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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Absolute Beginner Questions Answered by Hiroko, where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is… Why should I add SAN after a name?
“San” is an honorific title to show politeness. It’s similar to Mr. or Ms. in English.
When you don’t know someone very well, you should address him or her with politeness, right?
‘San’ is the most commonly used colloquial expression among adults. When you first meet a person, you should address the person with their name plus ‘san’ to show your politeness. Also, it’s used with people who are not so close to you. You can use ‘san’ with your seniors and juniors in a formal situation or business setting.
You might have heard “sama,” “kun” and “chan” added after people’s names, for example, Tanaka-sama, Tarou-kun and Hanako-chan.
Using “sama” is the most polite. And it’s often used to customers.
"Kun" is usually used with males who are the same age as you or younger than you. However, it can also be used to females when a male boss is talking to his female subordinate in a business situation. But it’s not so common.
When you say girls’ names in casual conversations, it's more common to add "chan" instead of ''kun".
For exampleFinally, here is one more example of how to use ‘san.’ If you have a co-worker called Mr. Ishi, who is not your superior or is not a person in a managerial position, you should call him ‘Ishii-san’. If he is in a managerial position, you might want to address him with the position such as ‘Ishii kachou’, which means “section manager Mr. Ishi” and so on.
I hope this makes sense to you and you’re able to use "san”, “kun”, ”chan” and ”sama” correctly from now on!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!


Please to leave a comment.
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JapanesePod101.com Verified
November 9th, 2015 at 06:30 PM
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Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I'll try to answer them!

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 22nd, 2017 at 12:57 PM
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Hi せりな,

Thank you for your comment!

We don't use words like Madam or Sir in daily life. You can address them like "suimasen"(excuse me)".

Sometimes "job title"+"san" is used such as "ten'in-san"(staff) and "nakai-san"(a serving lady in ryokan), but just "suimasen" is natural to me.

Keep studying with JapanesePod101.com



Team JapanesePod101.com

October 15th, 2017 at 03:27 PM
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How do you address a person you don't know the name of? For example the host in a Ryokan, is there something like Madam or Sir? I guess it's not San is it?


JapanesePod101.com Verified
August 31st, 2017 at 10:34 PM
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Hi Steve,

Thank you for your comment! Yes, most people call their grandparents 'ojiichan' (grandfather) and 'obāchan' (grandmother). However a more formal yet less common way of stating the two would be '祖父 (grandfather)' and '祖母 (grandmother)'. Even if it was the child's first encounter with their grandparents 'ojiichan' and 'obāchan' will still be the most appropriate.

We wish you the best of luck with your further studies. これからも日本語の勉強を頑張って下さい。


Team JapanesePod101.com

June 29th, 2017 at 01:45 PM
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Is it common to use the name ojiichan or obaachan for a grandparent? If not, what is a good name for grandchildren to use to address their grandparents?

In particular, a grandparent they see all of the time.

Also, when a child meets their Japanese grandparent for the first time would they use a different or more formal name?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 31st, 2017 at 09:05 PM
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konnichiwa! :smile:

I'm very sorry for the super late reply!!! :disappointed:

The honorific 'sama' is often used in service industry when service provider calls their customers names.

Also, it's the most common word to attach to the names on envelop when you send a letter etc. :wink:

Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com

March 30th, 2017 at 12:47 PM
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I apologize for my spelling, but I am confused as to when the honorific "sama" is appropriate to be used.

Arigato Gozaimasu for your time!


Japanesepod101.com Verified
March 23rd, 2017 at 08:14 PM
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Thank you for your message.

When we introduce ourselves we don't use any honorific suffixes. The suffixes are used to address/refer to someone else, attached to first names as well as surnames, ok?

This lesson also has this explanation in detail:


If you have any questions, please let us know.:wink:

Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team Japanesepod101.com

March 23rd, 2017 at 04:31 AM
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If you say your own name to someone do you say san chan or kun :disappointed:

Japanesepod101.com Verified
February 3rd, 2017 at 04:04 PM
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shamvil san,


I guess your name is シャンヴィル or シャムヴィル.

You can choose one which is close to your original name.

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

January 21st, 2017 at 05:18 AM
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Please suggest the closest way to write my name is Japanese