Honorific Adjustments

As can be seen in the various examples in this chapter, respect is shown with the use of three different prefixes and suffixes: o, go, and san. The hon-orific prefixes o and go are combined with certain nouns to create a more formal statement or question.

O-namae wa nan desu ka.

What is your name?

Go-shusshin wa doko desu ka.

Where are you from?

O-umare wa doko desu ka.

Where were you born?

Some things are nearly always referred to in their honorific form: o-sake (“rice liquor”), o-furo (“bath”), o-kome (“rice”), and o-tomodachi (“friend”), among others. People who speak an almost aristocratic Japanese will often put o in front of everything: o-isu (“chair”), o-shokuji (“meal”), and o-hana (“nose”), for example.

O is also used to refer to another person's family members. You would call your friend's mother o-kaasan, for example, and to her children as o-oko-san. These references to other people's relatives often have honorifics on either end: o in front and san bringing up the rear.

San is an honorific suffix that is routinely tacked on to people's names. Rarely are people addressed by their first names only. Even school teachers address their students with the suffix san, attached to their family name. Friends also use san, or sometimes the more intimate chan. Chan is also used for babies and little girls, whereas kun is tacked on to the names of boys, and is sometimes used when addressing men who are younger than the speaker.

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