What is the difference between "kudasai" and "onegaishimasu"?

Question of the Week Vol. 15


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This week's question is what is the difference between "kudasai" and "onegaishimasu"?

Both "kudasai (ください)" and "onegaishimasu (お願いします)" are used when making a request for items. "Kudasai (ください)" follows the object and the particle "o".

Kitte o kudasai.
Please give me stamps.
Mizu o kudasai. 
Water, please.

"Onegaishimasu" can be replaced with "kudasai" in the examples above.

It sounds a little more polite. The particle "o" can be omitted in this case.

Kitte (o) onegaishimasu.
切手 (を) お願いします。
Please give me stamps.
Mizu (o) onegaishimasu.
水 (を) お願いします。
Water, please.

However, there are some situations when only "onegaishimasu" is used.

(1) When making a request for service.

Tokyo eki made onegaishimasu. 
Tokyo Station, please. (to a taxi driver)
Kokusai denwa onegaishimasu.
Overseas telephone call, please.
(on the phone)

(2)When asking for someone on the phone.

Kazuko-san onegaishimasu.
May I speak to Kazuko?

For making requests that involve action (please listen etc.), the verb "te form" is added to "kudasai". "Onegaishimasu" can not be used in this case. 

Chotto matte kudasai. 
Wait a moment, please.
Ashita kite kudasai.
Please come tomorrow.