If you have the name of a shop plus さん, what possibilities are there for the translation? I get the sense that it can either be a formal way to speak, or it can mean the store person.

薬屋 = pharmacy
薬屋さん= pharmacy (polite) OR pharmacist

Is this correct? Or does the さん just mean one of the two?

2 Answers 2


The way I've heard it used can be for either the store itself, or the store's owner/manager/etc.

  • Sure, but that has nothing to do with the さん.
    – dainichi
    Feb 26, 2014 at 2:32

The さん doesn't really change the meaning, it can usually mean both the shop or the person with or without the さん.

The difference is really at the level of connotations. A 本屋さん could be a more local, smaller shop than the big 本屋, or it could also be that the speaker likes to add さん to make words sound a bit softer or cuter.

  • 1
    Best answer here
    – Aki
    May 21, 2014 at 10:09

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