How do you say “You should”, and “You shouldn’t” in Japanese: -たほうがいい and -ないほうがいい : This not only deals with giving advice, but it also deals with communication and using communication to relay vital information about something that can make or break someone relationship with someone or maybe even something, like someone’s relationship with Japans people by being culturally accepted!

Why they’re important

Japan has VERY DIFFERENT societal conventions

People who have been to Japan and people who are aware of Japan’s cultural norms would know that Japan has a culture ingrained with a lot of respect and discipline. For a foreigner who plans on living in Japan, knowing these phrases can be a great tool in asking and giving advice, asking for permission, and even warning someone about something. As what we already know, living as a foreigner in a country with a very different culture and a different language is different.

Fitting in can be quite a huge problem, especially if there’s no one there to give you guidance. This is a situation easily avoided by the use of these phrases. In Japan, there are a lot of societal norms that foreigners are not aware of in terms of rules, manners, the type of Japanese you use depending on the person you’re talking to, and just many other societal conventions that foreign people are just not used to. This is a good way for foreigners to learn about Japan’s social etiquette and for foreigners to be able to teach Japanese people about foreign social etiquette as well.  

Communication is key for good relationships

As what we’ve mentioned above, Japan has different social conventions and rather that googling what they are, it’s definitely better to hear it from an actual native, or someone who’s lived in Japan for a long time. This can make you have a better, deeper understanding of manners and etiquette needed to fit in. A lot of people in Japan love talking to foreigners but don’t necessarily know how to properly do it. This somehow affects their confidence and hinders them from starting conversations with foreigners.

This can be said for foreigners who want to talk to Japanese people as well, especially since Japanese people are not used to how personal and informal foreigners are to people they have just met. Japanese people are not touchy, and usually are very polite and respectful to new people that they meet, something foreigners do not know unless told. Although people adapt and eventually find out, making a bad first impression usually lasts and prevents any further attempts at building any form of relationship. This article can hopefully help you, our dear readers, with that problem!

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Their differences and their uses

You should (-たほうがいい)

First things first, let’s talk about the actual sentence pattern used in saying “You should…” in Japanese. The sentence itself mainly consists of the usual sentence pattern used in making a sentence, then the ta form/past tense of the main verb in the sentence, followed by -hou ga ii. The phrase “ほうがいい” consists of ほう(hou: method/way), が(ga) and いい(ii: good). It’s quite simple, especially for people who already know the basics!

(past-tense form of a verb/ ta- form) + “~ほうがいい”

  When looking at the phrase, it can literally be translated to “it’s the better method/ it’s better to”, but has the connotation of “You should” in English. As what we have mentioned before, this sentence pattern can be used for giving advice, suggestions, guidelines, rules, and as well as warning other people. A few examples can be found below.

EnglishRomajiJapanese
You should study Japanese everyday.Mainichi Nihongo wo benkyou shita hou ga ii.毎日を勉強した方がいい。
You should eat vegetables.Yasai wo tabeta hou ga ii.野菜を食べた方がいい。
Anna should take the day off tomorrow.Anna san wa ashita yasunda hou ga iiアンナさんは明日休んだ方がいい。

You shouldn’t (-ないほうがいい)

Similarly to the (-たほうがいい) phrase, its sentence pattern is very easy to remember and apply. The only difference is how rather than using the past term of a verb before -hou ga ii, we use the negative form of a verb that should end at -nai. The sentence consists of ない (nai: not/none), ほう(hou: method/way), が(ga) and いい(ii: good). The sentence pattern can be found below.

(negative form of a verb/ verb + ない) + “ほうがいい”

This sentence expresses advice or suggestions on what to not do. This can be used in a situation where something is advised to not be done. This is a very useful phrase especially if you want to express limitations and faux pas’ unbeknownst to the person you are talking to. Here are a few examples.

EnglishRomajiJapanese
They shouldn’t drink alcohol tonight.Konban karera wa osake wo nomanai hou ga ii..こんばん彼らは飲まない方がいい。
You shouldn’t go home late alone.Osoi jikan hitori de kaeranaide kudasai.遅い時間一人で帰らない方がいい。
Ben shouldn’t break up with her.Ben san wa kanojou to wakarenai hou ga ii.ベンさんは彼女とわかれないほうがいい。

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