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下さい or ください? 事 or こと? A Reference About Using Kanji vs. Using Hiragana

You can often see someone in the sentence discussions saying “you should write that in kana” and someone responding “I see it written in kanji here in Japan all the time”. Both sides have valid points, so I wanted to make a reference to explain what is going on.

下さい or ください

1.本を下さい。

Hon o kudasai.

Please give me a book.

2.読んでください。

Yonde kudasai.

Please read.

In the first example, 下さい is being used as a regular verb (動詞, doushi). We need the kanji to convey the meaning of the verb.

In the second example, ください is being used as an auxiliary verb (補助動詞, hojodoushi). In this case ください is serving a grammatical function. We do not need the kanji to convey the meaning.

You use 下さい as a verb with a direct object (marked by the particle を) and you use ください as an auxiliary verb that attaches to another verb. This is the correct grammatical usage.

English Reference: StackExchange

Japanese References: Livedoor / Nihon Koho

Yet, if you go to Japan, you will see ~て下さい on signs and people writing ~をください in emails. It often comes down to the average Japanese person being unaware of the grammatical rules, though some people may choose to use 下さい in kanji because they think it gives a more “formal” feeling or due to space/balance considerations when making a sign or advertisement.

From HiNative:

下さい (in Kanji)

ください (in Hiragana)

Strictly speaking, 「~してください」 and 「~して下さい」 are different, according to proper grammar.

[Verb て form]+「ください/下さい」

「Xしてください」: Please do X.

「Xして下さい」: Do X and give it to me.

(Also, 「Xしてみる」, 「Xしていただく」, 「Xしている」, 「Xしていく」etc.)

There is a rule that a word having supporting role (after て form) is written in Hiragana. There are many Japanese people who don't know that, though...

事 or こと

1.大変な事になりました。

Taihen na koto ni narimashita.

It’s become a troublesome thing/incident.

2.中国に行ったことがあります。

Chuugoku ni itta koto ga arimasu.

In the first sentence, 事 is used as a 普通名詞 (futsuu meishi, regular noun). It has a tangible meaning, so the kanji is needed to convey that meaning.

In the second sentence, こと is used as a 形式名詞 (keishiki meishi, formal noun). Formal nouns serve a grammatical function, so they are not written in kanji.

Common formal nouns include もの, とき, and ところ.

Japanese Reference: Manarabo

English Reference: Japanese Translation Blog

Writing words in hiragana also helps avoid confusion.

From Kakikata ga Dekiru:

「方」と「ほう」も読み手に誤解されやすい言葉です。たとえば、「市役所の方」とあった場合、「市役所の方角」なのか「市役所に勤めている人」を指しているのかは、前後の文章を読まないとわからない。この場合は、方角を表す場合は、ひらがなの「ほう」を、人を表す場合は、漢字の「方」を使うのがいいでしょう。

If you have the sentence 市役所の方 (shiyakusho no 方), you could interpret it as 市役所の方角 (shiyakusho no hougaku), the way to the city hall. You could also interpret it as市役所に勤めている人, a person who works at city hall. If you want to say “the way to city hall”, you should write 市役所のほう and if you are talking about a person you should write 市役所の方.

This is a good Japanese reference for when you should use hiragana instead of kanji: Free Writer no Yoridokoro

You can choose to write auxiliary verbs and formal nouns in kanji for various reasons. Native speakers of Japanese do the same. It's not wrong, it's just not the recommended usage. While I prefer to follow the correct grammatical usage, I think that making an intentional stylistic choice to write these words in kanji can show a deeper understanding of the language.

October 14, 2018

5 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/DestinyCall

Thank you very much for this post. It was very informative. I was aware that certain words were more commonly written in hiragana, but I was unaware of the underlying grammatical rules involved in making the choice between kanji and kana. It's very logical and fits into what I already understand about sentence structure.

ご助力ありがとうございます。

October 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/zanzaboonda

This is so useful. Thank you!!!

October 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/tuyencv2kul

you open your english class ! I will participate.

October 15, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/ravicc_

Oh my god, thanks for this! it's so useful and yet not really discussed

October 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/MartinFabrik

I just stumbled upon this great clarification. Thank you for taking the time writing it and including all these useful references!

February 1, 2019
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