Learn Japanese fast! Talking about giving and receiving in Japanese can be a bit confusing. That’s why you are embarking on this exciting four-part series that will introduce you to the right way to do it. You might want to say, “He got a present from his girlfriend,” or “I got this from my dad.” To say these sentences correctly, there are a few basic things to learn first. This Lower Intermediate Japanese article introduces you to ageru, kureru, and morau, the Japanese giving and receiving verbs. Who the speaker and recipient are determine which verb to use. In this article, learn the difference between these three verbs. In the next three articles, you’ll master the usages of each verb to make sure your Japanese is on point. If you get confused, there are plenty of helpful examples to keep you going.

Vocabulary: In this article, you’ll learn the following words and phrases:

shin’yuu – “best friend”

getabako – “shoe rack”

tegami – “letter”

ochiru – “to fall down, to drop”

taiikukan – “gym”

ura – “back, reverse side”

jinsei – “life”

hazukashii – “embarrassed, ashamed”

todokeru – “to deliver, to take, to bring”

renzoku – “successively, in a row”

hatsu – “first time”

Grammar: In this article, you’ll learn the following words and phrases:

Today’s grammar point is the giving and receiving verbs, which are ageru, kureru, morau. Japanese has two verbs for giving, ageru and kureru. Which one you choose depends on the direction of the transaction.

Ageru is a class-two verb we use to express that someone gives something to someone. When a thing moves away from the speaker, you generally use the verb ageru. This rule also applies when you are the giver and someone else is the receiver, and both the giver and the receiver are others. Please review the examples below. The giver is the subject and is marked by the particle wa or ga, while the receiver is marked by the particle ni. The object being given is marked with the object marker o.

Kureru is a class-two verb meaning “to give,” but we can only use it when the receiver is the speaker or someone whom the speaker thinks is close to the speaker psychologically (in-group). In other words, you use the verb kureru when a thing moves toward the speaker or someone close psychologically. The giver, the receiver, and the object being given are marked by the same particles as ageru. If the giver is “others” and the receiver is “you,” the receiver must be very close to the speaker psychologically. If the speaker takes a psychological distance from the receiver, s/he uses ageru instead of kureru.

Today’s example 1 below, which has the verb ageru, expresses that Natsuko is asking Keisuke (“you”) to give the chocolate to Koji (“others”). Therefore, the chocolate moves from “you” to “others.” From the speaker’s point of view, others is farther than you psychologically. When a thing moves far away from you, you use the verb ageru.

  • Today’s Example 1:
    Kono chokoreeto o Koji-kun ni agete.
    “Please give this chocolate to Koji.”

Kureru in today’s example 2 below, expresses that Natsuko (“others”) is going to give the chocolate to me. Therefore, the chocolate moves from others to the speaker. When a thing moves toward the speaker, we use kureru.

  • Today’s Example 2:
    Ore ni Natsuko-chan ga chokoreeto o kureru!
    “Natsuko will give me chocolate!”

Transactions that are described using the verb kureru can also be described in terms of “receiving,” or morau. It’s a class-one verb, and its meaning is close to the English “get” or “receive.” When you use morau, the recipient is the subject of the sentence marked by wa or ga.

In today’s example 3, the recipient is the speaker, but we omit it because it’s obvious that the speaker gets the chocolate. If we were to reconstruct the subject, it would be Ore ga.

  • Today’s Example 3:
    (Ore ga) Jinsei hatsu no chokoreeto o morau zo!
    “I’m getting the first chocolate of my life.”

When you want to place emphasis on the giver, substitute kureru for morau and mark the recipient with the particle ni.

For example:

  • Ore ni jinsei hatsu no chokoreeto o kureru zo!
    “She’s giving me the first chocolate of my life.”

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Formation:

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[giver] wa (ga) [receiver] ni [object] o ageru.

[giver] wa (ga) ([receiver] ni) [object] o kureru.

([receiver] wa (ga)) [giver] ni [object] o morau.

Examples:

  • Watashi wa tomodachi ni omamori o ageta.
    “I gave my friend a talisman.”
    *Watashi wa tomodachi ni omamori o kureta.
    (*The sentence is incorrect.)
  • Tomodachi wa watashi ni omiyage o kureta.
    “A friend of mine gave me a souvenir.”
    *Tomodachi wa watashi ni omiyage o ageta.
    (*The sentence is incorrect.)
  • Tsuma ga watashi no imto ni tanjbi purezento o kureta.
    “My wife gave my sister a birthday present.”
    Watashi wa tomodachi ni omiyage o moratta.
    “I got a souvenir from a friend of mine.”
  • Taro wa kanojo ni nekkuresu o moratta.
    “Taro got a necklace from his girlfriend.”

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