In the following, my textbook says that #1 is the correct choice.

(1) お食事の 際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。
(2) ご飯を食べる 際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

I think that both are grammatically correct and have the same meaning (ignoring whatever "nuance"). What am I missing?

And what about this? Is it grammatically correct? Does it sound natural?

(3) お食事する際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

  • 1
    I'll give you my gut response to tide you over before someone can give you something a bit more detailed. To start お食事 isn't really followed by する so (3) sounds odd to me (i.e. to do a meal). As for (1) and (2), (2) sounds needlessly wordy. Not "meal time" but "the time in which we will eat the meal". Maybe I understand you, but a native wouldn't say it. Sep 19, 2015 at 21:20
  • 1 and 2 are fine. Your textbook is wrong in the point that it says 2 is wrong.
    – user4092
    Sep 20, 2015 at 7:01
  • If it's not that your textbook says 2 is wrong, then it's no problem. Maybe I misread something, sorry.
    – user4092
    Sep 20, 2015 at 7:10

4 Answers 4


This looks primarily like a 敬語{けいご} problem, more than a syntax or semantics problem.

お使いいただく is 敬語, and 食べる does not match it at all. 食べる is neither 尊敬語 nor 謙譲語. This means that 「ご飯を食べる」 is not even polite when 私 is the one doing the eating.

There are many ways to say (あなたが)食べる in 敬語:

  • 召し上がられる
  • お召し上がりになる (*1)
  • お食べになる etc.

(私が)食べる in 敬語:

  • いただく
  • ちょうだいする

Your example #3 has a problem with the する:

(あなたが)する in 敬語

  • なさる
  • される

(私が)する in 敬語

  • させていただく

Minor technicality: 食事 as a noun is a little tricky because it could change depending on who provided the meal. 「お食事」 will work in both 私が and あなたが contexts, except for when you are the one eating a meal that is not provided by someone who should be shown respect. Like if you are eating a meal provided by yourself, that would be 「食事」 and not 「お食事」.

So, with that in mind, there are many possible combinations depending on who is doing what:

  • (あなたが)お食事の際は、(あなたが)こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。
  • (あなたが)お食事をされる際は、(あなたが)こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。
  • (私が)食事をいただく際は、(私が)こちらのテーブルを使わせていただきます。
  • (私が)ご飯をいただく際は、(あなたが)こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。
  • (あなたが)ご飯をお召し上がりの際は、(あなたが)こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。
  • etc.

The point is that sentence #2 in your textbook is wrong in any possible situation, because 「食べる」 is inappropriate in a 敬語 context.

(*1) An instance of redundant keigo (二重敬語) that is technically incorrect, but has taken root by custom (文化庁『敬語の指針』 p.30).

  • 3
    In my opinion, those who insist 二重敬語 is incorrect are incorrect.
    – user4092
    Sep 20, 2015 at 6:58
  • 3
    @KentaroTomono You've left 17 comments on this question. That's far too many, and several of those comments were rude or hard to understand. Please stop leaving large amounts of low quality comments everywhere. Commenting is okay, but Be Nice, and if you'd like to write at length about your own point of view, please do so in your own answer.
    – user1478
    Sep 20, 2015 at 11:55
  • 2
    Fine print: All keigo in this post is provided for general, illustrative purposes only, and does not constitute legal, medical, or financial advice. Please consult a multitude of other sources for a never-ending journey into the intricate world of courteous Japanese speech.
    – mirka
    Sep 20, 2015 at 15:39
  • 2
    This question is from a jlpt n2 textbook. Being tested at this level, a backdoor keigo question, is insane. Well, now I am going to be much more on-guard. This answer was a total wake-up call. I much appreciate it.
    – kairua
    Sep 20, 2015 at 19:49
  • 2
    Reading it again, (あなたが)こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます should be (私どもが、あなたに)…お使いいただける, instead.
    – user4092
    Sep 21, 2015 at 11:43

Since 際 is a noun, all three sentences are more or less valid regarding basic grammar. But grammar and usage are two different things, while something may be grammatical it could sound unnatural and so is ご飯を食べる際. 際 is used in special occasions in place of 時 and special occassions tend to like sino-japanese vocabulary rather than vernacular vocabulary, hence the choice of 食事. Of course, a special occasion can be described without sino-japanese coumpounds but "to eat a meal" is not really something special unless if done in a peculiar setting.

An example of special occasion could be, 二人きりで散歩した際にようやく告白ができた。 Here 時 would have been possible to use but the use of 際 make the situation more "unique" to your eyes.

(1) and (2) are grammaticaly fine, and (3) needs a little fix if you want to keep お before 食事 (お食事する際に…) (but since a する-verb is also a noun you can just drop the をする and instead put の which leads to (1)).


As you say, both (1) and (2) are grammatically fine. However, (2) is disproportional in the point that it adopts a humble verb in the main clause while the former clause doesn't use some respectful expression.

The problem of (3) is, you use a humble verb for the action of the listeners. If the location is one that should be respected, that would be a valid expression. Or it could be accepted as a euphemism (so called 謙譲語2) But that's not likely the case, considering that you use a humble verb いただけます to the listeners.

  • Exactly. +1. (3) is using the 謙譲語 to the action of the listner so that it sounds a bit strange.
    – user7644
    Sep 20, 2015 at 10:55
  • And the 謙譲語i is first and primarily used for the action of onself.
    – user7644
    Sep 20, 2015 at 10:56

(Please see this post as an appendix to @mirka's answer.)

(1) お食事の際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます is polite and formal, using こちら (= more formal than こっち) and (お~)いただく (= the humble form of (~して)もらう), so polite/formal お食事の際は is appropriate here.

(2) ご飯を食べる際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

This sounds awkward (though is not grammatically/semantically wrong), because ご飯を食べる is casual while 際 and こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます sound formal. With ご飯を食べる, you'd say more like:

(2') ご飯を食べる時は、こっちのテーブルを使っていいよ。/ 使ってもらっていいよ。etc.

which would sound quite casual. You might say it to your family or friends, but not to your boss or customers.

(3) お食事する際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

You'd change お食事する to the honorific form, as in @mirka's post. (And it would also help to clearly show that the subject for 食事する is the listener.)

(3') お食事をされる際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。
(3") お食事される際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

Hope this helps.

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