I am learning the honorific and humble forms, and am confused by the precises situations in which you use them. I understand that when speaking directly to an individual of higher status, one would use the honorific forms when discussing your conversation partner, and one cold also use the humble forms when discussing oneself. However, what form to use when talking about a superior with an equal? For example asking your classmate Yuki whether your professor has been to England, which would be more appropriate?




1 Answer 1


First, you're using the ことがある construction incorrectly. Don't try to replace this こと with の. And the preceding verb must be in the ta-form (not the verb-stem) because you're talking about his past experience.

As a general rule, select honorific/humble verbs based on who did the action, not on whom you're talking to. In your example, the verb 行く is done by 先生, so you can replace this 行く with some honorific expression:

  • ユキさん、先生は英国へいらっしゃったことがありますか。
  • ユキさん、先生は英国へ行かれたことがありますか。

The second line above is using れる to form an honorific expression.

In reality, when students are casually talking about their teachers, many people don't use keigo at all. To me, "先生は英国へ行ったことがある?" would look more realistic in casual conversations. But if you're a beginner, start from the basic, polite, masu-form-based expressions which are always safe.

  • Thanks! A couple of followup questions. One, any reason you used the れる honorific instead of the いらっしゃい (besides being easier to use)? Two, so from what you're saying, the rule is you would use the honorific when discussing your teacher with a classmate, but in practice you wouldn't often do so, correct? Third, what about the inverse situation where you are talking about your classmate or a subordinate with a higher up like your teacher or a boss? Polite form or けいご?
    – Naruto
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 13:58
  • @Naruto いらっしゃる sounds more politer than 行かれる. When talking with your teacher, you have to talk politely (i.e., using です, ます, etc). But you don't need to use honorific verbs for actions of your classmate. For example, 「先生、ユキさんは英国に行きました」. You can use plain 行く (not 行かれる nor いらっしゃる) because this 行く is Yuki's action.
    – naruto
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 0:53

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