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How to Avoid Saying “You” in Japanese

Anata (あなた) translates as “you,” but its use is generally avoided. One exception is when wives call their husbands anata; then it has the special meaning of “darling.”

my wife

When talking to someone, you can be safe and say his or her name, with the suffix –san(さん), every time you want to say “you.”

Otherwise, refer to teachers, doctors, speakers, and government officials as sensei, and higher ranking members in your company by their titles. For example, if you want to ask your division manager what he plans to do, say Buchou wa do nasaimasu ka? (部長はどうなさいますか?)

okusan obama

How do you address the wife of a friend or the married woman next door? You can use either her last name, or if you need to make the distinction between her and her husband, you can call her okusan(奥さん).

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