Initially I wanted to compare the rudeness level of [v]ないでくれ。 and[v]な。 but since that may be a rather vague question:

  1. In what situation is it appropriate to use [v]ないでくれ。 but not [v]な。 ?

  2. In what situation is it appropriate to use [v]な。 but not [v]ないでくれ。 ?

I mean I'm not asking for a list of examples when it is appropriate to use 1) or 2), but rather one example on when it is appropriate to use [v]ないでくれ。 but not [v]な。 and explanation on why it is so, and another example on when it is appropriate to use [v]な。 but not [v]ないでくれ。 + explanation.

PS: as for the くれ i'm referring to the short / abrupt / manly くれ and not the くれ in 勘弁してくれよ~

  • It is not standard (nor unnatural) to put an exclamation mark after imperatives in Japanese. You seem to do it, and that can be one facter that changes the level.
    – user458
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 12:55
  • @sawa: Did you mean “(nor natural)”? Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 22:09
  • @Tsuyoshi_Ito I meant as I wrote. I admit that some people write it in that way, and that is not particularly wrong.
    – user458
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 0:35
  • @sawa ok i've updated the question without the exlamation marks
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 7:15
  • @sawa btw i don't think putting the underscore works, if there's 2 words in the username we should only @ the first word
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 9:07

1 Answer 1

  • [v]な is an order, in plain imperative form: "Don't [v]."
  • [v]ないでくれ is a request/plea: "Please don't [v]." (It is basically the plain form of [v]ないでください, since 〜てくださる is the respectful form 尊敬語 of 〜てくれる.)

Both [v]な and [v]ないでくれ are in plain form and cannot be used in situations where respectful (尊敬語) and/or polite (丁寧語) forms are required (e.g. talking to superiors or people you are not close to). So that is the baseline of appropriateness: you can't be in a position where 〜ます is required, or any form of keigo. So the difference between [v]な and [v]ないでくれ is not "politeness" but rather whether you are ordering someone not to do something, or asking/pleading with them not to do it.

[There may also be another difference: My feeling is that [v]ないでくれ is a bit old-fashioned, even "theatrical," and therefore no longer really "colloquial" as such in the speech of young people in particular. Anyone with a bigger data set or native intuition want to comment on this?]

So if you are not in a position to give orders, or you are but want to flatter the person you are speaking to, you would not use [v]な, and you might choose [v]ないでくれ instead. (You also might combine it with 頼むよ or something, which makes the "throwing myself at your mercy" part more explicit.)

On the other hand, if you are in a position to give orders, and don't want to be delicate (perhaps because you want to make it clear who is boss, or perhaps because it is appropriate to give orders in that situation and phrasing it in the form of a request would be odd), or if you share camaraderie with someone so close that [v]な is allowed in friendly (if boisterous) conversation, you might use [v]な.

Standard disclaimer: It is obviously impossible to make a list of situations where X is appropriate and X′ is not, because so much is dependent on context; and even in the above situations, there might be other considerations blocking [v]な and/or [v]ないでくれ, or making other options more appealing (e.g. [v]ないで(よ) etc.).

  • btw isn't it true that [v]ないでくれ is "ordering / commanding" and not "asking / pleading" ? guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/requests#part2
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 1:00
  • 2
    The important issue is not what English word you use to describe the form, but the difference between plain imperative and ~てくれ. [v]ないでくれ certainly sounds manly and commanding, maybe closer to "... would ya?" than "Please..." in English. (I used the "Please" mainly to clarify the contrast.) But using くれ shows that however manly and commanding you are, you want the other person to do something for you. The plain imperative does not include this sort of concession.
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 1:43

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