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Tabako-o o-sui-ni narimasu-ka? (Do you smoke, ma’am?)

Situation 1: At a restaurant, a staff member asks Ms. Gray a question.

飲食店のスタッフ: たばこをお吸いになりますか。

グレイ: いいえ、吸いません。禁煙席をお願いします。

Inshokuten-no sutaffu: Tabako-o o-sui-ni narimasu-ka?

Gray: Iie, suimasen. Kin’enseki-o onegai-shimasu.

Restaurant worker: Do you smoke, ma’am?

Gray: No, I don’t. No smoking seat, please.

Polite expressions called 敬語 (けいご) are essential to know in Japanese if you are to manage relationships successfully. Today, we will introduce the proper uses of honorific expression, one of the forms of 敬語. Honorific expression shows the speaker’s respect to someone when describing his/her action or state. The person is the speaker’s superior, such as a boss, teacher, elder person, customer, unfamiliar person or a stranger. The person can be the listener or a person in the conversation. To show the respectful feeling, there are some honorific verbs you can use, such as いらっしゃいます (to go, to come, to be), めしあがります (to eat, to drink), ごらんになります (to see, look), おっしゃいます (to say), なさいます (to do), おやすみになります (to sleep) and ごぞんじです (to know). Examples: 山田(やまだ)さん、あした何時(なんじ)に会社(かいしゃ)にいらっしゃいますか。 (Mr. Yamada, what time will you come to the office tomorrow?); 社長(しゃちょう)はこのことをごぞんじです。(Our president knows about this.). Other verbs are used in the form of おX (= verb in masu-form without masu) になる/なります, as in お話(はな)しになります. Example: お客(きゃく)さまはもうお帰(かえ)りになりました。(Our customer has already left.)

Situation 2: Ms. Tamachi asks Ms. Gray about division chief Ms. Yamani’s schedule.

田町: ヤマニ部長は来月出張されるの?

グレイ: さあ、私は知らないけど、大久保課長ならご存知じゃない?

Tamachi: Yamani-buchō-wa raigetsu shutchō-sareru-no?

Gray: Saa, watashi-wa shiranai-kedo, Ōkubo-kachō-nara gozonji-ja-nai?.

Tamachi: Is (division chief) Ms. Yamani going on business trip next month?

Gray: Well, I don’t know. (Section chief) Mr. Okubo may know about it.

Verbs in passive form can be used as honorific verbs, as in Ms. Tamachi’s remark. The degree of the honorific feeling is lower than that when using the aforementioned honorific verb and X (=verb in masu-form without masu) になる/なります. This form is not used in the pattern of Xてください or Xないでください.

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Gray and her colleague Mr. Mita are chatting. Section chief Mr. Okubo joins the two of them later.

三田: 北海道(ほっかいどう)に行(い)ってきたんだって?

グレイ: うん、天気(てんき)もよくて、ほんとうによかったわよ。これ、食(た)べない? おみやげに買(か)ってきたの。

[大久保課長(おおくぼかちょう)が入(はい)ってくる]あ、このチョコレート、めしあがりませんか。

大久保: ああ、北海道のチョコレートだね。ありがとう。行ってきたの?

グレイ: はい、函館(はこだて)に行ったんです。湖(みずうみ)にも行って、ほんとうにきれいでした。

大久保: ああ、大沼公園(おおぬまこうえん)だね。

グレイ: いらっしゃったことがあるんですか。

大久保: うん、学生時代(がくせいじだい)にね。登山(とざん)もしたよ。

三田: へえ、山登(やまのぼ)りもされたんですか。

大久保: うん、あのころは、今(いま)よりやせていて、山道(やま みち)でも平気(へいき)で歩(ある)いていた。でも、今は階段(かいだん)を上(のぼ)るだけで息切(いきぎ)れがして…。ダイエットしなくちゃなあ。

三田: じゃ、チョコは…。

大久保: チョコは食べるよ。ダイエットはそのあとだ。

Mita: You went to Hokkaido, I heard.

Gray: Yeah. The weather was fine, and it was great. Why don’t you try this? It’s a souvenir. [Section chief Mr. Okubo joins them] Oh, how about a chocolate?

Okubo: Oh, that’s from Hokkaido. Thanks. Did you go there?

Gray: Yes, I went to Hakodate. I went to a lake, too. It was really beautiful.

Okubo: Oh, that’s Onuma Park, right?

Gray: Have you been there?

Okubo: Yes, in my school days. I climbed the mountains, too.

Mita: Oh, you climbed mountains!

Okubo: Yeah. I was slimmer than I am now, and walked along the mountain road with no problem. But I lose my breath even when I climb stairs now. I have to go on a diet.

Mita: Ah, so this chocolate . . . ?

Okubo: I do still eat chocolate. I’ll go on a diet after that.

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