Lingual Ninja! - Japanese Lessons Online

This blog is for people studying Japanese! I hope this blog helps you study basic Japanese!


Aug 10, 2018

~さん (-san)

In the previous article, I wrote about the difference between 'は' and 'が'.
  'は' and 'が' >>

In this article, let's study about '-san'!

I think how to use '-san' is important if you work with Japanese clients!

'~さん (-san)' is like 'Mr.' or 'Ms.' in English.


Mr. SasukeさすけさんSasuke-san
Ms. YoshidaよしださんYoshida-san

If you don't remember about Romaji, please check this:
  Romaji >>

If you still don't remember basic Hiragana characters, please check this:
  Hiragana >>

Like the examples above, '-san' can be used for both male and female.

If you want to call someone politely, '-san' is very useful.

When you meet someone, I think '-san' is best to use at first.

You can even use '-san' for your clients.

However, in Japan, there is one common manner regarding '-san'.

That rule is...

In front of your clients, you can't use '-san' for people working in the same company as you.

When you are talking with clients, you should not use '-san' for your coworkers, your boss, or your executive.


When you are working in the office, a client calls your company.

You answered the phone.

The client said, "May I speak with Yoshida-san?".

Ms. Yoshida is your company's president.

However, she took a day off, and she was not in the office then.

So, you answered to the client, "Yoshida-san is not in the office now"....

-> Stop!!!!

You can't use '-san' for a person who is a member of your company even if she is a president!

You should answer to the client, "Yoshida is not in the office now".

When I first started to work in a Japanese company, I felt guilty to do this because I used my president's name without '-san'.

My company's president is a much higher ranking person than me.

I wanted to use '-san', like 'Ms.'.

However, this is Japanese manners, and if you don't do this, it is a little rude for your clients.

The reason why I need to do this is to show clients that I am thinking that the clients are higher ranked than members of my company.

Is this troublesome for you?

I think so too! hehe
However, old people say, "Do in Rome as the Romans do."

At first, maybe it is uncomfortable for you.

However, you will get used to doing it soon, like I did before.

Also, I think this is the only one point to be careful regarding '-san'.

Besides this, you can always use '-san' instead of 'Mr.' or 'Ms.', and it is so useful!

In the next article, let's talk about seasons of Japan!
I hope this article helps you study Japanese.
Thank you for reading!

Related articles:

    ~さま (sama) >>

    Hiragana chart >>

    Romaji >>


  1. Thank you for sharing this proper "San" usage. I often reply my Japanese client's emails and made a mistake to reply using "San" for my office colleagues. I will remember not to use it.
    Domo Arigatogozaimus Kosuke-San.

    1. If the client is strict, we need to be careful.
      But I'm not sure if we need to care about it too much if client is not so strict...hehe

      Thank you for reading my articles!