Japanese Language Blog

Let’s Learn Keigo! – Part 3 Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Culture, Grammar

Today’s post is all about the Humble Language (Kenjo-go,けんじょうご、謙譲語) This version of Keigo is probably the hardest to learn. Who is up for a challenge? Read on. I will teach you all about Kenjo-go in my post today.


Humble Language (Kenjo-go,けんじょうご、謙譲語)

You will use these special kind of keigo’s when you show respect towards others by lowering yourself or your family members. This is a very unique expressions where you sound “humble” since your expressions include a certain type of verbs that lowers values towards yourself or your close family members. I think Kenjo-go’s is definitely interesting part of our Japanese culture and at the same time, it is an essential part of our culture as well. In other words, this is a must know Keigo to understand Japanese culture.


Let me show you by examples below.. There are two main Kenjo-go’s to understand.


1) Using special verbs – two most common verbs to know.

Example: Ukagau – うかがう means

Go (iku, いく、行く), or Ask (tazuneru, たずねる、尋ねる), or Hear (kiku, きく、聞く)

Example: Itadaku – いただく means

Eat (taberu, たべる、食べる), or Receive (morau, もらう、貰う)


These two are the most common verbs that you will need to know to understand about Kenjo-go.


Kenjo-go can be also expressed by~

2) Adding O(お) or Go(ご) before a verb or noun. 


Goaisatsu suru – ごあいさつする ==> To say hello

Ookurisuru – Ookuri suru ==> To send 


Here are some examples based on the two definitions above.


I have something I would like to ask a principal. 

-Ko-cho sensei ni oukagai shitai kotoga arimasu. (こうちょう せんせい に おうかがいしたいことが あります。)

I received this book from my teacher.

– Sensei kara kono hon o itadaki mashita. (せんせい から このほん を いただきました。)

I will bring the box to the manager. 

-Watashi ga mane-jar ni sono hako o omochi shimasu. (わたしが マネージャーに その はこを おもちします。)

I will be happy if you eat this cake. 

-Kono ke-ki o tabete itadaketara ureshiidesu. (この ケーキを たべて いただけたら うれしい です。 )

I will give my customer a ride.

-Watashi ga okyaku sama o ookuri itashimasu. (わたしが おきゃくさま を おおくり いたします。)


As you can see, these expressions might sound a bit complicated as the verb sound different from the original verb. It almost changes to a special form to act as Kenjo-go. The best way to learn is to master these examples and apply them to your situations as much as you can.

Let me know if you have any questions on any of the Keigo’s that I covered in the past, or if you would like to learn deeper into any of these.

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About the Author: keiko

Born and raised in Japan. She currently lives in U.S. with her husband and two kids.