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I couldn't find the question already being asked, so please redirect me if it was already answered.

The honorific suffix -さん is always used when directly speaking to another person. It is also used when talking e.g. about the father of person referring to them as 田中さんのお父さん.

However, if I talk with a friend about some other friend or person they know, do I also use an honorific suffix for their name? Or do I just go with the name alone?

Example: 田中さん、昨日私は竹山(さん)と話しました。

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You still need to use さん. Failing to do so would usually make you look like a two-faced person. In general, you should not change the way you refer to someone by name based on whether he/she is present. Well, actually, people sometimes drop さん intentionally when they speak ill of someone, for example, but let's not do this while you are a beginner :)

As an exception, using 様 in front of a customer and changing it to さん in a private office is usually acceptable because 様 is highly formal and respectful. (Dropping even さん is out of the question.)

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  • Thanks for the explanation. I'm actually already intermediate level, but I am still unsecure about the different layers of politeness especially if it's more in a casual way (not at work) where I don't know what impression it gives if I for example call someone くん/ちゃん instead of さん. Nov 6, 2020 at 13:31

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