Giving and Receiving in Japanese

-Guest Post from Wana10-
Hello! Niffer asked if I’d write a post for J-talk and I decided why the heck not. But what to talk about? Let’s focus today on a very important bit of Japanese grammar that seems to give some people problems; Giving and Receiving. (As for importance an entire subsection of the listening portion of my JLPT N2 test was based on this so…learn it!)
First we need a brief refresher on the important concept in Japanese of ‘Us vs. Them’. Once you get beyond basic phrases like “I like sushi” and “that cat is cute” you are going to need to know how the Japanese define social groups and how to do so quickly and accurately. Those groups when speaking are entirely ‘Us vs. Them’ but who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’ can change many times during a conversation.
At the most basic level, especially when talking about giving and receiving, us is ourselves and them is the person or group that you are giving to, that is doing the giving, or that you are receiving from. But what if you’re talking about two people who aren’t you? Then you need to decide who you are closer to as relates to the situation at hand. (fellow students, family, coworkers, friends, etc)
With that out of the way let’s get into the good stuff. I’m going to split giving and receiving into 3 parts; giving, giving, and receiving. The first two may seem the same now but by the end of this post you’ll understand they couldn’t be more different.
Part 1 Giving to someone else
When you, or someone you’ve identified as us, gives to someone else there are three different verbs you will use; さしあげる、あげる、やる. (sasiageru, ageru, yaru) These are in order of most respectful to least respectful. For most purposes stick with ageru. It’s a generic all purpose giving verb while sasiageru will be for giving things to bosses, parents of significant others, guest teachers, and other people you may feel more respectful to. Yaru is usually used for friends, pets, and inanimate objects.
The sentence structure is simple; (us) (them) (object) (verb).
Watasi ga tomodati ni hon wo ageta. 
I gave my friend a book
Otouto ga ueki ni mizu wo yarimasu. 
My younger brother will water the plants (literally, give water to the plants)
Tomodati ga sensei ni syukudai wo sasiageta. 
My friend gave the homework to the teacher.

Part 2 Someone else gives to you
These next two verbs also mean ‘to give’ but would never be used to give something to someone else. They are only used when someone else gives something to you. The two verbs are くださる、くれる. (kudasaru, kureru) Once again in order of respectfulness. Does kudasaru look familiar? It should. The commonly used word for ‘please’, ください(kudasai), is derived from this verb.
The sentence structure is the opposite of part 1; (them) (us) (object) (verb).
butyou ga watasi ni sinpin wo kudasatta. 
The boss gave me the new product.
Otousan ga tomodati ni puramo wo kureta. 
My friend’s dad gave him a Gundam model.
Part 3 Receiving
The only way you ever talk about receiving is when you are receiving from someone else, never the other way around. Much like someone giving something to you there are two verbs again, いただく、もらう. (itadaku, morau) If you’ve ever eaten with a group of Japanese, or watched a Japanese movie, tv show or anime, or read a Japanese book or manga, that first word should look pretty darn familiar. The food is placed before them, the hands are pressed together and, “itadakimasu!” is said. If you’ve seen it you’ve probably also noticed that there isn’t a consistent translation of the phrase. That’s because what’s literally being said is “receive!(with connotations of humbling myself and elevating your status above mine showing respect)” which really doesn’t translate all that well.
Anywho, the sentence structure is (us) (them) に・から (object) (verb)
Watasi ga butyou kara sinpin wo itadaita. 
I received the new product from my boss.
Tomodati ga otousan ni puramo wo moraimasita. 
My friend got a Gundam model from his dad.
So that’s giving and receiving in a nutshell but why is it so important? The Japanese language uses giving and receiving for everything! In English you might ask if you could go to the bathroom but in Japanese the same question could be “can I receive from you the allowance to go to the bathroom?” (トイレに行かせてくださいませんか。)
These basic giving and receiving patterns will be used over and over as you learn other Japanese grammar patterns such as passive, causative, and causative passive verbal structures, so it’s best to learn and master them when they’re easy instead of trying to learn them mixed in with everything else.


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