I've learned that お・ご+語幹+する is humble language, for example


However, when asking others what they wished for, I see the question:

李:小野さんは何をお願いしましたか。 小野:健康と恋愛です。

Background: Li and Ono went to 初詣 and made wishes at 神社。

Obviously, the subject is 小野さん, so it cannot be humble language.

Then how to understand the sentence. Is that because everyone is humble before gods?


お伝えする, お伺いする, ご説明する and so on are humble expressions, but お願いする is not humble, even though it looks similar!

This お願い is more or less a fixed noun/suru-verb meaning "(to make) a request". 願う is just "to hope" without an explicit target person. There are similar fixed nouns with fixed meanings in the form of お + stem (お握り, お絞り, お座り, お使い, お漏らし, ...). 願い is a noun that means "wish (e.g., to god)", but it's a relatively stiff and solemn word used mainly in writings. We never say 願いする without お regardless of keigo.

Therefore, 何をお願いしましたか is not humble nor honorific; it has at least polite ます, but nothing more. Unless Ono is Li's boss, using ます is good enough. The honorific version is 何をお願いされましたか or 何をお願いなさいましたか. The humble version of お願いする is お願い致す, and you should not say 何をお願い致しましたか to someone (you know why).

(お + stem + になる has an honorific meaning (eg お聞きになる, お休みになる), but お願いになる sounds unnatural to me. 願う means (internally) wishing something, and it may not play well with honorifics.)


お願いします is a standard, set phrase. It has nothing to do with politeness. It is "I humbly request" or "please". Or, it was at once polite, but has now since just become an average grammar phrase when you ask someone for something.


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