“Sorry” and “Excuse me” in Japanese + Chan, kun, san

Q: 1. how do u say “I’m sorry” and “excuse me” and other common phrase in Japanese and when do I use them?
A: “I’m sorry” is usually translated as ごめんなさい - gomen nasai.  Use it if you are late or something where you’ve done something bad.
For “Excuse me” you’d usually use すみません – sumimasen.  Use it when you want to get someone’s attention.
Just like English though there is a little overlap in the meanings some times!
For other simple phrases, have a look at the Cool Japanese Phrases page on the Genki Japan site.

Q: 2. when do you use -san, -kun, -chan….?? – Han

A: This will seem a little complicated!  But trust me it gets easier with practice!

“San” is the safe option, it’s usually just means “mr / ms / mrs” but you can also get away with it with kids.  e.g. tanaka san.   If in doubt, use “san”

“kun” – is used pretty much exclusively for boys, it’s looking down on them so for example teachers use it with students e.g. tanaka kun.  Or in a company a boss might say “tanaka kun”    If in doubt, don’t use this, stick with “san”

“chan” is the the super kawaii word of the moment.  Usually it’s used for girls who are lower or the same rank as you e.g. noriko chan.    You hear it all the time amongst friends.  Girls also use it to talk about their boyfriends and of course cute characters are chan e.g. kitty chan.   In high school, although boys are called “kun” girls are called “san” as “chan” is really too cute for school!

Does that help at all?  As with anything else in Japanese, practice is the key.  Watch lots of Youtube videos and your brain will naturally figure out which one to use where.  And of course because Japanese is a living language you’ll also find a million and one exceptions to all the rules above!

Be genki,


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