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I searched for "referring to yourself in third person" and other similar phrases , but found only these: Q1, Q2. All searches in google also lead to similar discussions.

But I already know that referring to yourself in the third person in conversation might be seen as childish or cutesy. What I wanted to know about, however, was their usage in the workplace. There was an email from a co-worker asking if we were free on MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM. Then the replies that came were like this:

田中: 田中はOKです。

木村: 木村も大丈夫です。

Me: 私も大丈夫です。

etc. etc. They are men in their 30's - 40's and I don't think they were trying to be cute at all. In fact, this isn't the first time they've answered in this way. Our department head once asked us to check each of the projects we were in-charge of and the replies were in the form:

田中の分。。。

This second one, I can somehow understand since 〇〇の分 becomes somewhat an encompassing name or way to refer to the projects under 〇〇.

I'm wondering, then, when is it appropriate to use your own name like these examples? Should I have used my own name as well? Was it fine I used 私 (I used 私 because it's the only way I know how and I wanted to be safe... but was it right)?

If this has actually already been asked and I just didn't search hard/well enough, please lead me to those questions/articles/etc.

Thank you!

  • It's interesting that English speakers recognize this phenomenon as "third person" while 私 not. – user4092 May 9 '18 at 3:31
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    @user4092, "third person" refers to the fact that in English, if two people are having a conversation, and one of them refers to someone else, that person is a "third person". In conversation "I" am the first person, the person talking. "You" are the second person, the person listening, and "he/she/they/it/Mr. Tanaka" are a third person, being talked about. So whenever Japanese people use their OWN name in conversation, to English speakers it sounds like a "third person construction". – ericfromabeno May 9 '18 at 11:21
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This is not uncommon in business settings. For one, 「田中はOKです。」 is easier to type and more concise than 「田中です。私はOKです。」. For one, they may be trying to be fair and businesslike. Using their own family names signals they are treating themselves the same way as other colleagues, from the third person's perspective. The person who says 田中の分 referring to himself signals he doesn't want you to consider his own personal matter or the personal relationship between you and him. Anyway, the difference is not large, and 私 is always safe, too.

Note that these people are using their family name, which is not common among young girls who refer to themselves using their names. They normally use their first names.

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    I can think of one other business case. When one person is collecting information from several other people, to then pass that on, copy/paste is the easiest way to do that. If a person answers with 私も大丈夫です。and their answer gets copy/pasted, it could lead to confusion as to who exactly that was. Using your name prevents that possible complication. – ericfromabeno May 9 '18 at 11:16

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