I often see couples where the girl sometimes speaks to her boyfriend using 俺 as a 'you'.

Where does it come from?
Can other pronouns like 僕、私、あたし, etc. can be used the same way?

  • 7
    Not relevant to this question, but I do want to note that ore was originally a second person pronoun. It became a first person pronoun around 14-15th century.
    – Dono
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 5:32

2 Answers 2


In a word: imitation.

Between couples, often men will refer to themselves as ore. A woman may refer to him (hence "you") by imitating his pronoun of choice. Often ore is not appropriate in various social situations, such as work. As such, some men may refer to themselves as boku. As a result, some people (both male and female), such as bosses (who may refer to themselves as ore), may refer to him (hence "you") by imitating the choice of his pronoun.

I cannot recall hearing it with regard to wata(ku)si or atasi. wata(ku)si, though, is rather unlikely since it could just as equally apply to either person, so the sense of imitation would be more difficult to catch.

  • Have you actually heard a boss call a worker "boku"? I would think such a thing would be unheard of.
    – By137
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 16:04
  • @By137 Yes, it happens at my workplace.
    – Dono
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 16:05
  • Just for the record, I had people refer to me as わたし, when I referred to myself as わたし. Referring to the second person by "imitating" a first person pronoun is I think also asymmetrical with respect to gender. Interestingly, little girls also refer to themselves by their name (+ちゃん at times); boys always by a first person pronoun. So in fact, the asymmetry might stem from the asymmetrical use of personal pronouns.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 1:42
  • Here is an example of "boku" being used to mean "you". Link: youtube.com/watch?v=zQZEe7a8tjY The full segment is between 26:25 and 37:25, but the specific phrase is at the 28:57 mark.
    – Dono
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 10:35

When addressing children, first person pronouns are sometimes used as second person pronouns. This is done for different reasons, including

  1. teaching them to use personal pronouns instead of referring to themselves by name.
  2. as a convenient pronoun when you don't know the their name.

Using this to address adults seems a bit strange, and I would find it slightly condescending if my boss used it to address me.

However, between couples or close friends it can be used as a sign of affection/intimacy. I have heard it with all of "(w)atashi", "ore" and "boku".

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