According to all dictionaries and most grammar books I can check, でございます is a polite form (丁寧語), which seems almost equal to です but with a more polite mood. It is classified as a humble form (謙譲語) by some people, for example in this question and also in Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar published by Routledge. It should be a misclassification because でございます is used for objects whoever they belong to. But it really sometimes act like a humble form. For example, ○○様でございます is deprecated (according to this), and 先生はお元気でございますか is said unacceptable.

If でございます being a polite form has the same property of です, it is unexplainable that

○○様ですか is acceptable but ○○様でございますか is not


先生はお元気ですか is acceptable but 先生はお元気でございますか is not.

I browsed some information about this and some articles say でございます cannot be used when the subject is one who you should show your respect, but can be used when talking about the possessions of that person, which is similar to a humble form.

How to explain this?


1 Answer 1


◯◯様でいらっしゃいますか is indeed more respectful (and usually more "appropriate") than ○○様でございますか, but that does not mean the latter is unacceptable or wrong. The same for お元気でいらっしゃいますか and お元気でございますか.

When the subject of a sentence is a human, there is an unequivocal honorific equivalent to です (i.e., いらっしゃる), but there is no direct humble equivalent to です in the vocabulary commonly used in modern Japanese. Therefore, it is true that ございます is much more commonly used referring to the speaker themselves than to the listener, making some people mistakenly believe ございます is a humble verb. But this is not correct. At least for me, I don't mind being asked ◯◯様でございますか in everyday business emails. It's at least much politer than ◯◯様ですか.

When the subject is an inanimate object, これは◯◯様の傘でいらっしゃいます is simply wrong; you always have to say これは◯◯様の傘でございます instead. But I'm not sure why this seemed "similar to a humble form" to you...


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