LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Making Requests

Posted by Tae Kim

Politely (and not so politely) making requests

Similar to asking for favors, which we learned in the last lesson, there are also various ways to make requests in Japanese. This is effectively the Japanese way of saying, "please do X". We'll first learn the most common way to make requests using a special conjugation of the verb 「くださる」 and the firmer 「なさる」. Finally, we'll learn the rarely used excessively strong command form for the sake of completeness. You can safely skip the last part unless you're an avid reader of manga.

「~ください」- a special conjugation of 「くださる

Vocabulary

  1. それ - that
  2. くれる (ru-verb) - to give
  3. 漢字 【かん・じ】 - Kanji
  4. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) - to write
  5. ここ - here
  6. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  7. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 - Japanese (language)
  8. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) - to speak
  9. 消しゴム 【け・し・ごむ】 - eraser
  10. 貸す 【か・す】 (u-verb) - lend
  11. 遠い 【とお・い】 (i-adj) - far
  12. 所 【ところ】 - place
  13. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  14. お父さん【お・とう・さん】 - father (polite)
  15. 時計 【と・けい】 - watch; clock
  16. 壊れる 【こわ・れる】 (ru-verb) - to break
  17. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) - to say

ください」 is a special conjugation of 「くださる」, which is the honorific form of 「くれる」. We will learn more about honorific and humble forms in the beginning of the next major section. We are going over 「ください」 here because it has a slight difference in meaning from the normal 「くれる」 and the honorific 「くださる」. 「ください」 is different from 「くれる」 in the following fashion:

  1. それください
    Please give me that.
  2. それくれる
    Can you give me that?

As you can see 「ください」 is a direct request for something while 「くれる」 is used as a question asking for someone to give something. However, it is similar to 「くれる」 in that you can make a request for an action by simply attaching it to the te-form of the verb.

  1. 漢字書いてください
    Please write it in kanji.
  2. ゆっくり話してください
    Please speak slowly.

The rules for negative requests are same as the rules for 「くれる」 as well.

  1. 落書き書かないください
    Please don't write graffiti.
  2. こここないでください
    Please don't come here.

In casual speech, it is often common to simply drop the 「ください」 part.

  1. 日本語話して
    Please speak in Japanese.
  2. 消しゴム貸して
    Please lend me the eraser.
  3. 遠い行かない
    Please don't go to a far place.

For those who want to sound particularly commanding and manly, it is also possible to use 「くれる」 with the 「る」 removed.

  1. 日本語話してくれ
    Speak in Japanese.
  2. 消しゴム貸してくれ
    Lend me the eraser.
  3. 遠い行かないくれ
    Don't go to a far place.

Because 「ください」 like the masu-form must always come at the end sentence or a relative clause, you cannot use it to directly modify a noun. For example, the following is not possible with 「ください」.

  • お父さんくれた時計壊れた
    The clock that father gave broke.

Of course, since direct quotes is merely repeating something someone said in verbatim, you can put practically anything in a direct quote.

  • それくださいお父さん言った
    Father said, "Please give me that."

Using 「~ちょうだい」 as a casual request

Vocabulary

  1. 頂戴 【ちょうだい】 - receiving (humble)
  2. 致す 【いたす】 (u-verb) - to do (humble)
  3. スプーン - spoon
  4. ここ - here
  5. 名前 【な・まえ】 - name
  6. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) - to write

A casual alternative of 「ください」 is 「ちょうだい」. While it can be used by anyone, it has a slightly feminine and childish nuance and is always written in Hiragana. Written in Kanji, it is usually used in a very formal expression such as 「頂戴致します」. Grammatically, it's used exactly the same way as 「ください」.

Examples

  1. スプーンちょうだい
    Please give me the spoon.
  2. ここ名前書いてちょうだい
    Please write your name here.

Using 「~なさい」 to make firm but polite requests

Vocabulary

  1. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  2. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. いい (i-adj) - good
  5. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to ask; to listen
  6. ここ - here
  7. 座る 【すわ・る】 (ru-verb) - to sit
  8. まだ - yet
  9. いっぱい - full
  10. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  11. たくさん - a lot (amount)
  12. それ - that
  13. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) - to think
  14. そう - (things are) that way

なさい」 is a special honorific conjugation of 「する」. It is a soft yet firm way of issuing a command. It is used, for example, when a mother is scolding her child or when a teacher wants a delinquent student to pay attention. Unlike 「ください」, 「なさい」 only applies to positive verbs and uses the stem of the verb instead of the te-form. It also cannot be used by itself but must be attached to another verb.

Using 「なさい」 to make firm but polite requests
  • Conjugate the verb to its stem and attach 「なさい
    Examples
    1. 食べ食べなさい
    2. 飲みなさい
    3. するなさい

Examples

  1. よく聞きなさい
    Listen well!
  2. ここ座りなさい
    Sit here.

You can also drop 「さい」 portion of the 「なさい」 to make a casual version of this grammar.

  1. まだいっぱいあるから、たくさん食べな
    There's still a lot, so eat a lot.
  2. それいい思うなら、そうよ。
    If you think that's fine, then go ahead and do it.

The Command Form

Vocabulary

  1. くれる (ru-verb) - to give
  2. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) - to die
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  5. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  6. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) - to wear
  7. 信じる 【しん・じる】 (ru-verb) - to believe
  8. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) - to sleep
  9. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) - to wake; to occur
  10. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) - to come out
  11. 掛ける 【か・ける】 (ru-verb) - to hang
  12. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) - to throw away
  13. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) - to speak
  14. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to ask; to listen
  15. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play
  16. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) - to wait
  17. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  18. 直る 【なお・る】 (u-verb) - to be fixed
  19. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  20. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable
  21. あっち - that way (over there) (abbr of あちら)
  22. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  23. 早い 【はや・い】 (i-adj) - fast; early
  24. 酒 【さけ】 - alcohol
  25. 持つ 【も・つ】 (u-verb) - to hold

We will go over the command form in the interest of covering all the possible verb conjugations. In reality, the command form is rarely used as Japanese people tend to be too polite to use imperatives. Also, this coarse type of speech is rarely, if indeed at all, used by females who tend to use 「なさい」 or an exasperated 「くれる」 when angry or irritated. This form is only really useful for reading or watching fictional works. You may often see or hear 「死ね!」 ("Die!") in fiction which, of course, you'll never hear in real life. (I hope!)

Be sure to note that, in addition to the familiar 「する」, 「くる」 exception verbs, 「くれる」 is also an exception for the command form.

Rules for creating command form
  • For ru-verbs: Replace the 「る」 with 「ろ」
  • For u-verbs: Change the last character from an / u / vowel to an / e / vowel
  • Exceptions:
    1. するしろ
    2. くるこい
    3. くれるくれ
Sample ru-verbs
Plain Command
食べ 食べ
信じ 信じ
起き 起き
掛け 掛け
捨て 捨て
    
Sample u-verbs
Plain Command
    
Exception Verbs
Plain Command
する しろ
くる こい
くれる くれ

Examples

  1. 好きしろ
    Do as you please.
  2. あっち行け
    Go away!
  3. 早く持ってきてくれ
    Hurry up and bring me some alcohol.

Negative Command

Vocabulary

  1. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  2. する (exception) - to do
  3. それ - that
  4. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  5. 変 【へん】 (na-adj) - strange
  6. こと - event, matter
  7. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) - to say

The negative command form is very simple: simply attach 「な」 to either ru-verbs or u-verbs. Don't confuse this with the 「な」 sentence-ending particle we will be learning at the end of this section. The intonation is totally different.

Using the negative command form
  • Attach 「な」 to the verb
    Examples
    1. 行く → 行く
    2. する → する

Examples

  1. それ食べる
    Don't eat that!
  2. こと言う
    Don't say such weird things!

This is not to be confused with the shortened version of 「~なさい」 we just learned in the last section. The most obvious difference (besides the clear difference in tone) is that in 「~なさい」, the verb is first converted to the stem while the negative command has no conjugation. For example, for 「する」, 「しな」 would be the short version of 「しなさい」 while 「するな」 would be a negative command.