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When do you use さん after a occupation? For example, would you say "札幌に行って、プログラマーにあいます" or "札幌に行って、プログラマーさんにあいます" to say "I am going to Sapporo, and meeting some programmers?"

Is it used to indicate that you're talking about people who have a certain profession, not the profession itself? Or is it used merely to be polite? I assume using さん after a gairaigo word like プログラマー isn't an issue.

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2 Answers 2

If you have a specific person in mind (e.g. you know at least their name), then using an honorific is acceptable, you're just eliding the name. Otherwise ("some programmer"), the occupation doesn't take one.

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For occupation, you normally don't put polite affix as Ignacio mentions, but in colloquial speech, you can do it to make the speech sound accessible. So in formal occasions, don't do it; in colloquial occasions, you may do it.

In broadcasting/show business, you can go one step further, and attach さん to the job. I think it is normal to say 照明さん "the lighting engineer", 音声さん "the sound engineer", etc.

However, the problem in your case is that さん seems to mean singular person, so 札幌に行って、プログラマーさんに会います will not mean "I am going to Sapporo and meet some programmers" but will most naturally mean "I am going to Sapporo and meet a (certain) programmer". In order to mean plural, you can say 札幌に行って、プログラマーさん達に会います.

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