What Does Onegaishimasu Mean and How to Use it

If you are learning Japanese, you have probably already run into the word “onegaishimasu.” This word doesn’t really have a direct translation in English, which can sometimes make it difficult for beginners to grasp. But we are here to help! Let’s go over this unique phrase and make sure you know how and when to use it. 

What does Onegaishimasu mean?

“At its core, “onegaishimasu” is a polite and humble expression used when making a request or asking for a favor. The word is derived from the Japanese verb “onegai suru,” which translates to “to make a request” or “to ask for a favor.” By adding “shimasu” to “onegai,” the verb form becomes more polite and respectful. Therefore, “onegaishimasu” can be translated to English as “please,” but it carries a deeper sense of humility and deference.

Onegaishimasu vs. Kudasai

While both “onegaishimasu” and “kudasai” are used to make requests, there are subtle differences between the two. “Kudasai” is a more straightforward way of asking for something, and it directly translates to “please give me” or “please do for me.” It is a polite expression, but it lacks the sense of humility present in “onegaishimasu.”

In situations where you need to be more polite, “onegaishimasu” is used. For example, when requesting a favor from a superior at a meeting, or at a dinner with older people who you don’t know well, you should always use “onegaishimasu.”

Situations in which Onegaishimasu is used

  • Asking for a favor: Whether you’re seeking assistance with a task, requesting information, or asking someone for help, “onegaishimasu” is a polite way to ask for something.
  • Ordering in a restaurant: In Japan, when ordering food at a restaurant, it is customary to use “onegaishimasu” to order something politely. For instance, saying “sushi wo onegaishimasu” shows respect to the chef and the restaurant staff.
  • Requesting permission: When you need permission to do something or enter a restricted area, using “onegaishimasu” shows an understanding of the rules.
  • Seeking forgiveness: If you find yourself apologizing for a mistake or an inconvenience you’ve caused, “onegaishimasu” expresses your genuine remorse and desire for forgiveness.
  • Starting an activity: In certain traditional Japanese practices like martial arts, tea ceremonies, or meditation sessions, participants say “onegaishimasu” before commencing to show respect for the activity and its history.

Set phrase Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu

Japanese famous Anime known for Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. “Summer Wars”

“Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is a Japanese phrase that holds deep cultural significance and is not easily translated into English. It is often used as a versatile expression to convey various sentiments such as “Please take care of it,” “I am counting on you,” or “I look forward to working with you.” Its precise meaning depends on the context and relationship between the speaker and the listener. For instance, when meeting someone for the first time, saying “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” implies that you want to have a good start to the relationship. In a work setting, it can be used to express gratitude for someone’s assistance or to ask for a favor politely. Additionally, in casual conversations, it can be an expression of friendship and trust, where you’re asking the other person to handle something for you with confidence. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu can be used in these situations to show a part of Japanese culture through the language of politeness and humility. 

“Onegaishimasu” might seem like it has a lot of meanings, but just make sure to get the feeling of humility, respect, and gratitude when using it. So the next time you find yourself in a situation where politeness and respect are necessary, don’t forget to say “onegaishimasu!”

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