敬語 (Keigo) Honorific Expressions

August 27, 2009 in Formal Japanese



Oki ni meshite itadakeru ka dou ka wakarimasen ga higoro no kansha no kimochi desu.

I am not sure if you would like this or not but this is just a token of my appreciation.

Today we will learn 敬語(= keigo).

Uh-oh….tough one! Yep! It is difficult and many Japanese people get confused as well.

敬語 (= keigo) or 尊敬語 (=sonkeigo) is “honorific expression/language“.

In order to speak Japanese properly, we have to learn this 敬語」(=keigo) and 「 謙譲語 (=kenjyougo) , humble or modest version of Japanese.

  The Kanji of 「 」(kei/ uyamau ) means “to respect” or “to admire”. (尊敬=sonkei means the same.)

You use 敬語 (=keigo) towards people who are socially higher, customers, or people you are not familiar with.

You, students have to use敬語 (= keigo) towards 先生= sensei, (=teachers) as myself!

You hear 敬語(=keigo) in daily conversation all the time in the stores, the restaurants, on the street, on the phone, etc.

Let’s take a look at the phrase in the picture first.

My student says : 「お気に召すかどうかわかりませんが、」

oki ni mesuka douka wakariamsen ga..

(I am not sure if you would like it or not but..)

(Basic form)  → 敬語 (Keigo)

* 気に入るki ni iru to like something/s.o.お気に召す oki ni mesu

日頃の感謝の気持ちです。 Hirogo no kansha no kimochi desu.

* 日頃:higoro everyday, continuous

* 感謝kansha gratitude, appreciation

* 気持ちkimochi feelings, a token of ~

This is a token of my (continuous) appreciation.

*クンクン : kunkun : sniffing sound

Now, before going to 敬語(=keigo)、let’s see the patterns of making 丁寧語 (=teineigo) polite form.

The simplest way to make some Japanese words more polite is to put“o “ or “ go “ on the beginning of the words.

*お口 okuchi → (o + kuchi) mouth

Ex. 「お口に合うかどうか..」Okuchi ni au ka douka..

(I wonder if this tastes good enough for your mouth..)→“I am not sure if you like this food but (I do hope you like it) .”

*お元気ですか? ogenki desuka? → (o+genki desuka?) How are you?

*お時間 ojikan (o+jikan) time

Ex. ちょっとお時間ありますか?Chotto ojikan arimasuka? “Do you have time?”

*お忙しい  oisogashii (o+isogashii) in hurry

Ex. お忙しいですか?oisogashii desuka? “Are you busy? ”

The Kanji for “o ” is and its’ other way of reading is “ go “. So some words take “o “ and some take “ go “. (And some can’t take either one.) It depends on the word.

*御主人(様) goshujin(sama) When you refer to someone’s husband or an owner of the stores, restaurants,etc. The original meaning of shujin is a master. (Note: The polite word for “wife” is 奥様 okusama)

* 御機嫌 gokigen mood

* 御住所 gojyuusho address

* 御相談 gosoudan to consult

* 御名前 is read “onamae” not “gonamae”. So if you see the kanji, 、you have to figure out whether it is go or o (or on →御社 onsha your company )

But don’t overuse this. It would sound funny if you use it too much and sometimes it sounds strange if men use it.

* お野菜 (oyasai) vegetable :Fine and acceptable!

* おジュース (ojyuusu) : juice This is possible but sounds a bit overdone.

* おバナナ (obanana) : banana Too much. This sounds really strange
* お骨 (okotsu) : bone :i: Never use it for the fish or meat bone!! Only for funeral…

<How to address other people’s family >

When you refer to someone’s family, you have to keep it in mind to use the polite form.

For example, (=haha) usually refers to your own mother. お母さん(=okaasan) could be your mother or another person’s mother. お母様 okaasama or お母様方 okaasama gata (=plural mothers) are very polite form to address other people’s mothers.

Ex. 私の母は60歳 です。

Watashi no haha wa 60 sai desu.

My mom is 60 years old.

Ex. 母様はお元気でいらっしゃいますか?

okaasama wa ogenki de irasshaimasuka?

How is your mother? (very polite)


:rrrr:お父さん otousan

:rrrr:お父様 otousama father


:rrrr:お兄さん oniisan

:rrrr:お兄様 oniisama brother


:rrrr:おさん oneesan

:rrrr:お姉様 oneesama

:mm: 敬語の動詞 = keigo no doushi <honorific verbs>

  How to change regular verbs into 「丁寧語=teineigo / polite form)

ex. 〜です、ます desu, masu form. Usually you can use it both when you refer to your actions and other people’s actions.) and「 敬語 (keigo) (ex. 〜になる〜になられる その他 ~ninaru, ~ninarareru sonota=and etc. You only use them when you refer other people’s actions.

(Basic form)

:rrrr: 丁寧語(=teineigo)  polite

:rrrr: 敬語 (= keigo) very poliet


飲む nomu = to drink

:rrrr: 飲みます nomimasu

:rrrr:お飲みになる onomininaru

 急ぐ isogu  = to be in hurry

:rrrr: 急ぎます isogimasu

:rrrr: お急ぎになる oisogini naru

 試す tamesu = to try

:rrrr: 試します tameshimasu

:rrrr:お試しになる otameshini naru 

  買う kau = to buy

:rrrr: 買います kaimasu

:rrrr:買われる kawareru 

  ★書く kaku = to write

 :rrrr: 書きます kakimasu

:rrrr:書かれる kakareru to write

★ 来る kuru  = to come

:rrrr: 来ます kimasu

:rrrr:来られる korareru

* Also

:rrrr:いらっしゃる (=irassharu )


:rrrr:お超しになる (=okoshi ni naru) can be keigo for this.)

試す tamesu 

:rrrr: 試します tameshimasu

:rrrr: お試しになる otameshini naru to try

食べる taberu

:rrrr:食べます tabemasu 

:rrrr: 召し上がる meshiagaru to eat

いる iru 

:rrrr: います imasu

:rrrr:いらっしゃる irassharu to be there

言う iu

:rrrr: 言います iimasu

:rrrr:おっしゃる ossharu to say

Note : The first three verbs are ~(ni)naru form. The next three verbs are ~(ra)reru form. The last three verbs are the one which take special forms.

!star!   Test yourself!

Now your turn! Read the following casual sentences and make them in 丁寧(=teinei) ,polite form, and then try to make them in 敬語 form! Good luck!


= Ashita kaisha ni kuru?

Are you coming to the office tomorrow?


= Konshuu no kaigi wa dousuru?

What are you going to do about the meeting this week?


= Kono eiga mita koto aru?

Have you seen this movie?


= Ima, Suzuki san wa dekakete iru no?

Is Suzuki-san out now?


= Ryouri, sameru kara hayaku tabetara?

Help yourself before the food gets colder.


= Kore dare ga kaita e?

Who drew this picture?


= Tanaka sanntte shitteru?

Do you know Mr.Tanaka?

:jjj: (答え)Kotae Answers

(1) 明日会社 に来ますか?

Ashita kaisha ni kimasuka?

    :rrrr:明日は、会社にい らっしゃいますか?

Ashita wa kaisha ni irasshaimasu ka?

(2) 今週の会議はどうしますか?

Konshuu no kaigi wa doushimasu ka?

  :rrrr: 今週の会議はどうされますか?

Konshuu no kaigi wa dou saremasu ka?

(3) この 映画を観たことはありますか?

Kono eiga wo mita koto wa arimasu ka?


Kono eiga wo goran ni natta koto wa airmasu ka?

(4) 今、鈴木さんは出かけていますか?

Ima, suzuki san wa dekakete imasu ka?


Tadaima, Suzuki-sama wa odekakete de shouka?

(5) 料理が冷めてしま うので早く食べたら如何ですか?

Ryouri ga samete shimau node hayaku tabetara ikaga desuka?

    :rrrr:どう ぞ、お料理が冷めてしまいますのでお早くお召し上がり下さい。

Douzo, oryouri ga samete shimaimasu node ohayaku omesiagari kudasai .

(6) これは 誰が描いた絵ですか?

Kore wa dare ga kaita e desu ka?


Kochirano e wa donata ga okaki ni natta node shouka?

(7) 田中さんを知っていますか?

Tanaka san wo shitte imasu ka?


Tanaka-san wo gozonji desu ka?

    :rrrr:Note :

コンビニ敬語 (=conbini keigo) 、ファミレス敬語(=famiresu keigo) or バイト敬語 (=baito keigo) バイト=part-time.

Recently the peculiar form of 敬語 (= keigo) among young people who work for the family restaurants or convenience stores is getting controversial.

The examples of those “konbini”or “famiresu” keigo are…

* こちらメニューになります。こちらがメニューでございます。

* お会計、2000円になります。お会計は、2000円でございます。


* 1万円から預かりします。1万円をお預かりします。

* 温めますか? 温めましょうか?

They even have manuals using these 敬語(=keigo)

So like all anguages, the Japanese language has been changing,too.

frenchbulldogマギー先生より Maggie sensei yori  From Maggie-sensei



honjitu gotabouchuu kochirano burogu ni irasshatte kudasatta minasama , makoto ni arigatou gozaimashita.

mata no okoshi wo kokoro kara omaci moushiagete orimasu.

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