Common Mistakes: You = あなた (anata)???

August 12th, 2013By Category: Uncategorized


A sentence in English always requires a subject, but that’s not the case with Japanese.

In particular, personal pronouns such as “I, you, he, she” are often omitted.
The following example uses neither “I” nor “You”.


(Michi de battari kinjyo no hito ni au)
A:Konnichiwa, atsui desune.  Odekake desuka.
B:Ee, chotto sokomade kaimono ni.
  (*A san wa )dochira made?
  *aite no namae o tsukau koto mo ooi desu.

(Bumping into a neighbor on the street)
A: Hi, it sure is hot. Are you going out?
B: Yes, I’m just going to do some shopping.  Where are you off to, (*A san)?
*It is common to use the person’s name as well. 

Now, what should you do if you’re speaking to two people? In that case, the subject may be omitted if possible, but it is also common to use their names like 「AさんとBさんは A san to B san wa」“A san and B san” or to say 「(お)二人は (o) futari wa」“the two of you.”


Rei 1:Watashi wa chikatetsu de kaeru kedo, (A san to B san wa) dou suru?
Rei 2:Ofutari wa dochira de shiriatta no desuka?

Example 1: I’m going home by taking the subway. How about you (A and B)?
Example 2: Where did the two of you meet?

If there are more than three people, we sometimes use 「みんな Minna・みなさん Minasan」“you (are) all.”
Minasan no okage de tasukari mashita.
Minasan, totemo jyouzu desuyo.
Boku wa ii to omou kedo, minna wa dou omou?

Shuumatsu ni nihonjin dake no futsal team ni irete morattan dakedo, minna kekkou jyouzu datta.

“I couldn’t have done it without you all.”
“You are all very good at it.”
“I think that’s fine, but what do you all think about it?”
“I played with a Japanese futsal team over the weekend. They were all pretty good.”

Because not using a subject feels awkward, especially when you’re just starting out, students often feel the urge to use “you (anata).” But Japanese people will be surprised if you do, so it’s best to avoid it. This is partly because Japanese people simply don’t use the word “you (anata)”, but also because the word somehow projects a vibe that makes the other person feel inferior. It has an unfriendly tone and carries a connotation that makes it seem as though you are looking down on the person. 

When I heard someone I know, a Japanese person who lived in the US for over 20 years, say to his Japanese mother 「あなたにはこれが似合うんじゃない? Anata niwa korega niaun janai?」“this might look good on you,” I couldn’t believe my ears.

In closing, let’s discuss last week’s question:
So here is the question. How would you translate the “We will see” that parents use when children keep asking them whether they can have a dog?
One reader provided a very good answer:
「考えとく Kangae toku.」 “I’ll think about it.”
That’s excellent!
My answer would be:
「そのうちね Sono uchi ne.」“Maybe some other time.”
Perhaps any expression that avoids answering the question for the time being will work.


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Iidabashi Japanese Language School

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School motto is "Be Unique, Have fun Globally!" We teach classes focused on conversation skills to foreigners living in Japan.

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