In Lesson 0, we briefly covered many of the basic expressions used in interactions with people in Japanese. Unlike in English, speech level and the relationship one has with the listener(s) greatly affect how these sort of things are actually expressed.
The phrases detailed in this lesson are known as greetings (aisatsu no hyōgen 挨拶の表現), and knowing when to use them is incredibly important for blending in Japanese society.
Variation Note: You are not responsible for knowing how to use honorific speech or the dialectal grammar associated with certain phrases. The purpose of this lesson is to showcase how greetings are made while at the same time familiarizing you with word forms that you will be hearing all the time.
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: The prefix o/go- お・ご seen used with many of the phrases in this lesson is a politeness marker.
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.
“Good morning” is expressed with the adjective hayai 早い meaning "early/fast" conjugated into its traditional honorific form: o-hayō gozaimasu お早うございます.
In casual speech, you will hear it as o-hayō お早う for short.
Pronunciation Note: O-hayō お早う is not pronounced the same way as the state of Ohio. Ohio is actually Ohaio(-shū) オハイオ（州）. The key here is to not mishear /io/ as /yo/.
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!
Hey, Kenji-kun! Morning!
1. In Kansai Dialects (Kansai-ben 関西弁), o-hayō-san お早うさん is common.
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 known as bōkaru shoppu ボーカル・ショップ.
2. Ohayōn おはよーん is a cutesy variant.
3. Osoyō おそよう, a portmanteau of osoi 遅い and ohayō おはよう, is used sarcastically towards friends that are late from having overslept.
The English "hello" is associate with the infamous phrase kon’nichi wa こんにちは. In face-to-face encounters, it is used primarily in the afternoon. However, when the time of day is not relevant or ascertainable, especially on social media platforms, 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.
While こんにちは is polite by nature, its use is not as ubiquitous as the English "hello." It is hardly ever used in business e-mails, as it is too familial in tone. In fact, even in self-introductions, it is often avoided by native speakers. This is because, at some level, the speaker and listener know each other. This is so much so that, conversely, if say a salesperson doesn't actually know you, こんにちは can potentially help bridge that lack of friendship. In other words, it provides positive reinforcement for familiarity.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is こんにちは↓.
Orthography Note: This phrase is only seldom written in Kanji as 今日は.
Sumimasen, 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.
1. In Okinawa, haisai はいさい (men) and haitai はいたい (for women) may be heard, but they are used more like the English "hello." These are direct borrowings from the local Japonic language known as Okinawan.
2. Harō ハロー, the transliteration of "hello" can be heard by those who wish to sound lively, cool, cute, etc. when among friends.
3. ちわっす can be heard in casual circles.
4. Similar to the English "howdy," you may also hear koncha(ssu) こんちゃ（っす）.
5. Ossu/ussu おっす・うっす (押忍) are often used among sports players or guys in general. Both variants come from abbreviating ohayō おはよう, but they are used more like "hey, what's up." In response, ossu(ssu) おっす（っす）or ussu(ssu) うっす（っす） may be used. The added ssu っすcomes from desu です.
The Japanese equivalent of "good evening" is こんばんは, which you will hear used after daylight hours. Similarly to こんにちは, it is a very familial word and gives a feeling of home. It is especially used when visiting people at night.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is こんばんは↓.
Orthography Note: The Kanji spelling 今晩は is only occasionally used.
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) and nearby regions, you'll hear oshimaiyasu おしまいやす.
2.In Western Japan, you’ll hear banjimashite 晩じまして.
3. In various parts of Northeastern Japan (Tōhoku Chihō 東北地方) and Hokkaido (Hokkaidō 北海道), you may hear o-bankata お晩方 or o-ban desu お晩です。
4. Kombancha こんばんちゃ is a cutesy variant seen mostly online, where it may be further shortened and spelled as bancha 番茶, which literally means "coarse tea."
The formal way to say "good night" is o-yasumi-nasai お休みなさい, which literally translates as "please rest." Therefore, it doesn't have to be nighttime to use, and you can still use it for when you are just leaving someone for the night, as they will eventually be going to sleep.
The casual form of this expression is o-yasumi お休み and its more honorific form is
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）.
Good night, Matsui-san.
Yoru wa gussuri to o-yasumi-kudasai.
Please sleep tight at night.
There are quite a few ways to say “see your later” and “farewell” in Japanese, but it is important to know what the implication is that you're given to the listener when you use them.
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 quite rare.
It may sometimes be shortened as sayonara さよなら like in 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," a feature often remembered by servicemen who were stationed in Japan before the 1990s. Today, though, other phrases are used more frequently, which we will learn about next.
Intonation Note: The intonation of this phrase is さようなら.
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.
See you later, k?
(Ja,) mata [ne/na]!（じゃ、）また｛ね・な｝！
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 (then...) + ↑
(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 predominantly 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!
Variation Note: There are other variants you may encounter. For instance, in Kansai Dialects, you might hear hona, mata ほな、また.
When leaving before other coworkers, it is customary to say o-saki ni shitsurei shimasu お先に失礼します, which translates as “forgive me for leaving first.”
When leaving work the same time as your coworkers, it is customary to say o-tsukare-sama deshita お疲れ様でした. This may be casually shortened to o-tsukare-sama お疲れ様, o-tsukare-san お疲れさん, or even o-tsukare お疲れ.
Conversely, o-tsukare-sama desu お疲れ様です is used as the primary greeting in the business world. It's frequently used in business e-mails to respect the addressee’s involvement.
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.
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, is synonymous with o-tsukare-sama desu お疲れ様です. In casual settings, this may be contracted to go-kurō-sama ご苦労様 or even 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, it is customary to say shitsurei shimasu 失礼します. 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, you may also hear 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.
The phrase saraba さらば also means "farewell," and it comes from an archaic expression meaning “if that’s so.” Though it is old-fashioned, it often has a more surreal, serious tone and is heard a lot in emphatic contexts, especially in anime.
Saraba, Hakodate yo.
These phrases literally imply that you are 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.
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.
Modotte kita yo.
Mō kaisha ni modottemasu yo.
I’m already back at work (company).
When returning home, it is customary to say tadaima ただいま, which literally means “now,” emphasizing that you’re 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.
The basic word for “welcome” 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.
1. 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.
2. The particle 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 when the sentence is inverted to allow for yōkoso ようこそ to be at the front of the sentence. In this grammatical situation, the place 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.
45. ようこそWindows 10へ。
Yōkoso Uindouzu ten e.
Welcome to Windows 10.
Variant Note: Other similar expressions will serve specific purposes, as demonstrated by the following examples.
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: Irasshaimase いらっしゃいませ is famous for being used by store workers when entering a restaurant or similar establishment. More casually, it can also be heard as the following:
Whenever you travel across Japan and get off at the local train station or airport, you will likely encounter the local expression for "welcome." Here are some of the most famous ones.