When asking for something I seem to hear sentences end in both ください (kudasai) and お願いします (onegaishimasu). Is there a difference and how do I know when to use which?

  • 3
    This is a really great question. I spent two years in class and I never knew what "onegai" meant in any context...it was one of the first and most helpful phrases I learned just by living in Japan. Feb 25, 2012 at 13:31

5 Answers 5


Here there's a nice explanation, but I'll quote it here for easy reference, with some additional info:

ください and お願いします are both used when making a request.

  • ください (kudasai) is used:
  1. After the particle "o" を, for example when ordering food: "水をください" (Mizu o kudasai - Please, water.);
  2. When asking something that involves an action, along with the verb in the -te form, like: "ちょっと待ってください" (Chotto matte kudasai - Please, wait.). Note: do not use onegaishimasu here.
  • お願いします (onegaishimasu) is used:
  1. Also when ordering food, but in this case "を" is not necessary. Just say: "水お願いします" (Mizu onegaishimasu); Note: Onegaishimasu is more polite/formal than kudasai.
  2. When calling for someone's attention; for example, a waiter/waitress to your table.
  3. Use onegaishimasu when requesting a service that you cannot fulfill yourself: "東京駅までお願いします。" (Tokyo eki made onegaishimasu. - Tokyo Station, please [to the taxi driver]) Note: do not use kudasai here.
  4. Use onegaishimasu when asking for someone over the phone: 和子さんお願いします (Kazuko-san onegaishimasu. - May I speak to Kazuko?) Note: do not use kudasai here.
  • 12
    "[お願いします] when calling for someone's attention…" Hmm, お願いします doesn't seem to work here (although すみません would). I believe お願いします only works after you've made your specific request understood, as in examples 1, 3, and 4. At the point of getting someone's attention, you haven't made your request, so お願いします feels out of place to me. Otherwise, +1 for a good answer. Jun 17, 2011 at 14:43
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    btw is the を necessary before くだあさい? because i'd thought omitting it is fine like: 水ください / 水ちょうだい
    – Pacerier
    Jun 25, 2011 at 11:00
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    @DerekSchaab Again I chime in with only anime for evidence, but I just watched a scene recently (ひぐらしのなく頃に解、第3話) where the first thing a character said upon arriving at a local butcher's was a loud "お願いします!" to attract their attention, upon hearing which the butcher greeted the customers.
    – Hyperworm
    Feb 24, 2012 at 14:40
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    @Pacerier if you aren't around people who you need to be super-formal for, omitting を shouldn't be a problem.
    – summea
    Feb 25, 2012 at 7:04

The main difference is that onegaishimasu assume some action/favor by the other person. It's also a meaning of "I trust this to you".

ください Kudasai (and the more familiar chodai ちょうだい) it's used when you did a request you are entitled to do. You want something or you want someone of same/lower status to do something for you (verb-te+kudasai).

  • おねがいします comes in really handy when you need anything done by (nearly) anyone. :)
    – summea
    Feb 25, 2012 at 7:06
  • 2
    Also, ちょうだい is more often used by women... ;)
    – summea
    Feb 25, 2012 at 7:07
  • I think of 願い literally meaning wish/desire/hope vs kudasai literally meaning give/do - I think that helps me understand the difference. Nov 18, 2020 at 23:01

To add to the answers, it's also a directional thing.

下さい is 尊敬語 for くれる, you are asking someone to do something in an honorific way. This is oriented to be polite toward the person you are asking to do something.

お願いします is 謙譲語 for 願う, you are humbly making a request for yourself. This is oriented to be humble about the request you are making.

"More polite" is determined entirely by the situation. This article gives some crazy examples of how mucked up this can all get. If you are working in a shop, using ください is more polite than お~します, and whatever you do don't use 謙譲語 to refer to a customer's actions (that's just bad form).


【解説1】 「担当者に伺ってください」の「伺う」は謙譲語Ⅰです。したがって,客の動作に用いる敬語ではありません。 客を立てるためには,尊敬語を用いる必要があります。この場合は,「担当者にお聞きください。」あるいは「担当者にお尋ねください。」とすれば良いでしょう。

「伺う」は謙譲語Ⅰであって,「聞く・尋ねる」という動作の<向かう先>を立てる敬語です。したがって,「受付の人」側の人物である担当者を立ててしまうことになり,尋ねた客を立てる敬語とはなりません。 同様に,「お聞きする」「お尋ねする」といった敬語も,「伺う」と同じ謙譲語Ⅰです。したがって,「担当者にお聞きしてください。」「担当者にお尋ねしてください。」なども「伺う」と同様に,客の動作に対しては用いることができません。

(Emphasis mine)

If someone offers to do something for you, using お願いします to accept is the proper response. Otherwise they are (generally) interchangeable for day-to-day life.


I just asked my sensei only this evening at my Japanese converstaion class. He explain me that ください is less formal and used with '-て' verbs, but お願いします implies favour involved (and is more formal).


I am not good at english just think about casually yourself

Japanese people are called manners important virtue . It expresses in words . i think you knows, two expressions of differences to the through next view

==== VIEW ====

WHEN USING kudasai CASE, (when ordering your friends; a close acquaintanceship )

SIMILAR expression in enligsh : Water please

Onegaisimasu case, (when ordering not your friends and the others; stranger or one's elder)

SIMILAR expression in enligsh : Would you Give me a cup of water please.

I think that two case of differences is politeness level are different.

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