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Давайте-ка я составлю вам компанию.

vs: Давайте я составлю вам компанию.

There seems to be various explanations out there such as "used to express a pressing request" or "used to soften a request" or "used to express a personal intention. And I'm not sure which one to go by.

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  • it's mainly a softening particle, to make imperative sound playful, friendly, provisional, and also as Roman Odaisky has noted, to express immediateness, but this connotation has very little practical use, if one wishes to authoritatively motivate someone to act they will hardly use -ка even if the idea just occurred to them – Баян Купи-ка Aug 14 '18 at 9:20
  • @Баян I have trouble imagining someone deliberately adding -ка to their imperatives though. Lots of other particles and words of politeness, but not -ка. The latter does sound to me like something involuntarily spoken as the thought process is still ongoing, and IMO, it’s that perception that the speaker is somewhat undecided is what has the softening effect. – Roman Odaisky Aug 14 '18 at 18:29
  • @Roman Odaisky i can, it sounds more informal than other softeners which often bear the tenor of politesse, as far as indecisiveness is concerned, i'm not sure it's there, this would rather be expressed with "что ли", when i hear "подойди-ка сюда" i have no doubt the speaker means it that i step over – Баян Купи-ка Aug 14 '18 at 19:26
  • it can also have patronizing connotation if combined with strict or determined intonation – Баян Купи-ка Aug 14 '18 at 19:37
  • indecisiveness/hesitation (just as immediate decision) can be there when -ка is applied to 1st person future tense, eg. "выпью-ка я квасу" (i guess i'll drink some malt) – Баян Купи-ка Aug 15 '18 at 6:44
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http://rusgram.ru/Императив#34 quotes several linguists as saying -ка means that the speaker has just decided to make the request.

As for softening, just about any particle would soften a request. Подойди сюда! sounds harsher than А подойди сюда! — I would say that’s because adding non-essential words to a sentence suggests some kind of thought process behind the request, or maybe some uncertainty, and so it sounds more like there’s a valid reason to comply, as opposed to the possibility the speaker just likes to boss people around.

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  • in my opinion the mentioned explanation by linguists refers to only one possibility, probably to the original meaning of the particle... and not every particle is equal register wise, to my taste softening with -ка sounds more refined than with a – Баян Купи-ка Aug 14 '18 at 9:07
  • here, as V.V's reply shows unexpectedness in usage of -ка is best expressed when it's applied to 1st person future tense "пойду/ём-ка мы домой" – Баян Купи-ка Aug 14 '18 at 19:54
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The particle -ка is used with particular forms of the verb: 1.future tense , first person singular and plural

Посплю-ка я часок. Возьмем-ка еще по бутерброду.

2 Imperative singular and plural

Скажи-ка, дядя, ведь недаром... Давайте-ка дружно возьмемся за руки.

3 Past tense of the verb пойти.

Пошел-ка ты вон отсюда!

The particle always requires the initial position of the verb. The sentence starts from this verb.

The meaning can be different: побуждение к действию (motivation, prompting ), смягчение просьбы (softening ), усиление просьбы( emphasis ), придание фамильярного оттенка( familiarity ), эффект неожиданности (внезапно принятое решение)(unexpected decision , on the spot decision )

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  • Oh, I see. In my example, how do you express the idea of "-ка" in English? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 14 '18 at 20:02
  • 1
    Looks like familiarity. – V.V. Aug 14 '18 at 20:15

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