Japanese Honorific Suffixes Part 3

Posted on 28. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, Grammar

This is my third post regarding Japanese honorific suffixes. I have covered so far ~ さん(san) and ~ちゃん(chan).   If you would like to review them, just click the link under each suffix. In this blog post today, I will explain about~くん(kun).  In Japanese language, it is very important to understand the use of honorific suffixes. If you use them in a wrong way, you could easily offend others. Or if you don’t use it at all, you could also sound very rude and impolite. The use of  ~くん(kun) is very specific in that you would want to know when to use it properly. Read on!



photo from bryan… on flickr.co



This honorific suffix is very similar to ~ちゃん(chan) except that it is used mainly for boys.  It is very common to use ~くん(kun) for younger boys, including babies and toddlers. It is ok to use this suffix to someone who is younger than you; however you would not use this suffix to someone who is older than you. For someone older, you would want to use ~さん(san) or ~さま(sama) which I will explain in my next blog.


There are two exceptions to the rule I mentioned above. One is at workplace, and another at school setting. Young female employees are often referred to as “last name +  ~くん(kun)”. For example, Tanaka-kun(たなかくん), Hashimoto-kun(はしもとくん), or Yamamoto-kun(やまもとくん) etc.. So in this case, even if the person is a female, she is referred to as her last name +  ~くん(kun).  ~くん(kun) = boys rule does not apply here.


Another exception to the ~くん(kun) = boys  rue, is at school. Especially higher than high school level, it is also common for teachers or professors to address female students by her last name +  ~くん(kun).


In my opinion, if you are not sue which honorific suffix to use, just stick with ~san(さん) at first. Once you become more familiar with the use of each honorific suffix, you would be able to know when to use each one of them.


The last honorific suffix I would like to cover is ~さま(sama). This one is also very unique in that you would need to know when to use it. Stay tuned!

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).