The Difference Between "Kudasai" and "Onegaishimasu"

Learn Which Japanese Word to Use When Making a Request

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Learning the right context for "please" is important in Japan. Pete Ark / Getty Images

Both "kudasai (ください)" and "onegaishimasu (お願いします)" are used when making a request for items. In many cases, these two Japanese words are interchangeable.

However, there are nuances associated with each word making them slightly different. Meaning, there are some situations where it is more appropriate to use "kudasai" over "onegaishimasu" and vice versa. 

After going over how to use correctly use "kudasai" and "onegaishimasu" in terms of grammar, let's then delve into certain scenarios where only "kudasai" or "onegaishimasu" is warranted.

 

How to Use Kudasai in a Sentence

"Kudasai" is a more familiar request word. Meaning, it is used when you are requesting something you know you are entitled to. Or if you are requesting something of a friend, peer or someone of lower status than you.

Grammatically, "kudasai (ください)" follows the object and the particle "o".

Kitte o kudasai.
切手をください。
Please give me stamps.
Mizu o kudasai. 
水をください。
Water, please.

How to Use Onegaishimasu in a Sentence

While "kudasai" is a more familiar term, "onegaishimasu" is more polite or honorific. Thus, this Japanese word is used when you are requesting a favor. It is also used if you are directing the request to a superior or to someone who you do not know that well.

Like "kudasai", "onegaishimasu" follows the object of the sentence. In the examples above, "onegaishimasu" can be replaced with "kudasai". When using "onegaishimasu", the particle "o" can be omitted.

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.

Onegaishimasu Specific Cases

There are some situations when only "onegaishimasu" is used. When making a request for service, one should use "onegaishimasu". For example:

Tokyo eki made onegaishimasu. 
東京駅までお願いします。
Tokyo Station, please. (to a taxi driver)
Kokusai denwa onegaishimasu.
国際電話お願いします。
Overseas telephone call, please.
(on the phone)

"Onegaishimasu" should also be used when asking for someone on the phone.

Kazuko-san onegaishimasu.
和子さんお願いします。
May I speak to Kazuko?

Kudasai Specific Cases

Sometimes, you will make a request that involves an action, such as to listen, arrive, wait and so on. In those cases, it is customary to use the request word, "kudasai". Additionally, the verb "te form" is added to "kudasai". "Onegaishimasu" is not used in this case. 

Chotto matte kudasai. 
ちょっと待ってください。
Wait a moment, please.
Ashita kite kudasai.
明日来てください。
Please come tomorrow.