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尊敬語/そんけいご/Sonkei-go/Type of honorifics

Continuing from last week, this article is also about the Japanese honorific language. This article will focus on 尊敬語/そんけいご/Sonkei-go.

尊敬語/そんけいご/Sonkei-go: A direct expression of respect by the speaker by enhancing the other person's action, state, etc.

In Japanese, different words are used depending on the speaker’s position. By using different types of honorifics, you can express your respect and politeness. 尊敬語(Sonkei-go) and 謙譲語(Kenjo-go) are used differently according to who is the speaker and who they are talking about (the subject of the sentence).

尊敬語(Sankei-go): Speaker is in a lower position than who they are talking to. Talking about another person who is in a higher position.

Types of 尊敬語(Sonkei-go)

尊敬語(Sonkei-go) can be expressed by changing verbs, nouns and adjectives accordingly.


1. 尊敬動詞/そんけいどうし/Sonkei-doshi/Verbs

In this type, the form of the verb changes completely. For example, 食べる/たべる/Taberu (To eat) changes into 召し上がる/めしあがる/Meshiagaru, with complete different kanji.

2. お(o) or ご(go)+Verb+になる(ni naru)

In this type, お is added to the beginning and になる is added to the end of the verb to make it polite. For example, 待つ/まつ/Matsu (To wait) changes into お待ちになる/おまちになる/Omachi ni naru.

3. Verb+れる(reru)/られる(rareru)

This is similar to type 2, but this one is just adding られる at the end of the verb. Normally, the other two types of verbs are considered to be more formal.


1. Nouns that enhances the person or thing represented.

This includes such as 先生/せんせい/Sensei (teacher), あなた/Anata (you), 様/さま/Sama(Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc). 先生(sensei) usually indicates teacher but can be used for people who are in high-status jobs such as a lawyer, doctor and member of parliament. あなた is a polite way of calling someone compared to other words such as お前.

2. Nouns that enhance the owner of the noun.

This can be done by adding お(o) or ご(go) to the beginning of the noun. For instance, 時間/じかん/Jikan (time) can be changed to お時間/おじかん/Ojikan and can be used in a situation such as when you are asking someone in a higher position to spare time for you. If they are used in the actual sentence, it would be like this. And you can see that sentence with お時間 is more polite.

時間ありますか?/じかんありますか?/Jikan arimasuka?/Do you have some time?

お時間いただけますか?/おじかんいただけますか?/Ojikan itadakemasuka?/May I have a moment of your time please?


Some adjectives that describe a person's state can be made more polite by adding "お(o)" or "ご(go)" to them. Such as 忙しい/いそがしい/Isogashii (busy) to お忙しい/おいそがしい/oisogashii and 満足/まんぞく/Manzoku(Satisfied) to ご満足/ごまんぞく/Gomanzoku.

尊敬語(Sonekei-go) is often used in business situations. If you are able to use different types of 敬語/keigo (honorific speech), you will be able to communicate smoothly with your boss and customers, making it easier to build trusting relationships.

Momoka Yamaguchi

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