Giving and receiving in Japanese can be confusing to the English speaker, particularly in how particles are used.
Giving (self only)
When someone is giving something to the speaker, they must use the verb くれます.
- My friend gave a book (to me).
Note how I'm not explicitly mentioning myself above in the Japanese version. If I wanted to explicitly mention myself, I can:
- My friend gave a book to me.
The に particle technically indicates the direction of the action, but this is where things get configusing. One way to avoid confusion is to think in terms of a minimal sentence. In the above case, I didn't need to mention myself, so the part with に wasn't needed.
Giving (non-self only)
あげる behaves just like くれる. The only stipulation is in how they're used.
- My son gave a picture.
It's not clear to whom, but the sentence is sound. To add the recipient:
- My son gave a picture to my wife.
Once again, the に part can be removed for a minimal sentence:
As mentioned, the に particle is often described in this context as being the direction of an action, but when contrasting receiving (もらう) with giving things tend to get confusing. The best way I've found to remember how to use もらう is once again to think in terms of a minimal sentence.
- I received a pen.
This sentence doesn't say from whom. That addition requires the に particle.
- I received a pen from my friend.