Wild Nihongo!


ておく Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Auxiliary Verb

Essential Meaning: Do X in advance / Do X as preparation / Do X for future convenience


  • Verb て-Form + おく
    • E.g. はなしておく [Speak in advance / Speak for future convenience]
    • E.g. べておく [Eat in advance / Eat for future convenience]


  • As a main verb, おく means “To put” or “To place“. But as an auxiliary verb, ておく means “To do X in advance and deliberately leave it in its current state for future convenience or in preparation for some future event“.
  • When the main verb is in the causative form, ておく expresses the idea of deliberately letting someone or something remain in a certain state for some reason (e.g. “Let X remain asleep“). The reason for letting X do Y should be specified if it is not clear from context, because otherwise the causative sentence may be interpreted as forcing X to do Y.
    • E.g. クリスはつかれているからしばらくさせておこう。[Because Chris is tired, let’s let her sleep for a bit.]
    • E.g. みたいというのならきなだけませておきなさい。[If he says he wants a drink, let him drink as much as he likes.]
    • E.g. *わたしはボブにビルをませておいた。[I made Bob drink beer. / I let Bob drink beer.] Without specifying a reason for letting X do Y, it’s ambiguous whether the causee is being permitted to do X or being forced to do X.
  • ておく is often contracted to とく in spoken Japanese.
    • E.g. ておく becomes とく
    • E.g. んでおく becomes んどく

Example Sentences:

明日あしたパーティーをするのでビールをっておいた。[Because I’m having a party tomorrow, I bought beer in preparation.]

今日きょうひるきゃくるのでひるごはんをはやめにべておいた。[Because a customer will come in the afternoon today, I ate lunch on the early side for the sake of convenience.]

来年らいねん日本にほんくからすこ日本語にほんご勉強べんきょうしておきます。[Because I’m going to Japan next year, I’m studying a bit of Japanese in preparation.]

WILD Examples:

The first line of this song goes:まえよめにもらうときっておきたいことがある [Before I receive you as my wife, there’s something I’d like to tell you in advance.] ておく is also used imperatively in the following line: かなりきびしいはなしもするが、おれ本音ほんねいておけ [I’m going to tell you something quite severe, but please listen to my true feelings.]
Listen to this line at 2:12: おしゃれなよるまちうつしておけひかり適当てきとうにボカしとけ意味深いみしん果物くだものっとけ、そしてケーキを画面がめんつけとけ [Photograph a fashionable evening street, make sure the light has proper bokeh, hold a piece of fruit that has a profound meaning, and on top of that throw a cake at your face.] There are multiple informal usages of ておく in this example. The idea is that these are things that one should do in order to create a good music video.
Listen for this line at 2:12: 準備じゅんびしておけ歴史れきしのこ悪巧わるたくみに [Prepare yourselves in advance, to make history with our sinister tricks] The name of this song in Japanese is 準備じゅんびしておけ [Be Prepared].
Listen to this line from 0:30: 勉強べんきょうはしないよりもしておいたほうがいいわ[Rather than not studying, you had better study.]
Listen to this line at 2:00: さようならすることになるなら、もっとやさしくしとけばよかった [If it’s the case that this is goodbye, I wish I had treated you more kindly.] Apparently the singer’s girlfriend is the one who made the decision that they would part ways.

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