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"いくらですか?” seems like a common phrase taught to all students of Japanese? But, instead of saying "いくらですか?", I always used to go honorific and say "おいくらですか?".

Is adding 美化語{びかご} to "いくら" wrong? Could it ever be wrong? After all, you cannot ask yourself questions. Why is the honorific "おいくら" not really taught? "それはいくらですか?" sounds aggressive and "in your face"?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I normally say "すいません、これいくらですか。" and I don't think this sounds impolite. I think my mother uses "いくらですか。" or "おいくらですか。", and sometimes "これ、おいくら?". I think おいくらですか? sounds politer and a bit feminine, and おいくら? sounds feminine and elegant.

"Why is the honorific "おいくら" not really taught?">> Maybe it's because おいくらですか / おいくら is more used by older people and textbook publishers think that students of Japanese are generally young??

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By the way, I think you'd use これいくらですか when asking the price of another item, like 「すいません、これいくらですか。」「500円です。」「ああ・・・じゃあ、これいくらですか。」(like, "How about this one?") – user1016 Apr 23 '14 at 7:00
好奇心で「上品」という言葉でググッたら、出てきたのは女の子の画像ばっかりだった、ってことは、なんででしょうか。w – Yang Muye Apr 23 '14 at 7:08
I guess people always associate お上品な言葉遣い with feminine... ちなみに、「下品」で検索したら、おっさんがいっぱいでてきた。 – Yang Muye Apr 23 '14 at 7:14
「上品なおっさん」でググったら食べ物ばかりだった。(なんで?) つまり、上品なおっさんはいない? – user1016 Apr 23 '14 at 7:48

When you ask 「それはいくらですか」 you already make the question sound polite by including です and not dropping は. There are much more casual versions of the question, e.g. 「それいくら?」.

This question is typically used by a customer when asking for a price. You wouldn't use honorific in this case as when you address a shop assistant as a customer, you don't address someone of a higher status. If anything, it's actually the other way round, a customer has a higher status.

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But I want to treat everyone with respect and dignity. While using too much 尊敬語 is rude, using some 尊敬語 when addressing a person outside your "group" is not rude I think. And, I don't think "です" relates to honorifics at all. "です" is about being formal. – shinmai_psb Apr 23 '14 at 0:26
I believe です is 1) polite form of copula, 2) "polite" marker. – Szymon Apr 23 '14 at 0:36
I think there is distinction between "polite" and "formal". ex: Mishima chose "である" instead of "です" to remain honorific-neutral while increasing formality. So, I'm pretty sure "だ", "です", "である" control formality not honorifics. "それいくら" does not sound like Japanese to me? – shinmai_psb Apr 23 '14 at 1:34
I would tend to agree with Szymon. Polite is not the same as honorific. Formal is not the same as either. Using です and including your particles is polite. There's no reason to use random honorifics in your encounter with shop keepers -- it makes you sound foreign -- not polite or respectful. You can even speak casually to shop workers as a customer (普通形). They will most likely respond in a polite and/or honorific register depending on the type of store. – virmaior Apr 23 '14 at 1:46
@virmaior Please consider that 美化語 , "お", is added to 酒、茶、土産、etc. with no consideration of polite / formal / honorific. I'd think "いくら" is in the same class of words. You just naturally always add "お". I'm pretty sure I heard natives always add "お", while textbooks never do. No one seems to agree with me though... – shinmai_psb Apr 23 '14 at 2:11

If we exclude words where the お/ご has become effectively part of the word (お茶), there are two uses of honorifics, to show respect and to be polite (or sound more elegant). Your use falls into the latter category. Its more feminine but not wrong. The book "Japanese for all occasions" by Taeko Kamiya advises not adding honorifics excessively.

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