Here’s a quick and easy chunk of Japanese for beginners/intermediate learners to digest. You’ll see no smoking signs everywhere in Japan, but the particular little morsel of grammar in this one stood out for me: にて. Heard of it?
Here it is written out, just in case you couldn’t quite read the handwriting:
２階では 禁煙 です。 喫煙される 方は 一階 ロビー にて お願いします。
(In hiragana: ２かいでは きんえん です。 きつえんされる かたは いっかい ロビー にて おねがいします。)
Let’s tackle the first sentence.
では here is indicating the place where an action (the action of not smoking) occurs (that’s the で part). The は is differentiating it from other places. You might like to think of it like this:
“As for the 2nd floor (and not other floors), it’s no smoking”.
I tend to think of は in this way when I’m having trouble visualising the effect it is having on the sentence. Just saying “The 2nd floor is no smoking” is fine and a much better translation, but while you are still learning, it’s sometimes helpful to break the sentence down logically and think about it.
Okay, onto the second sentence:
A couple of tricky points here. 喫煙 is the opposite of 禁煙, so it means smoking. The される part here is the passive form of the verb する, to do. But it’s not quite that simple (oh no!) What is actually going on here is that される is modifying the noun afterwards. In this case it is 方, the polite word for a person, or people.
される heightens this polite effect. So while it may look like it reads ‘the smoking people’, it is actually just politely referring to people who do smoke. Perhaps a suitable English expression would just be ‘smokers’.
The final word お願いします simply means ‘please’ but carries an imploring tone. ‘We’d like you to do this…’ So what, then, is にて?
にて is a politer, more formal way to say で, that same particle denoting where an action occurs. So, 一階ロビーにて becomes 一階ロビーで お願いします. ‘Please (do it) in the 1st floor lobby’.
Please smoke in the 1st floor lobby.
Putting the whole thing together then:
The 2nd floor is no-smoking. Please use the 1st floor lobby.
Can you guess where this sign was based on the language used?
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments :).