Using 〜なさい for Commanding Someone Politely

    • Verb
    〜なさい is a suffix that creates the polite imperative form. While it is a polite way to make a command, 〜なさい still implies that the speaker has some kind of authority over the listener.

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    What Is the Polite Imperative Form なさい?

    〜なさい is the politer of two ways to form a command in Japanese. The other way is the command form. Before learning how to use 〜なさい, let's review how to formulate conjugate verbs to take the 〜なさい ending.

    To connect 〜なさい to a verb, you'll need to use the stem form of the verb. So depending on the type of verb you use, the conjugation will be a little different.

    Ichidan  + なさい = 見なさい
    食べ + なさい = 食べなさい
    Godan  + い + なさい = 会いなさい
     + き + なさい = 書きなさい
    Irregular する = しなさい
    来るく  =  来なさいき   

    なさい for Polite Commands

    Even though 〜なさい is the polite imperative form, you might want to avoid using it with your boss, teacher, or anyone who is in a higher social standing than you. This is because 〜なさい expresses a command or order. You should request or ask rather than command when dealing with someone who is older than you, or your superior in some way. Using other verb forms such as 〜てください (please do…) or 〜てくれませんか (can you do…) should do the trick.

    For example, when asking your senpai to teach something to you, it's rude to say:

    • 先輩、書類の書き方を教えなさい。
    • Senpai, teach me how to write the document for work.

    Instead, you should say something like:

    • 先輩、書類の書き方を教えてくれませんか。
    • Senpai, can you teach me how to write the document for work?

    As 〜なさい indicates that the speaker has authority over the listener, it's pretty common in parent-child relationships. For example, you might hear a mother trying to stop their kids from speaking loudly in a restaurant by saying:

    • ちょっと、静かにしなさい!
    • Hey, be quiet!

    In addition, 〜なさい is commonly used in questions on exams. If you have taken Japanese tests before, you have probably seen 〜なさい more than a couple of times.

    • 選択肢の中なら、正解を一つ選びなさい。
    • Choose the correct answer from the given choices.

    なさい for Showing Care

    Since 〜なさい is often used by caretakers, such as mothers and teachers, it can express a warm feeling when used in conversation between those who have close relationships.

    Let's say you're having lunch with your friend, and she drops a slice of bacon from her sandwich. She picks it up and is about to pop it into her mouth. You're a bit of a germaphobe, and since you care about your friend, you quickly say:

    • やめなさい!
    • Stop it!

    The use of this form here gives you a caregiver-like tone, and reinforces your tender feelings for your friend. In fact, this is why some Japanese greetings have 〜なさい built into them.

    • おやすみなさい。
    • Good night.

    おやすみ is the polite imperative form of the verb 休む (to rest).

    In addition to commands, 〜なさい can be used to make a suggestion. In this use, rising intonation helps to avoid sounding too pushy.

    • 遠慮しないで、たくさん食べなさい。
    • Don't be so polite, eat more!

    You made it through the ins and outs of 〜なさい! そろそろ休憩しなさいよ〜 (It's time for you to take a break!)