Casual Speech and Honorific Speech in Japanese

In a daily conversation with friends, Japanese use casual speech. However, being polite is very important in Japanese culture, and honorific speech is mainly used in many other situations.

There are 3 types of honorifics in Japanese.

  • Polite Language (丁寧語)
  • Respectful Language (尊敬語)
  • Humble Language (謙遜語)

Polite Language

Polite language can be used to refer to one*s own actions or those of other people. It is characterized by the use of /desu/ ending a sentence and verb ending in /masu/, and the use of prefixes such as /o/ or /go/ towards neutral objects.

It is the form of language you want to use as a beginning learner.

Respectful Language

Respectful language is used when talking about superiors and customers. Common words may be replaced by more polite alternative words.

It must not be used to talk about oneself.

Humble Language

Humble language is used when talking about oneself or one’s own group (such as company or family). Like respectful language, words change form to show politeness.

You will learn respectful and humble language when you are at a more advanced level of Japanese learning.

Related Grammar Points