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「お誕生日には何をされたんですか」While the answer to this like likely very simple, why is される being used in this case rather than する? What is it implying grammatically? The Potential Form? Is it an indication of added politeness? It's clearly not Passive as an を is being used. What prompts this use of される?

  • The potential form of する is できる, not される. So, no, it has nothing to do with the potential form. – istrasci Jan 20 '17 at 21:21
  • And to clarify further: you can absolutely use を with the passive form. eg. あの人に文句{もんく}を言われたんだ。I was complained about by that person. – vel Jan 20 '17 at 22:10
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「される」 is the honorific form of 「する」. The speaker/writer is showing some respect to the listener/reader here.

Another form of 「される」 is 「なさる」.

The sentence in question, under normal circumstances, should be in the active voice -- "What did you do on/for your birthday?".

If you want to discuss "pure" grammar, however, the sentence can be taken to be in the passive voice -- "What was done to you (by someone) on your birthday?". 「を」 is still needed for the passive voice.

Which one it was meant to be, only the listener/reader knows (but easily). That is why Japanese is an incredibly contextual language.

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  • I'm not sure about "pure grammar", but「お誕生日には(あなたは)何をされたんですか」is an active voice Japanese sentence, and this is not a honorific form.「お誕生日に、あなたは何をされたんですか」is a passive voice Japanese sentence. – Sonny365 TANAKA Jan 21 '17 at 0:54
  • I'm not sure about "pure grammar", but「お誕生日に、(あなたご自身)は何をされたんですか」is an active voice Japanese sentence, and this is a honorific form.「お誕生日にはあなたは(誰かによって)何をされたんですか」is a passive voice Japanese sentence., and this is not a honorific form. I feel your original example is a honirfic form and active voice. – Sonny365 TANAKA Jan 21 '17 at 1:02

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