Kimi, Anata, Age and Beautiful

Q: I Have a few questions actually. First, could you please tell me, what is the difference between kimi and anata? How do you ask for, and state your age? Difference between Uruwashiki and Utsukushi? Difference between Koi and Ai? How would I say “Sir” or “Miss” if I don’t know their name? Arigatou! – Yadia

A: 君 kimi is less formal e.g. talking to pets, children etc.  あなた anata, is more formal.  But to be honest you very rarely use either of them in Japanese.  It’s much more common to say the person’s name plus “san” instead of kimi or anata.  In fact if you don’t use their name it sort of sounds like you’ve forgotten it!  The big exception is song lyrics, where of course the singer doesn’t know the listener’s name so uses “kimi” all the time!

One common way to ask someone’s age, which is usually just as impolite in Japanese as in English, is 何歳ですか? nan sai desu ka   Although there are other more subtler ways to ask.  To reply you nearly always say …. 歳 … sai   e.g.   I’m 21 is 21 sai.  or you could say 秘密 hi mi tsu – secret!

Difference between Uruwashiki and Utsukushi?  To be honest I don’t think I’ve ever heard 麗しき uruwashiki outside of songs.  Also  although utsukushi is what the texbooks translate as “beautiful” if you are talking about women then it usually has a feeling of being old, so kawaii=cute is what all the girls want to be!

Difference between Koi and Ai?  I think people have spent their entire lives on this question, it’s like trying to decide what the difference is between love and affection!

How would I say “Sir” or “Miss” if I don’t know their name?   Good question!  This one is a bit tricky because for normal people there’s no real way to cheat, you just have to ask and remember their names.  But one trick you can use for teachers or doctors is to call everyone “Sensei 先生” this saves me a lot of embarrassment when I forget people’s names!

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