What does ‘Onegaishimasu おねがいします’ mean?— when do we use it?

We talked about ‘おねがいします Onegaishimasu’ last time with it meaning ‘please’, but its meanings are not only ‘please’.

This phrase ‘おねがいします Onegaishimasu’ is one of the most common Japanese phrases which you will probably hear every day in Japan. So I want to focus on this phrase today and am going to explain more.

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When you order or ask something

What does ‘Onegaishimasu おねがいします’ mean?— when do we use it?

Ohoshi-sama, onegai…! Please, please…my little star…

As we learnt, you can use this phrase when you want to order or ask someone something, which is more or less the same as the English word ‘please’.

For example, when you want to order a beer in restaurants or bars, you can say;

Bi-i-ru, onegaishimasu.
Can I have a beer, please?

It comes from the verb ‘おねがいするOnegai-suru’

‘おねがいしますOnegaishimasu’ is a formal style of the verb ‘おねがいするOnegai-suru’ which initially means ‘wish’ or ‘ask’. You can ‘ask’ or ‘wish’ to someone or even to god.

おかあさんに おねがいした。
Oka-a-san ni onegai-shita.
I asked to my mother.

Kamisama ni onegai-shimasu.
I will wish to my god.

Santa-kuro-o-su ni onegai-shita?
Have you wished for Santa Claus?

Note: ‘に ni’ is like a glue letter in Japanese, meaning ‘to’ ‘towards’ or ‘for’ followed by someone in this case.

I think ‘おねがいしますOnegaishimasu’ came from these meanings of wishing and asking, begging, and then it turned into ‘please’ in English.

In everyday conversation, Japanese people use this phrase a lot because it is also a common greeting phrase. As a term of greeting, it is heard with another word ‘よろしくyoroshiku’ together.

よろしく おねがいします。
Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu.

When you first meet someone

When you meet someone for the first time, it is very common to say ‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu.’ It almost corresponds to ‘Nice to meet you’.

If you have a chance to introduce yourself, even only your name, you can say ‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu’ at the end of your introduction, so that people know that you have finished what you wanted to say.

For example, in a “Kon-katsu party (dating party) in Japan, they have a short time to introduce oneself by turn. You can hear almost all of the participants say this phrase at the end.

In the presentation or meeting

This phrase is often heard when you have business meetings or presentations. At the beginning of a presentation, the presenter might briefly introduce themselves by saying ‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu’, and then start their explanation.

At a team meeting, the leader may say this phrase after their explanation of the project. In that case, ‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu’ could mean “OK, Let’s move on the project!”

Asking someone to treat your important people well

When my grandmother, who passed away last year, first met my boyfriend, she took his hand and said ‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu’. She meant “Please take care of my granddaughter.”

Japanese people say this phrase to their children’s teachers or spouse’s bosses, colleagues, meaning “Please treat my important people well”.

Games and sports

‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu’ or just ‘おねがいします Onegai-shimasu’ is often used when the sports game starts, especially team games or martial art fighting. It looks a little strange saying this phrase when they start the game, but I think it includes the meaning; ‘Let’s play fair!’

It is common amongst Japanese sports games, to begin with ‘よろしく おねがいします Yoroshiku onegai-shimasu’ and to end with ‘ありがとうございました Thank you very much’, which shows their respect to each other.