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Honorific speech in Japanese

Japanese Honorifics
Name/Surname + Honorifics

さん /san/
– The most common honorific.
– A title of respect added after a name or a surname.
– Can be used in formal and informal contexts and for any gender between equals of any age.
– Can also be attached to workplace nouns, company names, occupations or even animals.
– Married people often refer to their spouse with 「さん」.

さま (様) /sama/
– A more respectful version of 「さん」.
– Used for people with higher rank than you, toward your guests or customers and people you admire.
– When used to refer to yourself,「さま」expresses extreme arrogance. (俺様 /ore-sama/ = “my esteemed self”)

くん (君) /kun/
– Mostly used to refer to men in general, who are younger or the same age as you or between male friends.
– Can be used to name a close friend or family member of any gender.
– A male might address female inferiors by 「くん」, usually in schools (male teachers to female students) or companies (male seniors to females employees).
– Isn’t used between women or when addressing your superiors or seniors.

ちゃん /chan/
– Generally used for babies, young children, grandparents, teenage girls, young women, cute animals or between close friends and lovers.
– Using「ちゃん」with a superior’s name or someone (especially adults) you are not close with is considered to be rude and offensive.
– Some people refer to themselves in third-person using 「ちゃん」to sound childish (and cute).

たん /tan/
– An even cuter version of 「ちゃん」.
– Sounds like baby talk.

ぼう (坊) /bō/
– Used for babies or young children, but is exclusively for boys instead of girls.

せんぱい (先輩) /senpai/ – こうはい (後輩) /kōhai/
– 「せんぱい」(senior) is used to address or refer to your elder colleagues in school, company, sports club, other groups or to people who have more experiences in a business environment.
– 「こうはい」(junior) is the reverse of「せんぱい」but it’s not normally used as an honorrific.

せんせい (先生) /sensei/
– Used to refer to or address teachers, doctors, politicians, lawyers, and other authority figures.
– Also used to show respect to someone who has mastered some skills such as novelists, musicians, artists and martial artists.
– When addressing a person with very high academic expertise, we use「はかせ」/hakase/ instead of「せんせい」(literally means “doctor” but actual meaning is closer to “professor”).

し (氏) /shi/
– Used in formal writing, and sometimes in very formal speech.
– Refer to a person who is unfamiliar, typically a person known through publications whom you have never met.

*Some honorifics that can stand alone:
「し」/shi/ (as long as there is only one person being referred to)

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