One thing I’ve tried to be cognizant in my Japanese studies is the different nuances of each word or phrase. It is by older men, younger men, or maybe only girls?
Though the dividing line between “mens language” (男言葉) and “womens language” (女言葉) is not black and white, I think there are some expressions which are used more often than not by only one of the sexes.
In some cases, it might be safe to a man to use one of these, but in others it might risk sounding a bit too feminine. Of course if you are a guy who happens to like other guys, you might purposefully use some of these. Some of these can be used by women if they want to purposefully sound extra feminine, possibly as a joke.
I don’t claim this to be an authoritative list, it’s just based on my experience studying Japanese so far. If nothing else, try to pay attention to these phrases when you hear them yourself and be aware of who is using them.
These aren’t in any particular order. I have given English translations but I haven’t tried to make them sound girly since it’s hard to find an equivalent expression in English with that connotation. It’s also important to note that pronunciation (where emphasis is, if any sounds are lengthened, etc.) is just as important as the words themselves.
〜のよ (~no yo).
Using this combination of ending particles can make you sound pretty feminine. If after a na-adjective you can add a “na” before “no yo”
- I like that.
Rarely I’ve heard this appreciated as “~n yo”. (〜んよ).
“wa” is a sentence ending particle which can make you sound feminine, however be careful to not confuse it with a similar usage in Kansai dialect that is used by men as well. For the feminine, Tokyo-dialect version, you should raise the intonation.
- I’ll go too.
I think this usage is a bit dated, and haven’t heard the younger generation using it much. You can also add “yo” after “wa”.
This is a phrase that is a shortening of ”か知らない” (ka shiranai) which is similar to the common (かもしれない), which is also can be shortened as just ”かも” (kamo).
I haven’t ever heard this phrase used by a (straight) guy.
- I wonder if that is really true?
The “no” particle can be used at the end of a question sentence, or a declarative sentence. I think both have a feminine ring, but the declarative one has a stronger womanly connotation. As with “~no yo”, you would use a “na” before a na-adjective or a noun.
- I don’t like that.
Note I am not talking about the particle “no” when used in between two words (i.e. 僕の車)
I don’t think this particle by itself is that girly, but it seems women use it much more than men. If you lengthen it (〜nee) or use it with “no” as “~no ne” it sounds more feminine.
- Yeah thats true.
Also, if you omit the word “da” from some expressions it will sound more feminine, for example:
This word by itself means something like “already”, but when used with emphasis and lengthened it has a definite feminine ring to it. I’ve heard guys said it occasionally, but never “tough” guys.
- You spilled the milk? Jeez…
In this usage, “mou” expresses general annoyance or mild anger.
From what I’ve heard this pronoun was previously used by both men and women, but in modern Japanese there are almost no men using it any more. It can be written as ”私”, though that character can also be read as わたし (watashi)
- I like that guy.
I’ve heard this word used mostly by women or girls. It means something like “wonderful”.
- I think it would be wonderful to go to the beach.
I have heard this expression, which literally means “It cannot be believed” used mostly by women.
- Loosing one’s wallet is just so unbelievable!
As a final note, if you are a guy and listening to one or more women speak Japanese on a daily basis you may probably naturally start using some of these phrases, unless you have some guy friends to help you differentiate what is safe to say. Learning Japanese from other sources like manga, dramas, and movies, will also help you pick up the nuances of words.