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What exactly does 〜ておきます mean in this context?

旅行{りょこう}する前{まえ}にホテルを予約{よやく}しておきます

Is this trying to say something like "Before traveling, reserve a room". Is this a suggestion? An order? (If so, why aren't they using ください at the end instead of おきます?)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This sounds like a sentence taken from a travel agency's website, an instruction sheet or something along those lines. If that's the case, this 〜しておきます contains two grammatical points.

Before explaining the grammatical points, here's my (very loose) translation of the sentence:

Make sure to book a hotel before you leave.

The first grammar point is the combination of a te-form verb and auxiliary verb おく. While this combination can have multiple meanings, in your particular example, it carries the sense that someone does the action referred to by the verb in advance or make sure that it will have been done when its effect becomes important. Usually the action is a good or important thing to do now such as preparation or a precaution. The doer typically has some purpose or objective, but it can be that the doer just does it for no particular reason other than "just in case." In your example, 予約 in 予約しておく is the action, which you do before the event "旅行" happens.

The second grammar point is 〜ます. You probably already know that this makes a sentence polite. And actually this is what this auxiliary verb is doing here too. Then how come this sentence is telling you what to do? You might find it easier to see the reason why the whole sentence sounds like an instruction or order of some sort if you think of your sentence this way:

ホテルを予約よやくしておく + ます = Book a hotel (i.e., grammatical imperative form) + Please.

It's not exactly "Please do it." But 〜します is a very common phrase in an instruction and the like. For example, an instruction

Click here to edit your post.

on an online forum can be translated as

自分の投稿を編集するにはここをクリックします.

depending on context.

So if your context actually suggests that it's very likely an instruction of some sort, you can say it's a strong suggestion or request.

As for why it's not 下{くだ}さい, it's just the writer's choice of words. This 〜します version as a request can sound stronger or more forceful than the 下さい alternative if you say it the wrong way at the wrong time. But it's a very common phrase for when the speaker tells you how something is supposed to be done or how you're supposed to do something, which makes it a handy phrase when writing instructions, manuals, guides, etc.

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It means "in preparation". It is generally used when the action in question is done as a preparatory action. In your example, a translation would be

Before traveling, I am booking a hotel (in preparation).

The general construction is ~ておく, and it gets conjugated like any other verb. For example:

I booked a hotel in preparation for traveling.
流行のためにホテルを予定しておきました。

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