469 - ~ましょう

It is very, very, very, very common to see verbs ending in ~ましょう.

If you don't care why it's common, then you should probably stop reading this lesson.

The rest of you can put on your study pants because grammar #$% is about to go down. Or maybe you should take off your study pants... unless you're reading this on the train or something. I don't know. Forget the pants. Just study:


JLPT N5: ~ましょう

Generally speaking, we can translate this verb conjugation as "let's."

Examples:

帰る
かえる
to return home; to go home

帰ります
かえります
go home; return home

帰りましょう
かえりましょう
let's go home; let's return home

行く
いく
to go

行きます
いきます
go

行きましょう
いきましょう
let's go

Did you catch the conjugation pattern there?

First, we put a verb into it's ます-form. Then we drop off ます and replace it with ましょう.

Conjugation talks bore me, so that's all I'm gonna say about it. I'm sorry!


First, let's look at an example where ~ましょう means exactly what it's supposed to mean: "let's!"

A:
そろそろ帰りましょう
そろそろ かえりましょう。
Let’s go home soon.
Literally: “soon / before long + let’s return home”


B:
ええ。
ええ。
Yeah.
Literally: “yeah”



Makes sense, yeah?

So why is it that my grammar books explain this grammar point by saying confusing stuff like: "~ましょう is used to actively solicit or urge other party to do something, rather than ask other party's intentions"...?

...

...

...

...

...

Sorry for spacing.

On the plus side, we've learned something important today: If you ever want to turn off your brain for a few minutes, you can just read some Japanese grammar books.


I have something better than an explanation. Here's an example of how ~ましょう does not always translate to "let's" in natural English...

If you get an apartment in Japan, there is a good chance there will be a notice like this posted somewhere around your building:

ごみはきちんと分別しましょう
ごみ は きちんと ぶんべつ しましょう。
Please be sure to separate your garbage properly. (Lit. Let’s separate our garbage properly.)
Literally: “trash + は + precisely / neatly + separation (of garbage) + let’s do”



The reason for notices like this is that separating garbage in Japan is kind of a nightmare. Talk to gaijin in Japan--a surprisingly large percentage of them have funny stories about dealing with garbage there.

Grammar stuff: I guess we could use that overly literal translation of "Let's separate our garbage properly"... but we simply do not use "let's..." nearly as often as they use "~ましょう" in Japanese.

I suppose the best translation of the above sentence lies somewhere between "Please be sure to separate..." and "Let's separate..." but I don't know how to do that in English.

Oh well.


Not surprisingly, ~ましょう can also be used when answering an invitation to do something together. Like this:

A:
この後、カフェで一緒に宿題をしませんか。
この あと、 カフェ で いっしょに しゅくだい を しませんか。
Would you like to go to a café and do homework together after this?
Literally: “this + after, + café + で + together + homework + を + not do + か.”
Note: Our next N5 lesson will look at making requests with ~ませんか.


B:
いいですね。そうしましょう
いい です ね。 そう しましょう。
That sounds nice. Let’s do that.
Literally: “good + です + ね. + that (thing/way) + let’s do.”




Can you catch what's different in this conversation:

A:
先生もバーベキューに誘ってみましょうか。
せんせい も バーベキュー に さそって みましょうか。
Shall [Should] we also try inviting sensei to the barbecue?
Literally: “sensei + も (=also) + barbecue + に + invite (and) + shall we see?”


B:
ええ、誘いましょう
ええ、 さそいましょう。
Yeah, let’s invite her [him].
Literally: “yeah, + let’s invite”



Well, in the first sentence, we have ~ましょうか, which is technically N4 grammar. But I don't see any reason we can't learn 90% of it here: When you add か to ~ましょう, it means "shall I [we]..." instead of "let's..."


I should really get better about teaching conjugations, because it's a bit more complicated when making casual suggestions.

If it's an ichidan verb (e.g. 食べる [たべる]), drop る and add よう (e.g. 食べよう [たべよう // let's eat]).

If it's a godan verb (e.g. 飲む [のむ; nomu]), change the final u sound to ou (e.g. 飲もう [のもう; nomou // let's drink).

Repeat 46,000 times or until conjugating does not require brain power--whichever comes first.

Also, examples, of course...

A:
天気がいいから、歩いて行こう
てんき が いい から、 あるいて いこう。
The weather is nice, so let’s walk there.
Literally: “weather + が + good + because, + walk (and) + let’s go.”


B:
うん。
うん。
Yeah.
Literally: “yeah”




Store Manager:
今日は9時に店を閉めよう
きょう は く じ に みせ を しめよう。
Let’s close the shop at 9 o’clock today.
Literally: “today + は + 9 o’clock + に + shop + を + let’s close.”



Employee:
はい。
はい。
OK.
Literally: “yes.”




Note that the ~よう ending is not only the casual form of ~ましょう. It can also mean something like "I think I will," which we'll look at in N4... and which we've already seen in these lessons (which could serve as nice supplements to the lesson you're reading right now):

[NDL #54] - I think I'll... go to sleep.
[NDL #55] - Yo, hey. I think I'll... tell you my plans...

And that's it! You're done!

Let's stop talking about grammar now.


Bonus Sentences:

ランチ一緒に食べよう。
ランチ いっしょ に たべよう。
Let's eat lunch together.
Literally: "lunch + together + let's eat."

軽く飲もうよ。
かるく のもう よ。
Let's just have a few. // Let's just go for a few drinks.
Literally: "lightly + let's drink + よ."




Noticed any typos we've missed or other issues?
Report them here at this link.

Have questions about something in this lesson? Something not quite clicking yet? Join our discord community and discuss any questions / comments with us and fellow students.
You can join by heading to this link.