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敬語どうし [けいごどうし] (Respectful Verbs I)
    Meaning: Will you _____?
    Example: Will you buy it, madam?
    JLPT Level: 4
    Category: grammar
    Author: dc

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Honorific and Humble Forms

Japanese can be roughly separated into three levels of politeness: casual, polite, and honorific/humble. So far, we have already gone over the polite forms using "desu" and "masu". We will now cover the next level of politeness using honorific and humble forms. You will often hear this type of language in any customer/consumer type situations such as fast food cashiers, etc.. For now, the first thing to remember is that the speaker always considers himself/herself to be at the lowest level. So any actions performed by oneself are in humble form while actions performed by anyone else seen from the view of the speaker uses the honorific form. For the simple example of first and second person, the first person is always humble while the second person is always honorific.

Set Expressions

The difficult part of learning honorific and humble language is that there are a number of words that have separate verbs for honorific and humble forms. Anything that does not have it's own special expression fall under the rules of humble and honorific conjugations that we will cover next.

聞く伺う (to ask)


Conjugating honorific/humble verbs

Most of the verbs in the table above follow the normal masu-conjugation rules except for: なさる、ござる、いらっしゃる、おっしゃる、and 下さる. For all these verbs, instead of the 「る」 becoming a 「り」 as it does with normal u-verbs, it instead becomes an 「い」 for all tenses of the masu-form.

Any conjugations besides the masu-form do not change from regular u-verbs. In addition to these verbs, 「です」 becomes 「でございます」, which is the masu-form conjugation of 「でござる」 which comes from 「である」 (to be covered much later).

Plainます-formPast ます-formNegative ます-formPast-negative ます-form

Regular Keigo Verb Forms

丁寧 Teinei*譲語 Kenjougo*尊敬語 Sonkeigo
Vstem+ます * お+Vstem +します * お+Vstem+になります

Irregular Keigo Verb Forms

丁寧 Teinei*譲語 Kenjougo*尊敬語 Sonkeigo
いいます * もうします * おっしゃいます

食べます・ * いただきます * めしあがります

行きます・ * まいります * いらっしゃいます

います * おります * いらっしゃいます

します * いたします * なさいます

しっています * ぞんじています * ごぞんじです

聞きます * うかがいます * ---none---

見ます * はいけんします * ごらんになります

会います * おめにかかります * ---none---


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  See Also:  
    [ Add a See Also ]
    lanceCorrection for Kenjougo?
    しっています * ぞんじています * ごぞんじです
    しっています * ぞんじて おります * ごぞんじです
    Charles JenkinsThe table shows up on my screen like this "PlainHonorificHumble," and the verbs are all run together. Could there be a problem with the HTML formatting of this page? 
    yookosoOK, I have made some changes so that tables can now be displayed... 
    VolcanonIt might be important to note that keigo changes depending on whether what you're talking about involves the higher person or not.
    Also, saying double-keigo, such as お話になっていらっしゃいます。 is apparently putting on airs unless you are a salesman.
    brettkunIs the o + verb in base II suru for humble and
    0+verb in base II + ni naru somewhere around here? I bet they are... So an even higher degree of politeness would be o + base II + itasu correct? Please see and I am interested in contributing examples yo! Thanks also for a great site!
    kryoungHello, I have a suggestion:
    - For 知る, if it is an object/place/thing that you know of, you reply with 存じております。If it is a person you know of (say a professor, doctor, etc) you reply with 存じてあげています/おります。
    - ごめんなさい in honorifics turns into 申し訳ありません。
    - A useful keigo grammar note is causative verb+morau/itadaku, which literally means "(the listener) to allow me to do/perform some action". For example if a person is about to start a meeting, he/she would say ただいま会議を始めさせていただきます. It's just a very polite way to say "I will start the meeting now". But the literal translation would be "Now, allow me to perform the action of starting the meeting". Isn't that way more polite than just saying you will start the meeting? =)

    Anyway, that's my two cents on honorifics.

    RKDMooreThis caused me a lot of inconvenience as I decoded this page and only after decoding the entire page's sloppy unecessary mixing of terms ((honorific/尊敬語/sonkeigo--humble/謙譲語「Which is missing a kanji by the way」/kenjougo))
    and then learning very systematically all the terms helpfully provided in the table above, I had to be told I had most of my answers backwards, as half way through the page switches from
    Polite - Honorific - Humble in the verb table, to
    Polite - Humble - Honorific in the other veb explanation below.

    This is just making things more confusing, can someone please fix this or take it down? It's frankly deteremental to my studies.

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