406 - くれる

JLPT N5: くれる

Last week we looked at one of the many phrases to say "give" in Japanese: あげる. This time we will look at another word.

くれる is used when you, or someone with whom you empathize, are receiving something from someone else.

おばあさん が むすこ に あめ を くれた。
An old woman gave my son some candy.
Literally: "Grandmother (here: old woman) + が + son + に + candy + を + gave."
Note: The word for grandmother can also generally mean an old woman. This is also true for grandfather (おじいさん) as well as for aunt and uncle (おばさん and おじさん) for middle-aged persons.

You empathize more with your own son here than with a stranger, so you say くれる.

Were it the other way around, so that your son gave an old woman some candy, then you would use あげる because then someone you empathize with has given something to a stranger. Look at last week's lesson for JLPT N5 if you need to refresh your memory.

But here is what you have to look out for.

クリスマス に、 かのじょ は ぼく に うでどけい を くれた。
My girlfriend gave me a wristwatch for Christmas.
Literally: "Christmas + に + girlfriend + は + me + に + wristwatch + を + gave"

Even though your girlfriend is close to you psychologically---is in your "in-group"---you use くれる here. The reason is that this time it's actually you yourself who is receiving something.

If we put everyone into groups to determine when to use くれる and when to use あげる, then Me would be the innermost group, Family and Friends would become the next higher group, and Everyone else is the highest group. Every time you go down a group you use くれる (Teacher ⇒ Friend; Mother ⇒ Me) and if you go up a group you use あげる (Me ⇒ brother; Sister ⇒ Cashier). More on this later.

So let's get to the formation:

To form a sentence with くれる is identical to the way you form a sentence with あげる. I'll copy it here again.

A は B に C を くれる。

To make the same example as last week:

Robert は
Me に
present を

ロバート は わたし に プレゼント を くれる。
Robert gives me a present.
Literally: "Robert + は + Me + に + present + を + give"

This should look very familiar, just with the names of the giver and receiver reversed. So let's just look at the times at which you choose あげる or くれる.

Here is a little graphic I created:

I hope this makes it clear when to use which phrase. If you go to the left in the graphic, i.e. something is given to someone who is in a group further to the left, you use くれる. If you go to the right, it's calling for あげる.

Remember that the decision is always from the speaker's perspective. You only have to think about your own relationship to the people doing the giving, not the one between those people.

This is a demonstration of choosing the wrong verb:

× ちち は もりさん に しょうひんけん を くれました。
My father gave Mr. Mori a gift certificate.
Literally: "Father + は + Mr. Mori + に + gift certificate + を + gave"

Let's look at the graphic to figure out why this is wrong.

First, we determine to which group our father belongs: Family, which is the center group
Then, we determine to which group Mr. Mori belongs: Strangers, which is the outer right group

Your father gives something to Mr. Mori. That means you go from center to the right. According to the arrow you need to use あげる here. But くれる is written so we can see that the sentence is wrong.

この ネックレス は、 こども の ころ、 はは が くれた もの です。
My mother gave me this necklace when I was still a kid.
Literally: "This + necklace + は + child + の + (around the) time + mother + が + gave + thing + です"

その ブランケット、 どこ に あった んですか。
Where did you get that blanket from?
Literally: "That + blanket + where + に + was + んです + か."

キャビンアテンダント に いえば、 くれます よ。
If you ask the cabin attendant, he will give you one.
Literally: "Cabin attendant + に + if you say (to) + give + よ."

Note: In the answer by B he dropped the sentence part of who is receiving the given thing. You might remember that you can drop any part of the structure A は B に C をくれる if it is clear from context what is being said.

There is also a highly polite equivalent of くれる: くださる.

There isn't much changing in the way it is used, only the politeness level is being raised. We use くださる when the (outside) person doing the giving has a very high or respectful social status. For example:

しゃちょう が くださった ほん は、 わたし の じんせい を ひゃくはちじゅう ど かえました。
The book that the (company) president gave me turned my life around by 180 degrees.
Literally: "company president + が + gave + book + は, + I + の + (human) life + を + 180 degrees + changed"

But one little detail has to be looked out for with くださる:The ます-stem is irregular!

To form the ます-stem you change the verb like this.

くださる → くださ → くださます

This is different from what we learned until now. Normally you would expect that you get the form ×くださります but this is *wrong. You just have to remember that.

*Although I say that くださります is "wrong," you may hear a Japanese person say it once in a while. Generally speaking, though, you're much safer to always stick with くださいます.

All the other conjugation forms are what you would expect from くださる. So the て-form is still くださって. And we already saw the plain past form, くださった, above.

What certainly helps to make this easier is to recall the grammar point ~てください (see this lesson). You probably notice that it looks very similar to the word described here. And yes, it actually is the same word!

しょうにか の せんせい が むすめ に チョコレート を くださいました。
The pediatrician gave my daughter some chocolate.
Literally: "pediatrics + の + teacher (here: doctor) + が + daughter + に + chocolate + を + gave."

In contrast to あげる, where we had the humble form 差し上げる (さしあげる), there is no humble expression for くれる.

There is one last phrase we will cover soon, もらう, which works a little bit different from the ones discussed here but not by too much.

Bonus Sentences:

こうえん で おじいさん たち が ゲートボール を している。
There are some old men playing gate ball in the park.
Literally: "park + で + old men + が + gate ball + を + are doing."
Note: "Gate ball" is similar to croquet.

ごじゅっ さい くらい の おばさん に みち を きかれた。
A woman in her fifties or so asked me for directions.
Literally: "fifty years old + about + の + middle-aged woman + に + way / path + を + was asked."

となり の へや に は いじわる な おじさん が すんでいます。
There's a mean man living in the place next door.
Literally: "next door + の + room + には + mean / unkind + middle-aged man + が + is living."

This lesson was written by Dennis, a guest contributor:

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