Don’t you dare call me あなた anata!!!

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Some people must be shocked after reading the title of this article.
A lot of you guys probably called a Japanese person あなた once or more for sure.
But calling someone あなた is extremely RUDE!!!
Then why do some textbooks teach you that word in the first place…? ( ゚Д゚)
You learned あなた as “you” in Japanese and now found out that it’s a useless word.
Return my time and effort to memorize the word A NA TA!! (T_T)
I know right!
I mean, when you need to use “general you“, あなた can be used for example, in books.
But don’t call someone あなた.

One time actually at the post office a woman who was working there
called me あなた and I thought… “How dare you call a customer あなた?!”.
*In Japan we believe that we should treat customers like a god (king).
お客様は神様です。 (o-kyaku-sama wa kami-sama desu)
= Customers are always right. (lit. Customers are gods.)*

If you listen to songs, you will hear あなた,
and it doesn’t sound rude, but rather romantic.
We also use 君(きみ)but in songs, and it sounds nice.
But again , it’s rude to use in real life.
Bosses sometimes call 部下 (buka = suboridiate) きみ,
but it’s not pleasant to be called like that anyway.

Another weird thing about あなた is that
it’s used to call your husband.
If you watch dramas or anime, you’ll hear this usage a lot.
However nobody really uses it in real life.

There is also this one お前 (omae), it can be used with very very close guy friends.
But in most cases it sounds just rude.
*If you watch anime or drama about 不良 (furyou) / ヤンキー (hooligans),
you will also hear てめえ. But this cannot be used even among friends. So be careful.

Okay so あなた is rude, きみ is weird…what the heck do you use?!

The answer is ….
Yes, use the name of the person! That’s it!
In Japan we usually use the surname + さん to call someone who is not your friend.
田中さん tanaka-san = Mr. Tanaka

For customers, 様 (sama) is used.
田中様 tanaka-saMA
or just お客様 (o-kyaku-sama = Honorable customer)
when they don’t know your name.

Oh by the way the order of first name and last name are the opposite in Japanese.
For example, in English ナルト’s name would be :Naruto Uzumaki
But in Japanese, we write
うずまきナルト (Uzumaki Naruto).

Last name = 苗字 (myouji)  <- used in speech.
or 姓 (sei) <- This one is written on papers / documents.

First name = 名前 (namae)

But なまえ can refer to the whole name.
And when asking a name of a customer, we say

(o-namae wo ukaga-tte-mo yoroshii deshou ka) *Super formal
= May I ask your name, sir?

And we are expecting to hear the whole name usually.
「田中春樹です。」 (tanaka haruki desu)
is the appropriate answer here.

For ordering pizza on the phone, or making a reservation,
we usually only say the surname.
「田中です。」 (tanaka desu)
would be enough in this case.


For friends, you usually use the first name. (Not あなた!!)
Misa! Saikin dou?
= (Hey) Misa! How’s it going these days?

Some friends (even the very close ones) call me by my surname (without さん),
but it really depends on friends. It doesn’t sound cute though.

When I entered a school and nobody knew each other,
we had to speak formally and use the last name + さん in the beginning.
Then we gradually changed to informal speech and dropped さん.
That’s when you know that you are a “friend” with that person.
To be close like that, first I asked :

Shita no namae wa (nani)?
= What’s your first name? (lit. Under-name)

Since なまえ can refer to just first name and whole name,
we often use this ” したのなまえ ” to refer to the first name.

And you can also switch the formal speech to informal speech by saying

Souieba, tame-go demo ii (desu ka)?
= By the way, can we talk more frankly?

*I’ve put です in parenthesis because it depends on the person.*

タメ語 (tame-go) is the language that is used among friends.
Basically, it’s the informal speech.
タメ is a slang word that means “the same-aged (person) / peers”.

Usually at school boys call girls by their surnames (usually without さん).
And girls often call boys by surnames as well.

There are couples (not just students) who call each other
by the last name even when they are dating.

For example, in the popular manga / anime
君に届け (kimi ni todoke)

Kazehaya (Shota) and Kuronuma (Sawako) are both calling each other by the last names.

Anyways it’s more common to call friends and your partners by the first name.


You can also add ちゃん or くん.

ちゃん is usually used for making the girl’s name sound cute.
My name みさ can be みさちゃん or みーちゃん.

But it’s also common to put ちゃん after boyfriends‘ and husbands’ names.
So あなた in real life for calling a husband is a bit awkward, but this option is very common.
I guess it’s the equivalent for “honey” and stuff.
My friend’s boyfriend’s name is てつや and she calls him てっちゃん.

As for くん, it’s used mainly for boys.
But girls who use くん for guys are usually shy.
I personally never really used this くん to call my guy friends.

In Naruto, Sakura calls Naruto just “Naruto”,
but Hinata calls him “Naruto-kun“.

In Bleach, Rukia calls Ichigo just “Ichigo”,
but Orihime calls him “Ichigo-kun“.

In Kimi ni todoke, Sawako’s friends call Kazehaya “Kazehaya”,
but Sawako calls him “Kazehaya-kun“.

You can kind of see the girls having quite a lot in common.
All of them are girly-cute type girls who are shy.

There are more than ちゃん and くん like たん, ぽ, ぽん, っち etc…

I had more than 20 nicknames at school. ;)

The article about the truth about “I” and other pronouns (He / She) is coming up soon!

Translator / Linguist / Japanese Teacher / Happy World Traveler/ manga, anime, comedy lover. Speaks Japanese, English, Russian and German.


  1. Another great article, thank you very much みさ先生!
    When you are a customer and meet a shop employee or a waiter in a restaurant , how do you call him/her politely ? I encountered the problem last year at the “Japan-Expo” in Paris : I was sooo glad to practice japanese a little bit, but how the hell should I call those (very kind) people ? I don’t know their names and it seems quite weird to ask for it, and I can’t use あなた、きみ、お前 or anything else. Maybe shall I refer to their job, like ” 店長” ? But what about employees ? Is 店員 appropriate ? It sounds weird to me. みさ先生、助けてください!
    (oh by the way I also exchanged a few words with a woman which looked like older than me. But as she considered me as a customer, she used 敬語 ! (O.O) I was … shocked ! 笑)

    1. いい質問ですね! Good question! :)
      Funny enough, we just say 「あの…すみません…」 to get an attention xD
      And even when you want to say “yours”, you kinda have to imply it or point or something. It is hard for even Japanese people do do that xD
      Or you can use そちら(の) or more informally そっち(の) as well.
      店長 would be appropriate only if you are his / her employee.

      Haha you are the customer (god lol) so the age doesn’t matter ;)

      1. Thank you very much for you answer ! :D I’ll go to this year’s japan-expo too, so I’ll think about it ! Thanks again !

          1. じゃあ、いつか、是非7月の初めにフランスに遊びにきてください!^^

          2. まだ分からないですけど、7月後半にはヨーロッパにまたいますよ : D

  2. 7月後半にですね。
    あの時間にJapan Expoは終わっています。残念ですね。

    1. まだどこに行くか決まっていません^^; もし Japan Expoに行くようなら、連絡しますね : D

  3. Thank you very much for this!
    This is important, why don’t they teach it first? Honestly, I hope I haven’t used this at all *facepalms*
    BTW, when you are addressing a group of people, how do you get their attention? When they’re your friends or otherwise, I mean.

    1. Sorry for the late reply ( ;∀;)
      You could use the word “みんな (everyone)”.
      E.g みんな、クリスマスは何する? minna kurisumasu wa nani suru? – What will you guys do on Christmas?
      Or some guys use おまえ as “you”. It can be rude if you are not close though! So if you are with bunch of very close friends, you can say おまえら or おまえたち. But usually I think we just don’t use any pronouns at all and let others figure out that you are talking about them all. :)

  4. Hello Ms. Misa. I am now writing a fan letter to a Japanese actress. I wonder what the most appropriate pronoun is to be used for calling her, あなた or XX様 or XXさん, since unlike German, we have “Sie”,” Ihnen” to show respect, in Japanese, it looks quite complicated. Could you give me some advice?

    1. Hi! That’s nice ^^ I wouldn’t recommend to call her or anyone あなた. XXさん would be the best one. XX様 is usually used for a customer and it sounds a bit too formal. If you want to go for a more friendly sound, you should use XXさん :)

  5. Hey sorry for being late, I noticed it’s been more than 3 months since the latest comment. But I’m curious, what if I walk on the streets of Japan and stopped a stranger to ask for directions, what should I call him/her?

    1. You can just say “すみません (Excuse me)” to get his/her attention. You wouldn’t say “Hey, YOU!” in English either, right? :)

  6. Wow, really very informative and clearly defined way of calling people their names and whatnots. You explain everything clearly! I like your blog very much!

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