When a parent is talking to their child in Japanese, what are the common ways of saying "I"? I've often heard parents refer to themselves in the 3rd person, ie お母さんについてきて ("come with me"), お父さんの車を洗って ("wash my car"). Is this the most common approach? To me, it would sound strange if a parent referred to themselves as 私、僕、俺, etc using the usual 1st-person pronouns. On the other hand, repeatedly using the 3rd-person お母さん and お父さん could be clumsy if you keep having to say "I". When the child is young, I've heard them saying ママ or パパ, but that might sound childish if the child is in their teens or 20s, for example.

So, what is an appropriate way for parents to say "I" when they are talking to their children? And how does that change according to the age of the child?

EDIT: Also, are there ways of referring to themselves which would be considered inappropriate? For example, would a father call himself 俺 when talking with a teenager (or older) child? What would be considered unnatural?

1 Answer 1


お母さん/お父さん and ママ/パパ are the common "first-person" pronouns at least when a child is small. See also: When referring to herself, is there any pronoun other than お母さん when speaking to her children?

It's easy to find surveys on second-person usages of ママ/etc (for example this and this), but I could not find a survey directly on first-person ママ/etc. From my understanding, ママ/パパ is the most common first-person pronoun when a child is very small, and it will be gradually replaced by 俺/わたし/父さん/お母さん/etc. Many parents keep using first-person ママ/お父さん/etc even after their children become adults. I am in my thirties and my mother still calls herself お母さん when she talks with me over the phone.

repeatedly using the 3rd-person お母さん and お父さん could be clumsy if you keep having to say "I".

Repeatedly using any person pronoun is clumsy in Japanese. As you probably know, Japanese is not a language that makes you use the same person pronouns many times. The majority of conversations with a child are done with no person pronouns, and you almost never have to say お母さん repeatedly.

  • Of course, but there are times when clarity requires you to explicitly refer to yourself in Japanese. Though the frequency of those times is far fewer than English, it still happens. I wondered what language parents use when they do indeed have to explicitly refer to themselves. For example, would a father ever use 俺 when talking to a son or daughter?
    – kandyman
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:42
  • @kandyman In such a rare situation, nothing is better than repeating お母さん/パパ/etc. Of course some fathers just keep using 俺 regardless of whether it's repeated or not.
    – naruto
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:45
  • even if the child is a teenager or in their 20s?
    – kandyman
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:46
  • @kandyman I am in my 30's, and my mother still call herself お母さん when I talk with her over the phone :D
    – naruto
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:51
  • @kandyman Um, what did you mean by "repeatedly"? I thought you were saying that using お母さん in almost every sentence was clumsy.
    – naruto
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:52

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