Japanese Language and Culture

Honorific

Production Rules:

Rule Meaning
Infinitive (1) お + [い-stem] & に なる
o + [i-stem] & ni naru
to [do]
Infinitive (2) お + [い-stem] & なさる
o + [i-stem] & nasaru

Inflection Examples:

Infinitive (2) Infinitive (2)
変える
kaeru (to change)
お変えになる
okae ni naru
お変えなさる
okae nasaru
話す
hanasu (to speak)
お話しになる
ohanashi ni naru
お話しなさる
ohanashi nasaru
歩く
aruku (to walk)
お歩きになる
oaruki ni naru
お歩きなさる
oaruki nasaru
泳ぐ
oyogu (to swim)
お泳ぎになる
ooyogi ni naru
お泳ぎなさる
ooyogi nasaru
呼ぶ
yobu (to call)
お呼びになる
oyobi ni naru
お呼びなさる
oyobi nasaru
飲む
nomu (to drink)
お飲みになる
onomi ni naru
お飲みなさる
onomi nasaru
死ぬ
shinu (to die)
お亡くなりになる
onakunari ni naru*
お亡くなりなさる
onakunari nasaru*
作る
tsukuru (to make)
お作りになる
otsukuri ni naru
お作りなさる
otsukuri nasaru
待つ
matsu (to wait)
お待ちになる
omachi ni naru
お待ちなさる
omachi nasaru
洗う
arau (to wash)
お洗いになる
oarai ni naru
お洗いなさる
oarai nasaru
* Note different verb "nakunaru" (亡くなる) used in place of "shinu".

Irregulars:

Infinitive
する
suru
(to do)
なさる
nasaru
くる
kuru
(to come)
いらっしゃる
irassharu
行く
iku
(to go)
いらっしゃる
irassharu
いる
iru
(to be, to stay)
いらっしゃる
irassharu
食べる
taberu
(to eat)
召し上がる
meshiagaru
飲む
nomu
(to drink)
召し上がる
meshiagaru
言う
iu
(to say)
おっしゃる
ossharu
見る
miru
(to see)
ご覧になる
goran ni naru
ご覧なさる
goran nasaru
知る
shiru
(to know)
ご存知でいらっしゃる
gozonji de irassharu
ある
aru
(to be, to exist)
ござる *
gozaru

* This is not actually honorific, since it applies only to inanimate things, however, it is often used in situations in which honorific forms are called for.

Usage Notes & Examples:

  1. The above represents common patterns for how verbs are made honorific, but the fact is that keigo is extremely complex. There are many exceptions governing how particular verbs are made honorific, depending on what forms have survived to modern times, as well as particular ways of expressing certain sentiments. For instance, notice that "taberu" could not be used as a model verb here (see below) and that a different verb entirely is used in place of "shinu". It would be advisable to check a reliable source for any particular case.
  2. Honorific forms are used only when a person other than the speaker (or a member of the speaker's group) is the subject. The subject of an honorific, in general, must be a person. This can be the listener or a third party. It elevates the position of the subject to show politeness to that person. This is a separate function from that provided by the "normal polite" forms ("desu", "masu"), which show politeness to the listener regardless of the subject. So for instance, if you're talking to an employee of a client company, you may speak of that company's president honorifically, but you still need the "masu" forms to show politeness to the employee you're speaking to. This remains true even if the subject of the honorific and the listener are the same person.
  3. Note that some verbs have inherently polite or honorific counterparts that are used in their place when an honorific is called for, and the most common examples are listed in the irregulars table above.
  4. For verbs that conjugate as noun + "suru", where the noun involved is of Chinese origin (i.e. the "on" reading of the kanji is used), generally the noun is prefixed with "go-" (sometimes o-) and "suru" becomes "nasaru".

Copyright © 2010-2011 Collin McCulley. All Rights Reserved.

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