Giving and Receiving

Giving and receiving whether it’s objects or favors is a bit more complicated in Japanese because you need to be aware of the social status between the giver and the receiver. Basically, there are two words for giving and one word for receiving listed below.


  1. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  2. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  3. もらう (u-verb) – to receive

In this section, we’ll look at examples of when to use which words for giving and receiving.

Using 「あげる」 to give “upwards”

The word 「あげる」, which also means to “raise” is used when giving upwards to a person of a higher social status. The important thing to remember is that the speaker is always below everybody else. As a result, when the speaker is giving something to somebody else, he/she must always use 「あげる」. In other words, when you, yourself, is giving something, you must always use 「あげる」.


  1. これをあげるよ。
    (I’ll) give this to (you).
  2. 私は、昨日弟にプレゼントをあげたよ。
    I gave (my) younger brother (the) present yesterday, you know.
  3. 私が買った飲み物だから、あげませんよ。
    I bought (the) drink so (I’m) not going to give it (to you).

Using 「くれる」 to give “downwards”

The word 「くれる」 is used to give downwards to a person of a lower social status. Once again, because the speaker is at the bottom, everything given to the speaker will always use 「くれる」. In other words, everything given to you must be expressed with 「くれる」.


  1. それをくれるの?
    (Are you) giving that to (me)?
  2. 彼氏は、私の誕生日に何もくれなかったよ!
    (My) boyfriend didn’t give my anything on my birthday!
  3. もうすこし時間をくれませんか?
    Can (you) give (me) a little more time?

Using 「もらう」 to receive

There is only one word for receiving something so you don’t have to worry about which one to use.


  1. 友達からチケットをもらった
    (I) received (a) ticket from friend.
  2. もう高校生だから、今年はお年玉をもらえなかった
    Because (I’m) already (a) high school student, (I) couldn’t receive (the) New Year’s gift.

Comic 14 – バレンタインとホワイトデー

White Day is a holiday a month after Valentine’s day where men who received chocolate are expected to return the favor by giving gifts.


art by Josh Khoo
  1. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  2. バレンタイン – Valentine’s (Day)
  3. 何 【なに】 – what
  4. チョコ – chocolate
  5. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  6. 義理 【ぎ・り】 – duty; obligation
  7. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  8. もらう (u-verb) – to receive
  9. 嬉しい 【うれ・しい】 (i-adj) – happy
  10. いや – no (casual)
  11. 全然 【ぜん・ぜん】 (adv) – 1) not at all (negative), 2) entirely, completely
  12. そう – so
  13. ホワイトデー – White Day
  14. 素敵 【す・てき】 (i-adj) – lovely; splendid
  15. お返し 【お・かえ・し】 – return gift; return favor
  16. お楽しみ 【お・たの・しみ】 – enjoyment, pleasure
  17. お楽しみにする 【お・たの・しみにする】 (exp) – to look forward to
  18. ちょっと – a little
  19. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait

John: Tomorrow is Valentine, isn’t it?

Alice: So? (I’m) won’t give (you) chocolate.

John: Not even obligatory chocolate?

Alice: (You) won’t be happy to get (an) obligatory chocolate, right?

John: No, (I’ll) be totally happy, you know?

Alice: Is that so? Ok, (I) will be looking forward to (a) splendid return gift on White Day, then.

John: Huh? Wait a moment. What’s White Day?

Choosing the right words for giving and receiving

Choosing the right words for giving and receiving can be a bit confusing at first so lets look at a few ways to help you decide which word to use for giving and receiving.

Deciding between giving and receiving

In English, giving and receiving is simply a difference of viewpoint. For example, “I received a present from John” means practically the same thing as “John gave me a present” The same applies for Japanese as shown in the examples below.

  1. ジョンにプレゼントをもらった
    (I) received present from John.
  2. ジョンがプレゼントをくれた
    John gave (me) present.

Translated to English, both sentences essentially mean “John bought present for me”. While the viewpoint is reversed, essentially they are saying the same thing.

We don’t have to worry about which word to use for receiving because there is only one. So let’s look at how to decide which word to use for giving.

Giving from the speaker’s point of view

The easiest and most common scenario is when you, yourself is the one giving or receiving. As previously mentioned, because the speaker is always at the bottom, he/she will always use 「あげる」 to give to others and 「くれる」 when others give to the speaker.

  1. 私にくれるの?
    Are (you) giving (it) to me?
  2. 私があげるの?
    I’m giving (it) to you?

Using the same logic, it’s safe to say the following will always be incorrect regardless of the social status of the other person.

  1. 私にあげるの?
  2. 私がくれるの?

Giving from 3rd person’s point of view

The only scenario left is when both the giver and receiver is different from the speaker. This is the only ambiguous scenario where either 「くれる」 or 「あげる」 can be used. Basically, the speaker must choose which viewpoint he/she wants to look at the situation from.

For example, let’s say you wanted to know if Aさん gave Bさん a present. If you were asking Aさん, you would use 「あげる」 because you are looking at it from Aさん’s perspective as the giver.

Aさんは、Bさんにプレゼントをあげましたか? (Asking Aさん)

If you were asking Bさん, you would use 「くれる」 because you are looking at it from Bさん’s perspective as the receiver.

Aさんは、Bさんにプレゼントをくれましたか? (Asking Bさん)

In summary, deciding which word to use in this scenario can be described in two steps.

  1. Pick a perspective either as the giver or receiver
  2. Use 「あげる」 if from giver’s perspective or 「くれる」 if from receiver’s perspective (same as if you were the giver)
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