can 食べよう mean

  1. lets eat / shall (we) eat (suggesting)
  2. should eat (expressing an opinion)



  1. 昼食を食べよう lets have lunch
  2. お昼は、どこで食べようか? where should we eat for lunch?

Which is correct meaning for ~よう/こう/おう/ろう....(verb volitional form)

2 Answers 2


If you are a beginner, you should learn the following three usages.

しよう (with a flat or falling intonation)

This pattern is used when you suggest that you and the listener do something together. It is often translated as "Let's ..."

Let’s have lunch.

しようか with a falling intonation

This pattern is used when you invite the listener to decide something with you about something you are going to do together. It is often used with a question word (interrogative) such as なに, どこ, and いつ.

Where are we going to eat for lunch?

Why don’t we make a reservation?

しようか with a rising intonation

This pattern is used when you offer to do something for the listener.

Shall I make a reservation for you?

  • I'm a little unsure about the last one with the rising intonation. I don't know if it's with my understanding of "rising intonation", but when I try to recall the last time I heard someone say something like 写真撮りましょうか, I can't seem to picture it said with a rising intonation. Perhaps I'm not thinking the right intonation? お名前は何ですか is my way of thinking of a rising intonation. Could you explain that part a bit more?
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 6:27
  • @EddieKal - That’s the right intonation. It goes up on か. You are basically making it a yes-no question to ask if the other person wishes to accept your offer. You could say it with a falling intonation if you see it as something you decide together, as opposed to something you put on the table and let the other person decide whether or not to take it. That’s the second category above. I would be cautious if some stranger approached me with that when I didn’t ask.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 8:42
  • If I am understanding this right, 教えてやろうか is not said with a rising intonation, is it? Like this one here is falling as opposed to rising, right? So does this fall under a separate category from the ones you mentioned in your answer? What about 手伝いましょうか? Not sure if I'm hearing it wrong but I think I'm hearing a falling intonation in, say, this one
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 19:35
  • @EddieKal - The first one goes up on ろう and dips at the end. I sounds a bit strange to me. Since the verb is 教えてやる, there is no ambiguity in this case, but if someone said to me 予約をしようか with that intonation, I would go, え、誰がすんの? Another reason it doesn’t need to go up in this case is that they are anyway talking about what to do next together, and the one who said it is giving practically no choice to the other kid. The second one is slightly up. It is subtle because he is not really expecting an answer.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 1:07
  • Anyway, remember that my answer above was meant for beginners as I said at the beginning. It is admittedly a bit simplistic. The boundary between the second and third pattern is not that clear-cut in real life.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 1:07

You cannot expect a one-to-one correspondence for such basic function words. The volitional form can be translated into English as will, let's, shall, should and so on depending on the context. And should can be translated into Japanese as (よ)う, べき, はず, (れ)ばいい and so on depending on the intended meaning.

  • 昼食を食べよう。
    Let's have lunch.
  • お昼は、どこで食べようか?
    Where should we eat for lunch?

In English, should in a question can express someone's volition or casual suggestion, so these translations are both fine. But when you say something like "You should stop smoking", this should is stronger, and you usually need something stronger than the (よ)う-form.

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