Time for some serious old school How to Japonese now that Murakami madness is over.
Causative tense is not the easiest to get used to. Once you’ve mastered it, though, it’s really flexible. A couple of things to note before we get to today’s little trick:
– It’s important to remember that causative tense can just as easily mean “let/allow someone to do X” as it can “make someone do X.”
– In my very first set of posts, I introduced the 敬語 form 〜させていただきます. Basically this is just a fancy way to say 〜する. You can turn it into a formal request easily enough by saying 〜させていただけませんか or 〜させていただけませんでしょうか.
And now for today’s trick. There’s also a cool way to use the causative tense as an informal request. Normal requests take the form 〜してもいい or 〜していい, which literally means “Is it okay if I X?” Make that more normal English and you get “May I X?”
If you use the causative straight up – 〜させて – with a little rising intonation on the end, you can say, “Lemme do X.” You can make it even more casual by saying 〜さして, which is a slurred version and slightly easier to say. I remember hearing one of the English teachers I worked with use this. Whenever he was looking at papers or worksheets that the students were holding he would say, ちょっと見さして. “Let me take a look.” 見る is a fairly controversial case, apparently, but I think this works with most verbs. ちょっと食べさせて is an especially good one that will earn you some freebies from friends.
As requested, a version for linguists:
Standard causative is ~saseru. The perfective tense of this is ~saseta. The imperative form is ~sasete, which is often slurred to ~sashite (or ~sasite depending on the romanization you use). This is a great form for informal requests. You can change miru to misasete, or taberu to tabesasete if you want someone to “let you” take a look at something or have a taste of something. Important here to remember the flexibility of the causative tense.
Bonus update thought:
I think using させて・さして (sasete/sashite) on its own must always imply that the speaker wants to be let/made to do the action. If you’re trying to get someone to make or let someone else, then you probably need to use させてあげて・さしてあげて (sasete agete / sashite agete)? Hmm…when I think about it, させてあげてd (sasete agete) feels like it would always be “let” rather than “make.”