Teineigo (Keigo) : Speaking casually with Japanese native speakers is already a great feat in itself but if you want to challenge yourself and sound professional at the same time, this blog is definitely for you.

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Keigo: Respectfully polite

What is Keigo?

Keigo (敬語; respectful language) is technically the third level of Japanese, used mainly when expressing a very high degree of formality and politeness. This level of Japanese is usually used in a business setting where client-employees-employers-business partners are involved in the conversation. There are three different types of keigo that vary depending on who you are talking to and what you want to come of as. We will be discussing them one by one.

The importance of Keigo

Beginner Japanese language students usually know 2 basic types of Japanese. There is the informal and formal type of speech. Students are usually taught the dictionary form of words first and the casual version after. Although this is true, being formal in the Japanese language can have different layers to it. In Japan, being polite and being respectful is a huge part of not only culture, but the general behavior of Japanese people. This is vital not only for learning the language, but also for possibly settling down and finding employment in Japan. Of course, there’s always the perk of bragging rights, but for anyone who really does want to start life in Japan, learning this would definitely be beneficial.


What is Teineigo?

Teineigo (丁寧語) are polite words that are applied by the use of prefixes and verb endings of words you might already know from your Japanese textbooks. Considered to be the easiest out of the three types of keigo, this is also known to be less intimidating since it is technically part of learning the basics. An example of this is using “desu” and “masu” at the end of your sentences. Teineigo can be used for both yourself and referring to other people. Essentially, the main purpose of Teineigo is to show respect towards the other person in the conversation by talking in a polite tone. 

Teneigo basics

Teineigo : Verb conjugation (ーます)

For Japanese language students, this is considered to be one of the first things you learn when studying vocabulary. Usually called the “dictionary” form of verbs, this is one of the main vocabulary rules used when speaking in Teineigo.

EnglishJapanese (Casual)Japanese (Polite)

Teineigo : Noun, adjective, and adverb conjugation (ーです)

Also part of the basics that you learn as a beginner, the usage of the prefix -desu usually comes after nouns, adjectives, and adverbs and is also usually found at the end of a phrase and a sentence.

EnglishJapanese (Casual)Japanese (Polite)
She is cute.彼女は可愛いだ。Kanojo wa kawaii da.彼女はかわいいです。Kanojo wa kawaii desu.
I am Taka.たかだ。Taka da.私はたかです。Watashi wa Taka desu.
It is hot today.今日暑いだ。Kyou atsui da.今日暑いです。Kyou atsuidesu.
That takoyaki is tasty.そのたこ焼きは美味しい。Sono takoyaki wa oishii.そのたこ焼きは美味しいです。Sono takoyaki wa oishiidesu.
All of it全てSubete全てですSubetedesu

Teineigo : Attaching ーお and ーご before nouns

These prefixes are usually added to the beginning of nouns and is probably the only thing in this list that beginner students aren’t used to using.

 -o is used with words that have traditional Japanese readings and origins. -o is also when referring to other people, especially family members. You can usually determine that a word has a Japanese orijin by looking at the kanji. If the kanji can stand alone as a word or can be combined with with hiragana to become a word, then it probably has a Japanese origin. (ex. 人 – hito: person)

EnglishJapanese (Casual)Japanese (Polite)
Mother 母Hahaお母さんOkaasan

-go is used for Japanese words that are derived from Chinese readings and origins. One way to determine if a word has a Chinese origin is by looking at the kanji for the word. If the kanji for the word cannot become a word by itself or combining it with hiragana, then it would probably have a -go prefix. (ex. 主人 – shujin: husband)

EnglishJapanese (Casual)Japanese (Polite)

Sentence examples:

Here are a few examples of sentences where Teneigo is applied. Be sure to practice by using different vocabulary and sentences!

Go shitsumon ga areba, kiite kudasai.
Please ask if you have a question.
Watashi no okaasan wa saikin isogashii desu.
Recently, my mother has been busy.
Watashi no shumiwa geimu desu
My hobby is playing games.

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