Japanese/Grammar/Honorific prefixes

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Meaning[edit]

o- is an exalted prefix. It shows respect for the individual or object to whom it pertains. ご go- (also written as 御) plays a similar role, being attached to a separate group of words as explained below.

Translation[edit]

There is no eqivalent in English. In translation it is either dropped, or (when appropriate) translated as your, etc.

Usage[edit]

o- can be applied to nouns, na-adjectives, i-adjectives, and verbs.

Because お o is exalted, it is not used on or about the speaker. For example,

元気(げんき)ですか。 O-genki desu ka?

is the formal way of asking "How are you." The normal response is

元気(げんき)です。 Genki desu.

In the first example, person A is exalting person B by placing the exalted prefix お o- in front of the word 元気(げんき) genki, which refers to person B's health. In the response, person B omits the お o- prefix because he does not wish to exalt himself.

Note that お o- is usually only applied to words of Japanese origin, and most Sino-Japanese words take the honorific prefix () go- instead, as in 御主人(ごしゅじん) master/husband. (元気(げんき) genki is a notable exception.)

Examples[edit]

Words that commonly use お o- or () go- include:

Nouns[edit]

  • (ちゃ) o-cha "tea"
  • (みず) o-mizu "water"
  • 仕事(しごと) o-shigoto "job"
  • (うち) o-uchi "home"
  • 部屋(へや) o-heya "room"
  • (とう)さん otousan "father"
  • (かあ)さん okaasan "mother"
  • (にい)さん oniisan "older brother"
  • (ねえ)さん oneesan "older sister"
  • 祖父(じい)さん ojiisan "grandfather"
  • 祖母(ばあ)さん obaasan "grandmother"
  • ()さん o-ko-san "child"
  • 主人(しゅじん) go-shujin "master/husband (of the person who is spoken to)"
  • (はん) go-han "meal or (cooked) rice"

Na-Adjectives[edit]

  • 元気(げんき) o-genki "healthy"
  • ()o-suki "liked"

I-Adjectives[edit]

  • (はや)o-hayai "early"

Verbs[edit]

  • (はい)o-hairi "Please enter."
  • (すわ)o-suwari "Please sit."