This is an issue that came up with my host family quite often. I have never been quite clear on which to use. In particular, 子 seems somewhat rude (much to the same effect as 男 or 女). On the other hand, 子供 "seems" less rude, but I'm not entirely sure if that's the case. Finally, お子さん seems very polite (for obvious reasons), but it seems almost too polite--especially to refer to kids, with whom you would most likely use casual language.

What is the difference between 子, 子供, and お子さん?


子ども seems appropriate. If you want to be a tad more polite/considerate use their name: 真紀子ちゃん/健太郎君 for girls/boys under 10 and りんさん/正吉さん for girls/boys over 10.

お子さん is used for addressing the parents, not the child directly.


子 by itself seems quite direct and is best reserved for parents talking about their own children.


  • I may sound old fashioned here but to me the difference between 子供 and 子 is similar to the difference between "child"/"the children" and "kid"/"the kids", or at least it was once upon a time. (These days people seem more likely to refer to "the kids" in place of "the children" in all situations.) – Tim Sep 15 '12 at 0:10
  • 1
    Thanks. Nowadays, 子供たち is quite common, though, and gives a way to use 子供 as singular... – Earthliŋ Sep 15 '12 at 0:36

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