I saw in Sekiro that some characters are using humble verbs like 参る but in their plain form.

What's the point of this?

Would anyone actually use a humble verb without the polite ending in real life?

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? "Formal" Japanese and "honorific" Japanese, are completely different, right?
    – istrasci
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 21:17
  • 1
    It would help to give people who don't know what Sekiro is the proper context. It's a game set about 500 years ago, so though the Japanese needs to be understandable to a modern audience, it has that pseudo-historical style to it that functions to let modern audiences feel what the time period is without being actually what people talked like then. That's not to say there's no reason to use a humble verb in dictionary form today, but just trying to establish what the setting is for the question.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 21:26
  • @istrasci the link was helpful but it doesn't really answer my question. I'm not asking about the differences between types of polite speech in Japanese. I'm just curious about why someone would use a humble verb in the dictionary form because that seems arrogant, contradicting the purpose of being humbled.
    – Nick
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 21:42
  • I think we could better help you if you gave more context so we could explain how this works and why there is not necessarily any contradiction in what's being said. I think the key here is keigo is used with respect to who you're talking about and teineigo is used out of respect for the person you're speaking to. Who you're talking about and who you're talking to are not necessarily the same: like if, after work, you're talking to a co-worker about the boss: you might use keigo about the boss, but if you're peers then you might just use plain form with each other.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 22:55

2 Answers 2


That is a signature speech style of samurai and ninja depicted in modern fiction. They also typically speak like ~でござる, which is a plain form of ~でございます. I think there are several reasons they speak like this.

  • Stereotypical samurai are loyal, but reticent, proud and dignified at the same time. They don't have to be very polite like a servant or a butler.
  • ます as a politeness marker derived several hundreds years ago as a contraction of まゐらす (see this). です derived from でございます. Therefore, ます/です was not the most polite style in the age of samurai. In samurai dramas, we hear peasants and merchants say ます/です often, but people with high social status seldom use them, especially when they speak formally.
  • Last but not least, if that 参る was said before a battle, who wants to speak politely in a battlefield?

This type of 参る is used also by a proud Western knight before a duel. ござる is almost specific to samurai/ninja.


Plain form honorifics can be used to show respect towards someone when you don't necessarily need to be polite. This sounds counterintuitive, but I actually encountered a great example of this in a game stream (for the Outer Wilds) last night that illustrates it really well.

Context: In the game you play as an explorer who discovers a dead alien race.

The streamer used 死んでいらしゃった when talking about the aliens.

He used honorific language to show respect towards the dead race who was more advanced than us. But since he was talking to himself / the streaming audience he used plain form.

In short: Honorific form usage is determined by who you're talking about. Polite form usage is determined by who you're talking to.

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