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1 - 推薦書を書いて下さいました。

2 - (先生に)ピアノを教えていただきました。

I wanted to confirm 2 things.

First is number 1 尊敬語 and is number 2 謙譲語

Second is the reason why 2 is using 謙譲語 because the teacher is part of the speakers 'group/clan/gang' etc.?

For 1, is it safe to assume that someone outside of the speakers clan gave them a recommendation letter, hence why 尊敬語 is used?

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  • Clan? Is this in the context of ancient Japan or something?
    – Shurim
    Oct 17 at 23:20
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I think you have this question in mind, but this rule is not related now. 先生 is higher than the speaker, the speaker has to respect 先生, and that's all. The speaker is not speaking on behalf of his/her teacher or school.

Pretty simply, Sentence 1 uses 尊敬語 because the subject is 先生, whereas Sentence 2 uses 謙譲語 because the subject is 私. Note that くださる is the honorific form of くれる ("to give") but いただく is the humble form of もらう ("to receive"). If you explicitly write the subjects using は:

  1. 先生は (私に)推薦状を書いて下さいました。
    My teacher wrote (me) a recommendation letter.
  2. 私は (先生に)ピアノを教えていただきました。
    (literally) I received a favor of teaching piano (from my teacher).

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