Honorifics IV: Adjectives & The Copula

第140課: Honorifics IV: Adjectives & the Copula

Pay close attention to what is deemed old-fashioned and what is not. 


  The “honorific” use of adjectives is normally seen in the pattern お+Adjective+です. This is often felt to just be really polite speech rather than honorific speech, but it suffices for the most part. 

お・ご~ Note: The omission of the honorific prefixes is primarily determined by whether you are showing respect/humility or using 丁寧語. As you could imagine, the latter case is for when they should be omitted.


In the examples below, you will see various other patterns that hint at what has traditionally been the usage for adjectives. More will be said about them later in this lesson. So, for now, treat options as synonyms.  

1. お忙しいですか。(普通)
    Are you busy?

2. インドへ行けるのは嬉し{ゅうございます・い限りです・い所存でございます}。(謙譲語)
     I would be happy to go to India.

Sentence Note: This example shows how you can make an adjective more humble. 所存 means intention, and it is a good formal choice. We will get to what exactly ゅうございます is later in this lesson.

3a. 皆様本日はお忙しいところご参加いただきありがとうございます。(謙譲語)
3b. 皆様本日はお忙しいところご臨席りんせきたまわりありがとうございます。(上位者などに対する尊敬語)
3c. 皆様本日はお忙しいところご出席下さりありがとうございます。(尊敬語)
      Thank you for attending.

4a. 開けてもよろしいですか。
4b. 開けてもよろしいでしょうか。(△/More polite)
      Is it alright if I open up (the window)?

自然さ Note: よろしいでしょう to many speakers is incorrect 敬語 because it is a doubling of two patterns at once to make it such. However, to some, the politeness of よろしい seems insufficient, thereby making this a reasonable solution.  

Exception Note: The honorific form of よい is よろしい・宜しい. 

5a. 皆さん、お静かに願います。(とても丁寧)
5b. 皆様、ご静粛せいしゅくにお願い申し上げます。(Very respectful)
      Everyone, please be quiet.

6a. ご立派でいらっしゃいます。
6b. ご立派であらせられます。(Old-fashioned; very respectful)
      You are great.

Traditional Adjective Honorific Conjugations: Adj. + ~ございます

The traditional means of conjugating an adjective into honorific speech, which is now deemed old-fashioned and potentially grandiose, involves dropping い and adding うございます. Whenever the adjective ends in しい・じい, then you drop い and add ゅございます. You’ve already seen this grammar in the phrase ありがとうございます. 

 If it ends in… Drop Add Then Add
 ―いい ―いい Small ゅ +う ございます
 ―あい ―あい ―おう ございます
 ―おい ―おい ―おう ございます
 ―うい ―うい ―うう ございます


 大きい 大きゅうございます Big 嬉しい 嬉しゅうございます Happy
 早い 早うございます Early よろしい よろしゅうございます Good
 新しい 新しゅうございます New 白い 白ございます White
 難しい 難しゅうございます Difficult 古い 古うございます Old
 赤い 赤うございます Red 悪い 悪うございます Bad

7. 部屋は夏でも涼しゅうございます。(古風)
    The room is cool even in the summer.

8. お早うございます。
    Good morning.
    Literally: You’re early.

9. 旅行はなごうございます。(古風)
    The trip is long.

10. お友達と別れるのは本当に悲しゅうございます。(古風)
      Separating from one’s friends is really sad.

11. このお茶はうすうございます。(古風)
      The tea is flat.

12. 地震や余震よしんおそろしゅうございますね。(古風)
      Earthquakes and aftershocks are scary, aren’t they?

13. 空は青うございます。(古風)
      The sky is blue.

14. 「はあ、一人三円で参ります。少しお高うございますが、翌る日寝てしまいますから。」
      “Yes, I’ll come for three yen a person. It is a little high, but it is because I sleep the next day”.
From 死体紹介人 by 川端康成.

History Note: There was a time in Japan’s history when the yen was far more valuable than it is today just as the dollar and penny once were in America. 

15. 日本は大きくございません。(品格ひんかくのある丁寧さ; ちょっと古風)
      Japan is not large.

Pattern Note: Avoiding the contractions is a way to make honorific adjectives sound less old-fashioned and yet at the same time be more polite. Remember that sentences like this are examples of 丁寧語, not 尊敬語.

16. 「それで、好ござんすとも」と御米は答えた。
       “Then, that’s fine”, Oyome replied.
From 門 by 夏目漱石.

Contraction Note: よござんす is a shortening of よろしゅうございます and was a common 江戸言葉 in light honorifics a century ago. Always be on the lookout for odd stuff in literature. 


Many older speakers cannot get used to adding です or a copula of any sort after a 形容詞. The coming of this pattern, like with many generational changes, can be explained by contractions. In this case, the common practice of the new typing age and East Japanese dialect habits became standard. However, as you learn more about how to make your speech ever more honorific, one way to overcome this issue of grammaticality is by changing the adjective to an adverb and using {思って・存じて}おります. 

17. 有りがたく存じております。
      I am very grateful.
Literally: I think very gratefully.

18. うれしく思っております。
      I am very happy.
      Literally: I’m thinking happily. 

The Copula

The copula doesn’t have a true 謙譲語 form. When you wish to show more politeness with the copula, you use the form でございます. However, this is classified as 丁寧語. It is politer than です・ます調, and it can be used to refer to third person intentions along with sentences regarding oneself. In fact, ございます as a stand alone verb is classified as 尊敬語 or 丁寧語. As far as the copula is concerned, its 尊敬語 is でいらっしゃいます. Referring to their plain forms for convenience, you’ll learn that いらっしゃる and ござる happen to be honorific verbs. So, it’s no surprise that they would be used this way with the copula.  

19. 社長、こちらは藤原常務でいらっしゃいます。
      President, this is Director Fujiwara. 

20. 皇帝から頼まれたものでございます。
      This is something that was entrusted to me from the Emperor.

21. そうではございません。
      It’s not so.

22. 私はこの子の父でございます。
      I am the father of this child.  

23. はい、鈴木でございます。
      Yes, this is Suzuki.