Japanese Grammar

How to Make Commands and Requests in Japanese

Can you...; くれない?

Last time, you learned how to make invitations and offers, e.g. “一緒いっしょうたいませんか (Won’t you sing [a song] with me)?” and “一緒いっしょうたいましょうか (Shall we sing [a song] together)?” Then, if you would like to say, ”Please sing a song,” what should you do? In this lesson, you will learn how to make commands and requests.

Explanation for How to Express Commands and Requests

Table of Contents
Commands
…て(ください)
…てくれ(る / ますか / ませんか)?
…てもらえ(る / ますか / せんか)?
Negative Questions: …で

If you read Japanese manga or books, you may often find those who give commands. However, they are rarely used in practice. For the sake of completeness, we will pick up the command form here. In the pubic, it is almost always better to use expressions to make requests.

Commands

There are two forms to express commands and you need to choose the proper one depending on the situation. First, let’s check the conjugation rules.

Ru-verb: To Replace ru with ro or nasai

  Command (1) Command (2)
見る (miru)  (miro) なさい (minasai)
着る (kiru)  (kiro) なさい (kinasai)
食べる (taberu) 食べ (tabero) 食べなさい(tabenasai)
答える (kotaeru) 答え (kotaero) 答えなさい (kotaenasai)

U-verbs: To Replace u with e or inasai

  Command (1) Command (2)
書く (kaku) (kake) きなさい (kakinasai)
話す (hanasu)  (hanase) しなさい (hanasinasai *si = shi)
立つ (tatu *tu = tsu)  (tate) ちなさい (tatinasai *ti = chi)
飲む (nomu)  (nome) みなさい (nominasai)

Two Exceptions

  Command (1) Command (2)
する (suru) しろ (shiro) しなさい (shinasai)
来る (kuru) 来い (koi) 来なさい (kinasai)

The conjugation for the second command form is the same as the one for the polite form. Instead of ます, you attach なさい to stems. Now, let’s move to examples.

Examples

[あなたは] いますぐ げろ
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Verb: Command Form (1)
Run away right now.

The first command form is used in intense situations such as disasters, sports, and fights. Some men use this between close friends, but it is not recommended for those who learn Japanese as a second language. Subjects are often omitted in command sentences.

はやせ。
Put out the fire quickly.
こっちにい。
Come here.
しずかにしろ。
Be quiet. Lit. Make yourself quiet.
だまれ。
Shut up.

It’s totally a different conjugation, but If you attach な to the plain form of verbs, you can express negative commands.


Don’t put out the fire.
こっちに
Don’t come here.

There are some ways to give a nuance to command sentences. One of them is to add the sentence ending particle よ. If you pronounce it with rising intonation, it indicates that you blame people for their disobedience. If you pronounce it with flat intonation, it sounds like a soft command.

すな
こっちにるなよ。
しずかにしろ
だま

If there are some contexts that people need to obey commands or rules, you can use the explanatory のだ instead of the command form. They have almost the same meaning, but のだ implies that you’ve made commands based on contexts that people share. In this context, when you use negative commands, you need to conjugate のだ into the negative form, not verbs.

んじゃない。(*消さないんだ is wrong.)
こっちにんじゃない。(*来ないんだ is wrong.)
しずかにするんだ
だまんだ
[あなたは] 部屋へや そうしなさい
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Verb: Command Form (2)
Clean the room.

The second command form is used from superior people to inferior people in status, e.g. teachers to students and parents to children. This sounds politer than the first form. For example, you can see this in exam instructions.

この問題もんだいきなさい。
Solve this question.
質問しつもんこたえなさい。
Answer the question.
ゆっくりはなしなさい。
Speak slowly.
もうなさい。
Go to bed now.

You cannot make negative commands with this form. Thus, you need to utilize antonyms or nominalizers の + “止める: to stop” (We hope that you remember こと cannot be used with 止める).

はやはなしなさい。
Speak quickly.
ゆっくりはなすのをめなさい。
Stop speaking slowly.

Requests

As opposed to the command form, you don’t have to learn a new conjugation. You can express requests by utilizing the te-form. There are some expressions which have various levels of formality. Let’s learn them one by one.

…て(ください)

[あなたは] 東京とうきょうえき って(ください)
[Topic / Subject] Destination Verb: Te-form
Please go to Tokyo Station.

The first sentence pattern is the te-form itself. By now, you have utilized the te-form as a base of conjugation. However, the te-form alone can express requests. ください is the equivalent to “please” in English. Be careful; this is a direct expression and should be used when it is reasonable or natural to make requests. For instance, we can say that the example above is a conversation between a taxi driver and a customer.

両替りょうがえして(ください)。
Please exchange [money].
しおって(ください)。
Please pass the salt [to me].

By combining the causative form and setting yourself as both a direction-giver and a doer, you can express requests with a nuance of offering to do something. This is often used in everyday life.

わたしにもつだわせて(ください)。
Please let me help [you], too.
ぼく担当たんとうさせて(ください)。
Please let me be in charge of [it].

There is a similar expression to ください, which is …くれ. However, this sounds rude and is only used by a few elder men. If you would like to make casual requests, you should use just the te-form. It’s naturally used between family and friends.

携帯けいたいしてくれ。
(Rude) Lend [me your] cellphone.
携帯けいたいして。
(Casual) Lend [me your] cellphone.

“くれる: to give” is an exception and doesn’t have the te-form to make a request. Thus, you need to use different words, which are くれ (Rude), ちょうだい (casual), and ください (polite). They can actually work as both verbs and helping verbs. In practice, くれ is rarely used, ちょうだい is used between family or friends, and ください is used in formal situations.

あの写真しゃしんをちょうだい。
Please give [me] that picture over there.
これをください。
[I] will buy this one. *Lit. Please give [me] this one. 

…てくれ(る / ますか / ませんか)?

[あなたは] もつ はこんでくれ(る / ますか / ませんか)?
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Verb: Te-form + くれる
Will / Would you carry the luggage?

The second sentence pattern is the te-form + くれる. In this context, the negative question is the politest of the three. This expression is less direct than the first one and polite enough to make a request in any situation.

えきまでてくれる?
Will [you] come to the station?
えきまでてくれますか?
Would [you] come to the station?
えきまでてくれませんか?
Would [you] please come to the station?

…てもらえ(る / ますか / せんか)?

[わたしは] ほん おしえてもらえ(る / ますか / ませんか)?
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Verb: Te-form + もらえる
Lit. Can / Could [I] get you to teach [me] Japanese?
*Can / Could [you] teach [me] Japanese?

The third sentence pattern is the te-form + the potential form of もらう. This is politer than the te-form + くれる. As you learned, もらう is used from the receiver’s point of view. Therefore, grammatically speaking, subjects should be request-givers. However, you can use this just like くれる and consider this as the equivalent to “can / could you” in English.

くるまなおしてもらえる?
Can you repair [my] car?
くるまなおしてもらえますか?
Could you repair [my] car?
くるまなおしてもらえませんか?
Could you please repair [my] car?

In practice, you will also see the following sentences when you make requests to some people. Even if you use もらえる, subjects can be recipients of requests.

なかさんはそうをしてもらえる?
Can Tanaka-san clean the room?
すずさんはりょうをして(ください)。
Suzuki-san cook [it], please.

Negative Questions: …で

かないくれ。
(Rude) Don’t cry.
さわらない(ください)。
Please don’t touch [me].
はしらないくれ(る / ますか / ませんか)?
Will / Would you please not run?
まだべないもらえ(る / ますか / ませんか)?
Can / Could you please not eat [it] yet.

You can express negative requests by attaching で to the plain-negative form of verbs. Apart from that, you can use the same grammar as normal requests.

Requests with the Sentence Ending Particle よ and ね

ほんおしえて(ください)
=> With a nuance to persuade
ほんおしえて(ください)
=> With a nuance to seek agreement

The sentence-ending particles sometimes appear when you use the te-form to make requests. The both of the examples mean “Please teach [me] Japanese.” However, the よ gives a nuance to persuade you while the ね gives a nuance to seek agreement.

Summary

  1. The command form (しろ) is used in intense situations e.g. disasters, sports, and fights.
  2. The command form (なさい) is used from superior people to inferior people in status.
  3. The te-form + ください, くれる, and もらえる express requests with different levels of formality.
  4. The plain form + な indicates negative commands.
  5. The plain-negative form + で indicates negative requests.

You may feel that the English translations we made sound unnatural, especially for もらえる. Since English doesn’t have the concept of あげる・くれる・もらう, it was a little hard to translate nicely. Thus, please just memorize that もらえる is used to make a request and is politer than くれる. We think that’s the simplest way. Next, you will learn how to express obligation and prohibition.

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