Better not get these mixed up as you might get into a few misunderstandings or awkwards situations if you’re not careful!

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How are they different?

After reading the title, some of you might be asking yourself, “Why is this even important?”. Well, it is! Learning and applying the differences between the three can save you from a few awkward and embarrassing situations. First, let’s talk about the differences between the three. It’s quite similar to when we suggest, request, and command someone in English. We usually give suggestions politely and “request” or “command” people depending on who we would be talking to. You wouldn’t command your boss to get you some coffee, would you? Although thats everyones dream scenario, when talking in Japanese, it’s something you need to be careful of because confusing a request from a command can be considered rude if used with the wrong person. When you request for something, you are expressing need or desire for something wherein the person on the receiving end can easily say no. A command, however, is when you order someone to do something with authority–this makes it harder and almost impossible for the person on the other end to refuse. These are definitely not something you would want to mix up! As the Japanese language revolves around respect and politeness, this is considered quite vital for Japanese learners. Buckle up as we have a lot of learning to do!

Making suggestions in Japanese

In the English language, there are many ways for us to express ourselves when we would like to recommend something to other people. There’s the usual “Try doing..”, “What about..?”,  “Why don’t you..?”, and so much more. The Japanese language is the same!

(〜のはどう?)・(〜たらどう?) ー “How about..?” 

This is probably the easiest and simplest way to suggest or recommend something. The sentence patterns for these two are quite straightforward.

(verb dictionary form + のはどう)

10時に会うのはどう?
Jyuu ji ni au no wa dou?
How about meeting at 10:00?

(plain -ta verb form + らどう?)

酒を飲むのをやめたらどう?
Sake wo nomu no wo yametara dou?
How about giving up drinking?

(〜方がいい)ー ”It’s better to do this..”

For this option, you are recommending a better option to the other alternative. Of course, this might not always be the case as this can be quite subjective!

病院に行った方がいいよ。
It’s better (for you) to go to the hospital. (You should go to the hospital.)
用心に傘を持っていった方がいい。
Youjin ni kasa wo motteita hou ga ii.
You had better take your umbrella just in case.

(〜ばいいですか?)ー Asking for suggestions

We can ask for suggestions by using the conditional form and  “いい”  as shown in the examples below–this asks the other person for their opinion on something and is another way to ask for a better alternative.

どうすればいいですか?
Dou sureba ii desu ka?
What should (I) do?
何時にチェックインすればいいですか?
Nanji ni chekku in sureba ii desu ka?
What time should I check in?

Making requests in Japanese

Like mentioned earlier in our introduction, requests are quite different to commands. A request is when you express something that you would like someone else to help you with. This is however conditional as the other person can easily refuse–this being said, a request should always be “said” in a nice and coaxing way. In Japanese, the most common way to do this is by using “〜てください”,  “〜てくれませんか?”, and “ちょうだい”.  

(plain -te verb form + ください)ー “Please…” (Polite)

あのペンを使ってください。
Ano pen wo tsukatte kudasai.
Please use that pen.
タバコを吸わないでください。
Tabako o suwanaide kudasai.
Please do not smoke.

(plain -te verb form +くれませんか?)ー ”Won’t you please…?” (Polite casual)

買ってくれませんか? 
Katte kuremasen ka?
Won’t you buy it for me?

(plain -te verb form + ちょうだい) ー ”Please …?”(Casual- sounds playful/feminine)

あのペンを使ってちょうだい。
Ano pen wo tsukatte choudai.
Use that pen.

If you are speaking to someone you know very well and are very comfortable with, you can drop the “〜ください” when talking and just 

Making commands

As mentioned earlier, commands are very different to requests and are more forceful and authoritative. Commands are technically orders and there is less to no chance for the other person to refuse. It’s more commonly used by parents or other authority figures toward children or subordinates. In Japanese, we commonly use “~なさい” and the verb command form!

(Verb stem + なさい)ー To command someone to do something (”Do”, “Be”, etc.)

毎日歯を磨きなさい。
Mainichi ha wo migakinasai.
Brush your teeth everyday
礼儀正しくしなさい。
Reigi tadashiku shinasai.
Mind your manners.

In casual conversations, “~なさい” is  shortened to just “な”.

(Verb stem + な)ー To command someone to do something (Casual)

早く出かける準備をしな。
Hayaku dekakeru junbi wo shina.
Hurry up and prepare to go out.
目覚ましを止めな。
Mezamashi o tome na.
Turn the alarm off.

(Dictionary form + な)ー To command someone to not do something (Casual)

**Be careful with using this as its different to the casual form of “~なさい”**

ここに座るな。
Koko ni suwaru na.
Don’t sit here.
これを食べるな。
Kore wo taberu na.
Don’t eat this.

Command Form of Japanese verbs

You have probably heard a few examples of this if you like reading manga or watching Japanese TV shows. You usually hear this form of language when a member of Yakuza or some random hooligan is being portrayed in the media. It is considered quite blunt and maybe even rude so take caution if you plan on using this conjugation. It can still technically be used for intense situations (a fire, an accident, etc) so it can still be quite useful! If you are interested in how to conjugate verbs into the command form, please take a look below for the rules and some examples!

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Command form conjugation rules

 RulePlain formCommand form
Godan VerbsSwitch う to え会う (Au: to meet) 立つ (Tatsu: to stand)割る (Waru: to divide)書く(Kaku: to write)泳ぐ (Oyogu: to swim)死ぬ (Shinu: to die)遊ぶ (Asobu: to play)休む (Yasumu: to rest)
会え (Kae: meet)立て (Tate: stand)割れ (Ware: divide)書け (Kake: write)泳げ (Oyoge: swim)死ね (Shine: die)遊べ (Asobe: play)休め (Yasume: rest)
Ichidan VerbsRemove the 〜る from the plain form & replace with 〜ろ食べる(Taberu: to eat)起きる(Okiru: to wake)閉じる (Tojiru: to close)食べろ (Tabero: Eat)起きろ (Okiro: Wake up) 閉じろ (Tojiro: Close)
Irregular verbs来る (Kuru: to come)する (Suru: to do)くれる (Kureru: to give me)来い (Koi: come) しろ (Shiro: do)くれ (Kure: give me)