Showing gratitude to others is one of many things we do on a daily basis. In English, we primarily express our gratitude via the expression "thank you" and other phrases like "I appreciate it." Many Westerns recognize the Japanese word arigatō ありがとう meaning "thank you," but there is a lot more to showing thanks in Japanese than just this one word.
In this lesson, you will be introduced to all sorts of ways to show thanks to others. Dialectical and speech style variation will become rather complex, but the focus for you should be to remember the core phrases introduced. For grammar that hasn't been introduced up to this point, you are not required to know how to constructively use them outside the phrases that are discussed.
Grammar Note: You will notice the prefix o/go- お・ご in front of many phrases discussed in this lesson. This prefix is an honorific marker which helps make what it attaches to be more respectful. Much later on, we will learn how to use this constructively.
The Western world is very familiar with the expression arigatō ありがとう. This word is very important to Japanese speakers and is indeed used in everyday life. However, there is still quite a bit to know on how to properly give thanks to someone. It derives from the adjective arigatai ありがたい, meaning “to be grateful.”
The intonation pattern of arigatō ありがとう differs depending on where you are in Japan. In Standard Japanese, arigatō gozaimasu ありがとうございます is pronounced with the following intonation (morae in bold being those with a high pitch as opposed to a low pitch): ありがとうございます.
For those of you that find yourself outside the greater Kanto Region (Kantō Chihō 関東地方), you’ll notice native speakers pronouncing arigatō ありがとう differently. The most important variations to note are as follows.
Spelling Note: This phrase can be spelled in Kanji 漢字 as 有り難う御座います. This is quite commonly used, especially in e-mails and business chats.
Of course, whenever we tell people "thank you," we usually add adverbs like "a lot" and "very much." We also usually explain what we're thankful for. All sorts of contexts are provided for intricate thank-yous in the examples below.
“Go-shimpai wa irimasen. Wata(ku)shi no hō de yarimasu.” “Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.”
“There is no need to worry. I’ll do it on my end.” “Thank you very much.”
Phrase Note: To add the sense of “very much,” use the adverb dōmo どうも as seen in Ex. 1.
A, hontō ni tasukarimasu. Arigatō gozaimasu.
Wow, that really helps a lot. Thank you.
Taiō shite kurete arigatō gozaimasu
Thank you for handling it.
Grammar Note: The pattern -te kurete ～てくれて, which indicates a favor being done by someone else for you or someone in one’s in-group, is frequently paired with thank-you phrases.
“Mō sumasete aru yo.” “O, arigato.”
“It’s already taken care of.” “Oh, thanks.”
Pronunciation Note: Shortening the phrase to arigato ありがと is very common in speech. The pitch of the phrase remains the same with a high pitch on the /ri/ mora.
Nakama no ōen ga hontō ni arigatai desu.
My pals’ support is really appreciated.
Wareware e no shien wa hontō ni arigatai.
The support to us is really appreciated.
Word Note: Ōen 応援 is support as in “cheering on” whereas shien 支援 is support as in “assistance.”
Sōchō wa arigatai koto ni yuki ga tsumotte inakatta.
Thankfully, snow hadn’t piled up in the early morning.
Grammar Note: You can express “thankfully” with arigatai koto ni ありがたいことに.
“Kasa wa asoko in oite aru.” “A, dōmo.”
The umbrella(s) have been placed over there.” “Ah, thanks.”
Phrase Note: A quick way to tell someone “thanks” is dōmo どうも. However, this shouldn’t be used when cutting one’s thanks short isn't appropriate--speaking to superiors.
Honto, itsumo arigatō desu!
Thank you so much as always!
Grammar Note: When people feel like arigatō gozaimasu ありがとうございます is too polite but they still wish to be polite to some degree, they often opt for arigatō desu ありがとうです. However, this is ungrammatical to most speakers. Nonetheless, it is still used a lot.
Sentence Note: Angatō あんがとう is a very common, casual contraction.
Grammatically speaking, arigatō gozaimasu ありがとうございます is in the non-past tense. Literally, it means “to be grateful.” This gratefulness is typically in response to what has just taken place or is currently taking place. If, however, the act of kindness is markedly in the past, then arigatō gozaimashita ありがとうございました becomes viable.
Iroiro to o-sewa ni narimashite makoto ni arigatō [gozaimashita/gozaimasu].
I/we are truly grateful for all the favor you’ve given me/us.
Grammar Note: By using gozaimasu ございます instead of gozaimashita ございました, one’s gratitude can be emphasized as being still ongoing despite the event of kindness done by the listener was still in the past.
Wazawaza o-koshi itadaite arigatō [gozaimashita/gozaimasu].
Thank you so much for going through all the trouble to come.
Grammar Note: The adverb wazawaza わざわざ is used to stress the trouble someone went to do something for the speaker. Additionally, the word o-koshi お越し comes from a respectful verb for “to come.”
Senjitsu wa wazawaza o-koshi itadaite arigatō gozaimashita.
Thank you so much for going through all the trouble to come the other day.
Senjitsu wa dōmo (arigatō gozaimashita).
Thank you for the other day.
Sentence Note: Using the unabbreviated version is most appropriate in formal settings such as conversations in business.
Kono tabi wa makoto ni arigatō gozaimashita.
Thank you so much for this occasion.
Grammar Note: The event in Ex. 15 would have already been completed at the time of utterance.
As a recap of the forms we've seen so far, they’re listed again below.
|Plain Non-Past||Polite Non-Past|
| Arigatō/arigato ありがと（う）|
| Arigato gozaimasu ありがとうございます|
Arigatai desu ありがたいです
|Plain Past||Polite Past|
|Arigatakatta ありがたかった|| Arigatō gozaimashita ありがとうございました|
Arigatakatta desu ありがたかったです
1. Arigatakatta ありがたかった（です） would be interpreted as “I appreciated it.” Similar, arigatai (desu) ありがたい（です） is interpreted as “That’s appreciated.“
2. Another respectful form is arigatō zonjimasu ありがとう存じます, which is occasionally used by women who aim to use the politest phrases possible. Note that the tō とう in arigatō ありがとうis actually a contraction of -taku たく. This is its adverbial form.
Thanking for Food
When giving thanks upon receiving food, Japanese people say itadakimasu 頂きます. This literally means “I’m receiving (food).” The intonation of this phrase is いただきます.
De wa, itadakimasu.
Well then, bon appetit!
After finishing a meal, it is customary to give thanks again by saying go-chisō-sama deshita ご馳走様でした. The word chisō 馳走 means “feast” and literally means “having to ride by horse to gather ingredients.” Although this is no longer modern reality, this expression gives recognition of the effort and quality put into the food that was given to you. Whenever you are familiar with the person, deshita でした can be dropped, or you can simply say go-chisō ご馳走. However, the shorter you make the expression, the stronger friendship you should have with the individual.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is ごちそうさまでした.
Kyō wa shokuji ni sasotte kudasatte, arigatō gozaimashita. Go-chisō-sama deshita.
Thank you very much for inviting me to dinner today. It was a wonderful meal.
1. Although translated as “dinner,” shokuji 食事 simply means “meal” and can be used in the same sense as “dinner” would in English.
2. -te kudasatte てくださって is the respectful version of -te kurete てくれて. Its meaning of marking the kind action of someone outside one’s in-group remains the same.
3. The response to this phrase is o-somatsu-sama deshita お粗末さまでした. Similarly, the speaker may reduce this phrase to either o-somatsu-sama お粗末様 or just o-somatsu お粗末 depending on how casual the tone is. This phrase may be used in replying to the use of any services other than just food and drink. For instance, it can be used at bath houses (sentō 銭湯).
Kansha shimasu 感謝します
In addition to the phrases above surrounding arigatō ありがとう, there is also the verb kansha suru 感謝する (to be grateful/thank you) that can be used. The noun kansha 感謝 means gratitude. In polite speech, this phrase is rendered as kansha shimasu 感謝します.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is かんしゃします.
Go-kyōryoku ni fukaku kansha shimasu.
I am deeply grateful for your cooperation.
Kokoro kara kansha shite imasu.
Kokoro yori kansha shite orimasu.
I am profoundly grateful.
Grammar Note: Kokoro kara/yori 心｛から・より｝ literally means “from the heart.” Using the particle yori より is more respectful. Additionally, shite orimasu しております is the humble form of shite imasu しています. The use of these forms instead of just shimasu します is done to emphasize how one’s state of gratitude has been an ongoing and continuing emotion.
Naganen no go-shiji ni kansha shite orimasu.
I am grateful for your long-time support.
A very formal means of expressing gratitude that is frequently used in business settings, primarily in speeches and/or the written language is shai wo hyō suru 謝意を表する (to express gratitude).
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is しゃいをひょうします.
Go-kōi ni kokoro yori shai wo hyō shimasu.
I am profoundly grateful of your kindness.
Lastly, it's impossible to ignore how the English phrase “thank you” has made its way into Japanese as sankyū サンキュー. A lot of speakers use this in conversation among friends. Online, it may even be seen colloquially spelled as ３Q or 三Q. At McDonald’s in Japan, sankyū サンキュー has also incorporated a meaning of “understood,” mixing gratitude to the customer orders along with confirming what needs to be served.
Sutaffu Ei-shi: Orenjijūsu no esu-saizu o-hitotsu desu ne.
Sutaffu Bii-shi: Esu-saizu no orenjijūsu, sankyū!
Staff A: One small-sized orange juice, correct?
Staff B: Small orange juice, coming up!
Lastly, there are some important variations of "thank you” that are widely known about and still prevalent in their unique ways.
The most popular dialectical version of "thank you" in Japanese is ōkini 大きに, which is emblematic of Kansai Dialects (Kansai-ben 関西弁). Younger speakers tend to not gravitate towards this phrase, but it is still prevalent among older generations and among store clerks.
Thank you (as always).
In most of Western Japan, arigatō-san (desu) ありがとうさん（です） is very prevalent. Variation exists as to whether the “o” is long or short.
Mina itsumo arigatō/arigato-san (desu).
Thank you, everyone as always.
In Yamagata Prefecture (Yamagata-ken 山形県), the phrase mokke もっけ is used. In Standard Japanese, this word can be found in the expression mokke no saiwai 勿怪の幸い, which means “windfall/piece of good luck.” In this dialect, the word is used to refer to a sense of gratitude that is seldom had.
Aiya, mokke da cha! Hontō de arigado nō. (Yamagata-ben)
Oh wow, thank you so much! Really, thank you, thank you! (Yamagata Dialect)
In many parts of Northern Japan, arigatō can be heard pronounced as arigado ありがど. This is because non-voiced consonants tend to be voiced in the dialects spoken there. This is still the case for even younger speakers, but this depends on the exact locality.
In prefectures such as Shimane (Shimane-ken 島根県), Ehime (Ehime-ken 愛媛県), Kumamoto (Kumamoto-ken 熊本県), and Miyazaki (Miyazaki-ken 宮崎県), the adverb dandan だんだん has been used as an intensifier in conjunction with arigatō ありがとう, so much so that it can stand for “thank you” by itself. Although this has died out of use, it is still widely known throughout Japan and is still used by older generations in those prefectures.
In the Hokuriku Region (Hokuriku Chihō 北陸地方), the phrase ki no doku 気の毒 can be heard used for “thank you.” In Standard Japanese, this is seen in phrases like o-ki no doku ni お気の毒に, which is used to express sympathy for someone’s misfortune. We will learn more about how it is used in Standard Japanese in the next lesson.
Ki no doku na.
Thanks (even despite the trouble I put you through).
In Okinawa, one must understand that the local indigenous dialects aren’t really dialects of Japanese. They are sister languages of Japanese. The Standard Japanese spoken in each individual locality will be influenced to some degree by these languages, however. In the main island of Okinawa, you will hear Ex. 28 used.
Thank you very much.
The standard direct translation of “you’re welcome” in Japanese is dō itashimashite どういたしまして. This implies that the speaker hasn’t really done anything extraordinary, which is quite opposite of the nuance found in the English “you’re welcome.” Traditionally, this has been a rather humble expression, but in many circumstances people often interpret it as downplaying the situation at hand, which can make it seem that the speaker is of higher status than the listener. Because of this, speakers typically avoid using it, opting for expressions that emphasize how the speaker was only trying to help.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is どういたしまして.
Ieie, (o-yaku ni tatereba nani yori desu).
No, no, so long as I’ve been of any help.
Dō itashimashite. Go-riyō arigatō gozaimasu.
You’re welcome. Thank you for using us.
Sentence Note: In customer service, dō itashimashite どういたしまして is still used as, traditionally, it is meant to be humble.
Ton demo gozaimasen. O-yaku ni tatereba ureshii desu.
Ton demo nai koto de gozaimasu. O-yaku ni tatereba ureshii desu.
Don’t mention it. I’m glad if I can be of any help.
Grammar Note: Many speakers feel that ton demo nai koto de gozaimasu とんでもないことでございます is more grammatical than ton demo gozaimasen とんでもございません despite the fact that both are grammatical.
Intonation Note: とんでもないです.
O-yaku ni tatete saiwai desu.
I’m happy to be of help.
O-tetsudai dekite yokatta desu.
I’m happy to have been able to help.
Iya, ton demo nai desu.
Oh no, don’t mention it.