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Studying for the JLPT N2, I came across the following question in the Shinkansen Master Grammar book.

( ) 際は、こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます。

a) お食事の

b) ご飯を食べる

c) お一人様の

I thought that a) and b) are good enough as an answer but according to the answer sheet, the correct one is a). I was wondering if there is a particular reason for it. My hypothesis is that お食事 is on formal style, therefore, more appropriate for a sentence using 際, but aside from that, both sound logical to me.

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Your hypothesis is correct. 際 is generally used as a more formal version of 時.

Although ご飯を食べる際 is grammatically correct, the level of formality does not match the rest of the sentence. When you see humble language like こちらのテーブルをお使いいただけます, you know that the person speaking is implying that you are in a superior position and that they are in an inferior position. Therefore, they would not use 食べる際 as it is not polite enough when referring to your actions. That is why お食事の際 is correct.

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  • I see ! Thank you very much for the clear explanation. – juanjo12x Aug 11 '20 at 10:15

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