Embracing Japanese Expression – Get Used to It 3

3. Causative Tense

This is one crazy-ass tense. Not only is it hard to figure out the meaning, it can even be hard to conjugate the verb. I find myself struggling with the Causative tense the most out of all of the ones listed in this article. One of the ways that I learned the meaning, though, is the following set phrase my teachers made us use in Japanese class:

日本の経済について発表させていただきたいと思います。

We’ll break this one down slowly. Forget the と思います for now.

日本の経済について = about the Japanese economy

(If you haven’t learned the phrase について yet, congratulations, you just did. It means about. For example, ビールについての本 = a book about beer. )

発表する = to give a presentation

日本の経済について発表する = give a presentation about the Japanese economy

Now, let’s change that into the causative form:

日本の経済について発表させて!

This person is clearly very excited. He really wants someone to make him give a presentation about the Japanese economy. The other possible topics must be incredibly boring. The important thing to remember here is that the causative form does not only mean “make someone X.” It can also be “allow someone to X” or “let someone X.”

Add the いただきたい (I want to receive):
日本の経済について発表させていただきたい。 I want to receive someone allowing me to give a presentation about the Japanese economy.

Now let’s put that into normal English:

I’d like to give a presentation on the Japanese economy.

Yeah, a silly English phrase, and not one that we would use in English, but this is how Japanese people begin their presentations. Get used to it. The と思います can be considered an extension of いただきたい. You should really think of いただきたいと思います as nothing more than “I want to receive.” Sure, 思う means think sometimes, but it can also mean feel, which it does in this case. How does he feel? He feels as though he’d like to give a presentation about the Japanese economy. Again, this is the way they say things, get used to it.

Other phrases you’ll hear:

自己紹介させていただきます。
I will now introduce myself. / Please allow me to introduce myself.

And a useful way to call in sick:

今日は気分がすぐれないんで、休ませてください。
I’m not feeling so hot today, please let me skip today.

Or if you wanted to include that lovely word 病休:

病休をとらせてください。
Please let me take byokyuu today.

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