For direct quotes (e.g. He said "_____", 彼は「___」と言った), the quotes are seemingly always used. But in Japanese, it's also quite common to voice thoughts and feelings as if they are quotes being said in the first person, and yet they don't seem to be given quotation marks.

Some examples

  1. あの人と付き合いたいなと思ってるでしょう。 (You're thinking "I want to get with that person", aren't you?)
  2. 大きくなったらお姫様になりたいって聞いたらまじで反吐が出るわ。(When I hear "I want to be a princess when I grow up", it makes me want to throw up)
  3. もうやってられない、諦めたいって思う人はこの社会に多くいる。 (There are many people in this society who feel "I can't do this any more, I want to give up")
  4. 私ならペテン師に騙されないって思ってるなら大間違いだ。 (If you're thinking "I won't be scammed by a conman", you're dead wrong).

In English, the lines said in the first person would essentially always be given quotation marks (as I indicated in my translations). However, I don't see them get quotation marks 「」 in Japanese really. Can they be given quotation marks?

Basically, are quotation marks only supposed to be used when directly quoting a person (e.g. he said "X", she screamed "Y", etc.), and not when giving a hypothetical quote given in the first person? (e.g. he's probably thinking "X")

  • It happens with indirect speech and the like in English as well - "He said he didn't need to go to the mall", "I thought I paid for that yesterday", etc.
    – ConMan
    Nov 8, 2022 at 6:19
  • None of those sentences contains a word for “I”. Did you judge they were said in the first person because of 〜たい?
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 8, 2022 at 6:51
  • @ConMan I agree, but the Japanese just take it a step further. Very often, they give long sentiments as if quoting someone talking in the first person, but then simply don't wrap it as quotes. See my 3rd example in particular. There's no way that could be translated properly into English without quotes.
    – chausies
    Nov 8, 2022 at 6:51
  • @aguijonazo just for you, I added a fourth example that explicitly uses "I". But for the record, all the other examples also give sentiments in the first person, with the "I" being implicit (as one leaves off unnecessary pronouns in Japanese usually).
    – chausies
    Nov 8, 2022 at 6:57
  • I'm not sure if that 私 refers to the same person as the subject of 思ってる, though. Without further context, I would be inclined to interpret it as referring to the speaker. If I meant the listener, I would say 自分なら. I don't deny quotation marks are sometimes omitted in direct quotation, though. I just asked for clarification.
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 8, 2022 at 7:13

1 Answer 1


You can think of these as "direct quotes without explicit quotation marks". This is fairly common in Japanese because you can usually tell who's talking by looking at first-person pronouns, keigo, sentence-end expressions (たいな, だろうか, かしら), and so on. Since they are essentially direct quotes, of course it's always fine to use explicit quotation marks for these examples. You cannot use quotation marks when indirect quotes are being used.


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