I noticed なさる and される are both used as 尊敬語. What are some of their differences? How do I know when to use each one?

3 Answers 3


There is a lot of subtlety involved, and getting it right is something that will require a lot of practice, but as a general rule of thumb, される is probably the way to go, outside of set phrases.

なさる runs the risk of coming across as needlessly deferential, which can be as bad as not being deferential enough.

In set phrases such as おやすみなさい, なさる is of course perfectly acceptable, irrespective of interpersonal relationships between the referent and the referrer; which is probably why they have become set phrases.

There are, however, three neat tricks to it:

  • As a learner, you won't be judged as harshly on slips. In fact, if they are noticed at all they are likely to be ignored and chalked up to ignorance, and rapidly forgotten.

  • More often than not, you'll have people around you with experience in the matter. Listen well, not only to what the person you are talking to is saying, but to what those around you are saying. Experienced speakers will give you the answer for most any situation, if you care to listen.

  • When alone with someone where their use is appropriate, observe closely. If される seems to put them at unease, try to understand why and either move up to なさる or down to する. What another thinks of themselves and your relationship is not necessarily obvious, so knowing how to watch and match expectations is often more useful than a rote study of when to use what.


I don't think I mentioned it explicitly, but it bears mentioning: なさる is more deferential than される, and this is their primary difference.


Here is an answer that is satisfying to me. I don't need to search further for answers after reading this I think.


In short, なさる holds more respect for the other party than される.


なさる is 尊敬語 of する される is a conjugated form of する. I don't know the name of the form, just its meaning - to have something done to you.

Even some (maybe many) japanese use 尊敬語 incorrectly (unknowingly of course). This might be why there haven't been any replies until I came across this.

どうなさったんですか? (what's wrong?)

You'll never see


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    This is really not true.. される is used as 尊敬語 as well. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 20:11
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    In fact, the passive form is probably the first type of 尊敬語 native speakers start regularly using when growing up, since it's what you use with teachers and (older) people you've just met (「どのような仕事をされていますか。」 and such.) Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 20:15
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    @kalemeister Yes, I am sure. The 文化庁 (Agency for Cultural Affairs), which is as official a source as you're going to get, includes (ら)れる as a form of 尊敬語 in its 敬語の指針. This is a topic where both the prescriptive source and the actual usage patterns agree: される is perfectly valid 尊敬語. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 21:20
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    This could be a case where usage dictates convention. される could be acceptable nowadays in most situations. A similar question for English use might be "is using contractions in formal speech or writing improper?" I think many people would consider it OK to use contractions even in formal speech, while some might try to avoid them and consider it incorrect, correct use would be subject to debate. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 21:29
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    @kalemeister The "適切な形ではない" 注 half of what you pasted there is referring to ご〜される being unaccepted, not 〜(ら)れる or 〜される in general. The first half of what you pasted is indeed what I was referring to. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 22:43

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