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I've just been thinking that if verb + なさい constructions are a combination of verb stem + なさる's 命令形, how on earth is something like しなさい possible. they both mean "do", don't they ("do do!) perhaps I'm completely over-thinking this. Is there a reason as to why なさい can't be used it's own?

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Hehehe. "Do do" :D –  istrasci Dec 4 '13 at 17:25
    
Like so many other cases where the J-learner gets confused about a grammar point, the problem stems from "over-translating" rather than "over-thinking". You need a verb in front of なさい and that verb happens to be する. You just use the 連用形 of する, which is し as you would with any other verbs. –  Tokyo Nagoya Dec 5 '13 at 1:51
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2 Answers

The suffix なさい does not function like the verb なさる ("to do").

Syntactically:

  • the suffix なさい attaches to the 連用形 of verbs
  • the verb なさる behaves essentially exactly like する: it is either is on its own, or attaches to the root of any suru-verb.

Semantically:

  • the suffix なさい makes the verb into an imperative and provides no honorification (it almost provides the opposite by indicating the addressee is in a position lower than the speaker)
  • the verb なさる means "to do" and provides subject honorification.

So to me, the なさい in しなさい is unrelated to "to do", it simply converts する into an imperative. (If you don't buy that a form of なさる can perform as a purely grammatical element, consider what function the "do" in "I do not know" is performing.)

Regarding the construction 漢語名詞+なさい (e.g., 結婚なさい), it is productive, and according to @TokyoNagoyaさん, it seems to have a different, slightly softer connotation than the 〜しなさい construction. I am not sure where exactly it falls on politeness spectrum of the various different imperatives (〜しろ、〜して、〜してくれ、〜してください、〜しなさい、〜なさい, etc.).

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That's A good point actually, the "do" I "I do not know" is virtually meaningless, I can't place a meaning on it even as a native speaker. Thanks for answering my question. –  user4096 Dec 4 '13 at 22:20
    
@user4096 The meaningless do in "I do not know" is only there to support not, because you can't negate a main verb in modern English: "I know not" is archaic. –  snailboat Dec 4 '13 at 22:21
    
It's called "do-support" if you want to look up more about the construction in English. It's not a parallel to what's going on here, but does provide some comfort that "do" can perform grammatical roles unrelated to its original verb semantics. –  Darius Jahandarie Dec 4 '13 at 22:25
    
What is wrong with 結婚なさい? Soft-spoken, older people would actually say it in real life. It actually sounds very nice to the native ear. –  Tokyo Nagoya Dec 5 '13 at 1:38
    
@TokyoNagoya I see, I was not aware of that, thanks. I will update my answer accordingly. Do you agree that it is a less common form? –  Darius Jahandarie Dec 5 '13 at 2:10
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Personally I'd avoid trying to do some deep grammatical analysis of this. Perhaps someone else can chime in on the historical and etymological aspects.

We simply say やめなさい or おすわりなさい. It was one of the first grammatical forms I learned after getting married to a Japanese woman. :-) These can be viewed as informal variants of やめてください or すわってください or おすわりください. It's simply the grammatical rule that the なさい is preceded by the 体言止め form such as やめ or すわり, which in the case of する is し. So yes, it's お掃除しなさい, for example.

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