fbpx

0 Comments

December 15, 2022

To Give in Japanese あげる, くれる, and もらう

Learn how to say "give" and "receive" in Japanese with あげる, くれる, and もらう. To keep things as simple as possible, we will look closely at あげる and くれる (to give) first and then we'll turn to もらう (to receive). 

あげる ageru and くれる kureru

If the above image has you scratching your head, don't worry! We'll go through it in detail below. Just be prepared to stop thinking in English terms. You'll have to rewire your brain to think like a Japanese. (Cue: The Vapors' Turning Japanese)

Compare English and Japanese "to give"

In English we use the verb "to give" to mean to send something to someone. It doesn't matter who the subject or sender is.

Consider these two sentences:

  • I gave Mr. Tanaka a book.
  • Mr. Tanaka gave me a book.

In both cases, the subject is the one doing the giving. In the first sentence, “I” am the one doing the giving. In the second, it is “Mr. Tanaka” doing the giving. Both are the subject of the sentence.

You may have learned あげる means "to give" but あげる wouldn't be used in the second sentence. You would use くれる.

Let's translate these two sentences.

I gave Mr. Tanaka a book.

(わたし)  田中(たなか)さんに   (ほん)  あげた

As for me, I... |    Mr. Tanaka | to | book (direct object marker) | gave

Mr. Tanaka gave me a book.

田中(たなか)さんは(わたし) (ほん) くれた

As for Mr. Tanaka | me | to | book (direct object marker) | gave

In these cases, both あげた and くれた would be translated as "gave" in English.

Spend a moment comparing the English to the Japanese.

In English, the subject is the giver. In Japanese, for both あげる and くれる, this is also the case. (We’ll get to もらう later which is backwards; もらう has the receiver as the subject/topic. This is from the receiver’s point of view.)


■  When do you use あげる and when do you use くれる?

With Japanese, you have to consider the position of the giver in relation to the receiver.

To the English mind, we are all equal and therefore we rarely change our language to suit the situation and context. But to the Japanese mind, the situation or context and the relative relationship between people is very important.

This leads us to a discussion of うち and そと. 

うち 

the "in group" or “one’s inner circle”  

[うち means “inside.” This starts with oneself and includes one’s family, friends, coworkers, and other groups that you belong to.]

  • Related to you somehow.
  • It all starts with the closest relation. Think of it as circles. The smallest circle would be the speaker, that would be "me."
  • Then we branch out to include family, friends, your school, your office, your club, and even your country. Any group that you belong to would be うち.
  • If someone in your うち circle receives something, it somehow benefits you even if only emotionally. There is a relationship to you somehow .
  • そと

    the "out group" or “one’s outer circle”

    [そと means “outside.” This includes people you don’t know very well or at all and people outside any group you belong to.]

  • Not related to you.
  • If someone in your そと circle receives something, it doesn't affect you at all.

  • The うち and そと concept is pretty easy to grasp, but the hard part is to stop thinking in English and to begin to think in Japanese. The good news is, once you grasp the concept of うち and そと, it will also greatly help you with 敬語(けいご) or polite Japanese.

    Just remember that うち starts with the individual (me) and includes any people related to me (you) or anyone in any group you belong to.



    あげる

    ■  When to use あげる: From small to big; inside to out

    Use あげる when going from yourself, the smallest circle out to the bigger うち circle or out to the even bigger そと circle. In other words, it’s a motion going from small to big, うち to そと.

    For example, when you give something to your sister, you use あげる. Why? because you are going from the smallest circle (me) to a larger circle (sister as part of your うち).

    This is also true when going from the うち to そと. Use あげる when your sister gives something to someone outside your group.

    Lastly, use あげるwhen someone outside your group gives something to another person outside your group, and when someone within your group gives something to someone else in your group.


    ■  How to form あげる

    (Giver は) + (Receiver に) + (object given を) + あげる

    Let’s try an example.

    Mr. Tanaka is outside our group, そと. How do you say, "I gave Mr. Tanaka a book”?

    First, who is the giver? That would be "I" and "I" is the smallest circle in the うち group. The book is going out to Mr. Tanaka who, for our example, is outside our group, そと. The giving action goes from small to large, narrow to wide, inside to out.

    I gave Mr. Tanaka a book.

    (わたし)田中(たなか)さんに(ほん)あげた

    As for me, I... | Mr. Tanaka | to | book (direct object marker) | gave


    くれる

    ■  When to use くれる: From big to small; outside to in

    Use くれる to mean “to give" when going the other way. From そと to うち and from うち (family or friends) to oneself.

    ■  How to form くれる

    Now, lets flip the giving and make Mr. Tanaka the giver.

    Mr. Tanaka gave me a book.

    田中(たなか)さんは(わたし) (ほん) くれた

    As for Mr. Tanaka | me | to | book (direct object marker) | gave

    Since we are going from a large circle, そと, to small, うち, we can't use あげる. Why? Because あげる only goes from small to large or within groups.

    We use くれる instead. The good news is, the format is the same: 

    (Giver は) + (Receiver に) + (object given を) + くれる

    It's the same sentence form as あげる. That’s right. あげる and くれる only differ if the giver is in a smaller circle or a larger circle.

    Also, use くれる when receiving something good that wasn’t necessarily asked for.

    You don't use くれる for bad things, only good things like gifts or good advice.

    One more example.

    Can you figure out whether this will use あげる or くれる?

    This time, Mr. Tanaka doesn't give me the book, but he gives it Mrs. Aoki who is also outside our group. This is between two people of the same group, the そと (from my perspective).

    How do you say, "Mr. Tanaka gave Mrs. Aoki a book."?

    Mr. Tanaka gave Mrs. Aoki a book.

    田中(たなか)さんは青木(あおき)さんに(ほん)あげた

     As for Mr. Tanaka | Mrs. Aoki | to | book (direct object marker) | gave

    First, remember さん can be used with males and females and doesn't express marital status. Therefore, さん can mean both “Mr.” and “Mrs.”

    Second, since it involves two people of a same group (そと), we should use あげる.  

    Before moving on, let's make sure you understand that both あげる and くれる are translated as "to give" in English.

    But unlike English, we need to consider the social status of the giver or the subject.


    あげる and くれる Review

    Use あげる when:

    • うち → そと When I or someone in my group give something to someone outside my group. From small to large, inner to outer
    • うち → うちWhen someone in my group gives something to someone else also inside my group.
    • そと → そと When someone outside my group gives something to someone outside my group.

    Use くれる when:

    • そと → うち When someone outside my group gives something to someone within my group. From large to small.
    • Bigger うち → ME When someone in my group gives something to me.

    Before moving on to もらう, stop and make sure you understand:

    1. Both あげる and くれる mean "to give"
    2. Use あげる if you are going from a small うち circle to a large そと circle. Small to large. Inner to outer.
    3. Use くれる if you are going from a large circle to a small circle. Large to small. Outer to inner.



    もらう

    ■ About もらう

    What about the third verb? もらう?

    もらう means “to be given.”

    It's all about who the topic / subject is:

    • With あげる and くれる, the topic of the sentence is the giver.
    • With もらう, the topic of the sentence is the receiver.

    And the に (when referring to giving physical objects, から could also be used) indicates the giver.

    In other words, the は and に positions switch meanings. 

    • With あげる and くれる the は indicates the giver and the に indicates the receiver.
    • With もらう, the は indicates the receiver and the に indicates the giver.

    Also with もらう, it doesn’t matter about うち or そと. It doesn’t matter who the sender or receiver is socially.

    くれる and もらう switch positions.

    ■ もらう format

    (Receiver は) + (Giver に・から) + (object given を) + もらう

    Just to make sure you understand the difference, compare the format for the three verbs:

    あげる・くれる format: (Review)

    (Giver は) + (Receiver に) + (object given を) + あげる / くれる 

    もらう format:

    (Receiver は) + (Giver に・から) + (object given を) + もらう


    Here's how to say, “Mr. Tanaka received a book from me.” 

    Mr. Tanaka gave me a book.

    田中(たなか)さんは(わたし) (ほん) もらった

    As for Mr. Tanaka | me | to | book (direct object marker) | gave

    In the case of もらう, から can also be used instead of に, but only when there is a transfer of something physical.

    So, 田中(たなか)さんは、(わたし)から(ほん)をもらった is also fine. But since に can be used in any case, it is probably better to just remember to use に.


    Final Review

    • When the subject is the giver, use あげる if you are going from a small うち circle to a large そと circle. Small to large. Inner to outer.
    • When the subject is the giver, use くれる if you are going from a large circle to a small circle. Large to small. Outer to inner.
    • When the topic subject is the receiver, you must use もらう.

    あげる、くれる、 and もらう are tricky simply because they are so different from English. I would recommend learning three examples such as:

    あげる = when you go from うち to そと; small to large circles; within groups


    Suggested examples to memorize:

    あげる、くれる、 and もらう are tricky simply because they are so different from English. I would recommend learning three examples such as:

  • あげる = when you go from うち to そと; small to large circles; within groups
  • I gave Mr. Tanaka a book.

    (わたし)田中(たなか)さんに(ほん)あげた

    As for me, I... | Mr. Tanaka | to | book (direct object marker) | gave


  • くれる = go from そと to うち
  • Mr. Tanaka gave me a book.

    田中(たなか)さんは(わたし) (ほん) くれた

    As for Mr. Tanaka | me | to | book (direct object marker) | gave


  • もらう = when the topic is the receiver)
  • Mr. Tanaka gave me a book.

    田中(たなか)さんは(わたし) (ほん) もらった

    As for Mr. Tanaka | me | to | book (direct object marker) | gave

    Sharing is caring!

    {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Level up your Japanese!

    Hot Deal at TheJapanShop.com | 70% OFF | For ABSOLUTE BEGINNER

    #1

    This 13-book study guide + worksheets bundle is ON SALE. For just one-time payment only, you will get this bundle for a very low price plus you will get future contents for free (no additional charge).

    Beri- Beri- Shoshinsha is more sequential and has a suggested path for studying and specifically designed for a total beginner of learning Japanese language.

    This beginner's bundle includes over a dozen eBooks on Japanese grammar, reading, conversation, and understanding the basics of Japanese. These aren't just simple PDFs either. Every eBook includes PDFs, ePubs, and Kindle MOBI files. AND best of all, every Japanese example or story has a sound file recorded by a native Japanese speaker. Even better, the stories (graded for beginners) include a slowed-down version as well as a normal-speed version of each story.

    $64.87 Regular Price , Now at $20 One-time Payment Only + Lifetime Updates!

    5 of 5 stars

    DISCOVER HOW MAKOTO+ CAN BOOST YOUR JAPANESE! | Starts with a free trial

    #2
    subscribe to makotoplus

    Makoto+ isn’t just a subscription to our monthly Makoto e-zine! It is packed with fun stuff for beginners to intermediates with new exclusive content published several times a week.

    **The fun Japanese not usually found in textbook**

  • Laughs, Jokes, Riddles, and Puns
  • Vocabulary
  • Prefecture Spotlight
  • Etymology
  • Anime Phrase of the Day
  • Haiku
  • Kanji Spotlight
  • Grammar Time!
  • Japanese Readers and sooo much more
  • 5 of 5 stars

    >