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What is the suffix “-san”

We many times need to refer to a person’s name or even calling that person. We all know that in Japanese, we have a very convenient suffix, ‘-San’. It is common for all, be it for Mr, Mrs or Miss in English. When you first meet a Japanese person, they may introduce themselves in the Japanese or western way. The Japanese way will give their last name, then their first name. While addressing or referring to a Japanese person, the commonly followed mannerism is to use the surname and then add -san. Continue using this until that person tells you to call him/her by first name. They might ask you to just use their first name, or just say there’s no need to use -san. In the latter case, you still need to use their surname. Though there is a more formal suffix ‘-sama’ which is used for a very superior and customers, it’s dicey to unless you are sure about whom and in what situation you use it. So, better is to just stick with the safer ‘-san’