Japanese and English both have their fair share of suffixes. We use them so much in English, we might not even notice them. English suffixes include things like -ing, -ly, and other little tidbits tacked on the end of words.
In Japanese, suffixes don’t always work like that, but you’ll definitely be using them a lot. Let’s look at some common suffixes and what they mean, so you can work them into your Japanese.
Common Japanese suffixes and what they mean
|English (and Explanation)||日本語||Romaji|
|For boys||Name くん||Kun|
|For girls||Name ちゃん||Chan|
|For Business scenes||Name さま||Sama|
|For Teacher||Name 先生||Sensei|
|Senior at school/Work||Name 先輩||Senpai|
|Company CEO||Name 社長||Shachou|
|Mentor , Master||Name 師匠||Sishou|
|Old Japanese suffix||Name 殿||Dono|
The Japanese suffixes you will probably see the most in Japanese are honorifics. Technically, these are Japanese suffixes, just because you can’t use “san” or “chan” or any other honorific on their own. They need to be used to modify what comes before them.
First off, you should always use honorifics when talking to people. Addressing someone without an honorific means you either know them so well you could practically be married to them, or you are being incredibly rude. Generally, it means you’re being rude. Even with good friends, you’ll want to use honorifics.
“San” is by far the one you will use the most. It has a nice sense of formality and respect, and it’s great for everyday conversation. For closer friends, “chan” is good for girls and “kun” is good for boys.
Those are pretty much the only three you’ll need for normal conversations. You’ll hear people use “sama” when you go to stores, because workers will address their customers with more respectful language. But “sama” is way too formal to use in everyday conversation, especially with a friend.
If you want more details on honorifics, pop on over to my other article, because we’re going to keep talking about more Japanese suffixes here.
Japanese suffixes : Goro and Gurai
|English (and Explanation)||日本語||Romaji|
|About, Around 1h||１時間ぐらい||Ichijikan-gurai|
|About, Around 7PM||7時ごろ||shichiji-goro|
These are two useful Japanese suffixes that I decided to put in a section together because they can be a bit difficult to understand.
“Goro” (ごろ) and “gurai” (ぐらい) are both Japanese suffixes used with time. They both mean “around” or “about.” These two can be easy to mix up because of their similar meanings (and the fact that they do sound a little similar).
The main difference is that “goro” is used with a specific point of time, while “gurai” is used with a length of time. If you are leaving for school around seven in the morning, you can say “shichi-ji goro” (7時ごろ). If it takes you about an hour to get to school, you can say “ichi jikan gurai” (１時間ぐらい).
I hear these Japanese suffixes used a lot, and I use them a lot too. These are good ones to know to help you describe time.
Changing Parts of Speech (sa, teki, and ppoi)
Some suffixes can be used to change one part of speech to another.
Adding “sa” to the end of an i adjective will turn it into a noun. It kind of works like the English suffix “ness.” So you can say “hayasa” (速さ) for “speed,” or “fastness,” if your brain works like mine. You can say “nagasa” (長さ) for “length,” or “longness.” This works for every i adjective in Japanese, even colors.
You can also do the opposite of this and turn a noun into an adjective. The suffix “teki” can be added at the end of the noun to make it a na adjective. For example, if you take the noun “Nihon” and make it “Nihonteki” (日本的), it means the adjective “Japanese,” or “Japanese-esque.”
The suffix “ppoi” works similarly, except it makes the noun an i adjective, and is a bit less concrete. “Teki” could be translated as “in the style of” or “resembling,” while “ppoi” is more like the English suffix “ish.” It’s also a bit more casual than “teki.” The most common way I heard it used was the word “kodomoppoi” (子供っぽい), or “childish.”
Other Fun Japanese Suffixes
|manner of speaking||話し方||hanashi-kata|
One simple suffix that gets glossed over is “tachi.” This can be added to pronouns and nouns describing people to make them plural. This includes words like “watashitachi” (私たち: us), “kodomotachi” (子供たち: children), “seitotachi” (生徒たち: students), etc. There are some exceptions where the word will take “ra” instead of “tachi,” such as “karera” (彼ら: them), but these are pretty rare and easy to remember.
The suffix “kata” can be added to verbs to change the meaning to “way of verbing.” This is a lot more useful than you might initially think, and I definitely use this one all the time. Some examples include “hanashikata” (話し方: manner of speaking), “tsukurikata” (作り方: way of making), and “shikata” (仕方: way of doing).
Some suffixes are very narrow in their use. One of these is “ya.” If you add “ya” to the end of something, it just means “shop.” A “hanaya” (花屋) is a flower shop, a “sushiya” (寿司屋) is a sushi shop, etc. That’s all this suffix does.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of suffixes, but it is a good starting point. There are a lot of suffixes in Japanese, and some of them can be used more broadly than others.
Japanese suffixes : Conclusion
Hopefully, this article has given you a few new suffixes to add into you Japanese. Maybe it even helped you understand more about suffixes you already knew how to use. Japanese suffixes are useful because they can give you new ways to express your thoughts, and they can help you develop a more natural speaking style.