Mastering polite Japanese: Keigo : Hey guys, How are you today? We hope you are well and are ready to politely dive into another awesome online Japanese lesson from Bondlingo. Today we are going to be discussing the art of “keigo” which will be covering honorific forms, humble forms and more. Essentially this is all about how to be really polite in Japanese, especially at work and school, so it’s a super effective lesson for you guys.

An Introduction to Japanese Keigo(respectful language) | Learn Japanese online
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Mastering polite Japanese: Keigo

So the respectful language is divided into three groups: the polite, humble and the honorific.

Firstly we will start with an introduction to 丁寧語 Teineigo and follow on with a  look at both 尊敬語  Sonkeigo and 謙譲語 Kenjougo. So guys it’s time to get extremely polite with todays online Japanese lesson! Let’s jump in.

An introduction into 丁寧語 Teineigo

When using Keigio in Japanese, it allows you to express your respect for someone with higher experience or positioning, as well as someone who is older than you. Your speech would differ if you were speaking to a friend or someone with a lower status. In English we do this with our tone and word choices, in Japanese Keigo is used to help express this.

Let us start by saying that keigo is in no way easy to learn, it is even difficult for Japanese speakers too, so you shouldn’t feel too bad if you don’t pick it up right away.

Polite Keigo: 丁寧語

Here’s the big shock! You are probably already using this form of keigo guys. If you are using ます for your verbs and です at the end of your sentences then you are already dipping into the world of 丁寧語. This is a fantastic starting point and is used generally when talking to people you haven’t met before or in polite everyday conversation.

Here are a few example sentences to look at:

I am going to buy a car
Informal:
車を買う
くるまをかう
Kuruma wo kau
Polite, teineigo丁寧語:
車を買います
くるまをかいます
Kuruma wo kaimasu

As you can see here this is pretty standard stuff that you must likely already know. It’s always a good idea to stick with 丁寧語 teineigo until you get really close with a person, Now we are going to move onto the honorific keigo: Sonkeigo

An introduction into 尊敬語 Sonkeigo: The honorific form

This form gives respect to someone of higher status. This could be a superior work colleague, boss or customer. You use sonkeigo to describe the actions of that person and should never use sonkeigo when talking about yourself.

Take a look at this table to see some of the 尊敬語 Sonkeigo language you can use.

 なさるto do (honorific)
 いらっしゃるto be; to go; to come (honorific)
 おいでになるto be; to go; to come (honorific)
ご覧になるご・らん・になるto see (honorific)
 おっしゃるto say (honorific)
下さるくだ・さるto give (honorific)
召し上がるめ・し・あ・がるto eat; to drink (honorific)
ご存じご・ぞん・じknowing (honorific)

As a start try and learn these common honorifc verbs before moving onto the Kenjougo.

An introduction into 謙譲語 Kenjougo: The humble form

Kenjougo is the humble form and is used when talking about yourself and your own actions in the presence of a superior.

Take a look at the chart below as this has some great examples of verbs that are used commonly with the humble form.

致すいた・すto do (humble)
参るまい・るto go; to come (humble)
 おるto exist (animate) (humble) 
拝見するはい・けん・するto see (humble)
伺ううかが・うto ask; to listen (humble)
申し上げるもう・し・あ・げるto say (humble)
 いただくto receive; to eat; to drink (humble)
存じるぞん・じるto know (humble)

We suggest compiling 2 separate lists and learning the sonkeigo and kenjougo side by side to establish a clear difference in the vocab and individual usage. It’s easy to get confused so lot’s of practice will be required.

 There are plenty of other rules when it comes to the keigo trio however you this article should serve as a great starting point to help you differentiate the 3 different types.

So guys, there you have it. Now keigo is of course an extremely massive pain in the butt at first, with 3 different types it can be super confusing. Remember to take it slow and it’s certainly not a subject that you can master in a matter of hours.

We hope you have enjoyed today’s online Japanese lesson from Bondlingo with our introduction into keigo. If you have any questions or some more great ideas for content that you would like to see from us, please reach out and let us know as we would love to hear from you. Have a great night and keep up the great work頑張ってね。

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