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A tutorial on the は-particle provides the following sentence:

牛乳ぐらいは買ってください。

At least buy milk, please.

The author then notes:

Grammar Note: The particle kurai/gurai くらい・ぐらい is frequently used with this function of the particle は to express "at least." It can actually be inserted similarly to the other example sentences in this section. Its addition creates a greater emphatic tone.

Question: Though I understand that くらい adds emphasis here, would the core meaning of this sentence be retained if we removed it? That is, does

牛乳は買ってください。

still mean "At least buy milk, please" (though with less emphasis than if we re-included くらい)?

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2 Answers 2

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I am assuming that you meant "牛乳は買ってください" for the 2nd quote.


Yes, the core meaning of the sentence "牛乳ぐらいは買ってください" would still be retained if you removed the particle くらい. The sentence would still mean "At least buy milk, please," although the emphasis on the idea of "at least" would be less strong without the particle くらい.

The particle は is used in this sentence to mark the topic of the sentence, which is the milk (牛乳). The verb 買ってください means "please buy," and it is used to express the request or suggestion that the listener should buy milk.

The particle くらい is added to the sentence to express the idea of "at least" or "at the minimum." It is used to emphasize that, even if the listener is unsure about other things they might buy, they should at least buy milk. This adds a stronger emphasis to the request or suggestion to buy milk.

If you removed the particle くらい from the sentence, the sentence would still convey the basic meaning of "At least buy milk, please," but the emphasis on the idea of "at least" would be reduced. The sentence would still be a request or suggestion for the listener to buy milk, but without the added emphasis provided by the particle くらい, it might sound less urgent or insistent.

Overall, the presence of the particle くらい in the sentence "牛乳ぐらいは買ってください" adds emphasis to the request or suggestion to buy milk, but the core meaning of the sentence would still be retained if the particle were removed.

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    細かいことですが、「XはYしてください」一般についていえば必ずしも'at least'とも言えないものはありますよね。元の質問はただの例文なのであらゆる場合を考えるのは難しいですが・・
    – sundowner
    Dec 2, 2022 at 10:28
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    @sundowner たしかにそうです(季節の変わり目は健康に気を付けてください、とかだと変わりますし)。ただ、今回の例文ではそういった意味で使われているためこう書いてはいますが、どこにも「これは必ずat leastを意味する」とは書いていないはずです(無意識的に書いていたらすみません。一応読み直してみましたが書いていないと思います)。
    – Skye-AT
    Dec 2, 2022 at 14:24
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  1. 牛乳買ってください。
  2. 牛乳ぐらいは買ってください。

The difference of the two sentences is probably bigger than you might imagine.

は is fundamentally a contrast marker that sometimes can be translated as "at least" depending on the context. In this context, you can also translate it without "at least", simply like "But buy milk, please (although all other ingredients will be prepared for you)".

On the other hand, (牛乳)ぐらい can be sometimes translated as "at least", too, but this works by marking the preceding word as something trivial. Remember くらい/ぐらい is a word used like this:

So saying 牛乳ぐらいは買ってください implies buying milk is a fairly trivial thing to do (either because it is cheap or because it can be found anywhere), and thus this can sound accusatory, like "Please buy something cheap/common like milk by yourself!" even if you're using polite language. It's not just simply "more emphatic", so you have to use it carefully.

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