Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Looking for a phrase that has the same meaning as "May I?" in English. One that would work in situations that would indicate I would like to try to solve a problem at hand, or receive control over something. For example, if someone is stuck with a Rubik's cube, or maybe I want a user to get up from a workstation so I can sit down and try a solution.

I know I can use words in a sentence to say what I want, but is there a phrase that accomplishes the same?

I'm thinking よろしいですか? could work, but is it enough alone?

share|improve this question
    
I've said "dekimasu ka?" a lot for this and it seemed to work but I always felt I may well be saying "Do I have the ability?" (-: –  hippietrail Aug 3 '11 at 16:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Like pretty much anything in Japanese, it entirely depends on context and your relation with the person you are addressing.

よろしいですか? or いいですか? sound perfectly fine for most situations.

If you are offering your help to someone of higher status, the kenjōgo construct させていただきます is a good start. E.g.:

パソコンを見させていただけませんか

お手伝いさせていただきましょうか

To anybody else, ○て[も]いい?/○て[も]よろしい? might also do...

share|improve this answer
1  
@sawa: my bad... I always tend to put all forms of honorific under sonkeigo. Thanks for pointing that out. –  Dave Aug 3 '11 at 0:52
    
Nice answer! Thanks for the keigo examples. –  Louis Aug 3 '11 at 1:23
    
させていただきますか.... Good job. People never use kanji for that, even in newspapers, where the most kanji is used... @Dave いただき does not have kanji. 頂き means "the top of the mountain". Also, 頂きます isn't a word because 頂き isn't a pre-masu verb. 頂 is also いただき, but it's an alternate spelling. In this sentence, it doesn't make sense 'the top of the mountain done for you', also. Even Japanese people make the mistake, often... 笑.... Anyway, I'll change it for you. I still think your answer is very nice. –  千里ちゃん Aug 3 '11 at 1:43
1  
It's an auxiliary verb, so we can (should?) remove the kanji and use the kana form. Also, yes, "いたかけますか", "いただきますか" is a tricky one. –  Axioplase Aug 3 '11 at 2:02
1  
@千里ちゃん: thanks for pointing that out. However, I am rather positive that 頂きます exists and is a valid word (a cursory Google search seems to confirm that): I have seen it used at times in formal communications (if not newspapers). But Axioplase is correct and it should be the kana form here due to its being used as an auxiliary. damn me and my mechanical use of kanji completion... –  Dave Aug 3 '11 at 2:46

"ちょっといいですか" seems the more common way to say "may I" with nothing around. It means you want to intervene.

The problems with よろしいですか is that you're asking for the other to give you something (the rubik cube). You cannot really say that in a situation like "may I? I have a question for you", or "stop talking, and let me pass through; I'd like to get of the bus now!"

Just "いいですか" may be a bit rude.

share|improve this answer

させていただけますか means してよろしいですか, and people use the latter more commonly. いただけますか is thought to be more polite, but it's also thought to be overly complicated.

させてよろしいですか is the common way to say something. It involves a third person. It's like what you would say if you wanted to ask, "Can I let my son play here?" -> 息子をここで遊ばせてもよろしいですか? It's kind of a way of saying させてもいいですか. In as much, you can also say: 息子をここで遊ばせても良いですか? Probably most common of all is, させてもいいですか, which is used amongst friends, and it's also usually used with children. Sometimes people use it with foreigners, thinking よろしいですか is too much more difficult, as compared to いいですか.

させていただきましょうか is kind of like させていただきませんか, which means, "Shouldn't I check it," but it's not a good parallel.

You should think of it more like this, to avoid confusion: 見させていただきましょうか = Boss to employee: "I should check your work..." みていただけませんか = Employee to boss: "Shouldn't I show you my work?"

ませんか is more polite, and you should use it when speaking to your boss. Bosses use ましょう to sound kind because they don't want their workers to feel like they are under the gun, when everyone should be happy in their workplace. It just makes things worse for everyone. Your boss would ask if he could check your work, but you wouldn't ask your boss if you should check his work, under ordinary circumstances. So, ましょう to ません isn't good for a transformation drill unless you also transform させる and する, respectively. Then, you could keep the same mental context while practicing.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.