1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. "ジョンさんは先生です。"

"ジョンさんは先生です。"

Translation:Mr. John is a teacher.

June 5, 2017

110 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JaronFrost

Would "John is a teacher" also be a correct translation?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tc3KDQp5

I'd accept it, but I can see why it wouldn't be accepted. The さん translates into "Mr.", and is used similar to English in that it's for respect and/or addressing elders.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Shanliang

Regarding the article 'the', could it be translated as 'a'? i.e. "Mr. John is a teacher". How could definite and indefinite article be differentiated in Japanese?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tsunasama

John is a teacher. ジョンさんは先生です。John is the teacher. ジョンさんが先生です。


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/avidrucker

No, these are two different statements, with two different functions, in both English and Japanese. (1) Eng: John is a teacher. --> We describe John's profession. He is one of many. (2) Eng: John is the teacher. --> Here we specify that John is the teacher of a particular class, or that he is the teacher (out of other professionals who are not teachers). (3) Jpn: ジョンさんは先生です。This would generally translate to either, "Mr. John is a teacher." (announcement of his profession) or "Mr. John is my teacher." (introduction) (4) Jpn: ジョンさんが先生です。This would translate to, "(No, that other person isn't the teacher.) Mr. John is the teacher. (in whatever context we are talking about teachers)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alasdair91

I guess the Japanese English way to translate the difference would be: "John is the teacher" and "The teacher is John"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndyUr

I think those would be good translations. But they might make the distinction between subject and topic difficult to understand.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

If it was the teacher is John then teacher would be the focus of the sentence, not John ie. 先生は ジョンさん です.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/user1532

As with many other things, it seems to be based on context.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kai19154

Yep. There's no "the" or "a". The particles "ga" and "wa" might be compared to them, but that's a stretch sometimes. Both translations work here.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tsunasama

It translates to ,,Mr., Ms., Mrs.,'' so, gender cannot be determined from it and be accurately translated unless familiar with the person in discussion. Context decides the English translation, but it is completely neutral in Japanese.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hannah316931

I am curious as to why Maria never gets a san in this sentence, but John always does


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Anne280740

I've been noticing that, too! It seems very disrespectful to Maria.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaraSamali

I believe he's referring to the articles used. It only accepts "the" teacher but "a" teacher should also be acceptable and is probably closer to the actual meaning.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/milisavban

Actualy it would be rude to adress elder by name+san, you can use surname+san and even then san sounds informal. You would be better using profession/position instead of san- if teacher add "sensei" if its your boss add "shachoo". San is not Mr. - coleauges use "san" in casual conversation. You always use san except if its someone really close - friend or family. Thus "san" should usually be omited in translation.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kai19154

San is used more frequently than Mr. would be used in English, and it's even used with friends, so I do think translating it as Mr. isn't the best idea, but at least it teaches that san is an honourific


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Foxbrush

Honorifics are generally applied throughout Japanese. They are terms of respect, politeness, and familiarity/relationship. There are a wide range of honorifics from casual to highly formal. さん (san) is the default. It will apply in most situations.

So while you probably won't say ジョンさん (John-san) if he is your teacher, it would be fine to refer to him like that if he is your friend. I think Duo is working off of base familiarity first.

It is also important to note that, so far, the format of [first name]さん has only been applied to borrowed names マリア (Maria) and ジョン. In earlier lessons, when a native Japanese name was used, it was [surname]さん.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ClassiDuo

Using titles like Mr with a given name is not the nornal practice in English (I am assuming that John here is not a surname). So, the Japanese "san" isn't necessarily translated into an English title


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jekahog

I didn't even se the Mr and it still accepted the answer lol


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BlueberryPyro

its just being polite, and it isnt nice to be informal with people especially teachers


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MuizzSiddi

The app accepts it now.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

Yes, because san doesn't necessarily translate to Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms in English. It's more like a suffix that you add to someone's name to be polite. If you use it with a person's first name then you can just translate it in English as the person's name, if it's used with a surname then yes, a rough English equivalent is Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms. There's no distinction between male and female when using san, but you should be able to tell by a person's first name. Less formal are chan and kun - chan is typically used for females and kun for males, although chan can also be used for males. The decider is usually what is easier to say/sounds better eg. Kenchan or Kenkun - the former sounds better and is easier to say than the latter.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

I agree with you for the most part, but the decider is definitely not what is easier to say/sounds better. It depends heavily on your specific relationship with the person, what their personality is like, and what your personality is like.

Calling a guy Ken-chan can sound either very affectionate, very condescending, or very "good-natured ribbing between friends". Calling him Ken-kun can be very patronizing or very "normal because we go/went to the same high school".

Girls can also be referred to using -kun, but this is usually only done by old people or people referring to their subordinates.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Calvin179

Yes. It accepted it for me. However, I think the 'sensei' part implies that John is a teacher and you should add 'Mr.' to the phrase


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

The thing is though that John is clearly the person's first name so it sounds a little odd to call someone Mr/Ms "first name" or in this instance Mr John - if it was a surname it wouldn't be an issue. A good rule for translating to English is first name - don't translate san (chan, kun, sama), surname add Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms as appropriate - although it is not always clear which is the right one to use just from a surname.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IoanVlad

Well i got the exercise where it gives me the words and it was john is a teacher. But when it let me write said is wrong... i dont get it


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Emerson19829

Yes! You should try it...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Emerson19829

Yes! You should try it...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/portu-maskon

The word san Is makes it a reaoect word

John san is a teacher


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronSmart3

Translating that as "Mr. John" sounds silly


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/avidrucker

Except for people whose last name are John. That and people in Japan are generally referred to by their last name and a respect suffix, but there are cases where first names are used instead.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronSmart3

I think it's safe to assume "John" is a given name, being one of the most common Christian names. The problem here is translating さん as "Mister" is just bad English, as it's not always appropriate.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mbunk1

Yea i hate that san is translated as meaning Mr, Ms or Mrs, it is not the same. We don't have anything like that in English. It's like in anime they translate chan to boy or girl, because it is used only for young people, but thats not what it means. It doesn't have an English meaning and just arbitrarily picking something is weird to me.

You don't typically call some one Mr. Firstname in English. Mr John feels extremely incorrect. You don't use Mr or Mrs when referring to friends or talking to classmates or co-workers, its entirely too formal for typical english conversation. In japan you refer to people using honorifics in english you don't. Period.

Learn individual honorifics based on the context they are used in, but don't try to translate them into English. It makes it confusing to figure out how they are supposed to be used, since they're not used the way those titles are used in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feanixium

How come 'saki' and 'nama' make 'sensei'?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

How do any kanji combinations get their final meaning... it's a bit rough, but 先 (saki as you put it) means "preceding" or "future" and 生 (nama) means "life", so 先生 can be interpreted to mean "one who has lived ahead of you", presumably meaning they know more than you and can therefore teach it to you.

But if you mean, why isn't 先生 read sakinama, aside from explaining the existence of on'yomi and kun'yomi (each kanji can have multiple readings which come from borrowed Chinese or native Japanese pronunciation), the answer is pretty much "because reasons" f(^_^; There is a general rule, that combinations of just kanji usually use on'yomi while kanji on their own or with hiragana uses kun'yomi, but there are also plenty of exceptions.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

And sometimes kanji relates to or adds to the meaning of a word and sometimes it is unrelated. An example is the kanji for musuko (son) is made up of jibun (own or my own) and kokoro (heart), so it's not really directly related to the meaning but as a mother of 3 sons I think it's kinda sweet - and a nice way to remember the kanji too!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ishita0831

For those of you who don't know, さん doesn't really mean "Mr." or "Ms."

You can just add the endings to any name. By any name I mean first name, middle name, surname, etc. So, "ジョンさんは先生です" can either be translated as "Mr. John is a teacher" or "John is a teacher".

If you watch Anime, then you probably know about these endings. "Chan", "Kun", "San", etc. are added to names. It may depend on your relationship with the person. You may not use them sometimes.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Soushii2

what if their last name was john?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

You can just add the endings to any name. By any name I mean first name, middle name, surname, etc.

"John" is such a common English first name though, that people would assume it's someone's first name, regardless of what name ending you use.

You would have to explicitly say "no, my surname is John" which would be 名字【みょうじ】はジョンです


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/xMerrie

Heya! I got a weird "you are wrong", as I think this should have been accepted (and I can't imagine this would be not in the database):

https://i.imgur.com/KDmDOgV.jpg


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

Yeah, definitely something weird going on there. I hope you hit the REPORT button in the bottom right because the course developers don't necessarily read these comments.

For some strange reason, it seems to have underlined the "eac" in "teacher" as the part that you got wrong though... maybe you inserted a zero-width space in there by accident?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/xMerrie

I did hit the report button, if I remember correctly. :)
I don't think I did insert a zero-width space, but anything is possible, I guess.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MikaelP3

Can't it be Ms. John?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

Yes, that is a possibility.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Shannon735745

Is it just me or does the character "Ha" make a "wa" sound for sentences like this?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/milisavban

You are correct, and it's not a mistake - "ha" is read "wa" in this case (watashi wa..., Jon wa...,). Japanese is for the most part read like its written but there are ocassionally small differences like this one. Also written "he" is to be read "e" when it stands alone. You'll get used to it real fast no worries : )


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

Yes, the hiragana for ha is used for the particle wa, also the hiragana for he is used for the particle e.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/momokafuyu

"Mr." translates into (さん), correct?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

さん can be translated into English as Mr, Master, Mrs, Ms, or Miss. Technically there is no literal English equivalent - it is a Japanese suffix added to names - first or last, which shows politeness and respect. If it follows a first/christian name then you wouldn't translate it into English - you could but it's a little awkward. Even if you've just been introduced to someone you don't generally refer to them as Ms Jenny or Mr Brad - you would just refer to them by their first name. (I included "Master" here as in NZ Master is the title given to young boys eg. when they get mail from the Dr or from the bank etc it is addressed to "Master James Johnson" - I'm not sure what the age limit for this is - fyi the abbreviation for Master is Mr)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NicholasCa734185

I have heard sensei used for doctors as well. Would the Kanji be different?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BarbaricWafflez

I have also heard sensei used to address a doctor... is this a mistake on Duolingo's part, or a gap in our knowledge?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

先生 is used more as an honorific suffix for doctors (as well as teachers). It can also be used kind of like a pronoun, if the context makes it obvious that you are referring to a doctor.

"(Medical) doctor" is usually 医者 (いしゃ), or if you're being polite, お医者さん (おいしゃさん).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Intr0vrt

What does "は" do to the sentence?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

It serves to indicate that ジョンさん (i.e. the part of the sentence は follows) is the topic of the sentence (and as is often, but not always the case, also the subject).

To help people get their heads around the idea of topic, は is often (very roughly) translated to "as for ~", so this sentence breaks down like: "As for (=は) John (=ジョンさん), [he] is (=です) a teacher (=先生)."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hisaye

This is just an observation: I've noticed that John often appears as "John-san" or Mr. John, but Maria never receives the honorific when she is mentioned in a sentence. Are we to assume Maria is a younger person, or is John somehow senior to Maria?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lirnareloth

Ms. John is technically correct too Duo and you know it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TomsAquino4

I translated "sensei" as "professor", which I think is acceptable, but is not accepted. Do you agree?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

In many languages professor means teacher (ie. there's no distinction made between teacher and professor - they are used interchangeably) but in English professor usually refers to a "teacher"/lecturer at University or a tertiary education level or a more specifically specialised "teacher". I'm guessing this is why it's not accepted. 学者(がくしゃ) is probably closer to professor.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mommarigo

No. Professor is too specific. Sensei can be anything from a university teacher to a martial artist, to a philosophical leader.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

That's right. If you're introducing Mr. John's (sic) profession, 先生 is very general but usually refers to a school teacher (including kindergarten through to high school) without any other qualifiers, such as 空手の先生 (karate no sensei). If you want to introduce him as a professor, you would say he is a 教授(きょうじゅ)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IzwanRoslan

What if they use も what is the meaning of it when we're using it?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamScott794079

Would john-san is a teacher be a better translation?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Chris753291

No because -san is not used in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RockSobeck

San is Mr. So ジヨンさん would be MR. John and MR. John is a teacher


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

But it's not actually Mr. There is no direct English equivalent. san (and other suffixes like it - kun, chan, sama) are suffixes that are added to people's names (first or last) to show either politeness, respect, a person's level of hierarchy (sama - VERY respectful) or familiarity (chan, kun). There is nothing to tell us that John is a surname so it is logical to assume that it is this person's first or christian name. When attached to a christian name you wouldn't translate it in English - you would simply translate ジョンさん as John. If there was information that let us know that John was actually his surname - for instance if the sentence said ジャムズ じょんさん は 先生 です。then the English translation would be Mr James John is a teacher - then it would be appropriate to translate ~さん as Mr. Please see my comment directly above which basically says the same thing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/WelmoedKuit

What does the "wa" after "John-san" mean?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

The は doesn't strictly speaking "mean" anything, but it serves to indicate that ジョンさん (i.e. the part of the sentence it follows) is the topic (and sometimes the subject) of the sentence.

To help people get their heads around this, it's often (very roughly) translated to "as for ..." So, breaking down this sentence, you get "As for John (ジョンさんは), [he] is (です) a teacher (先生)."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alecksandrovich

Correct me if im wrong about this but isnt doctor sensei as well?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

Well, you're not wrong exactly, but 先生 is used more as an honorific suffix for doctors (as well as teachers). It can also be used kind of like a pronoun, if the context makes it obvious that you are referring to a doctor.

"(Medical) doctor" is usually 医者 (いしゃ), or if you're being polite, お医者さん (おいしゃさん).


[deactivated user]

    Isn't "san" a suffix you put after names when you address other people in Japanese?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aki-kun

    Yes, that is correct. But it's also used when talking about a third person unless the third person is part of a group you belong to as well and the listener is not (e.g. when talking about someone from your company to a member of a different company), in which case you would use a humble form, although you're not referring to yourself.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/whalacats

    I typed in, "Mister John is a teacher" and it was marked incorrect.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

    It's because John is almost certainly a first name and hence in this instance, ~さん has no English equivalent. If the sentence read for example either John Smithさんは 先生 です。OR Smithさんは 先生 です。Then it would be appropriate to translate ~さん with the relevant title. I've also explained this more extensively above in answer to similar queries.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GensSalong

    Isnt sensei a doctor too


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

    Kind of, but 先生 is used more as an honorific suffix for doctors (as well as teachers). It can also be used kind of like a pronoun, if the context makes it obvious that you are referring to a doctor.

    "(Medical) doctor" is usually 医者 (いしゃ), or if you're being polite, お医者さん (おいしゃさん).


    [deactivated user]

      The return of Mr. John


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Harald535768

      This is a good example of the difference between さん and 先生


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/henry_csf

      If I wanted to say "I am John's teacher" would it be something like: 私はジョンの先生です。?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      Yes, or even simply ジョン(さん)の 先生です


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

      Even simply ジョンの先生です *If it's obvious through context that the sentence is about you ;)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JlioQueiro2

      i typed "Mr. Jonh is a professor". why is it wrong?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      John is spelt John, not Jonh. But also please read my response to the question directly below. Professor usually refers to a University/other Tertiary Education level "teacher" or lecturer - that would probably be closer to 学者. 先生 means teacher amongst other things and is not as specific as professor.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/The_iCONer

      Speaking of honorifics, do you ever get the feeling that some rules of etiquette are either made up or otherwise unnecessary to the point where we were taught at an early age what is "polite" and what is "rude", only to find some of these rules ridiculous or unnecessary in retrospect? On a personal level, I do not find not being referred to as an honorific, but maybe that is because I was born in the English world, where honorifics are not necessarily mandatory, instead of the Japanese world, whose honorifics are mandatory. That said, we must use them there lest we be perceived discourteous, unless they know that we are foreigners (who do not understand Japanese), wherefor the gaffe may be forgiven. If I had lived in Japan, I could see finding honorifics mandatory; after all, with H-O-N-O-R in its spelling, honorifics always enhance politeness. However, it would not come as a surprise if I were to go on to eventually find that rule of etiquette in Japan a little "out there".


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Itay881748

      I swiped "me" instaed of "Mr" just a typo


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TheCalibriBody

      Wait wouldn't you just write: ジョン先生は先生です? Or is 先生 not used as an honourific?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/aether42011

      What's the difference between using professor or teacher


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      Please read my comment below in answer to a similar question.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/y5pKvcDh

      if john is a teacher why don't they say ジヨン "先生" は先生です


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hannah316931

      Why is it always john san who is a teacher but only maria is a teacher (no san)? I understand san to be gender neutral, it certainly works that way with tanaka san. So why no san for maria? Is she not worthy of the same respect?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LLUMINATIPIZZA

      wouldn't ジョンさん の 先生です be correct here? please help me out if i am missing something.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      No, this means I am John's teacher. の indicates possession and so if we swap の for は John changes from the focus of the sentence to a descriptor of sorts - I am a teacher - who's teacher? ジョンの - John's.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

      の indicates possession

      It can indicate possession, when between two noun/noun phrases, as it does in this case. But it has other functions too ;)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      Yes, it can help nouns modify/describe other nouns and also make verbs into nouns eg. 歌うのが好き - I like singing, and in informal/casual speech can indicate a question instead of か eg. 明日 来るの - will you come tomorrow? I thought it best to focus on how の was used in this instance and not complicate matters by listing off multiple uses.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

      I agree listing off the other roles の can have would make things more confusing, but your answer makes it sound like there aren't any other uses for の.

      I just wanted to avoid future confusion; when other functions of の are encountered, learners won't be penned into trying to think about it in terms of possession, even if they aren't aware of the details of those other functions right now.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

      @AnaLydiate That's fair enough. Unfortunately, that's the thing about the internet, isn't it? There's always someone more pedantic than you're willing to be f(^_^;

      Personally, I think "の is used to indicate possession (amongst other things)" would have been perfect.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      I almost put の is used to indicate possession (amongst other things) but didn't want to overwhelm with all its different uses and I also thought maybe I was being a bit pedantic so decided against it.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dylan_Nicholson

      ”Mr John" should really not be accepted, because in English that implies somebody with the surname of John (


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshuaLore9

      The Japanese covers that situation too, so it should be acceptable. Everyone has assumed that the "John" in this sentence is a first name, because it's such a common first name, but it's equally valid to assume it's someone's surname.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zak12339

      Why is さん used for John and Tanaka way more often than it is for Maria???


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaLydiate

      It is an error. Unless the speaker is introducing themselves then it is an error.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/itnio

      of course I would expect this


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sierra693613

      San is so easy. I lurv it. Also congrats on finishing college john didnt think ya had it in ya.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sirIesdor

      i swear i heard ジョンにさん, but i typed ジョンさん anyway.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CadiTesdahl

      So, uh, John is a first name... If they were truly a teacher, they would be Mr. (whatever their last name is) to whomever the students were unless they were on a first name basis with each other, which would just place John as "John". Mr. (first name) is pretty much only an American/British thing to the best of my knowledge, so why is it "Mr. John" as a teacher's name?

      Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.