How do I make a request?

Japanese requests and commands have many set forms depending on who is being addressed by whom. For example, the phrase yoroshiku o negai shimasu (よろしくお願いします), meaning "I ask you for favour" can take various forms. At the bottom of the scale comes yoroshiku tanomu (よろしく頼む), which might be used between males. Its more polite variant yoroshiku tanomimasu (よろしく頼みます) with a masu (ます) ending might be used towards less familiar people or to superiors.

Going up in politeness, the phrase yoroshiku onegai shimasu (よろしくお願いします) means the same thing, but is used in business settings. It is possible to go further, replacing the polite shimasu (します) with the humble itashimasu (いたします), to get yoroshiku onegai itashimasu (よろしくお願いいたします). In very formal Japanese, such as that used on nengajō (New Year's Greeting Cards), this may be replaced with an even more polite expression yoroshiku onegai mōshiagemasu (よろしくお願い申し上げます).

When making requests, at the bottom of the politeness scale comes the plain imperative tabero (食べろ) or kue (食え), literally "Eat!", a simple order to be said to an inferior or someone considered to have no choice, such as a prisoner. This form might convey anger. Similarly, the no da (のだ) suffix (see What is the or ending?) can make an order: taberu n da (食べるんだ), or kuu n da (食うんだ) "Eat!". To express anger, the suffix yagaru (やがる) also exists: "kuiyagare", an extremely forceful and angry instruction to eat, expressing contempt for the addressee. See What is the verb ending?

Negatives are formed by adding suffix na (): taberu na (食べるな) "do not eat", gomi o suteru na (ゴミを捨てるな): "do not throw away rubbish". Similarly, the negative of da (), ja nai (じゃない) can be used: taberu n ja nai (食べるんじゃない).

More polite, but still strict, is the nasai (なさい) suffix, which attaches to the i-form of the verb (see What is the 'i' verb ending?). This originates in the polite verb nasaru (なさる). Tabenasai (食べなさい) thus is an order perhaps given by a parent to a child. This is often colloquially shortened to na (), hence tabena (食べな).

Requests can also be formed by adding to the te form (see How does the form work?). The plainest form adds kure (くれる), an irregular form of the verb kureru (see What Japanese verbs are irregular?), to the te form. For example tabete kure (食べてくれ) or kutte kure (食ってくれ): "eat it", less forceful than tabero (食べろ). Negatives are made by negating the te form: tabenaide kure (食べないでくれ) or kuwanaide kure (食わないでくれ) "don't eat it".

Going up one scale in politeness, the more polite verb kudasai (下さい) is added. For example tabete kudasai (食べてください). With this polite form, the rough kuu (食う) verb is unlikely to be used. Similarly, tabenaide kudasai (食べないでください): "please don't eat it".

A similar entry on the scale of politeness is made by using the imperative form of a polite verb. For example, meshiagaru (召し上がる), the polite verb for "to eat", when turned into meshiagare (召し上がれ), the imperative, becomes the response to the set phrase itadakimasu (いただきます).

Further, more polite forms are also possible. These involve the "i-form" of the verb rather than the "te form", and an honorific prefix. For example, tsukau (使う), "use", becomes o tsukai kudasai (お使い下さい): "please use this".

More politeness can also involve indirection of the request: kore o tsukau you ni o negai shimasu (これを使うようにお願いします) "I humbly request that you think about using this".

If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy policy

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