There are many expressions that native speakers of a language use on a constant basis. In the English-speaking world, it would be hard, for instance, to go a day without telling someone “hello.” This lesson will introduce you to many such phrases in Japanese.
Many of the phrases of this lesson are used in greetings (aisatsu 挨拶). These phrases are especially important to Japanese culture. As we’ve seen, Japanese places a lot of stress in how one addresses others. This will be very true for the phrases introduced in this lesson. Dialectical differences will also be of importance. Because speech styles and dialects bring about a lot of grammar that you haven’t encountered, the purpose for this lesson will be simply to learn the set phrases explicitly introduced.
To begin, we'll learn about the greeting phrases for morning, afternoon, and evening. There will be variation depending on dialect and speech style, but try not to stress over the variation too much.
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.
“Good morning” is expressed with the adjective for early, hayai 早い, in its traditional honorific form o-hayō gozaimasu お早うございます. In casual situations, this is shortened to o-hayō お早う. Note that the pronunciation of o-hayō お早う is not the same as the state of Ohio. In Japanese, the latter would be rendered as Ohaio(-shū) オハイオ（州）. Do not mishear /io/ as /yo/ as they are not the same.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is おはようございます.
Sensei, o-hayō gozaimasu.
Good morning, teacher.
Yō, Kenji-kun! O-hayō! Genki?
Hey, Kenji-kun! Morning! How are ya?
For those who live in the Kinki Region (Kinki Chihō 近畿地方) where Kansai Dialects (Kansai-ben 関西弁) are spoken, you will frequently hear people use o-hayō-san お早うさん instead.
Genki ni ichi, ni o-hayō-san! O-tete wo futte o-hayō-san!
Now a lively good morning in one, two! Wave your hands good morning!
Sentence Note: This example comes from a well-known children’s song, bōkaru shoppu ボーカル・ショップ.
There are also two casual variants of "good morning" that would be wise to remember as well. The first is ohayōn おはよーん, which adds a little cutesy flare to the greeting. Another variant is osoyō おそよう, which is a portmanteau of osoi 遅い and ohayō おはよう. Unsurprisingly, this is used in a sarcastic manner towards friends that have woken up far later than they should have.
“Hello” is associated with the phrase kon’nichi wa こんにちは (alternatively written as 今日は). In face-to-face encounters, it is used primarily in the afternoon. This is why it is closer to the English expression “good afternoon.” However, when the time of day is not relevant or ascertainable, especially in situations online, it is used just like “hello.” The reason why the particle wa は is used is because at one time, Japanese people used to greet each other by first making a comment about the day’s weather. Though this still happens, this phrase can still stand alone regardless whether a complete sentence is made of it.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is こんにちは↓.
Sumimsen, kon’nichi wa!
Excuse me. Hello!
Kon’nichi wa, go-henji arigatō gozaimasu.
Hello, thank you for replying.
Kon’nichi wa, saishin no nyūsu wo o-tsutae shimasu.
Good afternoon, here’s the latest news.
For those of you who may be stationed in Okinawa, you may also be familiar with the expressions haisai はいさい (men) and haitai はいたい (for women). However, it is important to treat these words as belonging to a separate language, Okinawan, that have managed to stick around in the daily lives of Japanese speakers in Okinawa (almost all of whom share cultural affinity as Okinawans). Who one should and shouldn't use these expressions also depends on where you are in Okinawa. Therefore, if you are in Okinawa, finding out who you can say these expressions to may open many more conversations to become familiarized with the local culture.
In many circles, “hello” is often expressed with chiwassu ちわっす. This is only used with people who you are close to where there isn’t emphasis on social order.
Similarly to how English speakers jokingly use “howdy,” Japanese speakers sometimes use koncha(ssu) こんちゃ（っす）. However, this gets most currency on Internet forums. The added ssu っすcomes from desu です.
Another well-known casual way to say “hello” is ossu おっす or ussu うっす. These phrases are used a lot by guys as well as among team sport players, to name just a few instances where this is frequently used. Both variants come from abbreviating ohayō おはよう. In response, one responds with ossu(ssu) おっす（っす）or ussu(ssu) うっす（っす） . The added ssu っすcomes from desu です.
Similarly, Japanese people have also had a custom of making a comment about the evening whenever they would meet past daylight hours. This has brought about the phrase komban wa 今晩は, which translates as “good evening.” The time of day when you switch from kon’nichi wa こんにちは and komban wa 今晩は is mostly determined by whether the sun is still out. If it is still bright outside, you use the former. If it is already darkening outside, you use the latter.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is こんばんは↓.
Komban wa, nyūsu sebun desu.
Good evening, this is News 7.
O-tsuki-san, komban wa.
Good evening, moon.
Komban wa, neko-chan. Kawaii ne.
Good evening, kitty. Aren’t you cute?
1. In traditional Kyoto Dialect (Kyōto-ben 京都弁), “good evening” is expressed with the phrase oshimaiyasu おしまいやす, which is still used by those who wish to preserve the beauty of the local dialect.
2.In various parts of Western Japan, you’ll hear banjimashite 晩じまして used instead.
3. In various parts of Northeastern Japan (Tōhoku Chihō 東北地方) as well as Hokkaido (Hokkaidō 北海道), you may also hear o-bankata お晩方 and/or o-ban desu お晩です。
Casual Speech Note: Casually, “good evening” can be expressed with kombancha こんばんちゃ, but this usually only gets currency online, where it may alternatively be further shortened and then spelled as bancha 番茶, which means "coarse tea" if taken literally.
To say “good night,” you use the phrase o-yasumi-nasai お休みなさい. Literally, this means “please go rest,” but it is still used whenever you are parting with someone at night. This phrase is also appropriate in figurative uses like the English phrase “may you rest” when at a funeral. Meaning, this phrase is very multi-faceted. In casual speech where it would simply be used to mean “good night,” it can be shortened to o-yasumi お休み.
Also, whenever you wish to be exceptionally formal in saying “good night,” there is also the longer variant o-yasumi-nasaimase お休みなさいませ. Additionally, instead of nasai なさい, kudasai ください may be used instead, creating o-yasumi-kudasai(mase) お休み下さい（ませ）. Lastly, it's important to note that it doesn't have to be nighttime to tell someone "good night" as the verb used in these expressions literally means “to rest.”
Good night, Matsui-san.
Yoru wa gussuri to o-yasumi-kudasai.
Please sleep tight at night.
Culture Note: When you have already greeted someone once in the day, it is customary to simply give a small bow. This is called an eshaku 会釈.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is さようなら.
Sayōnara さようなら is a very formal expression. It is used by students at school to their instructors at the end of each day from elementary school to high school. Outside school, it is usually perceived as a literal “farewell,” thus making its use rather rare. It may sometimes be seen shortened as sayonara さよなら and used as such in expressions like sayonara pātii さよならパーティー (farewell party). It may also be seen in some dialects as sainara さいなら, in which case it can be more broadly used to mean “bye.”
Nitchoku “Kaeri no aisatsu wo shimashō”
Zen’in “Sensei, sayōnara! Mina-san, sayōnara! Kuruma ni ki wo tsukete kaerimasu”
Kid on Duty: Let’s give our going-home salutations.
Everyone: Goodbye, teacher! Goodbye, everyone! I’ll watch out for cars as I go home.
Nitchoku “Rei, sayōnara!”
Kid on Duty: Bow and goodbye!
Sayonara pātii wo shimashita.
We had a farewell party.
A Simple Goodbye
In the realm of casual conversation, friends say “goodbye” to each other with all sorts of phrases based off certain key words like mata また (again), ato de 後で (later), ashita 明日 (tomorrow) and raishū 来週 (next week).
|See you later, k?||(Ja,) mata [ne/na]!（じゃ、）また｛ね・な｝！|
|Later!||Ja(a) [ne/na]! じゃ（あ）｛ね・な｝！|
|See you tomorrow!||Mata ashita (ne) また明日（ね）|
|See you next week!||Mata raishū (ne) また来週（ね）|
|Well… + ↑||(Sore) [de wa/ja(a)] （それ）｛では・じゃ（あ）｝|
Variation Note: The particle ne ね is often switched out for na な by male speakers.
(Sore) jā, mata raishū!
Well, see you next week!
Mochiron ikimasu yo. Sore ja, mata!
Of course I’m going. Well, see you!
Yā, kyō wa hontō ni tanoshikatta! Min’na arigatō, mata ashita ne!
Wow, today was really fun! Thanks, everyone; see you all tomorrow!
Of course, there are plenty other variants that you may encounter wherever you might be in Japan. These expressions, though, don’t cover what adults would use in the realm of polite/formal interactions.
Leaving the Office
When leaving before one’s coworkers and boss, you will need to say o-saki ni shitsurei shimasu お先に失礼します. This can be translated as “Forgive me for leaving first.” When leaving coworkers at the same time, o-tsukare-sama desu お疲れ様です is used. It may also be shortened to o-tsukare-sama お疲れ様 , o-tsukare お疲れ, or even be seen as o-tsukare-san お疲れさん depending on how casual and cordial you are with your coworkers.
As o-tsukare-sama desu お疲れ様です, it's also used by those who greet those who've just come from a hard day at work. It's also frequently used at the start of business e-mails, recognizing the addressee’s involvement in a matter. Alternatively, o-tsukare-sama deshita お疲れ様でした adds a sense of gratitude for that person’s work, but it mustn’t be used if you think that coworker isn’t actually leaving just yet.
O-tsukare-sama desu. Maru-maru-kabushikigaisha no Kaneda Ryōta desu.
First, let me thank you for your work. I am Ryota Kaneda from ## Incorporated.
Kore de owari ni shimasho. Mina-san, o-tsukare-sama deshita.
Let’s end here. Thank you for your hard work, everyone.
In addition to this, there is also the phrase go-kurō-sama desu ご苦労様です, alternatively as go-kurō-san desu ご苦労さんです, used by superiors to their underlings. Depending on how they view their relationship with you, this may be shortened to go-kurō-sama ご苦労様 or even just go-kurō ご苦労.
21. よく頑張った、ご苦労さん！ (Boss Talk)
Yoku gambatta, go-kurō-san!
You worked hard. Thanks for your work!
Typically, when parting with someone you should show respect to, you use shitsurei shimasu 失礼します when leaving them. For instance, say you’re a student that went to your teacher’s office hours, you’d part with him/her by saying this. When leaving somewhere in a hurry but feeling still inclined to give respect to whomever may have been of service to you, you may also hear people say dōmo どうも.
Shain “Hoka ni shigoto wa arimasen ka?”
Jōshi “Iya, kyō wa daijōbu desu.”
Shain “Wakarimashita. De wa, o-saki ni shitsurei shimasu.”
Jōshi “Hai, o-tsukare.”
Employee: Is there anything else to do?
Boss: No, we’re good for today.
Employee: Understood. In which case, do pardon me for leaving first.”
Boss: That’s fine. Good work.
One last expression we’ll go over that means “farewell” is saraba さらば. This is a contraction of an archaic expression meaning “if that’s so.” Nowadays, this phrase is old-fashioned or adds some sense of affection to the situation, which can be interpreted in various ways depending on what/who one is departing with. It is mainly used by men.
Sentence Note: O- お may be added with no change to meaning. It just makes the phrase have better cadence.
Sentence Note: Ex. 21 would be indicative of an elderly man.
Saraba, Hakodate yo.
Leaving & Returning
Whenever you leave somewhere, it’s important to say itte kimasu 行ってきます or some variant of it.
|Plain Speech||Polite Speech||Humble Speech|
|Itte kuru 行ってくる||Itte kimasu 行ってきます||Itte mairimasu 行ってまいります|
These phrases literally mean that one is going but coming right back. If seen in the past tense, it implies that you went to go do something but have since returned.
Ima kara eikaiwa ni itte kimasu.
I’m heading to English conversation now (and will be back).
Chotto itte kuru ne.
I’m going to be out for a bit, okay?
Sore de wa, yume no sekai e itte mairimasu.
Well now, I will be heading to a/the world of dreams!
Rondon ni itte mairimasu.
I’m going to London (and will be back).
Shain ryokō de Okinawa ni itte kimashita!
I went on a company trip to Okinawa.
Zen’in de ingai kenshu ni itte mairimashita.
We all went together to an outside training.
Going Out to Do...
The above grammar can be extended by replacing the verb iku 行く (to go) with any activity verb.
Ja, kusuri wo katte kimasu.
Well then, I’ll go buy medicine （and be right back）
Modotte kuru kara, anshin shite ne.
I’ll be right back, so relax.
Myūtsū wo getto shite kimashita.
I’ve come back having caught Mewtwo.
In response to someone leaving for somewhere, those present customarily say itte rasshai 行ってらっしゃい, literally meaning “go and come back.” In more formal situations, o-ki wo tsukete (itte rasshaimase) お気をつけて（行ってらっしゃいませ） is used instead. This literally means “please be careful and come back).
Hai, itte rasshai.
Well then, be back safely.
Sore de wa, o-ki wo tsukete (itte rasshaimase).
Well then, please be careful and get back safely.
When returning to the office or any other place, you’ll use phrases like the following depending on how formal you need to be.
I’ve arrived just now.
Sentence Note: Ex. 36 would be especially appropriate when returning to the office.
Modotte kita yo.
Mō kaisha ni modottemasu yo.
I’m already back at work (company).
When returning home to your family, it is customary to say tadaima ただいま, which literally means “now,” emphasizing that you’re at home at last. Those present say o-kaeri(-nasai) お帰りなさい. The addition of -nasai なさい depends on the dynamics in the home. Wives often use this to their husbands, but if children are taught to speak formally to their parents as a sign of class, they too will not abbreviate the phrase. Those not in the immediate family but happen to be present will also choose to say the full o-kaeri-nasai お帰りなさい.
The basic word for “welcome” in Japanese is yōkoso ようこそ. It can either go at the start or the end of a sentence. When at the beginning, the grammar of the sentence must be inverted. As you'll notice in the examples below, yōkoso ようこそ can be used with both the particles e へ and ni に when it is placed at the end of the sentence.
The use of e へ implies a sense of adventure and/or having gone a long way to get to said point. This sense of being welcomed to a new place is heightened with the sentence is inverted to let yōkoso ようこそ be at the front, and in this situation, the place in question can only be marked by e へ.
Yōkoso, jigoku e.
Welcome to hell.
Yōkoso, Nippon e.
Welcome to Japan.
Suisu [ni/e] yōkoso.
Welcome to Switzerland.
Kono sekai e yōkoso.
Welcome to this world.
46. ようこそWindows 10へ。
Yōkoso Uindouzu ten e.
Welcome to Windows 10.
There are also more phrases for “welcome” that you’ll hear, some that either do or don't incorporate yōkoso ようこそ somehow, but their purpose will always be apparent.
Honjitsu wa yōkoso [o-ide/o-koshi] kudasaimashita.
Thank you for coming today.
[Yōkoso/yoku] (Nihon ni) irasshaimashita.
Thank you for coming (to Japan)!
Sentence Note: You’ll hear this when entering many restaurants.
Sentence Note: Ex. 50 is more familial than Ex. 49.