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Advanced Japanese Words for Giving

Level up with these tricky forms during the most generous time of the year.

By 3 min read

Christmas is the season of giving. While buying Christmas presents is always tough (Why is it that even houses that don’t observe any other aspect of Christmas, that one part is observed?), you should at least hopefully get something in return even if it is a case of エビでタイを (deliberately cheap gift) commonly given on Valentine’s Day in Japan.

For learners, Christmas can also be a wonderful opportunity to practice those tricky giving and receiving verbsあげる and もらう, and level up by turning them into their polite forms.

Although I personally have never received anything other than 土産みやげ (souvenirs) from my past bosses (a.k.a. seniors), if I ever receive a bigger present I would have to convert もらう into いただ, and くれる into くださる to express my gratitude. We’ve talked about these forms in business uses such as asking for time off and turning things down.

Vaguely Christmassy examples of these two polite forms could be:

  • 上司じょうし わたしにプレゼントをくださいました  = I was given a present by my boss
  • クリスマスパーティーにいただけますか = Would you (a senior person) come to the Christmas party?

So far so good, right? However, around the Christmas period, you may come across another tricky grammar point when describing a present from a friend: 友達ともだちからのプレゼント.

While most learners can probably guess the meaning, there are some interesting things going on grammatically. As we’ve discussed before, Japanese people love leaving pronouns out of their sentences. This is the case here as there is no ぼく or in the sentence. In addition to this, the in this sentence implies the unwritten giving verb,もらう.

Of course, where you have からの grammar, you also have its opposite used to describe when you give something to someone. This is where things get a little tricky as its rough opposite is 友達へのおくもの. Our JLPT N3 and above readers will likely have spotted what is strange with this sentence.

When we write 友達への贈り物 in more simple grammar the sentence would read 友達に贈り物をあげる. This is a fascinating quirk of Japanese grammar, as the form that is typically used becomes when paired with the . For some reason Japanese never say 友達にの贈り物.

Another tricky form is found in the sentence 自分じぶんへのご褒美ほうびです that has recently been making the rounds on the Internet and is used to describe a gift that a person gives to oneself to reward themselves for their hard work—or simply surviving all this gift shopping.

Interestingly, you can see the same への pattern as the previous example. Notice that this pattern doesn’t use the verbs あげる or くれる that we have discussed before as these are instead used for talking about the relationship between the giver and receiver, which obviously doesn’t exist in the same way in this sentence where the person both giving and receiving is oneself.

Instead, advanced learners have to make themselves familiar with ~自身じしん. This suffix is often used to say that someone does something for themselves. Common uses include 自分自身 (Me, myself), かれ自身 (He, himself), 彼女かのじょ自身 (She, herself).

This might be the perfect time to “take a look at oneself again” (自分自身をつめなおす), or “get to know oneself” (自分自身を).

These are some of the more advanced forms that you might see associated with giving and receiving in the season of giving. Let us know if you encounter any of these trickier forms over the holidays and best of luck for your study in 2020!

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