I thought that it was considered rude to say as if we know that someone wants something. So what would be the proper way in Japanese to ask if they want us to do something? Like "Would you like me to tell you my number?"

Below is what I have in mind, please correct me if I'm wrong so I can learn from it...:

  1. 先生、私の電話番号を教えたいですか

    This is wrong since we cannot use たい for other people...

  2. 先生、私の電話番号を教えてほしいですか

    This is wrong since we cannot use 欲しい for other people too...

  3. A. 先生、私の電話番号を教えられることがいいですか?
    B. 先生、私の電話番号を教えることがいいですか?

    I'm not sure which one is correct or if both are wrong. But even if it is correct, it would also mean somewhat like "Teacher, is it okay if I tell you my number?" and a bit different to "Teacher, would you like me to tell you my number?"...

  4. 先生、私の電話番号を教えましょうか?

    I'm not completely sure, but this should means "Teacher, should I tell you my number?". Although it has a difference nuance from "Would you want me to tell you something?" but it serves a similar purpose. Is this the correct one?

Additional for information purpose. Based on Oal's comment, it seems it's safe to use たほうがいい. as in

  1. 先生、私の電話番号を教えたほうがいいですか?

  • No. 2 is fine in informal situations (〜てほしい?、〜てほしいの?); you could add ほうがいいですか to your list
    – oals
    Jul 21, 2016 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


The most appropriate way to phrase the question will depend greatly on the situation. It will change with familiarity, social status, and the context of the conversation (i.e. is it a business meeting or are you asking a friend if they want you to give him a lift to a party).

In general, ~ましょうか/~ようか , your No. 4, can be used without causing offence or being overly formal.

For example: お[撮]{と}りしましょうか? (lit. Shall I take (your photo)) would be a perfectly acceptable way of asking a stranger if they would like you to take their photo at a location where that would be an acceptable thing to do. Think asking a couple if they'd like you to photograph both of them with their camera at a sightseeing spot.

In the same way, [手伝]{てつだ}おうか? would be a common response to a friend telling you they were moving house on Sunday. Close to the English, "Need a hand?"

For your specific example, I would probably use No. 4 exactly as you have it, or 先生、私の電話番号を教えた方がいいですか? if I wanted to nuance it closer to "Would it be a good idea if I gave you may number."

No. 1 is wrong, as it would be asking if your teacher wanted to tell you your number. But note that (again depending on circumstances) ~たい can be used to ask what someone would like to do themselves.

No. 3 would be highly unnatural, although 3A is not strictly 'wrong'.

As oals commented, No. 2 would be acceptable in informal, friendly conversation, but shouldn't be used to a teacher.

  • Dear Alex, could you help to explain further your opinion regarding point 3? :) Since I thought the better one was B. But, yes I do think there's something wrong with both of them but I don't really understand why. Could you try to literally translated 3A and 3B ? I'm personally unsure about the sentences meaning eventhough I'm the one who made it up (=u=") . Thank you very much in advance and thanks for your answer :)
    – Alice28
    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    「私の電話番号を教えられることがいいですか?」「私の電話番号を教えることがいいですか?」 ←どちらも意味がよく分かりません。 I would probably say like 「私の電話番号をお知らせした方がいいですか?」 or maybe 「私の電話番号をお教えした方がいいですか?」 to sound polite
    – chocolate
    Jul 21, 2016 at 13:58
  • 1
    For 3, to be honest, it wouldn't be excessive to simply say both were wrong. 3A could be directly translated as "Sir, is it (would it be) a good thing to be told my phone number." I can (probably) think of situations where this form of construction would not be inappropriate. That said, for the particular example you gave, it would be extremely unnatural. It's hard to think of an equivalent in English; "Would being told my phone number by me be something you'd like?" may come close in terms of being grammatically correct but clearly not something you'd ever say.
    – Alex B.
    Jul 21, 2016 at 14:23

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