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こんにちは! I'm just a beginner in Japanese (started my Japanese self-study from this March) but now I'm working in a Japanese company in Tokyo. Since most people in my company can't really speak English, I have no choice but to use Japanese for my daily conversation. Until now I can somehow manage basic conversations with my co-workers, but I know my Japanese is very beginner-level. I follow the rule to use formal Japanese (ます/です) instead of (ある/する) mostly all the time to avoid being impolite. I know it makes my Japanese sound unnatural/strange but I think it's a safe choice, at least in the workplace environment. But the more I'm familiar with the language, the more I feel the need to use less such honorifics. I try to listen to others' conversations to see if ある/する is used by juniors to seniors or not, and they do use it, much more than ます form, even with the boss. I find it so tiring to go with such sentences like: 「昨日は大阪に行きましたけど、雨でしたから出かけなかったです。」 Just for example, how would you guys make the above sentence sound "more natural"? Can I say like 「昨日大阪に行ったけど、雨だったから出かけなかったです!」when I talk to my boss? I really need more time to be able to "sense" the language and its politeness, before that よろしくお願いします!

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    Are you trying to say "I went to Osaka yesterday but I didn't go out (stayed in a hotel?) because it was raining"? きのう大阪に{行きましたが/行ったんですが}、雨だった{ので/から}どこにも出かけませんでした。 I wouldn't recommend using 行ったけど to your boss. – Chocolate Oct 14 '16 at 10:01
  • Thanks for your answer! I have one question though: Why is 雨だった okay but not 行ったけど? Are the honorific forms of verbs related to the nouns that come before them too? – Le Yen Chi Oct 17 '16 at 1:19
  • I can't explain why, sorry, it just sounds better that way to my native ear... I might also say きのう大阪に行ったんですけど、雨なので/雨で、どこにも出かけませんでした。 – Chocolate Oct 17 '16 at 5:09
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Usually you should use です/ます only at the end of the sentence.
In the middle of the sentence you can use informal tense (ある/する). So you can say:
昨日大阪に行ったけど、雨だったから出かけませんでした!

It is very difficult for foreigners to know when to drop politeness and be informal, especially if you are talking to your boss or someone superior.
It is never a bad thing to be over-polite, while making a mistake and being rude can get into trouble.

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  • Thanks for your helpful answer! Btw can you help me distinguishing 出かけなかったですand 出かけませんでした too please? In my textbooks it's always 出かけませんでした but I think 出かけなかったです is also used in daily conversations, is it true? I am not even sure it is grammatically correct though. – Le Yen Chi Oct 17 '16 at 1:17
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    出かけませんでした is more polite than 出かけなかったです. That is the only difference. You may say either way. – hisao m Oct 17 '16 at 2:18
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Using です・ます体 (desu/masu forms) isn't very unusual, at least not in my opinion.

In fact です・ます体 is more so like the absolute middle ground/standard level of politeness when it comes to that sort of thing. If you really wanted to be like "polite" polite with your Japanese, speaking to your seniors and stuff you'd use 尊敬語 and 謙譲語 (sonkeigo and kenjougo) which is like the definitive formal and polite manner/form of speech in Japanese, where almost everything becomes different, e.g. いる, 行く, and 来る become いらっしゃる, 食べる and 飲む become 召し上がる (meshiagaru, you'll hear this at restaurants at lot from the staff: 店内で召し上がりますか? (will you be eating in the restaurant?)), する becomes 為さる (nasaru), and so on and so on. All of the examples I gave are of sonkeigo which is what you use to your superiors as it basically embellishes their actions as being above you in a way, sort of.

So in short, です and ます are honestly completely normal to use in your everyday speech both in normal conversations and at work; I would recommend not downgrading from です and ます when speaking to someone like your boss or anyone in a higher position than you though.

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    Thank you for your answer. My Japanese level is not yet at the level to be able to use 尊敬語 or 謙譲語 so I can only be as polite as using です・ます体..^^;; Anyway when I talked about "conversations with my boss" I mean the very casual talks with him, so です・ます is enough right? And I never forget to use です・ます at the end of the sentences, just for such long sentences as my example I feel like dropping some in the middle. – Le Yen Chi Oct 17 '16 at 1:13
  • To be honest, while I'm not going to tell you to change what you are doing as it is definitely fine to just use です・ます体 for what you are describing, it really comes down to a person per person basis for how polite one should be since everyone has different standards for that so it's all about reading the mood or 空気を読める (kuuki wo yomeru) as they would say. And as for shortening things in the middle, that's actually very normal as some grammar conventions will use dictionary or short forms only so you're totally good on that end. – Reveiller Oct 17 '16 at 12:16

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