October 8, 2023

What’s the difference? 話してください and 話しかけてください

Quick! What's the difference between these two sentences:



Japanese is full of words that stick two verbs together to create either a new nuance or a more-or-less totally new meaning. Today, let's look at this with a very common *and useful* example.

Last week, we took a look at Basho's most famous haiku (Click here for that lesson). In that poem we see this compound verb:


This means "to jump in" and is describing the act of the frog jumping into the ancient pond.

It is made up of ()ぶ (to fly; to jump) and こむ (into; to go into). So, it makes sense that together it would mean "to jump in."

Compound verbs make Japanese so rich in nuance and meaning.

Today, my question is what is the difference between (はな)してください and (はな)しかけてください?

Let's start with the non-compound verb.


This simply means "Please speak."

It is the て form of the verb (はな)す (to speak; to talk). Adding the て form of a verb to ください is a polite way to ask someone to do something.

Now, let's look at the compound verb.


This is more like, "Please strike up a conversation" or "Please initiate a conversation" or "Please address (someone)".

Before we dig deeper, we have three t-shirt designs that has this phrase on it. If you are thinking of ways to find Japanese friends or language partners, this makes for a great conversation starter.

Okay, back to the program.

With (はな)しかけて, we have the same main verb (はな)す (to speak; to talk) but this time it is the ます stem form.

ます is the polite form of a verb and the stem just means the ます form of the verb minus the ます.

So, (はな)す (to speak, plain form) becomes (はな)します (to speak, polite form) and then we drop the ます to get (はな)

Now, we simply add かけて which is the て form of かける.

かける means lots of things like "to hang" or "to take (time)" or about a billion other things. But when added to certain verbs like this, it implies the beginning or initiation of an action. 

So, (はな)しかけてください is asking someone politely to start a conversation. "Please strike up a conversation."

Wrapping Things Up

In summary, while (はな)してください is a general request for someone to speak, (はな)しかけてください is specifically asking someone to initiate a conversation or to address the speaker.

I hope you found this interesting, and I hope didn't over complicate the explanation, but this is a very polite and useful way to ask someone to speak to you.

If you would like a shirt with this on it, please click here. We have three different designs there. It's a great conversation starter plus we have free world-wide shipping for all our t-shirts. 

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