There are two ways to say “please” in Japanese:
- ください（Kudasai）– often used when requesting an action or a specific object.
- お願いします（Onegai shimasu）– a slightly more polite word used when asking for a service or favor.
Both words are acceptable in polite conversation. Depending on the sentence structure and the situation, one might be better than the other.
Kudasai is the less formal of these two words, although it’s still appropriate in most situations. Unlike the word please in English, kudasai can’t be used on its own. It must follow either a noun and a particle (in most cases, the particle を (o) or a verb.
Japanese verbs used while making a request will usually be in the -te form (examples #1 & 3 below).
If kudasai is used while making a request, the person being asked doesn’t have much of an option. Kudasai is “please” in a stronger sense of the word. It’s even used to make polite demands. For this reason, the word onegai shimasu might be a better option in more formal situations.
- Please pass the soy sauce. – 醬油をください。 (Shouyu o kudasai.)
- Please open the window. – 窓を開けてください。 (Mado o akete kudasai.)
- Please don’t run near the pool. – プールの周りを走らないでください。(Puuru no mawari o hashiranaide kudasai.)
Slightly more formal than kudasai, onegaishimasu is often used when politely asking for a favor or a service. Technically, it’s more of a phrase than it is a word.
お願い (onegai) means please and します (shimasu) is the verb to do. As a phrase, onegai shimasu is more flexible than kudasai and can be used on its own, with no noun or verb necessary (example #1 below). When working within a longer sentence, onegai shimasu serves as the ending phrase (examples # 3 & 4 below).
Casual Way to Say Onegai Shimasu
To say onegai shimasu in a friendlier, less formal way, take off the “shimasu” and just say “onegai.” When お願い (onegai) is used on its own, it becomes a very familiar way to say please. We recommend that you don’t say onegai to anyone except family or close friends.
Formal Way to Say Onegai Shimasu
If you want to say onegai shimasu in honorific Japanese, change the verb –shimasu to 致します (itashimasu).
This is humble Japanese and should only be used if you are serving somebody else.
- “Would you like this to go?” “Please.” – ご注文はお持ち帰りですか？ お願いします。(Go chuumon wa omochi kaeri desu ka? Onegai shimasu.）
- Pleeease, Mom! – お母さん、おねがい！ (Okaasan, onegai!)
- Please drive to Tokyo Station. – 東京駅までお願いします。 (Toukyou eki made onegai shimasu.)
- Customers, please cooperate with the rules. – お客様のご協力をお願い致します。 (Okyaku-sama no go kyouryoku o onegai itashimasu.)
Of the two ways to say “please” in Japanese, the phrase onegai shimasu is more formal and flexible. The word kudasai must always follow a verb (usually, in the –te form) when making a request, or a noun and a particle when you ask for physical objects. Both of these words are socially acceptable in any situation. Kudasai has a nuance of asking for something, while onegai shimasu is more often used to ask for favors or services.
Thank you for reading this article on how to say “please” in Japanese. If you have any questions, feel free to write them in the comment section below or contact us directly!