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I've started learning keigo and already having difficulty with it, with the same problem in both そんけいご and けんじょうご. In particular, I'm having trouble understanding the combination of the use of ~ていらっしゃる and お+verb stem+になる, and ~ておる and お+verb stem+にする.

So what example if you had the question and you wanted to change it so that it involves そんけいご.

先生はどちらに住んでいますか。

Would you change it to: -> 先生はどちらに住んでいらっしゃいますか。 -> 先生はどちらにお住みになっていらっしゃいますか。 -> 先生はどちらにお住みになっていますか。

I've seen a combination of all three usages (e.g. 疲れていらっしゃいます、 お教えになっていらっしゃいます and お教えになっています), but I can't find any clear explanation of when one is preferred over the others. Or are they are equivalent?

Same problem applies to ~ておる and お+verb stem+にする, though I'd assume the explanation and reasoning behind it would be the same as そんけいご.

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@ssb Among us native speakers, お住まいはどちらですか/どちらでしょうか would be far more common. –  非回答者 Nov 20 '13 at 8:45
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Consider me corrected, then, although I'm surprised that educational materials seem to leave out the passive honorific –  ssb Nov 20 '13 at 8:58
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お + verb stem + になっていらっしゃる sounds like 二重敬語 to me. –  istrasci Nov 20 '13 at 17:00
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@istrasci I think it's 敬語連結, so it's okay. –  snailboat Nov 20 '13 at 19:24
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And then there's どちらにお住みですか/どちらにお住まいですか, where the verb doesn't even look like a verb anymore :o :o –  dainichi Nov 25 '13 at 5:59

1 Answer 1

I think the commenters are all right. There is a principle of communication containing four maxims that claims speakers and listeners are interested in four things: truthfulness, quantity, relevance, and clarity. Hence, the shortest (quantity) form that correctly expresses the necessary degree of respect (relevance) while not obscuring the meaning of the sentence (clarity) is typically the most pleasing one.

In descending order by those criteria, then:

  1. お住まいはどちらですか?
  2. どちらに住んでおられます? (arguably more intimate with passive)
  3. どちらにすんでいらっしゃいます?

Don't worry about getting too complicated; consistent competency will satisfy those maxims more fully and will look and sound much better than suddenly good discursive performance, followed by a string of faux pas :)

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If it doesn't seem like Japanese obeys these maxims all the time, just check the slightly opposed Leech's maxims of politeness for pointers ;) –  Trevor Alexander Dec 12 '13 at 4:40

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