Receive in Japanese - the verbs いただく and もらう

Author Sandro Maglione for article 'Receive in Japanese - the verbs いただく and もらう'

Sandro Maglione

7 min reading time

Today we learn about the Japanese verbs that fall into the category of giving and receiving. Specially, in this post we explain the verb "to receive" in Japanese, in the forms もらう morau and (いただ)itadaku.


Verbs expressing give and receive

The verbs that translate to give and to receive are called in Japanese やりもらい or (じゅ)(じゅ)

  • やりもらう yari (from yaru to give) and morau (to receive)
  • (じゅ)(じゅ) juju is a noun meaning giving and receiving, transferring

The 2 verbs we are going to learn more about are:

  • もらう morau, to receive
  • (いただ)itadaku, to receive

Before going into a purely grammatical and structural discourse, it is necessary to recall, as we have done in other posts, some elements of Japanese culture. Aspects that characterize Japanese interpersonal relationships.

(じょう)()(かん)(けい) vertical relationships, hierarchy

  • 上 indicates the above, the upper part
  • 下 expresses the below, the lower part
  • (かん)(けい) kankei, the relationship, the relationship

Uchi and Soto

These two terms are essential for understanding the relationships of people within the group, and specifically for deciding which inguistic register to use:

  • uchi, means inside and home and consists of my personal sphere, family, friends and colleagues, people with whom I am familiar, the people close to me.
  • soto indicates the outside. It represents all the people outside uchi: acquaintances, strangers, people with whom you do not have an intimate relationship of trust and with whom it is advisable to keep a certain distance.

Verb to receive expressed by (いただ)

When we look up (いただ)く in the dictionary we find the synonym もらう as both express the verb to receive.

Itadaku is a form that falls under the keigo language 敬語, the honorific language, and is used towards people who are in a higher social position than ours.

Itadaku belongs to the keigo language called (けん)(じょう)() or humble language

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The people from whom we receive a good or a service can be our teachers, our owners, the people we don't know and towards whom we deem it appropriate to use honorific expressions.

()(うえ)(かた) me ue no kata or ()(うえ)(ひと) me ue no hito represent the higher

The same term 方 kata in the meaning of person denotes more respect, courtesy and deference compared to the usual word 人 hito:

この(かた)(まつ)(もと)さんです。

This person is Mr. Matsumoto.

Examples with itadaku

(しゃ)(ちょう)からボーナスを(いただ)いた。

I received a bonus from the President.

(けっ)(こん)(しき)()()(もの)(いただ)いた。

I received the wedding favor.

In this sentence the subject is not expressed openly, but since it is a wedding reception, we understand that we are in an important and formal situation and therefore we prefer to use the verbs that fall within the honorific language.

Itadaku in pleasantries

One of the first expressions that we learn especially in daily life in Japan is:

(いただ)きます!

Bon appetit.

Now we are also able to understand that the translation goes beyond "enjoy your meal".

With itadakimasu, I express gratitude towards Creation that feeds us with the fruits of the Earth and gratitude towards the person who cooks food for us.

Formal expressions in written communications

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Form in ていただく

Here are several examples of the use of 頂く in its te form:

In this case we receive the effects of an action, which originates from an action performed by the other person and from which we receive benefit.

ガイドさんにお(しろ)(あん)(ない)をして(いただ)きました。

A guide accompanied us on a visit to the castle.

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Verb to receive expressed by もらう

Now let's move on to the second verb that translates receive in Japanese: もらう morau.

You can use this form when:

  • Me or a member of my group uchi, receives from a person in the circle soto
  • uchi member receives from uchi member
  • A member of soto receives from a member of soto

(わたし)(とも)(だち)(たん)(じょう)()プレゼントをもらいました。

I received a present from a friend for my birthday.

クリスマスにもらったバッグは、とても()(てき)です。

The bag I received for Christmas is really nice.

Morau and Itadaku require the particle に or から?

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(ぼく)はいつも(はは)から()(づか)いをもらう。

I always get pocket money from my mom.

Form in てもらう

Also for the verb もらう we find wide use of the te form:

We use morau and temorau (てもらう) when the actions concern the members of the same group:

  • uchi member to uchi member
  • soto member to soto member

Here is the title of a Japanese post published online:

Phrase
Title of an online post title containing the verb もらう, 'receive'.
  • (きん)(じょ) kinjo is a noun that indicates proximity, proximity
  • ご近所さん go kinjo san with prefix o and suffix san, thus represents the neighbors, the people of the neighborhood
  • (たす)けてもらった the te form of tasukeru to help, to help and combined with morau means thereforei get help from neighbors

The published post asks: have you ever received help from your neighbours? and the various experiences are shared.

(とも)(だち)にバイクを(しゅう)()してもらった。

A friend fixed my bike.

As you can see the translation is reversed from the original. The element that indicates the provenance, the origin of the action becomes the subject.

Strictly following the text:

  • I had my bicycle repaired by a friend;
  • I received the courtesy from a friend of...

(とう)さんに(えき)まで(むか)えに()てもらった。

My dad picked me up at the station.


Here we learned some concepts and ideas to improve our understanding of these indispensable verb forms, いただく and もらう, in various moments of daily life; in the family, friendship and professional context.

それではまた!

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