As a background, consider this question: “is this sentence correct 会議は三時からでいらっしゃいます.?

My initial thought was like this:

A sonkeigo (尊敬語) verb is used to show the speaker’s respect toward the subject of the verb. Therefore, 会議は三時からでいらっしゃいます would show the respect toward the meeting, which is nonsensical because the meeting is not a living thing.

But then I started to wonder if a sonkeigo verb can ever be used with an inanimate subject. 敬語の指針 (2007) does not seem to mention cases like this. After some trial and error, I came up with a sentence 先生のご活躍は多岐にわたっていらっしゃいます. This sentence sounds maybe OK to me, but I am not sure and I would probably say 先生は多岐にわたって活躍されています instead.

To summarize, my questions are:

  1. Is 先生のご活躍は多岐にわたっていらっしゃいます correct?
  2. If not, can a sonkeigo verb be ever used with an inanimate subject?


話の流れとして、「is this sentence correct 会議は三時からでいらっしゃいます.?」の質問のことを考えます。



しかし後になって、無生物にも尊敬語が使える例はないだろうかと思い、敬語の指針 (2007) を見たところ、このような用例には言及していないようでした。考えぬいたあげく、「先生のご活躍は多岐にわたっていらっしゃいます」という文を思いつきました。これなら個人的にはまあそんなに間違ってはいないかなという気もしますが、自分だったら「先生は多岐にわたって活躍されています」と言うと思います。


  1. 「先生のご活躍は多岐にわたっていらっしゃいます」は正しい文ですか?
  2. 正しくないとしたら、動詞の尊敬語は無生物主語に対しても使えますか?

「先生のご活躍は多岐にわたっていらっしゃいます」 seems OK. Consider these other examples:

  • 「先生のご出身は東京でいらっしゃいます」
  • 「先生のご指摘はごもっともでいらっしゃいます」
  • 「社長の方針は内製化でいらっしゃいます」
  • 「先生の演説は素敵でいらっしゃいました」

While these are odd:

  • 「先生の車はベンツでいらっしゃいます」
  • 「先生のネクタイは素敵でいらっしゃいます」

Assuming my judgments are correct, I think the important part is how representative the noun is of the honorable person. Someone's origin, opinion, plan, or speech is representative of them as a person, while someone's car or necktie is not.

Also, there is this sentence:

  • 「先生の演説は三時からでいらっしゃいます」

I think this one is pretty unclear. While on one hand it's referring to the honorable person's speech (like before), the speech hasn't actually happened yet, so it's more referring to an event than the speech contents, so I think いらっしゃいます can possibly seem weird here.

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先生のご活躍は多岐に渡っていらっしゃる sounds correct to me.

If a word can be the subject of an honorific verb depends on if the word has sense of animacy. 先生の活躍 is something that can influence people. That's why it can be the subject, I believe. On the other hand, 会議 is not the case unless it stands for a kind of personification of some organization.

Edit: I'm wondering that the reason why 会議は三時からでいらっしゃいます sounds odd is that the verb is a form of いる, and how 会議は3時からで あらせられます would sound.

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In principle, it’s illogical to use honorific verbs for inanimate objects in Japanese as it is so in English.

I’ll be stunned if I hear some examples given by other user:「先生のご指摘はごもっともでいらっしゃいます」「社長の方針は内製化でいらっしゃいます」「先生の演説は素敵でいらっしゃいました」. They're terrible. They're not Japanese at all, at least not proper Japanese.

先生 can be “お元気でいらっしゃる” and "ご多忙でいらっしゃる", but “ご活躍 - activity” can not be “多岐に渡っていらっしゃる” even if it’s preceded by “先生の.” So,“先生は多岐に渡ってご活躍されています” would be a logical and proper way of saying.

But this rule – Impropriety of using 敬語 for inanimate object including abstract nouns such as activity, study, knowledge and objects like desk, pen, TV set, car, and animals such as dog, elephant and monkey is often overlooked and violated in today’s conversation.

先生のご活躍は多岐に渡っていらっしゃる sounds awkward and odd to me, though some of you might overlook its illogicality and take it for granted. If I should pick up better one from two evils, I would pick up ”先生のご活躍は多岐に渡っておられる” rather than ”先生のご活躍は多岐に渡っていらっしゃる.”

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  • I think ”先生のご活躍は多岐に渡っていらっしゃる.” isn't incorrect. 先生の活躍 is action, so to use honorific for it isn't odd. I asked some people about this, they say it isn't incorrect. – Yuuichi Tam Mar 9 '16 at 7:17
  • I said 'some of you might overlook its illogicality and take it for granted' upfront. But they don't know to whom (not what things) 敬語 should be used. It' illogical.. – Yoichi Oishi Mar 9 '16 at 7:37
  • Yes. 敬語 isn't used for the thing but person and their actions. – Yuuichi Tam Mar 9 '16 at 7:44
  • Interesting. Maybe the language is changing in front of us. Do you @YoichiOishi think 先生のご活躍 wrong by itself? – broccoli forest Mar 9 '16 at 7:45
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    @YoichiOishi My personal sense suggests that the honorability is transferable from 先生 to 先生のご活躍, thus it can trigger honorification of the predicate (unlike 先生のお車 etc.; I basically agree with Darius Jahandarie's answer). Do you think people of your generation generally frown on this usage (for I think you are my senior by far)? – broccoli forest Mar 9 '16 at 8:19

I think sentence 1 and 先生は多岐にわたって活躍されています are correct.

In addition, I think, as you said, sonkeigo(尊敬語) and kenjyougo(謙譲語) aren't basically used with inanimate subject but used with actions and teineigo(丁寧語) is used with them like "です、ます".

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  • 1
    Because 先生のご活躍 is inanimate, I think that the first paragraph and the second paragraph of your answer are contradicting each other…. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 23 '16 at 2:06
  • In addition, careerpark.jp/34368 – Yuuichi Tam Jan 23 '16 at 2:28
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    > "Dictionary said 敬語 are used with actions" - what exactly does that mean? – Blavius Jan 23 '16 at 3:16
  • 社長のネクタイは、素敵でいらっしゃいますね is unnatural but 社長は、素敵なネクタイをしていらっしゃいますね is natural. This sonkeigo is used with the action which chief executive wear a nice tie. – Yuuichi Tam Jan 23 '16 at 5:39
  • 「先生のご活躍は多岐に渉っていらっしゃる」is absolutely and logically incorrect. But 「先生は多岐にわたって活躍されていらっしゃる」is logically and rhetrically corect.. – Yoichi Oishi Mar 9 '16 at 0:18

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