And kanji with manga
Thursday, October 13, 2016

Third Person Pronouns

The "third person pronouns" in Japanese, san'ninshou daimeishi 三人称代名詞, are a bit complicated.

The words kare and kanojo 彼女 mean "he" and "she," respectively, but they also mean "boyfriend" and "girlfriend," respectively.

There's no "it" pronoun in Japanese.

Often, someone is referred to in third person neutrally, by the noun phrase "that person," ano hito あの人, ano ko あの子, or aitsu あいつ. Sometimes, by yatsu やつ, which refers to an individual person or thing.

Japanese is a pronoun dropping language, which means there are sentences you'd use "he" or "she" in English that you wouldn't use a pronoun in Japanese.

Grammar

Japanese doesn't have separate subject and object pronouns. The word kare means both "he" as subject and "him" as object. The word kanojo means both "she" and "her."

  • kare wa Tarou desu
    は太郎です
    He is Tarou.
  • kanojo wa Hanako desu
    彼女は花子です
    She is Hanako.
  • kare/kanojo wo tasukeru
    彼女を助ける
    To help him/her.

These words are turned into possessive third person pronouns through the no の particle, which creates no-adjectives.

  • kare no imouto
    彼の妹
    His younger sister.
  • kanojo no otouto
    彼女の弟
    Her younger brother.
  • ano hito no kuruma
    あの人の車
    The car of that person.
    That person's car.

These words are turned into plural through the pluralizing suffixes ~tachi ~達 and ~ra ~ら.

  • kare-ra
    彼ら
    He and the others. They.
  • kanojo-tachi
    彼女たち
    She and the others. They.
  • ano hito-tachi
    あの人達
    Those people.

These words don't mean "they" are all male or female, but that there's one male person, one kare, or one female person, one kanojo, and she's part of a group that we're referring to.

  • kare-ra no mokuteki
    彼らの目的
    Their objective.
  • kanojo-tachi no yukue
    彼女たちの行方
    Their whereabouts.
    • In this sentence, we're talking about "she and the others," so there's one "she," kanojo, plus a group of people of unspecified gender.

In Japanese, it's not necessary to use a pronoun if it's implicit who we're referring to. For example, when answering a question:

  • ano hito wa nani wo shite-iru?
    あの人は何をしている?
    What is that person doing?
  • benkyou shite-iru
    勉強している
    [That person] is studying.
    [He] is studying.
    [She] is studying.

By the same principle, Japanese doesn't have a pronoun "it." The fact we're talking about "it" is implicit.

Boyfriend and Girlfriend

The words kare and kanojo can also mean "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" in Japanese, respectively. Besides them:

  • kareshi
    彼氏
    Boyfriend.
  • booifurendo
    ボーイフレンド
    Boyfriend.
    (katakanization.)
  • garufurendo
    ガルフレンド
    Girlfriend.
    (katakanization.)
  • koibito

    Lover.

The word kareshi is preferred to say "boyfriend."

  • moto-kare
    元カレ
    Former boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend.
  • moto-kareshi
    元彼氏
    (same meaning.)
  • moto-kanojo
    元彼女
    Former girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend.

Some example phrases:

  • kareshi/kanojo ga iru
    彼/彼女がいる
    To have a boyfriend/girlfriend.
    (existence verb, double subject construction.)
  • kareshi/kanojo ga dekita
    彼氏/彼女ができた
    To have made a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • mae no kareshi/kanojo
    前の彼氏/彼女
    [My] boyfriend/girlfriend of before.
    [My] previous boyfriend/girlfriend.

3 comments:

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  1. You should update this to include 元彼女 元彼氏 ^^ love your articles

    ReplyDelete
  2. mae on kare 前の彼

    mae no kare... I guess

    ReplyDelete