Having a lot of trouble with てくれう vs てもらう

the more I try to research and study these, the more confused I get. I have watched numerous videos, read my genki textbook, read bunpro, googled it, and after months and months I still always get these wrong.

Here’s an example sentence that particularly confuses me.


in this particular circumstance, bunpro marks me as wrong for using もらう or いただいて but when I read the bunpro grammar point it says:

てくれる is one of the most casual ways to ask for a favor, with てもらう being slightly more polite. ていただく (the 謙譲語 variation of てくれる) is even more polite than either of these!

if てくれる is the most casual way to say this phrase, then why am I being told to use that version for the polite sentence??? I find this incredibly confusing. I understand this is the ます form, but even still, I feel like it should be もらう or いただいて :weary:

please help :sob:

to further elaborate - here are some sentences I understand, and some I dont

  1. 頭が悪いから先生が特別に説明をしてくれた
    (I’m) not smart so (the) teacher explained (it) specially for me. - Makes perfect sense to me because the teacher is giving the student special treatment of their own volition

  2. お金がないから、昼ご飯をおごってくれる
    (I) don’t have money so will (you) treat me to lunch for me?. - Does not make sense to me why this is くれる and not もらう. I am asking THEM to do me a favor. It’s my wish not theirs, so why is this てくれる?

3. 今はちょっと手が離せないので、後で電話してもらえますか。
(I’m) in the middle of something now so can you call (me) later? - This makes sense to me because you are asking someone to do something for you, it is your wish and they are abiding, Makes sense,


てくれる and てもらう basically accomplish the same thing. The difference is who the subject of the sentence is.

in てくれる the subject of the sentence is the giver.
a more literal translation of this is:

(I’m) not smart so (the) teacher gave me the favor of explaining (it) specially for me

Here the emphasis is on the teacher giving the favor. For this grammar construction to work the teacher also needs to be highlighted with the subject particle が。

Compare to てもらう


Here a more literal translation would be:

(I’m) not smart so (I) received the favor of explaining (it) specially for me by the teacher

Here the emphasis is on receiving the favor (as opposed to giving the favor with てくれる). The person giving the favor in this context (the teacher) would be marked with the indirect object particle に while I (if included in the sentence) would be marked with が.

In essence they convey generally the same meaning with the indirect object and the subject of the sentence flip-flopping based on which grammar point you’re using.
Does this help?


Also, don’t feel bad. A lot of people struggle on てくれる and てもらう due to how similar they are in nature. If you focus on what is marked with a に and が in the sentence you’re sure to pick up the nuance in time!


I will try to focus on が vs に to see if that helps. thank you!

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I was struggling with this one too. This explanation is very helpful! 教えてくれてありがとうございました😊

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A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar:
The first person or someone the speaker empathizes with receives some benefit from an action by someone whose status is not as high as the receivers.

Someone whose status is not higher than the speaker’s gives something to the first person or someone with whom the speaker empathizes.

additional note: kureru is only used when the receiver is someone with whom the speaker empathizes (usually a member of their in-group).

My input: So basically when you are using もらう, there seems to be an implication that you are above the giver in status or importance, so you wouldn’t use it for your teacher in your first example, or someone you are begging for money from in your second example. If you imply you are above someone while asking them for money, I don’t personally think that will go over too well.

In your third example, if you are able to ask someone to call back later, you are probably above them in status.