From what I've studied, pronouns like he/she and you are not really common in everyday conversational Japanese, but I see them used more often in media like manga or video games, like a character using 彼/彼女 or あなた/君 when referring to or talking to someone they know the name of, or even when referring to someone close to them, like a friend or a sibling.

I was always taught to rarely if ever, use these pronouns unless you don't know the person's name or title, so is the usage of these pronouns more so in media than in actual daily conversation? Or are pronouns becoming more and more prominent in modern Japanese through outside influences like English? Thanks.

  • I lack the knowledge to answer your question fully but yes, pronouns are more common in fiction than real life. I suspect it's the other way around, though; pronouns were more common in the (maybe far) past, and certain 'stereotyped' ways of speaking (役割語) were codified at such a time. I have no real evidence of this though.
    – Angelos
    Jan 11, 2023 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


Is the usage of these pronouns more so in media than in actual daily conversation?

Yes, I think so. Regarding 彼, 彼女 and あなた specifically, these are words used only sometimes by mature adults in relatively formal conversations and speeches. Personally, I'm not sure if I have said these words out loud even once in the past year (except when 彼女 means "girlfriend"). In formal conversations, expressions like 自分, あの人, その方, そちら, あちら, 向こう and so on are mainly used instead when you don't know the name. Until middle school, I used お前 a lot among friends, but after that, instead of learning to use あなた, I learned how to avoid あなた using keigo and various ways of paraphrasing.

In fiction, there are many unusual types of characters that you would not encounter in real life (gods, royalties, stereotypical ojōsama, ...), so you are likely to see あなた/彼/彼女 and other uncommon personal pronouns much more often. Besides, fictional conversations inevitably tend to be more organized and closer to written Japanese than real conversations.

(By the way, the word 彼女 did not exist in Japanese until the mid-19th century. It was coined to translate "she" in western languages.)

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