Honorific verbs vs normal conjugation rules

I’m sure there’s an easy answer out there somewhere that I just don’t know how to google for, but anyway.

Honorific verbs like ござる and いらっしゃる (among others) don’t follow normal conjugation rules. By which I mostly mean they don’t turn that る to a り when adding ます, but instead turn it into a い. It’s ございます, not ござります.

Obviously I know to do that, and accept that it’s a thing, but I was wondering if anyone knew *why*. Is it an older now-outdated form of conjugation that stuck around? Why just honorific verbs (as far as I know)?

Edit: For the sake of completeness, the て/た forms are “regular” I think for most/all these verbs. いらっしゃって for instance, as opposed to いらっしゃいて or something like that.


I just like how people continue to say "Japanese has only two irregular verbs, する and くる” even though there are a bunch that don’t fit the regular forms.


At the risk of derailing my own topic, are there others besides those and the honorifics?

I guess I do know about the semi-irregularity (which really just means irregularity tbh) of 行く, so there’s another.

Off the top of my head, the て and past forms of 問う are 問うて and 問うた, rather than 問って or 問った, as you would expect.


Guess I learned a new word today. Is that verb always changed like that? My JP dictionary extension (Yomichan) recognizes 問って as one word but not 問うて, and the Microsoft IME offers the 問 kanji for both とって and とうて inputs.

I think it’s just not that commonly used. But conjugation charts I’ve seen don’t have the small つ forms. It most often appears in compounds (like 問い合わせ “inquiry”) or just in dictionary form.



But don’t forget, the commonly-used ~ください ending is the same (it’s a conjugation of くださる).

All rules have exceptions, including this one.


I’d be okay if people changed it to “Japanese has only two batshitcrazy irregular verbs.”


Which means some rules don’t :wink:

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I kinda think there’s a difference between “irregular verbs” and “verbs that have some exceptions”. Verbs like 行く, which have maybe one or two odd conjugations, are exceptions. Verbs like する and くる, where every conjugation is odd, are irregulars.

That’s the joke. :stuck_out_tongue:


My guess is people figure that most people won’t get far enough to learn most of the “not regular” (if you don’t want to say irregular) ones, so it’s just not worth bringing up.

And people don’t seem to get bothered by 行く for whatever reason, even though other violations of formulas throw people into a tizzy.


I believe the honorific verbs are from classical Japanese and still used today. Along with things like the なる form of adjectives that only a few still use, like 単なる. Try searching for classical Japanese grammar or Japanese language history and you will probably find what you are looking for.


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