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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Should I use O or GO as an honorific prefix?
You have probably seen words like お金(おかね), ご住所(ごじゅうしょ) and learnt that お and ご are both honorific prefixes to indicate a high politeness level. However, you may be not sure about when you should use お and when you should use ご.
So what’s going on here?
Firstly, I have to explain wago and kango. Wago refers to original Japanese words. And kango are Japanese words of Chinese origin. Do you remember the kun and on readings from the previous lesson? Basically, original Japanese words or wago are read in Kun-reading. And Chinese origin words, or kango, are read in On-reading.
Now let’s get back to today’s topic, お and ご.
Basically お is used in wago or original Japanese words. For example,
お家(おうち) meaning “house”
お水(おみず) meaning “water”
お金 (おかね) meaning “money”
Also, it’s common to use お to refer to your family members.
お父さん(おとうさん Father)、お母さん(おかあさん Mother)、お姉さん(おねえさん Older sister)、お兄さん(おにいさん Older brother) and so on.
On the other hand, ご is used with kango or Chinese origin words. They are usually compounds made up of two kanji. For example,
ご家族 (ごかぞく) which means ‘family’,
ご両親(ごりょうしん Parents) and
ご兄弟(ごきょうだい Siblings).
However, there are some exceptions such as お時間、お電話 and お料理. They are kango, but they take お.
I recommend you only worry about the exceptions after you get used to the basic rule.
Here’s one more example:
Let’s think about 名前 and 氏名. They both mean ‘name.’ Is 名前 kango or wago? 名(な) and 前(まえ) are both kun-readings, so 名前 is wago, even though it’s a compound of two kanji. So お must be chosen. How about 氏名? 氏(シ) and 名(メイ) are on-readings, aren’t they? Therefore, 氏名 is kango or a Chinese origin word, and it takes ご before it.
I hope this makes sense to you.
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!


Please to leave a comment.
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JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 3rd, 2016 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 12th, 2020 at 08:55 PM
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We almost never use an honorific prefix for katakana words, but when we do, it's お; for example, おトイレ, おタバコ or おフランス.


Words that combine On and Kun readings are not really common. Though I would say they also work as exceptions because while it can be お湯桶読み (kun on), 台所 (on kun) will be お台所😉

Please let us know if you have any questions :)



Team JapanesePod101.com

June 11th, 2020 at 06:02 PM
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Good morning,

For words that combine On and Kun readings like yutou yomi 湯桶読み (hot water bucket)--where the yu uses the Kun reading and the tou uses On reading--how do you predict the honorific prefix? Would the initial part of the word be an indicator? For example, since the first part of the word uses the Kun reading, would O be the more likely prefix?

Thank you.

June 21st, 2017 at 03:20 PM
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This series has been very useful for my studies.

I have a question though,

Which honorific prefix should we use for katakana words that have neither japanese origin or chinese origin words.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
November 20th, 2016 at 02:10 PM
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はい。Thank you for your post.



On behalf of Hiroko sensei,どういたしまして。

Thank you for your comment.


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

November 7th, 2016 at 12:34 PM
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ひろくーさん ありがとうございます。

Interesting the parallel writing styles and multiple ways of pronouncing the ideographs.

Just starting to learn and wanted to say that your tutorial vids are great. ??

October 28th, 2016 at 10:26 PM
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JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 19th, 2016 at 05:49 PM
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Rasiel san,


Thank you for your question.

お should be put before wago which is Japanese original words.

Therefore, it is not forコスプレ which comes from an English word, costume play.

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

October 5th, 2016 at 03:48 AM
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This is so helpful!

I have a question, though. If you use a word that's spelled with Katakana, which prefix would you use? For example, I was telling someone I looked forward to their cosplay, so I said おコスプレを楽しみにしてます. Is this correct?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 25th, 2016 at 07:36 AM
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Aungkhantkya wsan,


Thank you for your feedback.

Ned san,


Senpai is used to seniors at schools or companies.


Yuki  由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

May 19th, 2016 at 10:46 AM
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When should the honorific suffix sempai I hope I spelled that right be used?