Looking for sonkeigo (尊敬語) resources

I’ve been going through my copy of 新にほんご500問 (N4-N5) for the second time. I really enjoy this book (The N3 version is waiting on my shelf) and I’m getting most of the answers right. But the one part that I’m still no good at is honorific language or 尊敬語. I can only guess more or less randomly at those questions.

Here are a few examples from the book:

1 ごぞんじでおりますか
2 ごぞんじですか
3 ごぞんじになりますか
4 ごぞんじしますか
(answer: 2)

1 おいでします
2 お行きします
3 行かれます
4 なさいます
(answer: 3)

1 お帰りになりますか
2 お帰りしますか
3 お帰りいたしますか
4 お帰られますか
(answer: 1)

So my question is do you have good suggestions for learning this stuff, either in specific textbooks or online resources? I tried asking my (Japanese-native-speaking) wife if she could explain these sentences, but to her it’s one of those things that you just know.

I’ve gotten through a lot of Japanese grammar but never really touched this honorific speech so far. I’m halfway decent at comprehending spoken Japanese, but when service workers slip into sonkeigo (like the time the young woman at Uniqlo explained everything about getting my jeans hemmed there in a kind of rapid-fire obviously memorized patter) I get completely lost. Forget about trying to use it myself.

I suppose my opportunities for using it conversationally in Japan are limited (though on occasion it might be good to ask about the honourable teacher’s honourable mother in a polite way), but at least I’d like to be able to answer the JLPT questions on it correctly, and also I assume that as a consumer in Japan, it would make life easier if I understood what the 店員さん were trying to tell me.


The answers to #1 and #3 are in this article. Hopefully it’ll help clear up a few of the phrases and patterns.


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Hello! Here are the notes from the book I used. I don’t remember having much trouble with this topic so I think the explanation is good enough. I hope it helps! Sorry, they’re not the best quality pictures but if you zoom in enough I think you can read everything. :grin:

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Honorific language is something that even some Japanese people aren’t really good at because they don’t even know the proper forms. I too have been trying to improve my speech in this realm due to the way certain coworkers speak to me using honorific or humble forms toward me. Not being able to reciprocate makes me feel a bit clumsy. I believe that the link @seanblue posted does help to weed out the incorrect answers. For those who are interested, I included reasons for why the choices are incorrect.


1 ごぞんじでおりますか This answer mixes humble (おる) and honorific forms. で is a typo?

2 ごぞんじですか This is the correct answer (I’m adding this as to not give away the anwser)

3 ごぞんじになりますか This is a misuse of honorific form the correct form uses です

4 ごぞんじしますか This answer mixes humble (v-stem+します) and honorific forms


1 おいでします This answer mixes honorific (おいで) and humble forms

2 お行きします This answer mixes honorific and humble forms

3 行かれます This is the correct answer (Please disregard this portion)

4 なさいます This doesn’t make sense plain form いつか旅行にするか


1 お帰りになりますか This is the correct anwser (Please disregard this)

2 お帰りしますか This answer is a mix of humble and honorific forms

3 お帰りいたしますか This answer is a mix of humble and honorific forms

4 お帰られますか This is a misuse of the られる honorific form. (Doesn’t require お)


Here’s an imabi article on using られる・れる for keigo.


Thanks, everyone. These are all big helps!

Thanks! That certainly helps with these sentences.

The で may be a typo, but not on my part. It’s in the book and anyway it’s an incorrect answer. Probably it’s just there to further confuse people like me who only have a shaky grasp on formal language and are looking for the one that seems to sound best.

¡Gracias! I really appreciate your uploading these pages. Which book is this? It’s like the complete opposite of the Marugoto books I’ve had to use in my classes.

It’s the book they use at Nagoya University for their Japanese course, it’s called “A course in modern Japanese” (keigo is on the second volume), but I’m not sure if you can get it somewhere outside of NU bookstore. The class wasn’t precisely textbook centered so we still got plenty of extra material, but I think the explanations are concise and clear enough to serve as a good guideline (and for me to remember the class).

What do you mean by “the complete opposite”?

Interesting. It looks like a clearly written book. The Marugoto series (at least upper beginner/lower intermediate) is almost completely based on conversational, or casually written (e.g. email or blog post) Japanese. The idea is that you learn grammar through listening and reading how people speak and write about a given topic, because each chapter in the book is about one topic (e.g. online shopping, eating out, vacationing in Okinawa, Japanese festivals, visiting museums, looking for a house, weddings and marriage).

I feel like it’s kind of a trick to make you think you’re learning about one thing (the chapter topic) when in fact they are teaching you grammar/vocabulary that can be used to speak about that topic. In theory, it’s a good way to teach about how to speak about a variety of subjects, but often the subjects are so boring and I don’t want to spend 4 or more weeks talking about nothing else (at least in the Marugoto classes offered by the Japan Foundation).

Conversely, the books are quite useless for use as reference materials because you’d have to hunt through many conversations before finding someone using the particular grammar you were looking for.

The good point about the books/courses is that at least in theory it’s good for reading and listening comprehension. Also the book doesn’t use much English, so it has more potential for immersive teaching. I like immersion as a language learning method, but find a good reference invaluable as well.

Your book looks like it is available from Amazon (used) and from the University of Nagoya Press (new). I’m tempted, but I have a bad habit of collecting textbooks and not actually…you know…reading them.

I see. I guess since the book is made for a course that’s taking place in Japan they didn’t really mind about immersion :laughing: We usually learned grammar, did a few exercises (to practice conjugation or whatever we were learning), practiced the dialogues and read the texts from the book, and then we would make our own dialogs and texts.
The book itself is mostly about grammar (with some cultural or context hints), but the course wasn’t, it was about how we could use that grammar. We had topics according to the level of grammar we were supposed to know… First we learned (basic) introductions, then talking about our countries (recommendations); I don’t remember all the topics or the order, but we also talked about going to the doctor, how to order at a restaurant, how to ask for directions, how to buy tickets, shopping, etc. and we would even do role play in class.
I found a topic sheet for one of our oral tests

As you can see the point of it wasn’t to evaluate grammar but the ability to communicate, and the grammar structures we could use for it were more like “suggestions”.

So basically they planned the whole course with the textbook being a part of it, but not the main guide, that’s what I meant by saying it wasn’t a textbook centered course, and because of that I don’t think it would be a good self study resource, it just wasn’t conceived as it, as a consultation book I guess it’s ok but there might be better books for that. :woman_shrugging:

So, random related question do Keigo Jisho actually exist or was Katsura Sunshine pulling my leg?
I tried to find one when I was in Japan but could never manage it, even on the internet.

First google result for me…


Thank you that was exactly what I needed.

Curse my using the wrong word/kanji for everything.


This old book is good but now find very irritating to read as it is all in romaji.

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