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受付の人に質問したいことはあります。 I want to ask a question to the person at the desk. How do you ask a question to the person at the desk in Japanese?

Answer: うかがいたいんですが。 I like to ask you something (I am talking to the person at the desk, telling them that I want to ask them a question)

I wanted to ask the different between 尊敬語 (respectful) and 謙譲語 (humble). Why is the humble version used in the above sentence? (うかがいたいんですが) Is it because the person at the desk is part of the speakers 'group'?

What if someone is not in the person's groups? Would the answer be お聞きになります? (I like to ask you a question)

Also, what defines someone as not in a group? If I went to a counter in a department store or a company I was interviewing for, what would be used in those circumstances?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Chocolate
    Oct 14 at 0:56
  • "受付の人に質問したいことあります。" <- Using は here makes the sentence sound very unnatural. It should be 受付の人に質問したいことあります。
    – Chocolate
    yesterday
  • @Chocolate I got this directly from my book 新完全マスタ文法N3. Blame them...
    – fynxgloire
    19 hours ago
  • See the photocopy of the page in 新完全マスター聴解N3, here: scontent-itm1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.6435-9/…  In this book, it goes 「受付の人に質問したいことあります。」 Could you double-check that you've copied it correctly?
    – Chocolate
    10 hours ago
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受付の人に質問したいことはあります

When the tai-form of a verb is used in a statement, the subject must be the speaker. Hence, it translates as follows: "I have a question for the receptionist."

Humble language is not being used here because the verb isn't in humble form to start with.

The above also applies to うかがいたいんですが.


An in-group includes one's family, close friends, and those who work in the same company or institution. An out-group includes the others. ...

Essential Japanese Grammar, page 65.

The respectful form is used to elevate the stature of the person or the person's in-group members (insiders) to whom or about whom the speaker is talking, or used to upgrade or value that person's belongings. ...

Essential Japanese Grammar, page 65.

This is why sonkeigo is used when addressing your boss. It's a way of saying that you acknowledge your position as a subordinate.

Kenjōgo 'humble language', on the other hand, shows the speaker's humility concerning his or her own actions (or those of an in-group member) towards another referent in the sentence.

Language and Identity across Modes of Communication, page 192.

This other referent is someone you want to show respect to.


お聞きになります is in the respectful form, following the pattern: お + STEM + なる. As mentioned, we use sonkeigo to refer to other's actions, so you shouldn't use it to refer to your own. Therefore, it cannot convey the meaning, I would like to ask you a question.

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