463 - お~・ご~

I just mentioned this in the last N4 lesson, where we looked at making polite public requests using お~ください, but お- and ご- are prefixes that we attach to certain words to make them more polite.


JLPT N4: お~・ご~

Say you have a word like 母さん (かあさん // mom; mother). You can use this word when addressing your own mother, but you should probably make it a bit more polite by attaching お to the front of it, お母さん (おかあさん).

When speaking of, for example, your boss' mother, you may want to use the even more honorific お母さま (おかあさま), which we'll be using later in this lesson.

The names of things can be also made more "polite," if you will, by attaching a prefix to them. In the last lesson, I mentioned how we can say お寿司 (おすし) instead of just 寿司 (すし).

We can even put prefixes in front of adjectives to make them more polite. One of our examples in this lesson takes the adjective 美しい (うつくしい // beautiful) and makes it more polite/formal by adding お-, making it お美しい.

Also mentioned in the last lesson, typically お- will attach to words of Japanese origin, while we usually make words of Chinese origin more polite by attaching ご- to the front of them.

For example, the word 自由 (じゆう // free; freedom) is of Chinese origin. We can infer this because a significant percentage of nouns that have multiple kanji and no hiragana characters will be of Chinese origin.

Accordingly, we can attach ご- to 自由, giving us ご自由. Specifically, in this lesson we'll see ご自由に (ごじゆうに // freely).

Note that I said we typically/usually use お- for Japanese-origin words and ご- for Chinese-origin words. There are exceptions. Later in this lesson we'll see how we can attach ご- to ゆっくり (slowly; at ease; leisurely), even though this is a word of Japanese origin, giving us ごゆっくり.

All the high-stress students out there can start panicking now that I've talked about words of Japanese/Chinese origin and exceptions to these crazy rules.

After you've panicked a bit, you may take comfort in knowing that you don't need to worry too much about these rules, as they will start to feel quite natural as you get better at Japanese. You will develop a sense for which words are of which origin and for which honorific prefix (お- or ご-) sounds more natural.


OK. Enough talking.

Let's see how many of these examples you can understand...

久しぶりです。元気でしたか。
おひさしぶり です。 おげんき でしたか。
Long time no see. How have you been?
Literally: “it’s been a long time / long time no see + です. + お-well + でした + か.”
Note: Notice that 元気 takes お- even though it is a multiple-kanji word with no hiragana.

奈々さん、今日も美しいですね。
なな さん、 きょう も おうつくしい です ね。
You look beautiful again today, Nana-san.
Literally: “Nana-san, + today + も (=also) + お-beautiful + です + ね.”
Note: The honorific prefix ご- will NEVER attach to i-adjectives (because i-adjectives are words of Japanese origin), which is why we cannot say ご美しい (← INCORRECT!).

母さま体調はいかがですか。
おかあさま の ごたいちょう は いかが ですか。
How is your mother doing?
Literally: “(honorable) mother + の + ご-physical condition + は + how + です + か.”
Note: いかがですか is a more formal version of どうですか.

化粧室は自由にご利用ください。
けしょうしつ は ごじゆう に ごりよう ください。
Please feel free to use the restroom.
Literally: “powder room + は + ご-free + に + ご-using + please.”
Note: We just saw how to form polite requests like ご利用ください in [NDL #456] - JLPT N4: お~ください.

どうぞゆっくりお過ごしください。
どうぞ ごゆっくり おすごし ください。
Please relax and make yourself comfortable.
Literally: “by all means / please + ご-slowly / at ease + お-spending time / passing + please.”
Note: Although ゆっくり is a word of Japanese origin, it takes the honorific prefix ご-, which is usually reserved for words of Chinese origin.


That's all for this one.

Good luck trying to be polite with teachers, colleagues, strangers, and so on.

If you're anything like me, you'll probably mess everything up and get laughed at. But that's just part of the journey. ^^




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