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As far as I can tell, if you want to say something like "Would you...?" or "Why don't you..?", it's common to say something like "食べるのだろうか?". I looked it up and as I far as I can tell it's short form+の to make it a noun, and then だろう which is the volitional of だ... this is after a lot of Googling around and I'm still kind of confused, since I haven't even heard the volitional mentioned in my class yet. Please tell me if that's right.

If I understand Wikipedia correctly, you could also say "食べようか?". First off, is that conjugating it right; second, is that something you would say; finally, how is it different from -の+だろう?

Thanks for any help.

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What do you mean by "would you...?" or "why don't you...?"? These feel like two different things to me. Can you give a couple of example sentences? To me, 「食べようか?」 sounds like "shall we eat(, then)?", and 「食べるのだろうか?」 sounds like "(I wonder whether) he (or whoever) eats?". –  Billy Oct 22 '12 at 22:45
    
I was thinking more like "Would you kindly...?", like, making a request or suggestion that way. –  Alex Meiburg Oct 23 '12 at 0:04
    
But requests and suggestions are different things, even in English! You're going to have to give us some full example sentences. But in addition to dainichi's suggestions, here are a couple more. For requests, you might want to consider 「(食べて)くださいませんか?」 (a polite "would you mind (=do me the favour of) eating?"). For suggestions, "let's eat!" is 「食べましょう!」. You can soften this by adding a ね onto the end, or turning it into a question ("shall we eat?" 「食べましょうか?」). You can make all of these more informal by replacing the polite-form 食べましょう with the plain-form 食べよう. –  Billy Oct 23 '12 at 18:04

3 Answers 3

Is it common to say "食べるのだろうか?".

It sounds to me like:
"I wonder if (someone) is going to eat (something)"/
"Is (someone) going to eat (something)?" or
"I wonder if (someone) regularly eats (something)"/
"Does (someone) regularly eat (something)?"
食べるんだろうか / 食べるのかな would sound more casual.

You could also say "食べようか?". First off, is that conjugating it right; second, is that something you would say; finally, how is it different from -の+だろう?

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes, you would say this to mean "Let's eat, shall we?" or "Shall I eat?" depending on the context.
  3. Hmm... I think だろう is like "I think ~~ will ~~" and よう is like "I'm going to~/intend to do~" or "Let's~".

"Would you...?" or "Why don't you..?"

For requests I would say:

食べてくれる?(casual)
食べてくれますか?(polite)
召し上がっていただけます?(politer) etc.

For suggestions I would say:

食べたら?/ 食べれば?(very casual)
食べない?(casual)
食べません(か)?(polite)
召し上がりません(か)?(politer) etc.

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There are many ways to make requests/suggestions in Japanese, but (some of) the prototypical ones would be:

1 Requests (in order of increasing politeness/formality):

食べてもらえる?
食べてもらえますか?
食べていただけます(でしょう)か?

Of course you could just say 食べてください, which would be the polite way to express an imperative.

2 Suggestions (in order of increasing politeness/formality):

食べたらどう?
食べたらどうですか?
食べたらいかがでしょうか?

but I would be careful about using these when it's really not a suggestion, but a request that I'm making, since that could sound sarcastic and rude.

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Since when is 食べる so polite or formal? –  非回答者 Feb 10 at 6:40
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「いただけますでしょうか」とか「いかがでしょう」を使うなら「召し上がる」とかかな・・・ –  Choko Feb 10 at 8:25
    
そう。「食べる」にどんな言葉を付け足しても、丁寧にもフォーマルにもなんないよね。あかん、関西弁忘れ始めてる! –  非回答者 Feb 10 at 10:41
    
@TokyoNagoya, what do you mean by "so polite"? How polite? 食べる not impolite, it's neutral. I focused on the part after 食べる, since I thought that was more useful for the asker at their current stage of learning. –  dainichi Feb 12 at 0:11
    
@Chocolate, 私が今googleで調べたところ、"召し上がっていただけますでしょうか"は8件、"食べていただけますでしょうか"は10件でした。「食べます」は丁寧語ですよ。もち‌​ろん「召し上がっていただけますでしょうか」はよりフォーマルですが、主の推定される日本語レベルに勝手ながら合わせたつもりで答えました。「召し上がったらどう?」という‌​言い方もあるますね。日本語の敬語・丁寧語は一次元の現象じゃないので、必要以上に話を複雑にしないほうがいいと思いました。 –  dainichi Feb 12 at 0:21

I've listed up some forms here for you.

食べませんか? - Won't you eat (with me) [as in an invitation]
食べようか - Shall we eat
食べるのだろうか - I don't think I have ever heard this said 
but I guess it would be equivalent to the the below.
食べようかな - I wonder if I will eat
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for the third one, Billy is right. –  oldergod Oct 23 '12 at 3:33

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