The words “thank you” are magical when it comes to building good relationships with the people in your life. It shows your respect for the other party; and without saying thanks, things can easily fall apart. In Japanese, we have our own magic words to show our respect for someone without actually saying “thank you”. In fact, we use these sayings quite a lot in our daily lives.
We often use the phrases てくれます / te kuremasu and てもらいます / te moraimasu to express our gratitude when someone has done something nice for us. For example, when you say 友達がお金を貸してくれました / tomodachi ga okane o kashite kuremashita (My friend lent me some money), this has an entirely different nuance from the sentence 友達がお金を貸しました / tomodachi ga okane o kashimashita (My friend lent me some money). For “Differences Of Nuance In Japanese”, see here.
てくれます / te kuremasu and てもらいます / te moraimasu helps to express your gratitude to others. Meaning that if you don’t add them to verbs, you will make people feel uncomfortable. I’m sure that you are a nice and polite person, so let’s learn how to handle these magical Japanese words and avoid making people think otherwise.
Before learning more about てくれます / te kuremasu and てもらいます / te moraimasu, I have to mention what あげます / agemasu, くれます / kuremasu,and もらいます / moraimasu mean:
- あげます / agemasu (to give someone something)
- くれます / kuremasu (for someone to give something to you)
- → もらいます / moraimasu (to receive something from someone)
Here are some examples:
- 佐々木さんは鈴木さんに花をあげました / Sasaki san wa Suzuki san ni hana o agemashita (Mr. Sasaki gave flowers to Ms. Suzuki)
- 佐々木さんは私に花をくれました / Sasaki san wa watashi ni hana o kuremashita (Mr. Sasaki gave me flowers)
- 私は佐々木さんに花をもらいました / watashi wa Sasaki san ni hana o moraimashita (I got flowers from Mr. Sasaki)
Both あげます / agemasu and くれます / kuremasu means “to give” in English. You may wonder why Japanese has two expressions of “to give”. The biggest difference between these two phrases is the fact that あげます / agemasu expresses something from the speaker’s point of view; while くれます / kuremasu expresses something from the receiver’s point of view. In addition, あげます / agemasu cannot be used when explaining that someone gave you something. Read on for some examples.
- 彼は私にケーキをあげました / kare wa watashi ni keeki o ogemashita (He gave me a cake)
- 彼は木村さんにケーキをあげました / kare wa Kimura san ni keeki o agemashita (He gave a cake to Ms. Kimura)
- 私は木村さんにケーキをあげました / watashi wa kimura san ni keeki o agemashita (I gave a cake to Ms. Kimura)
However, you can use くれます/ kuremasu when someone gives something to you or your relatives but not to others, for example:
- 彼は私にケーキをくれました / kare wa watashi ni keeki o kuremashita (He gave me a cake)
- 彼は木村さんにケーキをくれました / kare wa Kimura san ni keeki o kuremashita (He gave a cake to Ms. Kimura)
Because of these rules, using a different form of “to give” can sometimes change the target of an action.
- 彼は妹にクッキーをあげました / kare wa imouto ni kukkii o agemashita (He gave some cookies to his younger sister)
- 彼は妹にクッキーをくれました / kare wa imouto ni kukkii o kuremashita (He gave some cookies to my younger sister)
- 私は母にりんごをもらいました / watashi wa haha ni ringo o moraimashita (I got some apples from my mother)
- 佐藤さんは田中さんに手紙をもらいました / Satou san wa Tanaka san ni tegami o moraimashita (Mr. Satou received a letter from Ms. Tanaka)
A side note: もらいます / moraimasu simply means “to receive”. Now let’s move on to the sentence structure te-form + giving and receiving verbs.
てあげます / te agemasu
This phrase is used when a person does something for another person as a favor or service. Be careful, because if you use this phrase when you are about to do something for another person or when referring to things you’ve done for someone else, it may give the impression that you are trying to brag about your kindness and may sound offensive or authoritative. In turn, the listener may think that you are patronizing him or her. So, it is best not to use this phrase loosely, as below:
- 手伝ってあげましょうか? / tetsudatte agemashou ka? (Shall I give you the honor of my help?)
This sounds as if you think that you’re not obligated to help, but that you are doing someone a favor. It’s usually better to say the following instead:
- 手伝いましょうか / tetsudai mashou ka? (Shall I help?)
The same goes for the phrase below:
- 私は友達に誕生日プレゼントを買ってあげました / watashi wa tomodachi ni tanjoubi purezento o katte agemashita (I gave my friend the honor of me buying a present for his birthday)
This sounds as if you didn’t really want to buy a gift, but felt that you had no choice. Instead, you should use the sentence below:
- 私は友達に誕生日プレゼントを買いました / watashi wa tomodachi ni tanjoubi purezento o kaimashita (I bought my friend a present for his birthday)
てくれます / te kuremasu
This phrase is used when a person feels grateful to someone who has done something for them. You can use this phrase in many situations to show your thanks or happiness. Even if you do not say “thank you”, the listener can sense that their help is appreciated. Often, people will do something without being asked when this expression is used. Here’s an example:
- 父が車を買いました / chichi ga kuruma o kaimashita (My dad bought a car)
This is sentence is factual; it’s not even clear if the car is for you. Your father bought a car and if he bought it for you, it didn’t show your thanks from this sentence. You should instead say:
- 父が車を買ってくれました / chichi ga kuruma o katte kremashita (My dad was nice enough to buy a car for me).
In this sentence, not only am I now sure the car was for you, I can feel your happiness and gratefulness from the second sentence. The sentences below have the same nuances:
- 田中さんがコピーしました / Tanaka san ga copy shimashita (Mr. Tanaka made copies)
- 田中さんがコピーしてくれました / Tanaka san ga copy sahite kuremashita (Mr. Tanaka made copies for me)
- 友達が駅まで迎えにきました / tomodachi ga eki made mukae ni kimashita (My friend picked me up from the station)
- 友達が駅まで迎えにきてくれました / tomodachi ga deki made kite kuremashita (My friend was nice enough to pick me up from the station)
てもらいます / te moraimasu
This is also used when a person feels grateful to another person who has helped him or her. The difference here is that it refers to situations in which people help you because you have asked them to.
- 同僚がタクシーを呼びました / douryou ga taxi o yobimashita (My co-worker called a cab)
This is just a fact. Again, the sentence sounds like your colleague called a taxi for you even though you didn’t ask for it.
Instead, you should say:
- 同僚にタクシーを呼んでもらいました / douryou ni taxi o yonde moraimashita (I had my co-worker call a cab)
This gives the impression that you asked your colleague to do something, they then did it for you, and that you feel thankful for that.
You should be careful, however, when you use てもらいます / te moraimasu. The particle used after referring to the person who helped you will be always に / ni. So, if you ask Mr. Smith to do something for you, you should say スミスさんに in Japanese, as below:
- スミスさんが英語を教えました / Smith san ga eigo o oshie mashita (Mr. Smith taught English)
- スミスさんに英語を教えてもらいました / Smith san ni eigo o oshiete moraimashita (I had Mr. Smith teach me English)
Now that you understand the kind of nuances that てくれます / te kuremasu and てもらいます / te moraimasu have! Going forward, use them to show your happiness and gratefulness to a person who has done something kind for you. The relationship between you and them will be off to a great start. Thank you.