How to Use "San," "Kun," and "Chan" Correctly When Speaking Japanese

illustration of mother calling daughter

In the tables below, you'll see how and when to use the Japanese words "~ san," "~ kun" and "~ chan".

"~ san (~さん)" is a title of respect added to a name. It can be used with both male and female names, and with either surnames or given names. It can also be attached to the name of occupations and titles.

surnameYamada-san
山田さん
Mr. Yamada
given nameYoko-san
陽子さん
Miss. Yoko
occupationhonya-san
本屋さん
bookseller
sakanaya-san
魚屋さん
fishmonger
titleshichou-san
市長さん
mayor
oisha-san
お医者さん
doctor
bengoshi-san
弁護士さん
lawyer

 

"~ kun (~君)" is used to address men who are younger or the same age as the speaker. A male might address female inferiors by "~ kun," usually in schools or companies. It can be attached to both surnames and given names. It is less polite than "~ san." It isn't used between women or when addressing one's superiors.

"~ chan (~ちゃん)" is often attached to children's names when calling them by their given names. It can also be attached to kinship terms in a childish language. 

Mika-chan
美香ちゃん
Mika
ojii-chan
おじいちゃん
grandpa
obaa-chan
おばあちゃん
grandma
oji-chan
おじちゃん
uncle