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Japanese Phrases – A Beginner’s Guide

  In this first guide, we will go over some very basic Japanese greetings and phrases.  You can start using these right away and Japanese people will be very impressed.  Study these daily!
おはよう ございます
ohayou gozaimasu
(Good morning.)
ohayou gozaimasu Ohayou is good morning.  Gozaimasu is added to make it polite.  Also, notice the whispered “su” at the end. Sometimes you don’t even hear it!
konnichi wa
(Good afternoon.)
konnichiwa  That double “n” should be held twice as long as a regular “n”.  Listen closely!
konban wa
(Good evening.)
konbanwa    This Japanese phrase is generally used after 5pm.
おやすみ なさい。
oyasumi nasai
oyasuminasai  “Oyasumi” is fine too.  “Nasai” just adds politeness.  Any time you want to sound more casual, you can eliminate it completely!
sayounara  This is more common among neighbors.  It’s also common for a student to say this to their teacher.
どうも ありがとう
doumo arigatou gozaimasu
(Thank you very much.)
doumo-arigatou-gozaimasu  This can be cut down to “arigatou gozaimasu” for “thank you”.  Trimming it down even further to “arigatou” is fine for casual conversation.
どう いたしまして。
dou itashimashite
(You’re welcome.)
dou-itashimashite  This Japanese phrase is used in the same situations as the English version, “you’re welcome”.  Simply use it as a response to arigatou gozaimasu.
(Nice to meet you.)
hajimemashite  This should only be used the first time you meet someone, since this literally comes from the word hajimete (“first time”).
どうぞ よろしく
douzo yoroshiku
(Nice to meet you and thank you in advance for your kindness.)
douzo yoroshiku  This is a great example of a Japanese phrase that is very difficult to translate directly to English.  We did our best, but the true meaning is only learned through repeated use in different situations.
O-namae wa nan desu ka?
(What is your name?)
O-namae wa nan desu ka?  That “O” at the beginning is very important when you are asking someone’s name!  If you drop it, you will sound quite rude.  We call the “O” an honorific prefix, and you will see it again through the lessons.
O-genki desu ka
(How are you?)
O-genki desu ka  This isn’t used as often as the English version.  Among Japanese people it’s actually not common at all to ask someone how they are doing.  Think of it as a translated English phrase that we can’t seem to let go of.  That’s our culture!
genki desu.
(I am well.)
genki desu   You should never use the honorific “O” from our last two examples if you are referring to yourself.  You will come across as either very cocky, or someone who is still on their first Japanese lesson!  🙂
(I’m leaving!)
ittekimasu  Literally means “go and come back”.  It is usually used when someone is leaving for school/work in the morning.
(See you when you get back!)
ohayou gozaimasu  This is the response to “Ittekimasu”.  You can think of this as “Have a good day!” or “See you after work”.
(I’m home!)
tadaima  Literally means “right now”, but it is used when someone arrives home.
(Welcome back!)
okaerinasai  Literally means “return!”, but it is used as a warm welcoming at the door.  Use it as a response to “tadaima”.
(I’m sorry.)
sumimasen  There is a lot of versatility with this word.  We say sumimasen to get someone’s attention, to say sorry, or even as an apologetic form of “thank you”.  I’m sorry you went to the trouble of getting me this present – thank you / sumimasen!
shitsurei shimasu
(Excuse me.)
shitsurei shimasu  This literally means “I will do something rude”.  Think of it as an apology in advance, similar to “excuse me”.
ja, mata
Well, see you later!
ja-mata  “Ja” is very similar to “well…”.
“Mata” literally means “again”.
This would be very casual conversation. 
mata ne
mata ne  Another casual way of saying goodbye.  Think of “ne” as a Canadian “eh?”.
じゃあ ね。
ja, ne
See ya.
ja ne  Stripping “mata” away, the meaning stays the same!  You will hear this one a lot among friends. 
Japanese Phrases - Getting to Know Someone
Next Phrase Guide – Getting to Know Someone