Japanese Honorific Suffixes Part 2

Posted on 25. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, Grammar

In my last post, I have covered one of the Japanese honorific suffixes, called ~さん(san). You can read it here if you would like to review. In today’s article, let me talk about ~ちゃん(chan), which is also a popular honorific suffix but the use of it will be totally different than さん(san). Read on!


photo from Dakiny on flikr.com




~ちゃん(chan) is a common honorific suffix to use towards a younger and smaller girls. You might be calling your friend’s daughter who is 3 years old, as Sachiko-chan(さちこ ちゃん). Typically, if you are referring to your friend’s daughter, you will not call her by her first name. It sounds more polite and friendly by calling her name + chan(ちゃん).


If a child is a boy, you could still use ~ちゃん(chan) if he is a baby or toddler. ~ちゃん(chan) towards boys is most commonly used for boys under 3. You will be using ~kun(くん) instead for older boys, which I will cover in my next article.  However, the exception might be that among family or relatives, ~ちゃん(chan) might be still used for older boys. For example, mom calling her son, Satoshi chan, or grand mother or auntie calling grandson or nephew, Hiro chan.


~ちゃん(chan) can be also used for older sister and older brother. Older sister is One-chan (おねえちゃん、お姉ちゃん), and older brother is Oni-chan(おにいちゃん、お兄ちゃん) in Japanese.  Often times, younger siblings will call their older siblings this way. The way we call older siblings is also the same among cousins and close friends.  You could also call your friend’s daughter by “One-chan (おねえちゃん、お姉ちゃん)” if she is older than your own children.


Smaller children would also use ~ちゃん(chan) to refer their special dolls, stuffed animals, or pets. For example, a younger girl might be calling her stuffed animal teddy bear as “kuma-chan(くまちゃん)”.


~ちゃん(chan) is also common to be included as part of a nickname of the person. For example, among friends, you might call one of your friends whose name is Yasuko(やすこ) as Yacchan(やっちゃん). It is common to call your friend by first letter (or a first few letters) + chan(ちゃん).  Take a look at the examples below.

If the person’s name is:                Commonly called among close friends,

Sachiko  (さちこ)                                          Sacchan(さっちゃん)

Keiko (けいこ)                                               Kei chan(けいちゃん)

Satomi (さとみ)                                           Sato chan(さとちゃん)

Kazuko (かずこ)                                         Kazu chan(かずちゃん)


Next article will be on ~くん(kun). If any of this is confusing to you, please let me know.

Japanese Honorific Suffixes Part 1

Posted on 19. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, Grammar

Have you heard of Japanese people call someone, “~ san(さん)”, or “~ chan(ちゃん)”? Or if you are a baseball fan, you might have heard, “Ma-kun (マー君)” in the news. Ma-kun (マー君) is referring to Masahiro Tanaka who is a pitcher for NY Yankees.  In Japanese, we use many honorific suffixes depending on the situation. In the next few articles, I would like to discuss all about Japanese honorific suffixes. I will explain each one of the most common honorific suffixes in detail.


photo from “qoo” on flikr.com


Japanese Honorific Suffixes

In Japanese language, people often attach honorific suffixes at the end of nouns, including people’s names, nicknames, company names, and animals. There are many types of honorific suffixes in Japanese, but the most common ones are, ~san(さん), ~ chan(ちゃん), ~ kun(くん), ~sama(さま、様).  In this article, I will explain about ~san(さん).



This is a very common honorific to be used for any occasion. In Japanese, we normally don’t call each other by first name unless you are related to the person, you are good friends with the person, or the person you are talking to is much younger than yourself. If you meet someone for the first time, you almost always call the person by “last name + san”, for example, “Yamada-san(やまださん)”, or “Tanaka-san(たなかさん)”.


~san(さん) is also used for workplace or store. For example, bookstore is referred to as “Honya-san(ほんやさん、本屋さん)”. Or fish market is referred to as, “Sakanaya-san(さかなやさん、魚屋さん)”.  When you are talking to a younger child, it is common to use this honorific; however, this is also used often during the conversation among females. Females like to add “san(さん)” more often than males to be polite.  Males might refer to bookstore just as “honya(ほんや、本屋)”, rather than “honya-san(ほんやさん、本屋さん)”.


~san(さん) can be also used for animals. Again, especially if you are talking to younger children. San(さん) honorific is attached at the end of an “animal name”. For example, “Zo-san(ぞうさん), elephant”, “Kuma-san(くまさん), bear”, and “Inu-san(いぬさん), dog” etc… If  conversation is taking place just among adults, this honorific is not typically used.  Each animal is expressed without san(さん), for example,  “Zo(そう)”, “Kuma(くま)” and “Inu(いぬ)” etc..


One last note, ~san(さん) is also used at the end of company names. For example, adults might call the company, Mitsubishi by “Mitsubishi-san(みつびしさん、三菱さん)”. This expression does not have anything to do with speaking to younger children.


Hope you got to know a bit about ~san(さん) honorific suffix. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a comment. Next article will focus on ~ chan(ちゃん).

What is “A.I.U.E.O Sakubun”?

Posted on 17. Mar, 2015 by in Grammar

I have recently came across a word game that is called “A.I.U.E.O essay”. This is called, “あいうえお さくぶん (作文)” in Japanese. It is a way of creating an array of words or sentences where each word/sentence starts with the first given Japanese hiragana (ひらがな).  I wanted to introduce this word game to you because this is such a fun way of increasing your Japanese vocabulary. The best part of this word game is that there is no limitation as to how long each word or sentence has to be. Your words/sentence could be as long as you like, unlike traditional Japanese Haiku (俳句) or Tanka (短歌), which I would like to introduce to you in my later articles. So, let’s get started to see how this word game is played.


photo from tomosuke214 from flickr.com



For example, as some of you might already know, あいうえお is the first 5 hiragana (ひらがな、平仮名) in Japanese. These are the first 5 letters in any Japanese Hiragana chart.  We will be using あいうえお as an example in today’s lesson.


あ (a)

You will first start with あ and try to think about the word that starts with あ. That could be, あした(Ashita, tomorrow)、あさ(Asa, morning)、あさひ(Asahi, morning sun)、あし(Ashi, leg)、あたらしい(Atarashi, new), etc…

い (i)

Next letter is い, let’s come up with a word that starts with い. For example, you could use something like, いぬ(inu, dog), いし(ishi, stone), いわ(iwa, rock), いろ(iro, color), いた(ita, board) etc…

う (u)

The 3rd letter is う. What word can you think of that starts with う? Let’s see, how about something like, うし(ushi, cow), うま(uma, horse), うさぎ(usagi, rabbit), うた(uta, song), etc…


The 4th letter is え. The word that starts with え could be, えほん(ehon, picture books), えび(ebi, shrimp), えんぴつ(enpitsu, pencil), えらばれる(erabareru, to be selected), etc…


The last letter is お. What word can you think of using お as the first letter? For example, おかし(okashi, snack), おいしいい(oishii, taste good), おさしみ(osashimi, raw fish), おばあさん(oba-san, grandma), おに(oni, monster) etc…


So let’s put all these together. You could create something like,

あ – あたらしい (Atarashii, new)

い -いろで (Irode, with color)

う -うつくしく,かかれた (utsukushiku kakareta, written beautifully)

え -えほんを(ehon o, picture book)

お -おくります (okurimasu, I will send (to you))


What is your version of あいうえお さくぶん (作文)?