Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: plain/polite and honorific/humble
From: Russell (rikdzinhotmail.com)
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2000 21:22:00 GMT
> I know in Japanese you've got plain, polite, and superpolite (irassharu, kudaru, itadaku, ect.) modes of speech. I was wondering who you would use the superpolite speech with. Also, what would you use when talking to a such an honored person when referring to a 3rd person? Would you use humble or honorific?
There are two categories: plain/polite forms of verbs, which show deference to person you are speaking to, and honorific/humble verbs (敬語), which indicate deference to the person being spoken about.
When speaking about the actions of someone of a higher position than you (if you are a student, then a teacher, for example), then one can use keigo. For example, here is a conversation between two strangers about a teacher:
A: 木村先生は、もう召し上がりましたか。 (kimura sensei wa, mou meshiagarimashita ka)
B: ええ、召し上がりました。 (ee, meshiagarimashita)
And the same conversation between two students of the same class:
A: 木村先生は、もう召し上がった。 (kimura sensei wa, mou meshiagatta)
B: うん、召し上がった。 (un, meshiagatta)
So, keigo can be used with both polite (desu/masu) and plain forms.
As you probably know (hehe), aside from special keigo words like はいしゃくする (to borrow - humble) or いらっしゃる, there is the O+[verb stem]+ ni naru, and O+[verb stem]+suru, where naru is for honorific and suru is for humble. Take this conversation, again between strangers.
A: 木村先生に本をお借りになりましたか。 (kimura sensei ni hon wo o-kari ni narimashita ka)
B: はい、お借りしました。 (hai, o-kari shimashita)
If these were two familiar people, they could use endings like なった and した。 However, I have never seen the ninaru/suru forms being used between close friends before, even when the honorific/humble applications are necessary. Two friends would probably just say
A: 木村先生に本を借りたのか。 (kimura sensei ni hon wo karita no ka)
B: うん、借りた。(un, karita)
or something like that.
So, to sum it up, here's how to chose:
The person you're talking to higher than yourself:
-use polite conjugations (desu/masu)
-use honorific verbs/forms when speaking about them
-humble verbs/forms when speaking of yourself (if and only if the action is related to a higher person)
The person you're talking about is higher than yourself:
-use honorific verbs/forms
-use humble verbs/forms when speaking of yourself in relation to them
The person you're talking to is a friend (etc.):
-use plain conjugation
-use honorific verbs/forms and humble verbs/forms (as noted above, this is sometimes not followed, depending on the situation; I myself am not -entirely- sure. uh...use common sense?)
Final final note: there are some humble verbs that you can use, regardless of whether or not the listener has a relation to it. Some are:
mairu, oru, mousu, gozaru, itasu
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