Why is it wrong to say 私に手紙をもらいましたか。

Hello guys. I just found this sentence in my Genki book, but it says that it is wrong because the verb “もらう” can’t be used for saying you received from me. It also says this: “It is one indication that nobody can be detached from their ego”, but I am not sure I understand what this last part means. Could someone explain further?


A lot of grammar in Japanese involves putting yourself in the shoes of the setence’s topic. Using もらう when the giver is “I” and the recipient is “you” means you’re empathising more with the recipient than yourself, which in Japanese is ungrammatic.

That’s basically what Genki is trying to explain, albeit with more fancy terms.

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The textbooks never really explain why this is the case, but my theory is that もらう is similarly to the more polite version いただく a humble verb. If you say “You humbly receive X” you dictate how someone else (outside your group) feels, although you have no way of knowing that. It also lowers someone outside of your group, which is impolite.

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Just a note that you have a typo in the title of this thread – まらいましたか. It should be もらいましたか. I understood only because you said so in your first post.


Japanese has a group of verbs where the speaker and the listener are embedded in the verb itself, and so it is not grammatical to use them to mean those other things.


And to add to what Leebo said, these verbs are your friends because so many Japanese sentences don’t have their subjects or objects identified by pronouns the way we do it in English.

In these cases, if you see もらう for example, you’ll know that the speaker is doing the receiving.


Ohh you’re right, sorry about that! :sweat_smile: Thanks for noticing.

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