てくれる / てくださる Japanese Grammar Lesson
Grammar Type: Auxiliary Verb (Group 2)
Essential Meaning: Do X for me (as a favor / as an act of kindness)
- Verb て-Form + くれる
- E.g. 話してくれる [X speaks as a favor to me.]
- E.g. 食べてくれる [X eats as a favor to me.]
- てくれる is used to describe situations where someone performs an action as a favor or act of kindness to the speaker (or someone with whom the speaker empathizes closely). てくれる roughly translates to “Do X for me.” てくださる is the honorific version of てくれる.
- In English, If I say “John lent me a book” or “John bought me a book“, it is implied that John performed the action as a favor to me. However, this implication does not carry over to Japanese; the idea of doing X as a favor must be made explicit, and てくれる serves that function.
- The same viewpoint rules that apply to the verb くれる also apply to てくれる. Namely, the first person (or person psychologically close to the first person) is the indirect object of the sentence; they are the receiver of the favor.
- E.g. 知らない人が私にコーラを買ってくれた。[A stranger bought me a cola (as a favor).] This sentence is OK because the first person is the indirect object of the sentence.
- E.g. *私は知らない人にコーラを買ってくれた。[I bought a stranger a cola (as a favor).] This example is ungrammatical because くれる cannot be used with a first person subject. あげる would be the appropriate verb choice in this case.
- Just as with くれる, with てくれる the indirect object is often omitted if it refers to the first person in declarative sentences or to the second person in interrogative sentences.
- E.g. 母はケーキを焼いてくれた。[Mom baked me a cake.] Here, the first person indirect object plus its particle (i.e. 私に) are omitted.
- E.g. 子供たちは何をしてくれましたか。[What did the kids do for you?] Here, the second person indirect object plus its particle (i.e. あなたに) are omitted.
- There are special cases when the person receiving the benefit is both the indirect object AND the direct object. For example, consider the sentence 道男は私に私をなぐさめてくれた。[Michio did me the favor of consoling me]. In this sentence, the speaker is both the indirect object (i.e. 私に) and the direct object (i.e. 私を). In such instances, the indirect object is omitted and the direct object is left in place.
- E.g. 道男は私をなぐさめてくれた。[Michio consoled me.] This example is correct because the indirect object was omitted, and the direct object remains.
- E.g. *道男は私になぐさめてくれた。[Michio consoled me.] This example is incorrect for the opposite reason as above.
- When てくれる is paired with an intransitive verb (i.e. a verb that doesn’t take a direct object), the beneficiary of the action is marked by のために rather than by に.
- E.g. *みんなは私に働いてくれた。[Everyone worked for me.] This sentence is ungrammatical because てくれる cannot be used with an intransitive verb.
- E.g. みんなは私のために働いてくれた。[Everyone worked for my sake.]
父は私にカメラを買ってくれた。[My father bought me a camera.]
道男は私をなぐさめてくれた。[Michio consoled me.]
ジョンは私の息子に英語を教えてくれている。[John is kindly teaching my son English.]
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