Learn Difference Between Japanese Words "Kudasai" and "Onegaishimasu" (2023)

Learn which word to use when making a request

Learn Difference Between Japanese Words "Kudasai" and "Onegaishimasu" (1)


Namiko Abe

Japanese Language Expert

  • B.A., Kwansei Gakuin University

Namiko Abe is a Japanese language teacher and translator, as well as a Japanese calligraphy expert. She has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years.

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Updated on February 24, 2020

Both kudasai (ください)and onegaishimasu(お願いします) are Japanese words used when making a request for items. In many cases, these two Japanese words, which translate roughly as "please" or "please give me," are interchangeable. However, there are nuances associated with each word giving each a slightly different meaning. There are some situations whenit is more appropriate to use kudasaiinstead ofonegaishimasuand vice versa. Generally, deciding betweenkudasai andonegaishimasudepends on the social context.

How to Use Kudasai in a Sentence

Kudasai is a more familiar request word in Japanese. It is used when you are requesting something you know you are entitled to. For example, if you are requesting something from a friend, peer, or someone who is of lower status or social rank than you, you would use kudasai.

Grammatically, kudasai (ください)follows the object and the particle o (を).When o is placed after a noun, it indicates that the noun is the direct object. In the tables in this and subsequent sections, the Japanese phrase is listed first as it is spelled phonetically using English letters, followed by the word or phrase written inJapanese letters(called kanji, hiragana, and katakana), while the English translation is listed on the right.

Kitte o kudasai.
Please give me stamps.
Mizu o kudasai.
Water, please.

How to Use Onegaishimasu in a Sentence

While kudasaiis a more familiar term, onegaishimasuis more polite or honorific. Thus, this Japanese word is used when you are requesting a favor. You would also use it if you are directing the request to a superior or to someone you do not know well.

Like kudasai, onegaishimasufollows the object of the sentence. The sentences below echo the examples in the previous section, except that you would replace kudasai withonegaishimasudue according to the context and social circumstances, where you need to make a request in a more formal manner. When using onegaishimasu, you can omit the particle o.

Kitte (o) onegaishimasu.
切手 (を) お願いします。
Please give me stamps.
Mizu (o) onegaishimasu.
水 (を) お願いします。
Water, please.

Onegaishimasu-Specific Cases

There are some situations when only onegaishimasu is used. When making a request for service, youshould use onegaishimasu, as in the examples in these two tables.

Tokyo eki made onegaishimasu.
Tokyo Station, please. (to a taxi driver)
Kokusai denwa onegaishimasu.
Overseas telephone call, please.
(on the phone)

Onegaishimasushould also be used when asking for someone on the phone.

Kazuko-san onegaishimasu.

May I speak to Kazuko?

Kudasai-Specific Cases

When you make a request that involves anaction, such as "to listen," "arrive," or "wait,"use kudasai. Additionally, the Japaneseverb form -teis added to kudasaiin these cases. The-teformdoes not indicate tense by itself; however, it combines with other verb forms to create tenses.

Chotto matte kudasai.
Wait a moment, please.
Ashita kite kudasai.
Please come tomorrow.



Your Citation

Abe, Namiko. "The Difference Between "Kudasai" and "Onegaishimasu" in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-the-difference-between-kudasai-and-onegaishimasu-3572604.Abe, Namiko. (2020, August 27). The Difference Between "Kudasai" and "Onegaishimasu" in Japanese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-difference-between-kudasai-and-onegaishimasu-3572604Abe, Namiko. "The Difference Between "Kudasai" and "Onegaishimasu" in Japanese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-difference-between-kudasai-and-onegaishimasu-3572604 (accessed March 17, 2023).

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