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SOUNDING NATURAL IN JAPANESE

How to say what you really want someone to do

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Kyo AK-sha-ni itte-hoshii-n-da-kedo. (I want you to go to AK Company today.)

Situation 1: Ms. Tamachi talks to her colleague Mr. Mita.

田町: 三田さん、きょうAK社に行ってほしいんだけど。

三田: うん、いいよ。きょうはAK社のそばのBZ社に行くから、ちょうどよかった。

Tamachi: Mita-san, kyō AK-sha-ni itte-hoshii-n-da-kedo.

Mita: Un, ii-yo. Kyō-wa AK-sha-no soba-no BZ-sha-ni iku-kara, chōdo yokatta.

Tamachi: Mr. Mita, I want you to go to AK Company today.

Mita: I see. I’m going to BZ Company near AK, so that works out well.

Today, we will introduce the proper use of (verb)+てほしい, which is used for informal requests or wishes. X (speaker) は Y (person) に(は) Z (verb in te-form) ほしい means that X (speaker) wants Y (person) to do Z for X, and expresses X’s wish to Y. X (speaker)は is usually omitted. For example: 息子(むすこ)には外国 (がいこく)の大学(だいがく)に行(い)ってほしい (I want my son to go to university in a foreign country). When the speaker wants to ask the hearer to do something, Y (person) に (は) is usually omitted, and んだけど is usually added at the end of the sentence as in Ms. Tamachi’s remark above. To make this expression more polite, んですが or ですけど is added, as in この荷物(にもつ)をあそこに置(お)いてほしいんですけど (I want you to put this baggage over there). But this expression of request is not used to a person of higher stature than the speaker. You should be careful not to confuse Vてほしい with Vたい, which shows the speaker’s own will, as in きょうはAK社(しゃ)に行きたい (I want to go to AK Company). Z (verb in te-form) can be a stative verb, as in お母(かあ)さんにはいつも元気(げんき)でいてほしい (I want my mother to always be in good health). When the speaker wishes for a certain situation to happen, X (speaker)は Y が Z (verb in te-form) ほしい is used. Examples: この世界(せかい)からすべての戦争(せんそう)がなくなってほしい (I wish there was no war in the world); あしたは山登(やまのぼ)りをするので、晴(は)れてほしい (We’re going to climb a mountain, so I hope it will be fine tomorrow).

Situation 2: Mitsuo, a high school student, is chatting with his friends in the library, and is told by a librarian not to speak loudly.

図書館員: ここでは、大きな声で話さないでほしいんですけど。

光男: あ、すみませんでした。

Toshokan’in: Koko-dewa, ōkina koe-de hanasanaide-hoshii-n-desu-kedo.

Mitsuo: A, sumimasendeshita.

Librarian: I’d prefer you didn’t talk loudly in here.

Mitsuo: Oh, I’m sorry.

The negative request to another person is (verb in nai-form) でほしい as in Librarian’s remark. Example: ここにごみを捨(す)てないでほしいんですが (Please don’t throw litter here [lit. I want you to not throw litter here]). This expression sounds like an instruction or request and is not used to people of higher status than the speaker even if you add んですけど/んですが (verb in nai-form). でほしい can be used to convey the speaker’s wish, as in あしたは雨(あめ)が降(ふ)らないで ほしいなあ (I hope it won’t rain tomorrow). The pattern Vてほしくない can be used instead, but it is usually used to strongly criticize what the hearer did, as in 私(わたし)のすることに干渉(かんしょう)してほしくない (I don’t want you to interfere in my business).

Bonus Dialogue: On Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Okubo are chatting at home.

夫(おっと): スーパーまで行(い)くけど、買(か)ってきてほしいもの、ある?

妻(つま): じゃ、にんじんとたまねぎ、それから洗剤(せんざい)を買ってきてほしいんだけど。あと、クリーニング屋(や)でシャツを取(と)ってきてほしいの。

夫: じゃ、受取票(うけとりひょう)を出(だ)して。

妻: はい、これよ。それから、コンビニに行って、支払(しはら)いをしてほしいの。実(じつ)はきょうまでだから。

夫: ずいぶんたくさん用事(ようじ)があるね。

妻: ごめんなさい。きのうはメモをしないで買い物(かいもの)に行っちゃったから、いろいろ忘(わす)れたのよ。

夫: 買い物に行くときは、メモを忘れないでほしいなあ。

Husband: I’m going to the supermarket. Is there anything you want me to pick up?

Wife: Yes, I’d like you to buy carrots, onions and detergent. And, I want you to pick up your shirts from the laundry.

Husband: Then please give me the laundry ticket.

Wife: OK, here it is. And, I want you to go to the convenience store and pay this bill. The due date is today.

Husband: You’re asking me to do a lot.

Wife: Sorry. I went shopping yesterday but left my list at home, so I forgot a few things.

Husband: Ah, I wish you wouldn’t leave your memos behind when you go shopping.

  • strudlzrout

    I love these language articles. Thank you.