same meaning but the ねぇ is softer than the おい, and ねぇ is (as stated above) mainly used by girls and kids while おい is used mostly by guys.
    – DanMa
    Jun 16, 2017 at 4:02

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