~なよ (Bonus Unit F)

We already briefly touched on how the ~なさい ending can be used for hierarchical commands. You'll hear lots of parents using it when talking to their children, teachers using it when talking to students, etc. You might also see it in the instructions for a test of some kind:

名前をカタカナで書きなさい。
なまえ を カタカナ で かきなさい。
Write your name in katakana.
Literally: "name + を + katakana + で + write (=[command])."



The hierarchical command form is made by putting ~なさい onto the end of a verb's ます-stem, yeah? I've always found it interesting that it is also possible to make a suggestion by putting ~な(よ) onto the end of a verb's ます-stem, as in:

もう寝な。
もう ねな。
Go to sleep already.
Literally: "already + sleep (=[suggestion])."



食べなよ。
たべな よ。
Why don't you eat it? // Just try it.
Literally: "eat (=[suggestion]) + よ."



To give another example, let's say that your friend is clearly sick, but she's not taking any medicine. You could tell her:

病院行きなよ。
びょういん いきな よ。
Go to the doctor.
Literally: "hospital + go (=[suggestion]) + よ."
Note: Sometimes I would translate this as "Go to the hospital," but given the casual context in which our sentence is appearing, I thought "Go to the doctor" is better.



I was first introduced to the ~な(よ) ending when hanging out with Rei (now wife, then girlfriend). At the time, I was between N2 and N1 level, and I'd never come across this verb ending (which shows just how late I was learning casual Japanese... and is perhaps why I put so much focus on it in our lessons). I've heard that ~な(よ) can sound like a rather strong command in certain areas of Japan, but in Tokyo it's quite common to use when casually urging friends to do some action.

Anyway, conjugation time:






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