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13. Using ~さん

Oni's picture

The equivalent to Mr. or Mrs. or Miss. is ~さん


Right after the name. It is used even with friends. (Even when in English we wouldn't use "Mr.")

  • クレイさん (kurei san) - Mr. Clay
  • 山田さん (yamada san) - Mr. (or Mrs...) Yamada
Other name titles (used the same way)
  • ~さま (sama) - very polite - reserved for royalty, important people, and customers of stores
  • ~ちゃん (chan) - used for girls and very young boys (kiti-chan = Hello Kitty)
  • ~くん (kun) - used for young boys
  • ~先生 (sensei) - used for teachers [クレイ先生 kurei sensei], doctors, and professionals

For now just use san. As you know from watching all the Karate Kid movies, it is the most common.

For more on this see our article on keishou, "敬称 Name Titles".

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I heard my friend call someone older than him 'sempai', but what does it actually mean and what's the difference between sempai and san/sama?


Sempai is usually translated

Sempai is usually translated as upperclassman, although I'm fairly sure it's usually used when addressing people with more experience than you in whatever you're doing (job, school, etc).

It's seems to be like the

It's seems to be like the Telugu "-garu" which is suffixed after a name.


I've heard ~ちゃん also used between good friends (men).

eyegarden's picture


When I was in Japan I hung out with a group of friends and the way they used -san with each other was quite interesting. They were all close friends and spoke informally, but most of the older ones were referred to as -san and the youngest was -san too, except with his best friend. I think you just have to see what fits and feels confortable.

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