From social politeness ("please", "thank you", etc) to the technical Japanese grammatical concepts of honorifics and respectful and humble forms known as "keigo".

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29
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5answers
6k views

Usage of すみません (sumimasen) versus ごめんなさい (gomen'nasai)

There are several situations in which one of these words (phrases?) should be used but there's not usually a 1:1 mapping between any two languages. Get somebody's permission. English: "excuse me", ...
21
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it proper to thank waitstaff, cashiers, etc. for their service?

In my Japanese class we were taught that one does not need to thank a cashier when they check you out or a server when they bring you your meal, but I always feel awkward remaining silent. Was my ...
21
votes
4answers
14k views

When to use ください (kudasai) or お願いします (onegaishimasu) in requests?

When asking for something I seem to hear sentences end in both ください (kudasai) and お願いします (onegaishimasu). Is there a difference and how do I know when to use which?
17
votes
2answers
916 views

ありがとうございます vs. ありがとうございました

When thanking someone, what is the rule for using ありがとうございます vs. ありがとうございました? My sensei taught us to use ありがとうございました when the action you're thanking someone for occurred in the past, but I've heard ...
16
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3answers
1k views

Does “敬語” (keigo) just mean “politeness” or is it a technical term specifically relating to Japanese grammar?

What is the difference between the Japanese term "敬語" (keigo) and the English term "politeness" (Specifically regarding language)? I assumed politeness is more general covering things like "please" ...
16
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1answer
2k views

How do I politely ask my boss for a moment of his time?

My boss is a native Japanese speaker. In English, when I have a question or an issue to bring up, I can ask "Do you have a minute?" to see if it is an appropriate time to interrupt them. In ...
15
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6answers
7k views

Can somebody explain the various words and combinations thereof used for thanking?

To my knowledge there are three words which can be used in thanking and they seem to be usable together in some combinations: どうも (d­ōmo) どうもありがとう (dōmo arigatō) ありがとう (arigatō) ありがとうございます (arigatō ...
15
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3answers
2k views

“You don't have to be so polite.” Really?

Sometimes a Japanese person will say to me: そんなに丁寧な言葉を使わなくてもいいんですよ。 This is an invitation to be less formal. But how much less formal? As I have experienced, sometimes unintentional gaffes can ...
15
votes
5answers
3k views

How do you respond to thanks given?

How do you respond to ありがとうございます and other ways of giving thanks? Are there any expressions similar to the English "You're welcome" or "No problem", or is it appropriate to not respond at all?
15
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4answers
755 views

How would I respectfully disagree with a superior?

If my manager says something that I know to be factually incorrect, how can I point that out without sounding disrespectful? (Is ~違います appropriate in this context or is that too strong?) Is this a ...
15
votes
1answer
347 views

Politeness in examination questions

1) Why do Japanese school examination questions get more rude as the year gets higher? In elementary school ...してください。 or ...しましょう。 ... です。 ...ですか。 In junior high school to high school ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

When to use 欲しがる instead of 欲しい

When does one use 欲しがる instead of 欲しい? For example, in phrases like: 先生は野菜を食べて欲し​{いです・がっています}。 My incomplete understanding is that the がる form is more formal/polite, but it can only be ...
14
votes
5answers
842 views

In modern usage how do Japanese natives regard the differences between 外人, 外国人 and 外人さん?

As a near native speaker of Japanese, I find it annoying to be called 外人 since it seems to imply that I "know nothing about Japan" (outsider). I much prefer 外国人. In modern usage, how do native ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Which kanji to use for saying ありがとうございます in emails?

When sending emails, I've noticed that Japanese colleagues use all sorts of kanji/kana combinations for the simple phrases ありがとうございました and よろしくおねがいいたします. For example: ありがとうございました 有難うございました ...
13
votes
5answers
393 views

Can I say なるほど when talking with customers?

I was told in class by a Japanese teacher that なるほど can not be used when talking with people above, but in the same lesson we listened to a CD (training material) where a student was saying なるほど to ...
13
votes
2answers
273 views

What are the origins of ド when used as emphasis, and is it always negative?

Sometimes I've seen ド as a prefix that adds emphasis to words. So saying someone is ドバカ is saying that they are much more stupid than just バカ. I'm wondering what the origin of ド in this context is. ...
13
votes
1answer
241 views

What's the difference in usage between 氏名 (しめい) and 名前 (なまえ)?

What's the difference in usage between 氏名 (しめい) and 名前 (なまえ)? I often see these two words used interchangeably, but more often than not I see 氏名 on websites. Is this a politeness difference or an ...
13
votes
1answer
379 views

Should I say 失礼{しつれい}します before hanging up the phone if the other person called me?

Phone etiquette is one of those things I still struggle with at times, often fumbling because I'm not sure what expression I'm supposed to use at a given time. 失礼します at the end of a phone call is one ...
13
votes
2answers
342 views

Usage of 「ごめんください」

In all the anime and j-drama I have watched all these years, as far as I can remember, the only scenario where the greeting 「ごめんください」 is used is when the characters are in front of an ajar or open ...
13
votes
1answer
6k views

How would I say “Get well soon”?

Last summer my family hosted a Japanese exchange student for two weeks, and we've kept in touch with her a lot. Unfortunately, about 2 months ago I found out she had Leukemia. She said she'll ...
12
votes
2answers
597 views

Addressing a friend's parents when meeting them for the first time

I have met the parents of a close Japanese friend two times in my life and have never been sure how I should address them. Both times I've asked the friend beforehand but never got a satisfactory ...
12
votes
3answers
899 views

When and to whom should I use the expression ご苦労様 (gokurousama)?

In what context and relationship wise to who can I safely say ご苦労様 (gokurousama)? I often defer to using otsukaresama since I'm not sure if I'm talking down to someone by saying gokurousama. Please ...
11
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1answer
388 views

When can I exchange くださる for いただく in expressions of gratitude?

Way back when, I remember being taught that when you want to say a really polite "thank you", sentences such as these are basically the same: 文章を訂正していただきましてありがとうございます。 ...
10
votes
4answers
418 views

correctness of い adjective + です

Generally, in all Japanese language classes, the rule you're taught is that です does not follow い adjectives. Instead, い adjectives can act like stative verbs, and as such terminate a sentence by ...
10
votes
4answers
756 views

is it offensive to say あなた?

My teacher says that we should avoid あなた, like わたし, which could be taken off. Following this, I try to refer to the second person by the name: 加藤さんの趣味は何ですか. But there are situations where we forget ...
10
votes
2answers
644 views

Why is the honorific o used for the bathroom?

I've seen the honorific "o"/"go" (is it called bikago?) being used as politness or reverence: o-cha for non-western tea, o-namae when talking about someone else's name, o-genki instead of just genki, ...
10
votes
3answers
414 views

When should 男の人/女の人 be used instead of 男/女?

My teacher always corrects me when I use 男 or 女 by themselves, without adding の人 to the end of it. But in various Japanese media (music, drama, anime, etc.), I know for sure that I have heard them ...
9
votes
5answers
502 views

What to say when leaving the table before everybody else?

For example, while having lunch with your coworkers and you have to attend some matter soon, what would be a natural way to leave the table? I think that in this case saying お先に失礼します would be wrong.
9
votes
2answers
261 views

Politeness on Twitter

I tweet in Japanese every once in awhile, sometimes to Japanese people and sometimes to all of my followers. I haven't really been able to figure it out, so how does politeness work on Twitter? Some ...
9
votes
1answer
425 views

When to use 頂戴します instead of いただきます?

In rather formal situations, when would you use 頂戴します ? I use いただきます all the time to express the fact of receiving something, but I just heard a colleague using 頂戴します over the phone. If I understand ...
8
votes
1answer
434 views

why is it that some 形容動詞 accepts の after it while some only accepts な after it?

why is it that some 形容動詞 accepts の after it while some only accepts な after it? Examples: の only: 普通、大勢 な or の: 初心、特別、特殊 Is there a way for us to tell if a 形容動詞 needs a の or な particle after ...
8
votes
3answers
265 views

Is おつかれさん “correct” Japanese to address to someone of lower status?

I have noticed in various environments that some people will sometimes, when speaking to someone of lower status, say おつかれさん instead of お疲れ様. Similarly one might here ご苦労さん instead of ご苦労様. I've ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Polite Way to Ask “How old are you?” : 何歳 , いくつ ,年齢 , ご年

I think the sentences: 何歳ですか? いくつですか? 年齢は? お年は? are all sentences that ask "How old are you?" How are they different? What form is most polite?
8
votes
2answers
619 views

How to answer someone else's phone?

I am in a Japanese office setup sitting next to my boss. He often gets phone calls but most of the time he is not in his seat. How do I answer his phone say that "This is Mr. XX's seat and this is YY ...
8
votes
3answers
292 views

How many times should 「お」 and 「ご」 be used in a sentence?

In this Chiebukuro question about whether it should be ご心配無用 or 心配ご無用, one answerer says the following: 「ご」とか「お」で丁寧とか尊敬とかを表す場合、 一番最後のものにだけつけておけば 全体にかかると言われているようです。 たとえば ...
8
votes
2answers
731 views

How can I thank somebody for pointing out my mistakes?

Thanking and apologizing in several forms is essential in a Japanese working environment. I currently have the following list that I have picked up from mails amongst my Japanese coworkers but I'm ...
8
votes
1answer
284 views

Is it actually impolite to say ご苦労様 to a superior?

Conventional ビジネスマナー tells us that ご苦労様 is used by superiors to subordinates and お疲れ様 used by everyone, and this is backed up all over the internet and stated on some questions here, like this. But ...
8
votes
1answer
528 views

What to say at the cash register in the convenience store

I just came back from Japan, it is my first time, so I found myself in the situations, that I wasn't prepared for. At the convenience store I noticed natives tend not to say much to the staff at all, ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

How is it possible that kisama is more refined than temee?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences_in_spoken_Japanese claims that kisama is "more refined than temee". However I've always thought that kisama is so-called the "worst" level (in other ...
7
votes
2answers
276 views

Is 見物{みもの} derogatory?

To say something is a 見物, does it have a derogatory nuance like we are making fun of that person / that thing? If so, is it derogatory to the extent that even if I intended it as a fun joke it seems ...
7
votes
3answers
7k views

Address someone by their first name, or their last name?

When addressing John Doe, would you say "John-さん", or "Doe-さん"? Does it depend on how polite or formal you're being? Does it also depend on whether the person is a nihonjin, a kankokujin (who have ...
7
votes
3answers
523 views

Difference in nuance between 頂ければと思います, 頂けませんか, and 頂きたいんですけども

I've recently started using the expression 頂ければと思います, but I'm not 100% sure about its precise nuance. Is there any difference in nuance between 頂ければと思います 頂けませんか 頂きたいんですけども? To my non-native ear, ...
7
votes
2answers
408 views

Addressing children in Japanese

Apologies for the very vague question. I'm unsure of how I'm supposed to address and talk to children - I imagine it varies a little depending on the social situation, and in general I should avoid ...
7
votes
2answers
284 views

Polite form of ~っけ

In my everyday conversations when trying to confirm an understanding or recall a piece of information I am sure I had heard before, I often use (そう)だっけ、だったっけ、and でしたっけ when speaking to equals or 目下の人。 ...
7
votes
1answer
842 views

What is proper letter ending greeting for a letter to a teacher?

In Chinese letter writing there is a phrase "教祺" that can be roughly translated as "good luck in teaching" and is used exclusively in the letter ending greeting. Is there a counterpart in Japanese ...
7
votes
2answers
528 views

Concretely, on what scenarios should I say either お世話になっています or いつもお世話になっております?

Furthermore, what is its different in meaning between the both? When I was in training as a fresh graduate at a Japanese company, they told me to use いつもお世話になっております all the time and so I did. But ...
7
votes
2answers
146 views

When do you use -san about a company?

I assume you don't -san about the company or organization that employs you, on the grounds it'd be akin to using it about your own family members. But when is it usually used? Is it merely when ...
7
votes
1answer
492 views

How impolite is it to call a waitress お姉{ねえ}さん?

Were I in a situation where I want to get the attention of a waitress in a noisy restaurant, I kind of feel like calling-out: "お姉{ねえ}さん、すみませんが、ビールもう一本お願いできますか?". I think that I've seen this done in a ...
7
votes
1answer
234 views

Situational acceptability of politeness and/or honorific use

Consider: I am expected to use polite forms when speaking to someone socially above me. Let's take for example, a teacher. If our relationship improves, and it becomes permissible for me to speak ...
7
votes
1answer
269 views

When is it appropriate to use [v] ないでくれ instead of [v] な?

Initially I wanted to compare the rudeness level of [v]ないでくれ。 and[v]な。 but since that may be a rather vague question: In what situation is it appropriate to use [v]ないでくれ。 but not [v]な。 ? In what ...