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This is something that is often said in English to politely ask a question while avoiding sounding overly intrusive. For example,

What do you do for a living, if you don't mind my asking?

The way that I would think to translate it is:

聞いてもよろしければ、何の仕事をしているのですか。

But I'm not entirely confident, because that's a literal translation, and there may be a more natural sounding set-phrase for it. Is my translation correct? Or is there a better way to say it?

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「何の仕事をするのですか」 sounds like you are asking about someone's FUTURE job. Also, 「する」 is never polite. –  非回答者 Jul 19 at 22:42
    
@非回答者 Doesn't the です part make it polite though? I was taught that the のです form takes the plain form of a verb, and it's the です part that makes it polite. (i.e. the casual form would be するのだ) –  Ataraxia Jul 20 at 1:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A very common (and mature-sounding) phrase would be 「[差]{さ}し[支]{つか}えなければ」. 「差し支え」 means "obstacle", "inconvenience", etc.

「差し支えなければ、ご[職業]{しょくぎょう}をお[聞]{き}きしてもよろしいですか。」

You may add a 「もし」 at the beginning as well.

Other natural expressions would include:

Polite:「(もし)お[尋]{たず}ねしてもよろしければ」

Less polite:「もし聞いてもよければ」

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I would probably say

  • [失礼]{しつ・れい}ですが、~ → I'm sorry to be rude, but ~
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This sounds like you know it's rude, but at least to me, the English version sounds like you don't know if it's rude or not. Is there something that closer approximates the sense of 'you might well be okay with my asking, but just in case' that the English has? –  Sjiveru Jul 19 at 21:54
    
@Sjiveru: But the Japanese mindset is to humble yourself, even if you know it's not rude at all. –  istrasci Jul 20 at 4:33
    
I feel like there are cases, though, where saying that you're sure it's rude would be just weird. The English version is often just insurance against the off-chance that it happens to be rude - of the questions I ask with 'if you don't mind', most are things that I would be fairly surprised if the person I was asking actually did mind answering. –  Sjiveru Jul 20 at 9:20
    
If 失礼ですが works just fine in those cases, though, then I suppose it works as a translation. –  Sjiveru Jul 20 at 9:21

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