what is the theory that 僕は自分にプレゼントをあげる is right but not 僕は自分にプレゼントをくれる ?

Btw I'm also curious if these sentences are equally valid:

A) 僕は自身にプレゼントをあげる

B) 僕は自分自身にプレゼントをある

C) ボブはボブにプレゼントを[あげる/くれる?]

D) ボブはボブ自分にプレゼントを[あげる/くれる?]

E) ボブは自分自身にプレゼントを[あげる/くれる?]

Btw if we do need a context, say perhaps in Christmas and we bought a present for ourself?

  • 1
    Sounds like there's some connotation difference with using 自分. Just as in English we would say "he gave the present to himself" (rather than "he gave the present to him") - one form is right and one form is wrong. @Tsuyoshi It's not common, but you can give something to yourself in English, like "I worked hard this week, I guess I'll give myself a treat".
    – Troyen
    Jun 16, 2011 at 17:47
  • 1
    @Troyen: I see. I think that there is a similar phrase in Japanese (自分にご褒美をあげる; to give oneself a reward (of hard work etc.)), although this particular example sounds to me like a buzzword which did not exist 10 years ago. I have to think more carefully to come up with an example which I do not have to doubt about naturalness. Jun 16, 2011 at 18:25
  • 1
    I am with @Tsuyoshi on the weirdness of the question. It could be that @Pacerier wants info on reflexive sentences (give to oneself), but in that case, some serious rewording would help. Also, can somebody explain to me why "自分に何をあげる" would be grammatically wrong? It seems alright to me (if possibly not very meaningful in Japanese)
    – Dave
    Jun 17, 2011 at 0:04
  • 3
    Whether the semantics is odd or rare, which is the same for all languages, does not prevent the possibility of making a grammatically correct statement. This is a perfectly valid question of grammar for a sentence that can easily be translated into the European languages I know. This is a language site, not a semantics site. Jun 17, 2011 at 0:35
  • 1
    @Pacerier: OK, I double-checked because your assertion made me doubt myself, but native coworkers definitely confirmed my initial sentiment: "私は自分にプレゼントをあげた" is 100% correct and a better way to say the same thing as "私は私にプレゼントをあげた" (which is technically correct, but completely meaningless, bordering on a mistake, since it's a clear case where 自分 should be used). Please edit your question accordingly (I would, but i'm not sure how to do so without removing most of the question)...
    – Dave
    Jun 17, 2011 at 5:07

4 Answers 4


I often hear a similar sentence自分にご褒美をあげたいhere in Japan. It is often used after you did some hard effort to achieve something. The subject私は is omitted mostly. Also, I haven’t seen プレゼント so much in the sentence. So, it might be good to think it as a kind of idiomatic sentence. Honestly speaking, it seems to me that the Japanese sentences in question are more or less strange. So, firstly, I’ll start with 自分にご褒美をあげたい.

ご褒美is, in my impression, commonly used for a rewarding gift from an authority to a person, from a parent to a child, etc., and with respect. It means an important gift, different from a present in a casual occasion. Therefore, it might sound strange to give such formal gift to self. Some people might say the expression is a little strange.

But I would put it this way. たいmeans ‘I could do.’ The basic meaning of the sentence is ‘I could give ご褒美 to myself (after this big achievement, etc.)’. The sentence might be wrong in a strict way, but figuratively or subjunctively correct. The subject of the sentence might be an imaginable ‘I’ who might be an authoritative person in a subjunctive world. The great ‘I’ gave ご褒美 to real ‘me’. So, this sentence works to emphasize great satisfaction to self. Well, of course, some people actually buy something good to themselves. If you buy a new car, you might say この車は自分へのご褒美です。自分へのご褒美is a noun form.

By the way, I hear less 自分にご褒美をあげたthan 自分にご褒美をあげたい or 自分へのご褒美. This might prove that Japanese people feel something wrong with using straightforward あげた to talk about giving something to themselves, because あげたis a politer word. But using あげたin this sentence might be acceptable, when we remember the sentence is basically subjunctive one. An imaginable great ‘I’ agrees with the word あげた. I hope this is an answer to your あげる、くれるquestion, though it might be confusing.

It might be good to think 自分にご褒美をあげたis derived from 自分にご褒美をあげたい, the basic form. When you achieve something, you will say 自分にご褒美をあげたい. After that, if you buy something for yourself, you will naturally want to say that 自分にご褒美をあげた. The subjunctive world turned to be real.

Now, I’ll try to answer the rest of your question. I’m not a grammar specialist, so my judge depends on whether it sounds natural to me. Besides, as I said earlier, I can’t imagine the situation to say 自分にプレゼントをあげた. So, I would stick to ご褒美.

  • 私は私にプレゼントをあげた → (私は)自分にご褒美をあげた (though あげたsounds a little strange to me.)
  • 僕は僕にプレゼントをあげた → (僕は)自分にご褒美をあげた (ditto)
  • 私は自分にプレゼントをあげた → (私は)自分にご褒美をあげた (ditto)
  • 私は自身にプレゼントをあげた → incorrect (In most cases, 自身needs another word)
  • 私は自分自身にプレゼントをあげた → 私は自分自身にご褒美をあげた (ditto)
  • ボブはボブにプレゼントをあげた → ボブは自分にご褒美をあげた(I think あげたsounds a little strange but some people don’t think so. This may be more acceptable because the speaker isn’t the subject.)
  • ボブはボブ自分にプレゼントをあげた → incorrect (if you say ボブ自身, it’s acceptable.)
  • ボブは自分自身にプレゼントをあげた → ボブは自分自身にご褒美をあげた(I think あげたsounds a little strange but some people don’t think so. This may be more acceptable because the speaker isn’t the subject.)
  • I’m neither a grammar specialist nor a good English writer. I formed my opinion only on my experiences. I might not be able to answer further question, because my English writing speed is as slow as a snail. Sorry about that.
    – user364
    Jun 17, 2011 at 8:10
  • heys thx for the help. btw i've updated my question take a look at it. (btw you could mix japanese into the answers if some parts of the answer will take more time to translate to english)
    – Pacerier
    Jun 17, 2011 at 10:56
  • @Pacerier:I’ll take you up on your kind offer. 「僕は自分にプレゼントを」と来れば、私なら「買った」と続けたいです。「あげた」は丁寧だと思うからです。自分が自分に対して行うことに使うのが少しおかしい気がしますし、プレゼントという言葉には「ご褒美」のような意味がないので合わない感じがします。ただし、文法をあまり気にしない人は使うかもしれません。「くれた」は使いません。「くれる」を辞書で引くと、「人が、話し手に物を与えること」と書いてあります。主語が他人のときに使います。
    – user364
    Jun 17, 2011 at 21:13
  • (continued from the above) By the way, I’m studying English by using the English section of stack exchange. When I edited my question a lot of times, some kind person told me this kind of edition is called ‘ninja edit’ and it’s really confusing. 私の経験から言いますと、問題点を1つに絞って質問し、できるだけ編集しないほうが、良い回答が得られました。この方法はお勧めです。そして、新しい疑問が出たときには、改めて質問を投稿したほうがいいと思います。Thank you for your interest in Japanese language. Hang in there!
    – user364
    Jun 17, 2011 at 21:15
  • Heys thx for the reply =D sry ちょっと難しいから、ずいぶん時間がかかるだろう。 btw i'll try to translate it.. correct me if I've misunderstood anything: <<< when i see 「僕は自身にプレゼントを」, the first thing that comes to me is that it should be continued with 「買った」. I think it's rather weird when we use あげる on ourselves because 「あげた」 feels "polite". I think the expression 「プレゼント」 doesn't fit because it doesn't have the meaning which 「ご褒美」 has (something honorable given by a person with authority). but
    – Pacerier
    Jun 19, 2011 at 22:34

Decent usage for "giving something to oneself" would be "自分へのご褒美する"

And regarding あげる and くれる for those, you can't use くれる, because 自分にプレゼントをくれた, still means someone gave you present.

  • heys do you mind elaborating on the point 自分にプレゼントをくれた means someone gave me a present? (btw i've edited the question take a look at it)
    – Pacerier
    Jun 17, 2011 at 10:51
  • @Pacerier, 自分 can be use as first person pronoun, on above case 自分 can consider as 私 for example.(誰かが)私にプレゼントをくれた.
    – YOU
    Jun 17, 2011 at 11:04

This is just my personal opinion, but I thought I'd share it.

  1. I don't think 私は私にプレゼントをあげた / 僕は僕にプレゼントをあげた are correct, because you can't あげる something to 私. You would have to もらう or くれる it. On the other hand, I see 私は自分にプレゼントをあげた as possibly being grammatically correct, as 自分 is a reflexive pronoun — different from 私 and 僕 which are non-reflexive.

    自分: I gave myself a present
    私/僕: I gave I a present.

  2. 私は自分自身にプレゼントをあげた seems to be gramatically correct, as 自分自身 is a noun. It appears to share the same grammatical correctness as 私は日本赤十字社にプレゼントをあげた. However, 自分 is a bit more murky because of its reflexive pronoun status. Misread your sentence, 私は自身にプレゼントをあげた also seems grammatically correct for the same reason.

  3. I guess it could be argued that ボブはボブにプレゼントをあげた is grammatically correct as ボブ is just a noun and replacing 私 with one's name is not disallowed. However, with that said, you can't あげる something to 私, and ボブ is not that murky type of pronoun. ボブは自分自身にプレゼントをあげた seems grammatically correct for the reasons in item 2. Is this a typo: ボブはボブ自分にプレゼントをあげた?
  4. I don't think your statement is the case.
  • your 1. makes perfect sense (and is basically the regular usage of 自分, as I understand it) but it's also the opposite of what @Pacerier initially stated... So either there is a major typo in Pacerier's question, or I'm still confused on what is what...
    – Dave
    Jun 17, 2011 at 3:24
  • ボブはボブ自分にプレゼントをあげた wasn't a typo.. i guess the grammar is wrong? btw i've edited the question take a look at it
    – Pacerier
    Jun 17, 2011 at 11:08

Just being curious: where did you learn about the correctness of the two first ones? I can't recall hearing anything like that ever.

In a similar way, even if gramatically correct, your other sentences with the "I" subject feel very unnatural to me.

I believe that a natural way to express self rewarding would be: "プレセントを買わせてもらいましょう", where context and proudness/relief while saying it do the job of telling for whom it is.

  • btw i've edited the question take a look at it. My source is from a question i asked in a japanese forum a year ago forums.about.com/n/pfx/… arguably not reliable, but that's all i have
    – Pacerier
    Jun 17, 2011 at 10:53

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