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I'm pretty sure the answer to this is "yes", but I'm a bit unsure about why. For example, given the following scenario:

My friend, John, tells me that his friend, Mariko, is performing a survey and he asks me to take it. The survey is very interesting to me and I subsequently contact Mariko directly to talk about her research.

In this situation, can I introduce myself by saying 「調査について、ジョンに聞かせてもらいました」? In the sense of ~てもらう as "to get someone to do something", this seems odd given that I didn't actually do anything. But it feels right, and I'm not sure why. I could say 「ジョンから聞きました」, but that doesn't sound as natural to my ears.

So, despite having no actual agency in having heard about the survey, can I say 聞かせてもらいました? And bonus points for telling me why.

(Also, just as confirmation, it is inappropriate in this situation to say 聞かせていただきました, right?)

  • For my part, 聞かせてもらう sounds like John has let you ask him about ityou've gotten him to tell you about it. The nuance seems different from just plain old he happened to mention it: that would be 聞く or 耳にする or something along those lines. The させてもらう form very much has an intent behind it, in my understanding. – Eiríkr Útlendi Nov 14 '14 at 2:13
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi I agree entirely! And yet, despite that conscious understanding, I get the strong feeling that I hear this type of thing all the time, and it does not sound wrong -- hence this question. :) – rintaun Nov 14 '14 at 4:27
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In this situation, can I introduce myself by saying 「調査について、ジョンに聞かせてもらいました」?

Yes, you can; There is nothing wrong or unnatural about it.

The reason that one may use 「聞かせてもらいました」 here would be that it would make one sound interested in the survey. To use 「もらう」, one did not have to request John to explain what his friend Mariko was doing.

By using 「もらう」, you could also imply that John is a kind individual and that you are humble enough to appreciate the information he has given to you.

Could one also say 「友人のジョンから聞いたんですけど、~~~~」? Yes, certainly. One might not sound quite as interested, but it would still be a valid phrase choice.

(To avoid sounding indifferent or improper, your overall tone of voice can often be more important than a word or phrase choice here and there, if I may add.)

Also, just as confirmation, it is inappropriate in this situation to say 聞かせていただきました, right?

Depends. If you are not that close to John in the first place, using 「いただいた」 is proper and natural. If you, however, are indeed very close to John and Mariko already knows about it, then it would be inappropriate to say 「聞かせていただきました」 because you are, then, making John sound like a stranger.

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I think the key to remember with てもらう is that you benefited from it (more or less). Doesn't matter if you did anything... in fact in many cases you won't have done anything. I think for this situation (considering the fact you actually want to do the survey - IE they're doing you a favor and not the other way around) 頼まれてもらいました or maybe 紹介してもらいました might work better.

I guess I never heard of of that form as "to get someone to do something". Then again, I'm sure the text books are way different now.

  • 「仕事を手伝ってもらう」 and other such constructions is a pretty good example of "getting someone to do something". With させる it might be something like 「早退させてもらう」; I don't know what the textbooks say -- "to get someone to do something" is my own approximation of that particular meaning. – rintaun Nov 15 '14 at 2:27
  • Fair enough. Prolly gonna be situational. – kiss-o-matic Nov 15 '14 at 2:59

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