Japanese Keigo -敬語-


If you want to master Japanese, it’s not enough to learn “Hiragana”, “Katakana” and “Kanji”. Japanese people use “Keigo” differently depending on the situation and the other person. If you can’t use proper “Keigo”, even a kind person may get angry – at least feel uncomfortable. In the first place, there are about 7000 languages in the world, but only a handful of them have the concept of “Keigo”. It may be a strange concept for you, but why don’t you learn “Keigo” and make a successful business with Japanese people?

What’s Keigo?

People use “Keigo” to show respect for others. Also, even if the conversation partner is younger or subordinate, it is not unnatural to use “Keigo” when the relationship is shallow.

There are three main types of “Keigo”; Honorific language尊敬語 Sonkeigo, Humble language謙譲語 Kenjougo, and Polite language丁寧語 Teineigo.
Honorific language shows respect by expressing politely about the other person’s behavior. On the other hand, Humble language shows respect for the other person by expressing one’s own behavior humbly. And, it becomes Polite language by adding “ですdesu” or “ますmasu” to the verb, or “o” or “go” to the noun. Please refer to the example below.

行く(go) / 来る(come)

<Honorific language> いらっしゃる
<Humble language> 参る・伺う
<Polite language> 行きます・来ます


<Honorific language> 召し上がる
<Humble language> いただく
<Polite language> 食べます


<Honorific language> おっしゃる
<Humble language> 申す
<Polite language> 言います


<Honorific language> ご覧になる
<Humble language> 拝見する
<Polite language> 見ます


<Honorific language> お聞きになる
<Humble language> 拝聴する・伺う
<Polite language> 聞きます


<Honorific language> なさる・される
<Humble language> いたす
<Polite language> します


<Honorific language> お読みになる・読まれる
<Humble language> 拝読する
<Polite language> 読みます


<Honorific language> お召しになる
<Humble language> (着させていただく)
<Polite language> 着ます