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I have been taught that they are used when receiving something (or a favor) from someone. But how exactly do they differ? I've searched the web for an answer and.. One site suggests that kuremasu is impolite, moraimasu is normal and itadakimasu is polite. Another site says that kuremasu is just normal, and itadakimasu is very polite... I was wondering which one to use in which situations... or should I just stick to itadakimasu to be safe? are there any scenarios where it would be inappropriate?

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Itadakimasu isn't merely an interjection just before eating? Who knew? –  Andrew Grimm Dec 30 '11 at 6:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You are entering dangerous waters when using keigo (敬語) I suggest taking special courses if you've already reached an average level. Foreign students only learn keigo around the 3rd or 4th year at university while Japanese kids learn it in primary school.

To make it simple:

あげる = You give to someone
くれる = Someone gives to you
もらう = To receive
いただく = polite form of 食べる Or 謙譲語 form for もらう

There's really too much to say in one forum post, but concerning the three words you mentioned specifically: morau, kureru, itadaku

  1. もらう

    • It means "to receive".
    • Its modest form (謙譲語 kenjogo) is いただく
    • Kenjogo is used to show modesty in an action you are doing. When you start eating or when you are taking something you can say: いただきます
    • So, morau = itadaku in kenjogo form (modest)
    • Morau can also be used for the case someone does something for you:

      ちょっと聞いてもらえませんか?
      'Could you listen for a moment please'

  2. くれる, あげる

    • Kureru and ageru mean "to give" (the usage depends on who gives)
    • If someone gives you something and you need to use Keigo, then you should use the sonkeigo form or respect form (尊敬語) of kureru which is くださる
    • It can be combined with other verbs like morau:

      田中さんが私を拾ってくださいました。
      'Mr Tanaka chose me.'

      私は田中さんに教えてくださいました。
      'Mr Tanaka taught me。'

    • If you give something to someone you respect, you should then use the kenjogo form (respect) of あげる which is: さしあげる

  3. いただく

    • We saw it can be the kenjogo form of morau but it is also the formal form (simple politeness) for 食べる to eat which is probably the first sentence you learned: いただきます!
    • On the other side, if you need to say that someone you respect eats or drinks something you would need to use the sonkeigo form (modest) of 食べる Or 飲む which is:

      召し上がる - めしあがる

If this post didn't dissuade you from using keigo then I advise you to read a lot of business correspondence in Japanese and stick away from manga, read a good book about Keigo then propose a sentence to a native Japanese speaker and make sure it is usable.

Depending on whom you speak to, correct formal Japanese is better than incorrect Keigo :)

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I second the worries about keigo. I'm looking forward to hard keigo-related questions on this site as I really see a good command of keigo as a barrier for intermediate/advanced learners on the way to becoming 'near-native'. –  Ali Jun 1 '11 at 13:25
    
@Ali - the problem with keigo isn't learning which words to use; that's just a matter of memorization. The bigger problem is when to use it (or in many cases, when NOT to use it or overdo it). –  istrasci Jun 1 '11 at 14:06
    
+1: Excellent précis on the topic. –  Robusto Jun 1 '11 at 16:01
    
@istrasci absolutely. Learning the words is the easy part! –  Ali Jun 2 '11 at 13:07

Polite forms are like this

  • kureru → kuremasu → kudasaimasu
  • morau → moraimasu → itadakimasu

So, if you want to use polite form, use kudasaimasu, or itadakimasu depends on situation. or choose the formers if you prefer normal form.

Difference between kuremasu and moraimasu is depends on the side of the subject.

  • She gave me an apple (りんごを彼女がくれました)
  • I got this apple from her (りんごを彼女にもらった)

They are interchangable if you rephrase the words.

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