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Putting な after a plain verb turns it into negative imperative.

But I noticed that in spoken Japanese, putting な after conjunctive form (連用形) turns it into positive imperative. For example:

遊びに行きなよ。

Is this usage standard or colloquial? Also, it seems that it's usually used by elders towards younger people so does it have special nuances, for example maybe like patronizing?

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That's not the negative imperative particle. Rather, it's an abbreviation of なさい, probably via the elided form なはい or なあ. See here. It's colloquial and standard (meaning everyone understands what it means). Your observation that it's a bit patronising is probably correct—notice that なさい has similar connotations—but I'm not a usage expert, so I'll let someone else answer that part of your question. –  Zhen Lin Aug 17 '11 at 15:17
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Related: Meaning of …立てちゃいなよ –  Derek Schaab Aug 17 '11 at 18:00
    
@Zhen Lin: put your comment as an answer, so that it gets accepted and you get the points you deserve. –  Axioplase Aug 18 '11 at 10:16
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@Axioplase: But it's only half an answer. :-/ –  Zhen Lin Aug 18 '11 at 10:29
    
@Zhen Lin: You deserve credit for half an answer. Other people can fill in the blanks with their answers. I'm not a usage expert either, but I think you're right about it being slightly patronizing just as なさい would be. –  Samurai Soul Aug 18 '11 at 21:36

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

By popular demand:

That's not the negative imperative particle. Rather, it's an abbreviation of なさい, probably via the elided form なはい or なあ. See here. It's colloquial and standard (meaning everyone understands what it means).

Your observation that it's a bit patronising is probably correct—notice that なさい has similar connotations—but I'm not a usage expert, so I'll let someone else answer that part of your question.

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Ha, but I shall (attempt to) answer it in a comment! It is patronizing in the sense that, as sawa explains in the answer Derek linked, it implies that the speaker himself isn't invested in the outcome. 遊びに行きなよ means "Go and play (go on, I know you want to)", 遊んであげなよ means "Play with them (go on, be nice)". Exactly who the suggestion is a "favor" to varies (listener, or some third party), but in both cases, it is implied that the speaker is above such things and doesn't personally care either way. Thus, patronizing. –  Matt Aug 19 '11 at 3:48

Using な in negative imperative 辞書形   + な
行く    + な -> 行くな   = don't go 食べる   + な ->食べるな = don't eat

遊びに行きなよ。(遊びに行きなさいという意味です) = let's go to play ケーキを食べなさいの意味はケーキを食べましょうと同じと思います。

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You're not answering the question. 質問に答えなよ。(笑) –  Zhen Lin Aug 19 '11 at 9:44

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