Giving orders

The meireikei conjugation is the basic imperative and placed at the end of the sentence as the main verb. Use of this form should be avoided since it is often extremely insulting.

手を挙げろ! Te wo age ro! Put your hands up!
お金をくれ! O-kane wo kure! Give me your money!
こっちへ来い! Kochi-e koi! Come here!
止まれ Tomare Stop
頑張れ! Ganbare! Go for it! / Keep going!

The ren’youkei + な (na) is the more common imperative and not as rude as the meireikei conjugation.

Benkyō shina.


The imperative can be softened a bit by adding the honorific お (o) prefix to the ren’youkei conjugation, or if it’s combined with a compound verb by adding it to the compound verb.

お勉強しな 。
O-benkyō shina.


The ren’youkei + なさい (nasai) works similar to ren’youkei + な (na), but through the use of the honorific verb なさる (nasaru), it is less direct and more polite, though still an order.

Benkyō shi nasai.

Tabe nasai.

Asking someone to do something for you requires the use of honorific verbs which are explained in detail in the polite forms section. Honorific verbs are often encountered in the meireikei conjugation. As these verbs are honorific of their own, the meireikei conjugation is neither rude nor impolite.

これを下さい。 Kore wo kudasai. I'll have this one. (Give me this.)
おやすみなさい。 O-yasumi nasai. Good night. (Literally: Rest.)
いらっしゃい。 Irasshai. Come in.
召し上がれ。 Meshi agare. Eat.

The polite form ~ます (-masu) can be made into an imperative. This form is often combined with the honorific verbs. This increases the politeness of the “order” even further.

これを下さいませ。 Kore wo kudasaimase. I'll have this one. (Give me this.)
勉強しなさいませ。 Benkyō shi nasaimase. Study! (Teacher to students.)
いらっしゃいませ。 Irasshaimase. Come in.
召し上がりませ。 Meshi agarimase. Eat.

Note: The -masu form is connected to the ren’youkei conjugation and not to the meireikei conjugation.

Describing inevitability

“You have to”

There are several ways to describe that you “have to” or “must” do something. The most common construction uses the negative conditional form followed by the negative of “to become” or “to be able to go”.

行かないとならない。 Ikanai to naranai.
行かないといけない。 Ikanai to ikenai.

行かなくてはならない。 Ikanakute wa naranai.
行かなくてはいけない。 Ikanakute wa ikenai.

行かなければならない。 Ikanakereba naranai.
行かなければいけない。 Ikanakereba ikenai.

Often abbreviated to:

行かなきゃならない。 Ikanakya naranai.
行かなきゃいけない。 Ikanakya ikenai.

All these variations translate as “I have to go.” or “I must go.” Of course, all variations can be made polite by adding ます (masu) to the ren’youkei conjugation of the final (main) verb.

Note: The rentaikei + なら(ば) cannot be used for this construction.

“You should”
The rentaikei + べき (beki) constitutes more of strong advice rather than an inevitability, and is often translated as “you should” or “you ought to”.

A common contraction occurs when べき (beki) is combined with the verb する (suru) meaning “to do”. Both するべき (suru beki) and すべき (subeki) can be used.

Bōryoku ni uttaeru beki de wa nai desu.
You must not resort to violence.

Benkyō subeki deshita.
I should have studied.

“You need to”

To describe “you need to” 必要がある (hitsuyō ga aru) is used.

Isogu hitsuyō wa arimasen.
There is no need to hurry.

Batterii wo juuden suru hitsuyō ga aru.
I need to recharge the battery.