617 - ～ておく
In the last N4 lesson, we saw how attaching みる to the て-form of verbs means something like "try doing" (～てみる).
In this lesson, we're attaching おく to the て-form of verbs to indicate that something is done in advance or in preparation for something:
JLPT N4: ～ておく (do in advance; leave)
In isolation, the verb 置く (おく) means "to put" or "to place."
For example, back in lesson [NDL #385] - JLPT N5: てください, we saw this sentence:
ひ の そば に おかないで ください。
Please do not put this near fire.
Literally: “fire + の + vicinity + に + please don't put.”
Note: This could be a warning on a product's packaging.
While 置く does have a lot of other interesting meanings, I still think the English verb "to put" is more versatile. So don't go thinking you can always say 置く when you want to say "put." I have a vague memory of trying to do this when I was at a lower level and consequently saying something that didn't make sense.
Like most words, the best way to figure out when/how to use 置く is to hear native speakers using it in a wide variety of situations... or just read hundreds and hundreds of NDL's. ^^
Let's look at our first example of ～ておく meaning something like "do in advance:"
オーブン は あらかじめ ひゃくはちじゅう ど に あたためておいて ください。
Please heat the oven to 180 degrees beforehand.
Literally: “oven + は + beforehand + 180 degrees + に + warm (and) + do in advance (and) + please.”
Note: In Japan, they use Celsius. Also, I have a bad habit of saying オーベン (← not a word) instead of オーブン (← correct). Pronouncing English loan words will be the death of me.
You might notice that ～ておく doesn't get explicitly translated in this sentence. That's pretty common.
Unfortunately, I often forget to include ～ておく in my sentences as a result. The same might be for you too, so be careful.
The important thing is to use ～ておく any time you want to give the nuance that an action is done in advance or in preparation.
👷 Construction 👷
I'm repeating myself, but おく attaches to the て-form of verbs:
V て ＋ おく
Note that おく can be conjugated in a number of different ways. In our first sentence, it was in the て-form, and in this following sentence it's in the volitional form (i.e. "let's VERB"):
えき の トイレ は きたない から、 いまのうち に いっておこう。
The bathrooms at the station are dirty, so I’ll go (to the bathroom at home) right now.
Literally: “station + の + toilet / bathroom + は + dirty + から (=because), + now / beforehand + に + go (and) + let’s do in advance.”
Note: The speaker is talking to himself/herself.
In spoken language, ～ておく is typically abbreviated to ～とく：
て + とく
This makes sense. Try saying ておく ten times fast and you'll probably start saying とく.
Here's an example of this from [NDL #110] - Different Kanji for the Same Words:
Don't make any plans tomorrow. // Free up your schedule tomorrow.
Literally: “tomorrow + empty + do in advance (and).”
Note: In other words, we're hanging out tomorrow.
Aside from adding the nuance that an action is done in advance, ～ておく can also add the nuance that something is "left" a certain way.
This is like saying, "leave the light on" or "leave that stuff over there" and so on in English.
でんき を けしましょう か。
Do you want me to turn the light off? // Shall I turn the light off?
Literally: “electricity / light + を + shall I turn off (=let’s extinguish + か)?”
いえ、 つけておいて ください。
No, please leave it on.
Literally: “no, + turn on (and) + leave (and) + please.”
Last but not least, we have a conversation that is おく City!
これ、 どこ に おけば いい？
Where should I put this?
Literally: “this, + where + に + if (I) put/place + good?”
そこらへん に おいといて。
Just leave it over there somewhere.
Literally: “around there + に + put/place (+ leave [and]).”
↑ That convo used おく three times! Twice as the verb 置く (おく) meaning "to put" or "to place" and once as ～ておく, shortened to ～とく, meaning "leave."
Like most of our N4 lessons, this is extremely common grammar. So I highly recommend going over this lesson a few times until you get a good sense for the meaning and usage of ～ておく.
Also, it might help to take a list of verbs and try conjugating them into this form. You want it to feel natural ending verbs with things like ～とく and ～といて especially.