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I am trying to write a short message to a japanese acquaintance and am planning to use this sentence:

今日はとても暑くて、雪がそろそろ溶けている。

I know that, in this context, I should use the polite form 「溶けています」. However, for some reason, I feel like I can use the dictionary form since neither me nor the addressee is involved in the sentence. To be more precise, if I use 「溶けています」, because of the particle が, I feel like it's the snow that is being polite.

More generally, is the polite form a "tonality" of language used systematically in such a context, or is it a way to mark respect and humbleness in an interaction?

  • +1 but the verb is 「解ける」 and not 「溶ける」. More importantly, we do not quite say 「雪がそろそろ解けている」 regardless of politeness level. What did you mean to say by that? – l'électeur Dec 21 '16 at 22:19
  • Hah, if the sentence is wrong, then that's an even bigger problem. I wanted to say "The snow is slowly melting". – dobondobondo Dec 21 '16 at 22:25
  • @l'électeur I thought in this case (an exceptionally warm day causing the snow to melt) it is a physical phenomenon, which may be written 溶ける, and that 解ける might be used e.g. when snow melts in the spring. I agree that そろそろ somehow seems to suggest the opposite, which makes the sentence as a whole inconsistent. – Earthliŋ Dec 21 '16 at 22:37
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    (雪・氷が)「溶ける」「解ける」「融ける」などがあるみたいですよ・・・nhk.or.jp/bunken/summary/kotoba/uraomote/078.html – Chocolate Dec 22 '16 at 0:04
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The polite form (丁寧語 teineigo), also frequently referred to as です・ます調, is used for making everyday speech more polite across the board.

Honorific language (尊敬語) and humble language (謙譲語), also frequently jointly referred to as 敬語 keigo, are used to elevate someone else or humble yourself, respectively. (Honorific and humble language are usually used in the same register, i.e. think of them as one "set".)

Usually keigo is used in combination with ("on top of") teineigo, but it is possible to use one without the other.

When learning about Japanese "polite" language, keigo and teineigo are often jumbled together, but it might be useful to consider them independent.

To answer your question, it would be unusual to use honorific or humble language when talking about snow, but it is very appropriate to use polite language, so

雪が溶けています

is perfectly natural (and you might want to write the whole letter in teineigo).


As @l'électeur notes, the sentence on the whole is not 100% natural. I'm not quite sure what exactly you want to say, but here are two possible scenarios:

beginning of winter
Today it is exceptionally warm and the snow is slowly melting.
今日は非常に暖かくて、雪が徐々に溶けています。

end of winter
Today it is already quite warm and the snow is slowly starting to melt.
今日はとても暑くて、雪が解け始めました。
= …、雪がそろそろ解ける季節に入りました。

  • Yes, I wanted to say that even though it was supposed to be cold because of winter, an exceptionnally hot day made the snow melt. Thank you for your correction. – dobondobondo Dec 22 '16 at 19:33
  • @dobondobondo OK. In that case I don't think you can use そろそろ. – Earthliŋ Dec 22 '16 at 21:24
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is it a way to mark respect and humbleness in an interaction ?

Yes. It is an indication of the relationship between the interacting people.

I feel like it's the snow that is being polite

This is not the case.

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