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I've noticed that there seems to be different usage for 下さい and ください. Is this purely a personal preferences or is there an actual difference their usage?

This was actually a question the Japanese people at my work had a discussion about, but couldn't come to a consensus.

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I've never seen a difference between them myself... –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 31 '11 at 23:29
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5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

There is a usage difference when writing.

  • "下さい" is supposed to used when you request an item (Please give me the apple)

  • "ください" is supposed to used when you ask to do something (Please help/teach me, etc..)

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Do you have any references for this? I've never seen anything in writing of teaching literature to suggest that is the case. –  Jeremy May 31 '11 at 23:44
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References 下さい。 –  makdad Jun 1 '11 at 0:35
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koho.or.jp/useful/qa/hyouki/hyouki06.html seems you were right YOU. –  Mark Hosang Jun 1 '11 at 1:19
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To make sure, this is not about the correctness but the matter of style and tendency. Some people just like to state everything as a rule, but it is completely acceptable to write ください in a request for an item. Writing 下さい in asking someone to do something is not rare but may look slightly old-fashioned. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 2 '11 at 14:10
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@ito: As an addition that might help people remember, most (if not all) verbs, when acting as a helper verb, get written in hiragana and don't use their kanji. like ~teMiru and ~teOku –  Mark Hosang Jun 4 '11 at 6:39
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I'm surprised that none of the answers so far have touched on the actual source of the distinction.

The rule is: ください when it attaches to the te form of a verb, and 下さい otherwise. That's why 下さい is used in requesting an item, because it's not being used after the te form of a verb (それを下さい). The same goes for other verbs that attach to the te form... the general rule is to write it in kana even if you would write it in kanji if it were standing alone. For instance, if you were to say "I'm getting bored of my job", the preferred way to write it is 仕事に飽きてきている, not 飽きて来ている.

In practice, this rule is often ignored and ください and 下さい are completely interchangeable. In fact, I've seen one page of a manga that was written entirely in kana except for 下さい, despite it being used with the te form.

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@KefSchecter Btw, do you happen to remember which manga was it? –  Pacerier May 12 '12 at 13:49
    
Sorry, I didn't see this question until now. It was Sazae-san: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b7/Sazae-san_rocks.jpg I don't know what the deal with this version of Sazae-san is; maybe it was intended to teach Japanese? –  Kef Schecter Oct 5 '12 at 23:38
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Almost purely personal preference. Also, more Chinese characters gives a more formal feeling to a document. This has been compared to the way we use Latin/Greek for formal ("salutations") and Anglo-Saxon for less formal ("hello"). This is easier to see when sino-Japanese words are over native Japanese ones, but the rule I think still applies.

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Personal preference, but if it's a written communication, I always use the kanji to imply formality if I am making a request of a superior/customer/etc.

In the exact opposite way, I use hiragana to subordinates or coworkers to imply familiarity and a casual "よろしくね" attitude.

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In my company (Japanese company, I am the only foreigner), our policy is to always use "ください" for emails, even though we often have to write very formally.

So I would say it is more a matter of personal choice and consistency rather than a different level of formality.

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Do you mean to always use "ください" for the auxiliary verb "ください", or the verb "下さい", or both ? –  Pacerier May 12 '12 at 13:50
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