When is it right to use a persons's name instead of a pronoun when addressing that person? I'm confused by the following scenario:

The kids are discussing what presents they got last year. Maruko asks what Yamane got, and he describes some tubes of aloe (アロエ) stuff. Sakura Maruko tries to clarify what he means and then:

Maruko didn't understand what kind of thing it was at all.
"Yes, Look! Before, together with Sakura, I/we shared aloe from Hamazaki's grandad. Right?"

I thought that Yamane was talking to Maruko, but when I translate this into English that さくらと一緒に part makes it sound like he is talking to someone else.

Have I misunderstood who he is talking to or is this natural in Japanese, or is he perhaps referring to another member of the Sakura family (none have been mentioned so far in the story)?

  • Actually, using their name instead of a second person pronoun is the default.
    – Blavius
    Mar 24, 2016 at 21:16
  • "Using a person's name in place of a pronoun". Think of it the other way round, pronouns are words that you use instead of nouns (including proper nouns). In English, the substitution is mandatory in certain situations (e.g. first and second persons), in Japanese it's not.
    – dainichi
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:01

1 Answer 1


First of all, general second person pronouns like あなた and 君 are less frequently seen in Japanese sentences, and actual person names can be used even when you're in front of that person. I think you already know this.

○○さんの出身はどこですか。 Where are you from, ○○-san?
○○さんも一緒に来ますか? Will you come together, too, ○○-san?

Addressing the person in front of you using their family name is very common among Japanese students. Perhaps in anime or manga, you may feel Japanese teenagers are usually calling one another using their first names, but in reality that's not as common as in English.

When I was a middle and high school student, I used nicknames for a few close friends of mine, and stuck to family name + さん/くん for all other classmates (maybe I was a bit too timid, though).

Addressing others without さん/くん is called 呼び捨て, which is considered rougher and less polite, but boys commonly do it in casual conversations among students.

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