I was looking in A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar when I saw something on page 329 which truly shocked me:

"node cannot be used and kara must be used [... when ...] the main clause is a command, request, suggestion or invitation"

× この映画はためになるので行きなさい
○ この映画はためになるから行きなさい

× あしたのショーはおもしろいのでぜひ見に来て下さい
○ あしたのショーはおもしろいからぜひ見に来て下さい

× この本はとてもおもしろいのでみんなも読んだほうがいいよ
○ この本はとてもおもしろいからみんなも読んだほうがいいよ

× いい酒をもらったので一緒に飲みましょうか
○ いい酒をもらったから一緒に飲みましょうか

I do not consider the × sentences ungrammatical at all!

I, on the other hand, consider ので more polite than から, and would hesitate to use から in 丁寧語 sentences (except where only から is an option, e.g. からです, でしょうから). So I actually prefer the × sentences in the second and fourth examples.

What is going on? Is the dictionary wrong, am I wrong, or has the distinction between the two particles shifted in nuance? (The dictionary was written in 1986).

  • Don't have a strong feeling either way, but from as far as I can remember, I was always told that から was more polite than ので and should be preferred in teineigo.
    – Dave
    Feb 18, 2012 at 11:43
  • 5
    Dave, it's the other way around. ので is the most polite of the two.
    – oldergod
    Feb 18, 2012 at 14:57
  • See also question “What are the differences between 〜ので and 〜から?” by makdad, which I did not remember when I posted an answer here. Aug 24, 2012 at 0:20

2 Answers 2


I did not know that claim and I do not agree to it, but judging from several web pages I found from search, it seems that the difference between から and ので has been one of the most controversial topics in Japanese linguistics. The usage may have changed over time, but it was controversial even at the time of the publication of the book from which you quoted the claim.

The explanation which you quoted is based on the theory by Masaru Nagano (永野賢) in 「から」と「ので」とはどう違うか (1952). According to his theory, から explains a subjective reason whereas ので describes a cause-result relationship in an objective manner, and because of this difference, ので cannot be used to state a reason for a request.

However, Nagano admits that ので is sometimes used to state a reason for a request when the sentence is in the polite form. He explains it as follows: because から describes a subjective reason, it can make the sentence sound more strongly opinionated. Using ので instead softens the expression. According to Nagano, using ので to state a reason for a request in a non-polite sentence is ungrammatical.

Not everyone agrees on this explanation. For example, Tsutomu Miura (三浦つとむ) claims that it is nonsense in 日本語の文法 (1975).

  • Thank you very much for doing the digging. I agree with Miura's analysis. から does seem to be more subjective, but as long as the clause preceding ので is a fact/opinion, not a conjecture (with a scope that doesn't include the whole main clause), I still think it can be used as a reason for a request etc. Please see also my comment on @sawa's reply.
    – dainichi
    Feb 19, 2012 at 1:56

In ordinary life, people may use both types of sentences, as you wrote. But there is a subtle difference, and using ので here is wrong if you are strict. The book well describes this point, and so is a good book.

ので connects a cause-effect relation, and probably, it does not prefer a logically narrower scope than the inflection or the compounded part of the verb. And if the scope of it is not a proposition but is a command, request, suggestion, or invitation, it will not make sense semantically.

a. 'As for tomorrow's show, [please come to see it] because it is interesting.'

Here, ぜひ見に来て下さい or please come to see it is a request, and does not have a truth value like a proposition. You cannot say that it is true or false because of another fact. In order for it to make sense, the logical connection has to be done in a position lower than the request:

b. 'As for tomorrow's show, please [come to see it because it is interesting].'

come to see it is a proposition that will reveal its truth value when the time comes (tomorrow), and there is nothing wrong with it having a cause/motivation because it is interesting. ので seems to only allow interpretation a., not b. That is the reason you cannot use it.

On the other hand, with から, expresses motivation, and as you can tell from its form, it is just a postposition phrase, and can take scope within the verb phrase.


It allows the interpretation b., so that is why you can use it.

  • This is a good explanation of the book's argument, but I feel that it is begging the question to simply claim that it is the correct understanding from a "strict" point of view. Rather, this seems to be a prescriptionist, minority, or at best outdated account of ので/から which does not match how actual living Japanese is used (although at course it may be an accurate description the Japanese of a few generations ago, or the Japanese of certain groups/classes, or the "rules of Japanese" as taught in school).
    – Matt
    Feb 18, 2012 at 22:20
  • @Matt I did not intend to explain something from a book. This is based on my native intuition. And such rule is not taught in school, and usual people do not know such rule, so I don't think it is prescriptive. I agree with your point that this distinction is disappearing.
    – user458
    Feb 18, 2012 at 22:37
  • 1
    I see, sorry. Unqualified language like "using [X] is wrong" and "so [it] is a good book" felt like you were appealing to a higher authority, but of course I have no objection to these claims if they are meant to be relative to your personal intuition.
    – Matt
    Feb 19, 2012 at 0:56
  • Thanks for the writeup. I agree that only kara can take the limited scope. So he probably [went because he wanted to go] would be 行きたいから行ったのでしょう, while he wanted to so, so he probably went would be 行きたかったので、行ったのでしょう. So から seems to (also) be able to follow a subordinate clause, while ので combines 2 main clauses. However, I don't see why that implies that ので cannot be followed by a request etc. since you can interpret the preceding clause to be the reason for the request.
    – dainichi
    Feb 19, 2012 at 1:52
  • @dainichi "P is likely", "it seems to be P" are propositions (provided that the measure/threshold for 'likeliness' is somehow given by the context), and have truth values. With 行きたかったので、行ったのでしょう, there are logically two possible interpretations: 1. "the speaker's judgement is based on the fact that the subject wanted to go", and 2. "the speaker is judging that the subject's decision is based on the fact that he/she wanted to go". Interpretation 1. clearly has no problem with my argument. Interpretation 2 may not be allowed according to my argument. Which interpretation are you mentioning?
    – user458
    Feb 19, 2012 at 2:12

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