Akemi's Anime World

All About Me Japanese Lesson

You now know the basic sentence structure (say it with me: subject-object-verb), so now let's be self-centered and use that to talk about ourselves.


Hopefully you're going to study more than this before you start trying to talk to anybody in Japanese, but for reference (since every textbook has this in the first lesson), let's introduce ourselves. You really only need to know three words to do that, plus our handy old "Watashi wa [name] desu." sentence pattern: "Hajimemashite." and "Doozo Yoroshiku."

"Hajimemashite." means something to the effect of "How do you do." in English, and it's a sentence all by itself. And, "Doozo Yoroshiku" means something like "Pleased to meet you." Put those together and you get:

Barbie: "Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Baabi desu. Doozo Yoroshiku." ("How do you do. I am Barbie. Pleased to meet you.")
Fist of the North Star: "Kenshiro desu. Yoroshiku." ("I'm Kenshiro. Nice to meet you.")

Notice that in the second sentence, the wandering martial artist Kenshiro left off both "Watashi" and the "Doozo" in "Doozo Yoroshiku." This is a less formal way of introducing yourself; we already learned about leaving the subject off of sentences (Ken can do this because it's clear he's talking about himself), and "Doozo" basically means "very", so "Yoroshiku" by itself means the same thing, but is a bit less formal.

That's enough introducing for today.

I, Me, and Myself

If you were paying attention to the last lesson, you already know the word for "I": Watashi. Conveniently enough, this is also the word for "me". This is nice, since you can just use "watashi" any time you want to talk about yourself. That said, so far we only know how to make sentences that would translate as "I" anyway, but this at least lets us identify ourselves, as in this example conversation:

Person A: "Watashi wa bengoshi desu." ("I am a lawyer.")
Person B: "Watashi wa Samurai desu. Shine!" ("I am a Samurai. Die!")

Just for example's sake, here's a new expression that shows "watashi" in a phrase that would use "me" in English:

"watashi to issho ni" ("with me")

I, I, I, and I?

Most Japanese lessons won't cover this for quite a while, but this isn't most Japanese lessons. If you start listening for "watashi" in anime, you're going to realize that you don't hear it very much. This is because in Japanese, there are way, way too many words for "I". Like "watashi", they're all used the same way--that is, there's no difference between "I" or "me"--but each word is used by a different sort of people. Here are a few common ones, but there are others:

"Watashi" (male or female; relatively polite)
"Atashi" (used only by women; slightly less formal than watashi)
"Boku" (used only by men; generally younger men or people without a macho image)
"Ore" (men only; not so polite, has a bit of a tough image)
"Watakushi" (male or female; extremely formal)

Keep those in mind, but we're going to mostly stick to "watashi" for now.

Don't Be Too Egotistical

Remember how you can leave the subject of the sentence off if it's clear what you're talking about? This is especially important when you're talking about yourself, because in Japanese if you keep repeating "watashi" over and over again, it sounds kinda funny and a bit egotistical. This is different from English, where it's weird not to say "I" at the beginning of any sentence that's about you. Here's an example:

"Watashi wa Yamamoto Yooko desu. Pairotto desu." ("I am Yohko Yamamoto. I'm a pilot.")

As a small side note, in case you didn't know: Japanese names are backwards. So, if a person's name is Yamamoto Yooko, that means her "first" (given) name is Yooko, and her "last" (family) name is Yamamoto. People never have middle names, either. Japanese people always switch the order when they give their names in other countries, though, so you only have to worry about this when listening to Japanese. They also don't switch the order of non-Japanese names, so don't expect to hear "Smith Bob" either.

Mine, Mine, Mine!

Ok, so let's try something a bit more useful than just "I am...". Let's own something. How do we say "my" in Japanese? "Watashi no". Example:

"Watashi no katana" ("My katana")

If you put that into a sentence, it'll work like this:

"Kore wa watashi no katana desu." (This is my katana.")

That wasn't too painful now, was it? Here's a similar sentence:

"Kore wa watashi no desu." (This is mine.")

Since no noun comes after "watashi no" in this case, it just means "mine".

Oh, no!

Now that you've been introduced to "no", let's go on a little tangent and have some more fun with it. "No" (in Japanese) is another particle (remember, like "wa"?). That means it has no meaning by itself. What "no" does is mark the word before it as the owner of something else. There are a few variations, but basically you can think of it exactly like an apostrophe s (" 's " that is). Here are some examples:

  1. "Watashi no" ("Mine")
  2. "Watashi no uchuusen" ("My space ship")
  3. "Watashi no mono" ("My thing" or "Mine")
  4. "Kenshiro no chi" ("Kenshiro's blood")
  5. "Minmei no uta" ("Minmay's song")
  6. "Samurai no katana" ("Samurai's sword" or "The sword of a Samurai")
  7. "Kaze no Tani no Naushikaa" ("Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind")

Check out number 3; "mono" just means "thing" or "object" in Japanese, so "watashi no mono" means "my thing" or "my possession". This works in English, but we usually just say "mine".

Number 7 is a bit trickier. Number 6 should give you an idea of how "no" can also mean something like the English word "of". The only problem is, you reverse the order in English when you use "of" instead of " 's ", but "no" always follows the thing that does the owning in Japanese, so it's easier to just think of it like an apostrophe s.

Coming back to "Kaze no Tani no Naushikaa", since "kaze" means "wind" and "tani" means "valley", you could literally translate it as "The Wind's Valley's Nausicaa." But, that sounds funny in English, so it's always translated using "of" instead.

All you Ranma 1/2 fans are wondering how "Ranma no Baka" fits into this pattern, aren't you? Well, it doesn't. That's a special case, and it pretty much only works in a sentence with that exact pattern (where the "object" being owned is stupidity, that is).

Putting It All Together

Ways to use "watashi":

"Watashi wa [something] desu." ("I am [something].")
"Atashi wa [something] desu." ("I am [something]." --female only)
"Boku wa [something] desu." ("I am [something]." --male only)

And, ways to use "no":

"Watashi no" ("Mine")
"Watashi no [something]." ("My [something].")
"[Something] no [something]." ("[Something]'s [something].")
or "[Something] no [something]." ("[something] of [Something]." --pay attention to the order)

Let's try combining those two. Pay close attention to where the "no" and the "wa" are in this sentence:

"Watashi wa Yooko no uchuusen desu."

Since "Yooko" is a name, can you figure that out? How about "I am Yohko's space ship." Talking space ship--get it? (Yeah, it's silly, and really not a good example--I'm making a point here.) Anyway, for fun, check out what happens if we switch the positions of "no" and "wa":

"Watashi no Yooko wa uchuusen desu."

That sentence is even weirder, but it could still theoretically make sense. It would now mean "My Yohko is a space ship." (Say, for example, that you had named your spaceship Yohko, and you were explaining to somebody that "Yohko" was a machine, not your girlfriend.) Just be careful where you put your particles, and you'll be fine.

Here's a better example:

"Watashi no namae wa Gokuu desu."

There's a new word in there, but it's easy to remember: "namae" means "name". They look pretty similar, don't they? Remember that you pronounce "namae" like this, though: "na - mah - eh".

Anyway, it shouldn't take too much to figure out that that sentence means "My name is Goku."

Here's one more example, this time where both the subject and object use "no":

"Supeesusuteeshon no kuuki wa minna no mono desu."

As you might have guessed if you tried to pronounce it, "Supeesusuteeshon" means "Space station", and "kuuki" means "air" (the good ol' stuff you breathe). "Minna" means "everyone" (it's the same as the beginning of "minna-san"), so "minna no mono" means... yep, "everyone's thing", or if you want to make it sound better in English "belongs to everybody". If you put all those ideas together, the sentence ends up meaning: "The space station's air belongs to everybody." Must be a Communist space station.

More Examples

Here are a selection of sentences using this same basic pattern. Look at all the fun things we can describe:

  1. "Ore no namae wa Ryuu desu." ("My name is Ryuu.")
  2. "Kore wa atashi no kuruma desu." ("This is my car.")
  3. "Kore wa ore no okane desu." ("This is my money.")
  4. "Ore no okane wa ore no mono desu." ("My money is mine [my thing].")
  5. "Anata no okane mo ore no mono desu." ("Your money is also mine.")
  6. "Anata wa watashi no tomodachi desu." ("You are my friend.")
  7. "Watashi no tomodachi wa okane desu." ("My friend is money.")

A few new words in here and some interesting combinations of what we've learned; in number 2, "kuruma" of course means "car" (and, since the speaker said "atashi", it must be a woman talking).

Number 3 the same pattern, except "okane" means "money", and the speaker is male and being less formal, since he said "ore". Number 4 and 5 go with that one; in number 4, "ore no mono" means "my thing" or "mine", as we've gone over, and in number 5 you'll see "anata", one of the many words for "you" (we'll go over more in the next lesson). There's also a "mo" in there; "mo" is yet another particle. It's used exactly the same way as "wa" (and replaces it in a sentence), but adds the meaning of "also" or "too" (we'll go over that one a bit more in a future lesson, too).

In number 6, you'll see "anata" again, and "tomodachi", which is a word for "friend".

Number 7 reverses the location of the "no" phrase, but has the same structure. You could also say it the other way around, and it would mean the same thing: "Okane wa watashi no tomodachi desu." - "Money is my friend."

In Closing...

In part 3, we'll finish up our basic vocabulary lessons by learning about this, that, and a variety of ways to say you.