How to Use Ageru, Kureru, and Morau (あげる, くれる, もらう)

あげる, くれる, and もらう (ageru, kureru, morau) are giving and receiving verbs describing how objects or actions are passed from one person to another.

あげる (ageru) and くれる (kureru) mean ‘to give’, and もらう (morau) means ‘to receive’, but it isn’t quite that simple. The use of each verb depends on the perspective you are speaking from, as well as the giver and receiver’s relationship. To understand this, we first have to learn how communities are structured in the Japanese language and their relationship.

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Basics of Ageru, Kureru, and Morau

When talking about people or relationships between people, the Japanese language draws a line between inside or uchi (内), and outside or soto (外). uchi (内) includes the self, or watashi (私), as well as people that you are close to, such as family and friends. Everyone else falls into the soto (外) category.

Let’s see how this applies to あげる, くれる, and もらう (ageru, kureru, morau).

あげる (ageru)give(watashi) ⇨ 内 (uchi)
(watashi) ⇨ 外 (soto)
(uchi) ⇨ 外 (soto)
(soto) ⇨ 外 (soto)
くれる (kureru)give(uchi) ⇨ 私 (watashi)
(soto) ⇨ 私 (watashi)
(soto) ⇨ 内 (uchi)
もらう (morau)receive誰でも (dare demo)Any combination

Another way of thinking about this is that あげる (ageru) is used when talking from the giver’s perspective or a third-person perspective, whereas くれる (kureru) is used when talking from the receiver’s perspective, and もらう (morau) can be used in any situation.

Even here, it’s important to understand that the giver or receiver perspective can be used even if the situation is between 内 (uchi) and 外 (soto) and not necessarily involving the self.

Kureru & Ageru Cheat Sheet

Basics of Ageru, Kureru, and Morau

Now that we understand the difference between each word, we can start building simple sentences. Keep an eye out for the 私 (watashi), 内 (uchi), and 外 (soto) combinations!

あげる (ageru)

watashi wa Sato-san ni hon o ageta
I gave Sato-san a book
Sato-san wa watashi ni hon o ageta
Sato-san wa Suzuki-san ni hon o ageta
My mother gave Sato-san a book

くれる (kureru)

Sato-san wa watashi ni hon o kureta
Sato-san gave me a book
  watashi wa Sato-san ni hon o kureta
haha wa Sato-san ni hon o kureta
Sato-san gave my mother a book

もらう (morau)

watashi wa Sato-san ni hon o moratta
I received a book from Sato-san
Sato-san wa haha ni hon o moratta
Sato-san received a book from my mother

Note: “から (kara)” can be used instead of “に (ni)”, especially when receiving something from an organization rather than a person

For all of the above cases, ‘が (ga)’ can also be used instead of ‘は (wa)’ when the sentence is presenting new information on the topic during the conversation, such as when replying to a question:

Sato-san ni hon o ageta no wa dare desuka
Who gave Sato-san a book?

watashi ga agemashita
I gave it (I was the one who gave it)

You may recognize that there are a few forms of polite speech in Japanese: simple polite form, honorific form, and humble form. Generally, speech can be converted to simple polite form by adding です・ます (desu/masu). The honorific form, called 尊敬語 (sonkeigo), shows respect to particular people, including not just the receivers of the speech but also third parties. The humble form, called 謙譲語 (kenjougo), shows respect to the receivers of the speech by humbling the speaker.

Using ~て + Ageru/Kureru/Morau

We’ve used ageru, kureru, and morau to express giving and receiving objects, but this can also be used for actions, to mean doing something for someone. This can be done by conjugating verbs into the ‘て (te)’ form, and adding ageru/kureru/morau.

For example:

watashi wa Sato-san ni hon o katte ageta.
I bought Sato-san a book

Using ‘ageta’ emphasises that the action is done for someone, compared to if you just said ‘買った (katta), so a giver saying this could potentially sound patronizing to the receiver. This is why it is rarely used towards someone who you are not close or friendly with.

Satou san wa watashi ni hon o katte kureta.
Sato-san bought me a book.

watashi wa Sato-san ni hon o katte moratta.
Sato-san bought me a book.

Both of the above mean the same thing: Sato-san bought me a book. The only difference is the sentence structure, where the giver is the subject when using ‘kureta’, and the receiver is the subject when using ‘moratta’.

~てくれる (~te kureru)

The verb “くれる” (kureru) indicates that someone is doing something for the benefit of the speaker. It is often translated as “to give”, but in reality, it is more like “to do me a favor” or “to do something for me”.

Think of the English sentences “I was helped by Tanaka-san” and “Tanaka-san helped me.” Both mean the same thing, but they use different tenses: passive and active.

The same case happens in Japanese, but instead of tenses, we’re changing the conjugation form. In the sentence “Tanaka-san helped me,” it is implied that Tanaka performed the action as a favor to you. The idea of someone doing something “as a favor” is expressed through the てくれる (te kureru) function.

When the verb “くれる” (kureru) is combined with the te-form of another verb, it creates the expression “てくれる” (te kureru).

For example, let’s look at this sentence:

Otousan ga kuruma o naoshite kureta

This sentence means, “My father fixed the car for me”. Here, the verb “直す” (naosu) means “to fix”, and the te-form of the verb is “直して” (naoshite). By adding “くれる” (kureru), it becomes 直してくれた(naoshite kureta). The addition of “くれる” (kureru), albeit in the past tense, indicates that the father did the action of fixing the car for the benefit of the you.

Easy, right? Keep in mind that てくれる” (te kureru) is used to express gratitude towards the person who did the action. In other words, should only be used when the action is done for the benefit of the speaker.

Now, what happens if we flip the situation around?

Watashi ga tomodachi ni purezento o katte kureta.
I brought my friend a present.

This example is wrong because くれる cannot be used with a first-person subject. あげる would be the appropriate verb choice in this case. Moreover, it indicates that you did the action of buying the present for the benefit of the friend, instead of the other way around.

~てあげる (~te ageru)

The verb “あげる” (ageru) is used when 内 (uchi) or watashi (私) is doing something for the benefit of someone else. When the verb “あげる” (ageru) is combined with the te-form of another verb, it creates the expression “てあげる” (te ageru).

Watashi ga kanojo ni tegami o kaite ageta

The example above means “I wrote a letter for her”. Here, the verb “書く” (kaku) means “to write”, and the te-form of the verb is “書いて” (kaite). You can simply say, 彼女に手紙を書きました (kanojo ni tegami o kakimashita), but the addition of “あげる” (ageru) emphasizes that the speaker did the action of writing the letter to help or give favor to the woman.

~てもらう (~te morau)

“てもらう” (te morau) is a common expression used to indicate that someone, or 外 (soto), does an action for 私 (watashi) . It is formed by combining the te-form of a verb with the verb “もらう” (morau), which means “to receive”. Together, “てもらう” (te morau) means “to receive the favor of someone doing something for you”.

So how are ~てもらう (~te morau) and ~てくれる (~te kureru) different?

With くれる (kureru), the person doing the favour is the subject, so it is marked with が. With もらう, you are the subject, and the person doing the favour is marked with に. This might seem complicated, but here are two examples to make things easier.

Satou san ni matte moratte, (watashi wa) ureshii desu.
I am happy that “I” have been kindly waited on by Satou-san

Satou-san ga matte kurete, (watashi wa) ureshii desu.
I am happy that “you” have kindly waited for me.

See how both technically expresses, “Satou-san waited for me”? How are they different?

Well, in the first sentence, by using もらう (morau), we’re focusing the act on “I” getting awaited by Satou-san. In the secon sentence, くれる (kureru) shifts the focus on the act of Satou-san waiting for you, and therefore, you’re showing appreciation for them.

Both still mean the same thing, right? Not necessarily. Remember when we said くれる (kureru) express gratitude towards the person who did the action. If you want to show appreciation for the person doing the act or favor to you, opt for くれる (kureru). もらう(morau) specifically highlights the receiving the action.

Polite forms of Ageru, Kureru, and Morau

The table below summarizes the main polite forms of ageru, kureru, and morau. Note that the desu/masu conjugations differ between verbs ending with る and う!

Casual 基本形Polite 丁寧形Honorific 尊敬語・Humble 謙譲語
あげる ageruあげます agemasu差し上げます sashiagemasu(謙譲語)
くれる kureruくれます kuremasuくださいます kudasaimasu(尊敬語)
もらう morauもらいます moraimasuいただきます itadakimasu(謙譲語)

ない: Negative form of Ageru, Kureru, and Morau

Until now we have used just the positive form of ageru, kureru, and morau in our example sentences. Now let’s take a look at how to use it in the negative form.

あげる (ageru)・あげた (ageta) → あげない (agenai)・あげなかった (agenakatta)

watashi wa Sato-san ni hon wo agenai (agenakatta)
I will not give (did not give) Sato-san a book

くれる (kureru)・くれた (kureta) → くれない (kurenai)・くれなかった (kurenakatta)

Sato-san wa watashi ni hon o kurenai (kurenakatta)
Sato-san will not give (did not give) me a book

もらう (morau)・もらった (moratta) → もらわない (morawanai)・もらわなかった (morawanakatta)

watashi wa Sato-san ni hon o morawanai (morawanakatta)
I will not receive (did not receive) a book from Sato-san

あげる and くれる both end in る, which is replaced by ない to convert it to the negative form. On the other hand, もらう ends in う, which is replaced by あない, and furthermore changed to わない since もら ends with an ‘ah’ sound. 

Quiz: Kureru, Ageru, or Morau?

Choose the appropriate answer from the brackets:

  1. 佐藤さんは鈴木さんに本を(あげました・くれました)。
  2. 鈴木さんは佐藤さんに本を(もらいました・くれました)。
  3. 私は高橋さんにえんぴつを(もらいました・くれました)。
  4. 高橋さんは私に本を(あげました・くれました)。

Bonus Question:

Fill in the blanks so that the sentence has the following meaning: “The grandmother had her grandchild massage her shoulders”.

おばあさんは孫に肩をもんで(      )。

Check the conclusion for the answers!


This wraps up our JLPT N5 Grammar guide on Ageru, Kureru, and Morau. With these basics, you should now be able to construct sentences that describe actions between or involving multiple people. However, there are still many more verb conjugations that can be used with ageru, kureru, and more to broaden its use even further. Make sure to check out our conjugation lessons to learn more!

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Quiz answers:

  1. あげました
  2. もらいました
  3. もらいました
  4. くれました 

Bonus Q. もらった・もらいました

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