In the manga Inuyasha, the heroine Kagome acquires the ability to force the titular Dog-Yokai to fall over by saying 「おすわり」.

I figured this must be a typical dog training command, but I wondered why it was not a more direct comamand such as 「すわれ」or at least 「すわって」.

I haven't studied Japanese in a while, but I didn't realise this was a verb form at all. I thought that "pre ます" form didn't have any grammatical function without ます, and adding the polite initial-お seemed strange when talking to a dog.

Sure enough, according to this question Japanese Dog Training Commands

most other commands are in a direct imperative form, so what makes おすわり special, and what shades of meaning does a verb in "お-verb-り" form convey that すわって、すわれ etc do not.

2 Answers 2


Pre-masu form (aka masu-stem, verb stem) has an important grammatical function; it (sometimes) works as a noun! So おすわり is sort of a "noun form" of すわる. Plain nouns are sometimes used as commands also in English, e.g., "Order!" "Attention!"

Regarding the prefix お, note that not all words that have it are honorific words. I don't know who firstly used お座り, but I think it was originally a mere beautifier/美化語 like お水. Now, お in お座り is an integral part of the word. Long ago, some verb-stems accepted お and formed a compound words with special meanings. For example, お絞り is completely different from 絞り, and お笑い is different from 笑い.

お預け ("Wait!") is another popular dog command.

EDIT: On second thought, I think there is another way of viewing this. お + masu-stem is a way of casually ordering something to someone lower than you. For example one can say (to a human):

  • さあ、お行き【LHH】。 Now, you must go.
  • 早くお食べ【LHH】。 Finish eating.
  • ここに おすわり【LHHH】。 Sit down here.
  • おだまり【LHHH】! Shut up!

This pattern is dated, and basically only elderly people in fiction or people in samurai dramas use this pattern (except for lexicalized greetings like おやすみ【LHHH】 and おかえり【LHHH】). In addition, accent is very different (which is why I did not notice this at first):

  • おすわり【LHLL】。 (to a dog)
  • おすわり【LHHH】。 (to a human)

For おすわり, I think both explanations work. But おあずけ definitely has a special meaning as a noun, so my original explanation may be more generic.


Let's say you are a family of 4 and a dog; The imperative conjugation すわれ would mainly only be used by the father (with exceptions) and is not really used by the mother or the kids. すわりなさい is too long to be used as a command to a dog as they need short commands. すわり or おすわり will therefore be short and concise enough of a word for all the family members to use.

I'm not sure about the すわって but it could be to avoid confusion with the command おて (give me your paw) I'm also not sure why they use the お before the word.

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