Japanese Language

How to say Sad in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

The best way to say “sad” in Japanese is 悲しい (kanashii).

The word 悲しい (kanashii) is an adjective that means “sad” in Japanese. Use it to describe a feeling of unhappiness, express sorrow or regret.

To tell someone that you are sad in Japanese you can simply say 悲しい (kanashii).

It’s natural to omit pronouns in Japanese. Therefore you don’t need pronouns to communicate that you are feeling sad.

You can just say 悲しい (kanashii) to express “I am sad” in Japanese.

While 悲しい (kanashii) is a way to express general sadness, you may also wish to describe a specific kind of sad feeling.

There are many other ways to express various emotions of sadness and similar feelings in Japanese. Here are a few!

  • 落ち込む (ochikomu) – to feel down
  • つらい (tsurai) – painful sadness
  • うつ病 utsubyou – depression
  • 泣きそう(nakisou) – I feel like crying
  • 心が痛い (kokoro ga itai) – my heart hurts
  • 傷ついた (kizutsuita) – I’m upset
  • 失恋 – (shitsuren) – heartbroken

This ultimate guide builds on the above list and explains how to express many different feelings of sadness.

All entries have detailed explanations, examples and audio pronunciation for your reference!

This guide is tailored for beginners and intermediate learners alike.

Sad in Japanese

  • Sad.
    悲しい。
    kanashii.

The easiest way to express a feeling of sadness in Japanese is to use 悲しい (kanashii).

The word 悲しい (kanashii) is an i-adjective that means “sad”.

You can use it to describe a sad thing, or someone who is sad.

  • それは悲しい。
    sore ha kanashii.
    That’s sad.

Use それは (sore ha) to say “that is” in Japanese. Attach 悲しい (kanashii) to complete the sentence “that is sad”.

Replace それ (sore) with the name of the person to express how someone feeling is sad.

  • [name]は悲しい。
    [name] ha kanashii.
    [name] is (feeling) sad.

We sometimes insert the word “feeling” into sentences when describing someone’s mood in English.

In Japanese, this is already inferred. Therefore you can use the above Japanese phrase to communicate both.

You can also use 悲しい (kanashii) to describe something that is or was sad. For instance,

  • 悲しい時だった。
    kanashii toki datta.
    It was a sad time.

I’m Sad in Japanese

Textbooks will often teach the below phrase as meaning “I’m sad” in Japanese.

  • 私は悲しい。
    watashi wa kanashii.
    I’m sad.

While this is a grammatically correct way to say that you are sad, it can be a little unnatural.

You may have learned that 私は (watashi wa) means “I am” in Japanese. Beginner textbooks frequently include 私は (watashi wa) in the example sentences.

This helps with processing study material because we use pronouns all the time in English.

However, it’s more natural to omit pronouns when speaking Japanese. Consistent use of 私は (watashi wa) is considered redundant and unnecessary.

For that reason using 私は (watashi wa) excessively sounds unnatural.

Therefore, the best way to say “I’m sad” in Japanese is to drop the pronouns and say 悲しい (kanashii).

  • 悲しい。
    kanashii.
    I’m sad.

When you speak like this, you will sound much more natural.

With pronouns omitted, you can continue to add words to communicate more detail. For example,

  • 今は悲しい。
    ima wa kanashii.
    I’m sad now.

Perhaps you miss someone and want to express how it makes you sad.

  • [name]に会えなくて悲しい。
    [name] ni aenakute kanashii.
    I’m sad I can’t see you right now.

Related: How to say I Miss You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

It’s also important to note that the best way to say “you” in Japanese is to use the person’s actual name. Even when you’re speaking with them directly.

For more information, refer to the above ultimate guide!

Are You Sad? in Japanese

  • Are you sad?
    悲しいの?
    kanashii no?

The best way to ask someone if they are sad in Japanese is to say 悲しいの (kanashii no) and phrase it like a question.

To reiterate, you don’t need to use pronouns to ask someone if they are sad in Japanese. Phrasing 悲しい(kanashii) like a question is enough.

If you do wish to specify, you can use the person’s name in place of “you”. This is because saying the person’s name is the best way to say “you” in Japanese.

The order of the words in the sentence looks like this.

  • [name]、悲しいの?
    [name], kanashii no?
    Are you sad, [name]?

The inclusion of の (no) is optional and is a way to emphasise the phrase as a question. Moreover, attaching の (no) to the end of sentences can convey more emotion.

Therefore you communicate your concern more effectively when you include の (no).

Whether you include の (no) or not, simply phrasing 悲しい (kanshii) like a question is the most natural way to ask if someone is sad in Japanese.

Refer to the audio pronunciation above to hear how this sounds!

Very Sad in Japanese

  • Very sad.
    とても悲しい。
    totemo kanashii.

To emphasise a feeling of sadness take 悲しい (kanashii), the adjective for “sad” in Japanese and attach とても (totemo) before it.

This makes the expression とても悲しい (totemo kanashii).

The word とても (totemo) means “very” or “awfully” in Japanese. Use it to describe something to a high degree.

Hence, use とても悲しい (totemo kanashii) to emphasise that you or something is/are very sad.

As it’s natural to omit pronouns when speaking Japanese, you can use this phrase to communicate that it is you who is feeling exceedingly sad.

  • なんとなく今日はとても悲しい
    nanotonaku, kyou wa totemo kanashii.
    For some reason, I’m very sad today.

Just like in the above example sentence, we don’t need to use pronouns. This is because it’s already obvious from context that it’s you, the speaker who is feeling very sad.

You can emphasise how much you’re really feeling sad even further by repeating how many times you say とても (totemo).

This is the same as repeating “very” multiple times in English.

  • とてもとても悲しい。
    totemo totemo kanashii.
    I’m very very sad.

That was Sad in Japanese

You can also use とても (totemo) to emphasise how something is or was very sad.

  • とても悲しい映画だった。
    totemo kanashii eiga datta.
    That was a very sad movie.

Sadness in Japanese

  • Sadness.
    悲しさ。
    kanashisa.

The word for “sadness” in Japanese is 悲しさ (kanashisa).

悲しさ (kanashisa) is a conjugation of the i-adjective for “sad”; 悲しい (kanashii). Textbooks often teach this conjugation as the “sa-form”.

Use the “sa-form” to conjugate an adjective into a noun. It involves replacing the final い (i) of an adjective with さ (sa).

Therefore 悲しい (kanashii), an adjective meaning “sad”, becomes 悲しさ (kanashisa), a noun meaning “sadness”.

You use 悲しさ (kanashisa) to express misery, despair, anguish or any situation that causes emotional upset or pain.

  • 彼女は大きな悲しさを耐えてる。
    kanojo wa ookina kanshi sa wo taeteru.
    She’s enduring immense sadness.

I Feel Sad in Japanese

  • I feel kind of sad.
    なんか悲しい。
    nanka kanashii.

Say なんか悲しい (nanka kanashii) to express that somehow you feel kind of sad or unhappy in Japanese.

For instance, to specify that you feel somewhat unhappy today you can say:

  • 今日なんか悲しい。
    kyou nanka kanashii.
    I feel kind of sad today.

Preceding 悲しい (kanashii), the word for “sad” in Japanese is なんか (nanka).

なんか (nanka) is a fairly complex word with a multitude of meanings and nuances.

I highly recommend this excellently composed video by Misa. She explains なんか (nanka) in detail while providing plenty of examples to illustrate the nuances.

I Was Sad in Japanese

  • I was sad.
    悲しかった。
    kanashikatta.

To describe a time in the past when you were sad in Japanese, use 悲しかった (kanashikatta).

The word 悲しかった (kanashikatta) translates as “I was sad” in Japanese. It is the past tense of 悲しい (kanashii), the adjective meaning “sad”.

To reiterate, you do not need to use pronouns to specify that it’s you who was sad.

Saying the word 悲しかった (kanashikatta) will convey that you were sad in Japanese.

You can be more precise and specify when you were sad, as well.

For example:

  • 昨日は悲しかった。
    kinou wa kanashikatta.
    I was sad yesterday.

You can also use 悲しかった (kanashikatta) to state how something was sad in Japanese.

For instance:

  • それは悲しかった。
    sore wa kanashikatta.
    That was sad.

How Sad in Japanese

There are a few ways to agree with someone who is feeling sad and communicate “how sad”, “how terrible” and “that sucks in Japanese.

Firstly, if you feel something bad has happened and it’s sad or a pity you can say:

  • 残念。
    zannen.
    That’s a shame/that’s unfortunate.

There are multiple ways to exaggerate your response too, such as saying something along the lines of “no way! That’s a shame”.

For example,

  • うそ!残念。
    uso! zannen.
    No way! That’s a shame/that’s unfortunate.

Take a glance at the below ultimate guide for more in-depth details and explanations.

Related: How to say No Way in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

  • 最悪。
    saiaku.
    That’s awful.

Responding with the word 最悪 (saiaku) to someone’s statement is the same as saying “that’s terrible”, “that’s awful”, or “that’s horrible” in Japanese.

When you perceive something as devasting you can say:

  • なんて悲しい。
    nante kanashii.
    How sad.

This is the closest to an exact translation of “how sad” in Japanese.

Saying なんて悲しい (nante kanashii) is a strong way to express how you think something is truly sad.

なんて (nante) is N3 grammar used to emphasise what’s being said.

Hence, when you pair なんて (nante) with 悲しい (kanashii) you stress how sad you feel something really is.

I don’t Feel Like It in Japanese

  • I don’t feel like it.
    その気分じゃない。
    sono kibun janai.

The above is a casual expression you can use to communicate how you don’t feel like doing something in Japanese.

Use it to express a lack of desire for something or a lack of interest in something.

When you don’t feel in the mood for something, say その気分じゃない (sono kibun janai).

You can also use this expression as a very direct way to turn down someone’s offer in Japanese and tell them “no”.

Related: How to say No in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

For instance, perhaps a friend suggests you play some video games together. You don’t feel like it and say:

  • 今あまりその気分じゃない
    ima amari sono kibun janai.
    I don’t really feel like it right now/I’m not in the mood for it right now.

The expression その気分じゃない (sono kibun janai) has three components.

  1.  その (sono) means “that” in Japanese.
  2. 気分 (kibun) means “mood” or “feeling” in Japanese.
  3. じゃない (janai) means “not” or “is not” in Japanese. It is a casual variant of ではない (dewanai) and ではありません (dewarimasen). These are the negative versions of です (desu).

For that reason, when you use その気分じゃない (sono kibun janai) you express literally how you are not feeling up to something right now. You are not in the mood.

Let’s remember that omitting pronouns is more natural. Hence you do not need any pronouns when speaking this expression.

Don’t Be Sad/Cheer Up in Japanese

Cheer up in Japanese

  • Don’t be sad/cheer up.
    元気だして。
    genki dashite.

Use 元気だして(genki dashite) to communicate the words “cheer up” in Japanese.

If someone is feeling sad, down or out of energy, you can use this expression to encourage them that things will get better.

元気 (genki) is a noun that means “energetic” and “lively” in Japanese. だして (dashite) is the te-form of the verb だす (dasu), meaning “to take out” or “release”. One of the functions of the te-form is to transform verbs into light requests.

In essence, 元気だして (genki dashite) can be literally translated to “take out your energy”. Therefore when you tell someone 元気だして (genki dashite) you’re encouraging them to cheer up and be more energetic.

You can add more to this expression to encourage them further. Adding extra words of reassurance is one way to do this. For instance,

  • 元気だして。きっと大丈夫だよ。
    genki dashite. kitto daijoubu dayo
    Cheer up. Everything will surely be okay.

For a full list and explanation on how to ask if someone is okay and reassure them in Japanese, refer to the below ultimate guide.

Related: How to say Okay and I’m Okay in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Perhaps someone has just experienced an intense ordeal. You can reassure them that it’s over now.

  • 元気だして。もう終わったよ。
    genki dashite. mou owatta yo.
    Cheer up. It’s all over now.

There are plenty of ways to reassure someone in Japanese, refer to the ultimate guide above for a more detailed explanation.

Are You Feeling Sad? in Japanese

There are a few ways to ask someone if they are feeling sad in Japanese.

The first is:

  • Are you feeling sad?
    元気ないの?
    genki nai no?

Use the above expression to ask someone if they are feeling sad, unhappy or depleted of energy.

The word 元気 (genki) is the same as the one in 元気だして(genki dashite), meaning “cheer up” explained above.

元気 (genki) is a word that means “energetic”, “lively”, and “full of spirit”.

This word can refer to a person’s state of well-being. Therefore asking someone if they are 元気 (genki) is the same as asking “how are you” in Japanese.

Related: How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

It’s common to ask what’s called negative questions when seeking an answer from someone in Japanese.

In this expression, ない (nai) is a modifier that changes the question from an affirmative, to a negative one.

Therefore the expression 元気ないの? (genki nai no?) can be literally translated as “don’t you have much energy?”.

While, you can use 元気ないの? (genki nai no?)to ask if someone is feeling sad, you can also use it to ask if they are feeling out of energy or in low spirits.

This PDF by the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics does an excellent job breaking down the nuances with negative questions.

Are You Feeling Sad in Japanese #2

The second way to ask someone if they are feeling sad in Japanese is:

  • Are you feeling sad?
    悲しんでるの?
    kanashinderu no?

Use 悲しんでるの? (kanashinderu no?) to ask someone if they are feeling sad or unhappy. The の (no) is an optional addition that emphasises the phrase as a question, and your concern for the other person.

悲しんでる (kanashinderu) is the casual progressive verb form of the adjective 悲しい (kanashii), meaning “sad”.

The verb for “sad” in Japanese is 悲しむ (kanasimu). In the progressive form, it becomes 悲しんでいる (kanashindeiru).

This is already a casual expression, meaning it’s best suited for use between friends, family and those you are personally close with. However, you can remove the い (i) to make it more casual.

This makes it 悲しんでる (kanashinderu).

When you ask someone if they are sad, you ask in the continuous tense. You’re asking if they are still and are continuing to feel sadness at the very moment you ask them.

Hence, when you ask them if they are feeling sad in Japanese using a verb, it needs to be in the progressive form.

I Feel Down in Japanese

  • I feel down.
    落ち込んでる。
    ochikonderu.

Use 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu)to express that you’re feeling down in Japanese.

When you feel unhappy or in low spirits, saying 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu) will communicate that.

As it’s more natural to omit pronouns in Japanese, you do not need to specify that it’s you who is feeling down. You can simply say 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu) by itself.

When you say 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu), you’re saying “I feel down” in Japanese. Add more to this expression to slightly alter what you convey. For instance,

  • ちょっと落ち込んでる。
    chotto ochikonderu.
    I feel a little down.

You can ask someone if they feel down in Japanese as well. To do this, you simply phrase the expression as a question. When you do this, pronouns are again, not necessary!

  • 落ち込んでるの?
    ochikonderu no?
    Are you feeling down?

The addition of の (no) attached to the end of the expression is optional. This の (no) is a sentence-ending particle. Including it communicates slightly more feeling and concern and emphasises the question being asked.

落ち込んでる (ochikonderu) is the progressive form of the verb 落ち込む (ochikomu), meaning “to feel down” or “to feel depressed”.

As being in a state of unhappiness is an emotion that you’re continuing to feel when you say this expression, you need to use the progressive form 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu).

Sulking in Japanese

悲しい (kanashii) Meaning

  • Sulking.
    すねってる。
    sunetteru.

The word for sulking in Japanese is すねってる (sunetteru). Use it to describe silent, moping behaviour.

You can say すねってる (sunetteru) to communicate “I’m sulking” in Japanese. Or, you can phrase it like a question, similar to the 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu), explained above.

Once again, you do not need pronouns when speaking this expression. For example,

  • すねってるの?
    sunetteru no?
    Are you sulking?

You may also wish to ask someone why they are sulking in Japanese, too. To do this, insert どうして (doushite) before the expression. This makes the expression:

  • どうしてすねってるの?
    doushite sunetteru no?
    Why are you sulking?

There are many different ways to say “why” in Japanese. Which one you use will change the exact nuances you convey. Take a glance at the below guide for more details.

Related: How to say Why in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Why Are You Sad? in Japanese

  • Why are you sad?
    どうして悲しいの?
    doushte kanashii no?

Use the above phrase to ask someone the reason why they are sad in Japanese. 

The first word in the phrase, どうして (doushte) is one of the many ways of saying “why” in Japanese. 

The second word is the adjective 悲しい (kanashii), which means “sad”. Attached to 悲しい (kanashii) is の (no).

This is an optional addition to emphasise the phrase as a question. You also convey more emotion and concern when you include の (no). 

As explained earlier, it’s more natural to omit pronouns in Japanese. Hence, the Japanese translation of “why are you sad” does not include the pronoun “you”. 

It’s also worth knowing that to some people this phrase might be considered to be direct. 

Therefore rather than asking someone if they are sad, you might be better off asking if they are okay instead. 

One of the ways you can do this is to use 大丈夫 (daijoubu). 

  • 大丈夫? 
    daijoubu?
    Are you okay?

Take a glance at this ultimate guide for more details on saying okay in Japanese

Related: How to say Okay in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

I’m Not Sad in Japanese

  • I’m not sad.
    悲しくない
    kanashikunai.

The word 悲しくない (kanashikunai) is the negative form of the adjective 悲しい (kanashii), meaning sad. 

Thus, 悲しくない (kanashikunai) directly translates as “not sad” in Japanese. 

You can use 悲しくない (kanashikunai) to specifically state that you are not sad as a response to something, or as a general comment. 

If someone asks you if or why you are sad you can reply with 悲しくない (kanashikunai) to communicate that you are not at all feeling unhappy.

I’m Not Sad Anymore in Japanese

If you were sad at one point in the past, but those feelings have now dissipated, you can say:

  • I’m not sad anymore.
    もう悲しくない
    mou kanashikunai.

As discussed in the entry above, 悲しくない (kanashikunai) means “not sad” in Japanese. 

Preceding this word is もう (mou) which translates as “already”.

In essence, the full phrase もう悲しくない (mou kanashikunai) can be understood as meaning “already not sad”. 

Hence, when you say もう悲しくない (mou kanashikunai) you express how your previous feelings of sadness have already disappeared. You no longer feel unhappy and therefore are not sad anymore. 

An example sentence may look like this:

  • まだ悲しいの? 
    mada kanashii no?
    Are you still sad?

The reply:

  • いや、もう悲しくない 。 
    iya, mou kanashikunai.
    Nope, I’m not sad anymore.

Related: How to say No in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

It Makes Me Sad in Japanese

  • It makes me sad.
    悲しくなる
    kanashikunaru.

One of the most natural ways to express that something makes you sad in Japanese is to use 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru).

When something or someone is the reason why you are feeling sad, use 悲しくなる to express “it makes me sad” in Japanese.

You can specify what makes you sad as well. For instance, if you hear something that makes you feel unhappy you can express:

  • それを聞くと悲しくなる。 
    sore wo kikuto kanashikunaru.
    Hearing that makes me sad.

Likewise, if you’re told something that makes you feel in low spirits use this phrase:

  • そういう言われると悲しくなる。 
    souiu iwareru to kanashikunaru.
    Being told that makes me sad.

You Make Me Sad in Japanese

If the reason why you’re sad is because of another person, you can tell them directly as well.

  • [name]のせいで悲しくなる。 
    [name] no seide kanashikunaru.
    You make me sad.

When you want to tell someone “you make me sad” in Japanese, remember that the most natural way to address the person is by their actual name. In other words, the best way to say “you” in Japanese is to say the person’s name instead.

Say 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) by itself to say “it makes sad” generally. Alternatively, extend the phrase and specificy to give more context.

悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) is formed of two components. Firstly, 悲しい (kanashii), which is the i-adjective for sad in Japanese.

This i-adjective is then conjugated with the grammar point なる (naru).

なる (naru) means “become” in Japanese. Therefore, conjugating 悲しい (kanashii) with なる (naru) changes the meaning to literally “become sad”.

To conjugate with なる (naru), take the last い (i) of the i-adjective and replace it will く (ku). Finally, attach なる (naru) after く (ku).

悲しい (kanashii) becomes 悲しく (kanashiku) and then finally 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru).

As pronouns are dropped in Japanese, when you say 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) you express that you will become sad as a result of something.

When the context is already understood by the speaker and listener, saying 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) is enough to communicate that something makes you sad.

So Sad it’s Painful in Japanese

つらい (tsurai)

  • So sad, it hurts.
    つらい。
    tsurai.

A very powerful way to communicate that you or someone feels sad in Japanese is つらい (tsurai).

The word つらい (tsurai) is an i-adjective that you can use to describe an emotion that’s painful, heartbreaking or cruel.

To describe how you’re feeling an immense sadness you can say つらい (tsurai) without any pronouns.

You can emphasise the emotional pain further by extending your sentence. If you’re feeling devasted after having your heart broken you can say

  • つらい。こころが痛い。
    tsurai. kokoro ga itai.
    It’s painful. My heart hurts/aches.

Suggested: How to say Soul in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

You can also use つらい (tsurai) to emphasise how something is emotionally painful.

For example, if your job is extremely taxing and is taking a toll on you mentally, you can say

  • 仕事はつらい。
    shigoto wa tsurai.
    Work is emotionally draining/painful.

Use this template to say express how something is emotionally painful in Japanese.

Replace the word 仕事 (shigoto) with a noun of your choice to communicate how you feel incredibly unhappy with it.

Miserable in Japanese

  • Miserable.
    惨め。
    mijime.

惨め (mijime) is a na-adjective that you can use to describe someone or something that is miserable.

Use it when something or someone is in a wretched state of despair or distress.

For instance:

  • 惨め人生。
    mijieme na jinsei.
    Miserable life.

This word is a na-adjective. Therefore, when 惨め immediately follows a noun, you need to insert な (na) in between 惨め and the following noun.

Another example:

  • 惨め人。
    mijieme na hito.
    Miserable person.

You can use 惨め (mijime) as an adverb as well. To make it an adverb attach に (ni) to 惨め (mijime).

This makes it 惨めに (mijime ni), meaning “miserably”. Finally, place 惨めに (mijimeni) before a verb.

  • 惨め失敗した。
    mijime ni shippai shita.
    I failed miserably.

Upset in Japanese

There are a few ways to express upset in Japanese. Which one you use depends on what kind of upset emotion you are feeling.

If you’re feeling upset and angry, use this expression.

  • Upset (angry).
    怒ってる。
    okotteru.

If you’re feeling upset and sad because your feelings have been hurt use this expression.

  • Upset (hurt feelings).
    傷ついた。
    kizutsuita.

怒ってる (okotteru) Explained #1

When using the first expression, 怒ってる (okotteru), you communicate that you’re upset and angry.

怒ってる (okotteru) is the progressive form of the 怒る (okoru), the verb for “angry”.

This verb needs to be in the progressive form as when you express you are upset and angry you continue to feel those emotions when you’re speaking. You are already frustrated and the emotion is continuous.

Whereas saying 怒る (okoru) to someone will instead communicate “I’ll get angry” in Japanese. This is because 怒る (okoru) is used to refer to an event that is going to happen.

Use 怒ってる (okotteru) as a response or statement to express you are angry, disappointed, unhappy about something and/or upset.

For instance, if someone asks how you are, you can say:

  • 今起こってる。
    ima okotteru.
    I feel angry/upset right now.

傷ついた (kizutsuita) Explained #2

Upset in Japanese

Use 傷ついた (kizutsuita) to express your feelings have been hurt and you feel upset.

For example, if someone has said something to you that has made you feel upset you can say 傷ついた (kizutsuita) to communicate it.

The difference between 怒ってる (okotteru) and 傷ついた (kizutsuita) is that 怒ってる (okotteru) conveys anger more than 傷ついた (kizutsuita).

Therefore use 傷ついた (kizutsuita) when you feel generally upset and 怒ってる (okotteru) when you are upset and angry.

The kanji in 傷ついた (kizutsuita) is 傷.

This kanji means “wound”, “injury”, “hurt”, or “pain”. Hence, 傷ついた (kizutsuita) infers that your feelings have been hurt.

You can use 傷ついた (kizutsuita) in situations such:

  • どうして無視をしたの?傷ついた。
    doushte mushu wo shita no? kizu tsuita.
    Why did you ignore me? I’m upset.

Furthermore, 傷ついた (kizutsuita) can be used to refer to both emotional and physical pain.

Hence, when using it to refer to physical pain, it translates as “hurt”.

I Feel Like Crying in Japanese

  • 泣きそう。
    nakisou.
    I feel like crying.

When you feel so sad you feel like bursting into tears you can use 泣きそう (nakisou).

Saying 泣きそう (nakisou) will communicate “I feel like crying” in Japanese.

Therefore when you say 泣きそう (nakisou) to someone you are telling them that you feel like you are going to cry.

Heartbroken in Japanese

Heartbroken in Japanese

The word for heartboken in Japanese is 失恋 (shitsuren).

The kanji for 失恋 (shitsuren) is 失 and 恋, meaning “lose” and “romance” respectively.

Therefore the meaning of 失恋 (shitsuren) is literally “lose romance”. Use this word to describe or state a feeling of unrequited love or brokenheart.

  • 失恋に耐えてる。
    shitsuren ni taeteru.
    I’m enduring a broken heart.

However, 失恋 (shitsuren) is a word that is found more so in stories. Such as those from books and movies, rather than in general conversation. It can sound somewhat poetic.

Hence to describe that you have a broken heart without sounding super poetic, there is another expression you can use.

  • 心を傷つけたんだ
    kokoro wo kizutsuketanda.
    You broke my heart.

If somebody breaks your heart and you want to express that feeling to others, you can say:

  • [name]は私の心を傷つけた
    [name] wa watashi no kokoro wo kizutsuketa.
    [name] broke my heart.

Replace [name] with the name of the person who broke your heart to personalise the sentence.

That’s Sad (pathetic) in Japanese

  • That’s sad/pathetic.
    なせけない。
    nasekenai.

To refer to something or someone as being sad or tragic in the pathetic sense, use the i-adjective なせけない (nasekenai).

Say なせけない (nasekenai) to describe something or someone as pitiful, shameful or pathetic.

For instance, if you are appalled at someone’s performance on something you can say (sarcastically or not):

  • さっきは何だ?なせけなかったね
    sakki wa nanda? nasekenakatta ne.
    What was that? That was pathetic.

As なせけない (nasekenai) is an adjective, you can use it to describe nouns as pathetic or shameful directly.

For example:

  • なせけない状態。
    nasekenai joutai.
    Pathetic state.

You can also use it to describe yourself.

  • 私はなせけない人だった。
    watashi wa nasekenai hito datta.
    I was a pathetic (sad) person.

Depression in Japanese

Japanese Word for Depression

  • Depression.
    うつ病。
    utsubyou.

The word for depression in Japanese is うつ病 (utsubyou).

Use the word うつ病 (utsubyou) to express that you are or feel depressed.

There are a few ways you can use うつ病 (utsubyou) to communicate levels of depression.

For example, to state that you are depressed, you can use:

  • 私はうつ病だ。
    watashi wa utsubyou da.
    I am depressed.

To emphasise the pain you feel you can say:

  • つ病だに苦しんでる。
    utsubyou ni kurushinderu.
    I’m suffering from depression.

As うつ病 (utsubyou) is a noun, you can use verbs to state that you “suffer from” or “feel” depressed.

Happy in Japanese

  • Happy.
    嬉しい。
    ureshii.

The word for happy in Japanese is the i-adjective 嬉しい (ureshii).

嬉しい (ureshii) is the opposite of 悲しい (kanashii), like how “happy” is the opposite of “sad” in English.

You can say 嬉しい (ureshii) by itself to say “I am happy” in Japanese.

Alternatively, you can use it to describe something or someone else as happy.

For a comprehensive explanation of how to say “happy” in Japanese refer to the below ultimate guide.

Suggested: How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Not Happy in Japanese

  • Not happy.
    嬉しくない。
    ureshikunai.

嬉しくない (ureshikunai) is an adjective that means “not happy” in Japanese.

It is the negative form of 嬉しい (ureshii), which means “happy”.

Use 嬉しくない (ureshikunai) to express that you or someone is unahppy.

To communicate that you are unhappy in Japanese you simply say 嬉しくない (ureshikunai). You do not need any pronouns to state that it is you who is unhappy.

For example, if someone asks how you are, you may reply with:

  • ちょっと嬉しくない。
    chotto ureshikunai.
    I’m a little unhappy.

Related: How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

To express that someone else is unhappy use the following template.

  • [name]は嬉しくない。
    [name] wa ureshikunai.
    [name] is unhappy.

Simply replace [name] with the name of the person who is not happy.

Use this next phrase to express that it seems like someone is sad. 

They appear unhappy or at least give off that impression.

  • [name]は嬉しくないみたい
    [name] wa ureshikunai mitai.
    [name] seems unhappy.

みたい (mitai) is a grammar point to say how something seems like something in Japanese. By attaching みたい (mitai) to the end of 悲しくない (kanashikunai), the meaning changes from “unhappy” to “seems unhappy”.

I’m Sad There’s No More!

  • I’m sad there’s no more.
    もうないのは悲しい。
    mou nai no wa kanashii.

When you’re sad that there is no more of something use the above phrase.

Perhaps you’re disappointed or sad that there is no more of your favourite food left in the fridge.

Or, Maybe you’re sad that you’ve reached the end of this guide!

But there’s no need to be sad! 元気出して!(genki dashite!).

Take a look at the collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides for more. [View All Ultimate Guides].

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese

How Long Does it TRULY Take to LEARN Japanese? Timeline Explained

6 vital factors influence how long it takes to learn Japanese.

  • Your language goals and learning purpose(s).
  • Your mindset and motivation.
  • The resources you use and how you implement them into your studies.
  • The environment you learn in.
  • Your prior knowledge.
  • The amount of time you can dedicate to study.

When measuring how long it takes to learn the Japanese language, consider how the above six points relate to your individual circumstance.

Realise what your language goals are and what it is that you want to achieve.

What’s your attitude towards learning Japanese in the first place? Does the Japanese language excite or fascinate you? What about it does or doesn’t? And why?

Is your desire to learn potent enough to support you when you need it? Studying Japanese or any language for that matter is an adventure with ups and downs.

There may be times when you’re enjoying your studies and other times when grammar doesn’t make sense.

It may be tough at times, but if you’re truly passionate about learning, keep going! Anyone can learn Japanese!

What resources do you have access to? Your resources and how you implement them into your studies are vital.

This can be the difference between it taking 500 hours or 1500 hours to reach your desired Japanese ability. 

The environment you’re in is also important. If you’re already in Japan, first-hand exposure to the language and culture will make a world of difference.

Finally, how much time can you dedicate to studying? If you can only manage an hour a week, progress will naturally be slower than someone studying an hour a day.

This ultimate guide explains in great detail how long it takes to learn Japanese based on the above six factors.


Please note that this post may feature affiliate links, meaning I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through them. For more information please visit the Disclaimer page.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese?

According to the official Japanese Language Education Center, with no prior knowledge, it takes students between 3000 and 4800 hours of study to pass the JLPT N1 and reach fluency in Japanese.

The JLPT refers to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This test is globally recognised as the official way to assess and verify your Japanese language ability as a non-native speaker.

There are five levels of the JLPT. N5, N4, N3, N2 and N1.

N5 is considered to be the beginner level and the easiest to pass. While N1 is the most advanced level and most difficult to pass.

  • N5: An ability to understand some basic Japanese. (325-600 hours).
  • N4: An ability to understand basic Japanese. (575-1000 hours).
  • N3: An ability to understand Japanese to an everyday level to a basic degree. (950-1700 hours).
  • N2: An ability to understand Japanese at a business level. (1600-2800 hours).
  • N1: An ability to understand complex Japanese. (3000-4800 hours).

Japanese N2 is the minimum requirement necessary to work in Japan or study at a Japanese university as a general rule of thumb.

When I say study in Japanese, I don’t mean studying Japanese at a university in Japan, but enrolling in the same university as a Japanese student and taking the same classes/examinations.

N2, on the other hand, is said to take upwards of 2800 hours to pass.

The JLPT and You

With that said, despite it being the official way to prove your Japanese ability, the JLPT doesn’t test your speaking or writing.

Therefore investing thousands of hours to learn Japanese is by no means necessary to speak the language to a decent level.

It’s possible to learn Japanese to a conversational level or to a level where you can somewhat communicate your thoughts in Japanese very quickly.

How you study is without a doubt the most important factor in what determines how long it takes to learn a language.

This is because everyone has different reasons for studying language, different goals, and motivations.

Furthermore, everyone has their unique learning style. What works for someone well, might not work for someone else at all.

That’s why it’s important to think about your purpose for studying Japanese and then discover what learning style works best for you.

How Long Does it Take to Be Able to Understand Japanese?

How long it takes you to learn and understand Japanese will depend on your reasons/motivations for studying and your language goals.

What’s your purpose for learning Japanese?

  • For travel.
  • To greet people in Japanese on a business trip.
  • Converse confidently in Japanese.
  • To be able to read complex Japanese writings (academic essays, books, newspapers).
  • To work/live in Japan.
  • For understanding Anime.
  • A more personal/unique reason.

Likely, your purpose for studying and learning Japanese is not limited to a single reason. Instead, you may have multiple reasons for wanting to learn Japanese.

If your purpose is related to travel or vacation in Japan, it will take you much less time to learn Japanese than if you wanted to be able to read a newspaper, for instance.

You can learn sufficient Japanese for travel in as quick as a week. Whereas developing the ability to read a newspaper may take upwards of 2800 hours of study time, according to the Japanese Language Education Center.

Developing the proficiency to hold a steady conversation in Japanese takes less time than you’d think at first, also.

Conversational Japanese is considered to be at around the N3 level. This means need between 950 and 1700 hours of study, going by the JLPT study time standards.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese on Average?

How long it takes to learn Japanese will be different for each person. It depends on if you have any previous knowledge, classroom learning time vs self-study time, what resources you use and the study methods you utilise.

The JLPT N3 takes a maximum of approximately 1700 study hours to pass. This is considered the average level at which a person can have a general conversation in Japanese.

However, even if you reach the high levels of JLPT, you still may feel unconfident using Japanese in certain situations.

That’s why it’s so important to recognise your purpose for studying the language. By focusing on what you are interested in you’ll have a motivator to help you study, as well.

In 2010, 65000 people who took the JLPT exam were surveyed. They were asked to describe what they feel comfortable doing in Japanese with their achieved JLPT level.

The survey reveals what the average person of each Japanese ability feels they can accomplish in Japanese.

Refer to the survey for a comparison of how long it would take to learn Japanese on average to reach your desired goal.

You can find the survey on what successful JLPT examinees think they can do and communicate in Japanese here.

Can I Learn Japanese in a Year?

It is entirely possible to learn Japanese in a year. You can become incredibly proficient as well.

Going by the JLPT standards it takes between 3000 and 4800 hours to pass the N1 exam.

Therefore, if you study 9-13 hours a day for 365 days, theoretically you’ll reach N1 and be fluent.

However, it’s not as simple as just studying for 13 hours 365 days a year. Besides, the definition of “fluent” is extremely objective as well.

Honestly, going by the JLPT levels, you only need N3 to be conversationally fluent in Japanese.

If we use the metric governed by the official language centre, you can achieve a conversational level of Japanese (N3) from zero prior knowledge by studying 3 hours a day for 365 days on average.

Reaching Your Language Goals in a Year

Your goals and purpose for studying Japanese play a huge factor as well.

How you study each day will determine if you’re able to reach your goals or not. What does each hour of study look like to you? What does it entail?

Your study goals may also reflect how you study as well. If your goal is to be able to converse in Japanese, you may want to look into getting an online language teacher.

When selecting a tutor, make sure that you don’t just pick any online teacher.

Research the teacher’s profile, ask them lots of questions and really make sure they are right for you. Disregard their qualifications. You want someone who can truly help you reach your goals. I’ve written a post on finding an online teacher who is right for you here.

If your goals are to watch anime without subtitles, you may wish to use sites like this one which can help you do so.

Learning Japanese is an adventure that takes time. How much time it takes is dependent on you and your goals.

While everyone learns differently, the next sections in this guide will walk you through learning Japanese in the most optimal way possible.

Textbooks to Start Learning Japanese From Zero

How to Start Learning Japanese

While there are many amazing textbooks for learning Japanese, there are two series that stand above the rest.

The Genki series for beginners and the Kanzen Master series for post-beginners to advanced learners.

The Genki series textbooks are hands down one of the most popular ways to learn Japanese independently. The first book in the series, Genki I, is designed for absolute beginners.

Described as an integrated course for Elementary Japanese, Genki I walks you through the Japanese language from literally zero, making it one of the best ways to get started.

The Kanzen Master series books are what I used as I reached post-beginner levels of Japanese.

Due to having extensive coverage of reading, listening, vocabulary and kanji along with an expansive collection of practice questions available the Kanzen Master books are an excellent resource to have when it comes to preparing for the JLPT exams.

Genki I Pros

Genki Textbook for Beginners

Genki I introduces you to the fundamentals of the Japanese language in a fun, immersive and engaging way. It breaks down the very basics of the Japanese language without overwhelming you with needless explanations.

The book is straightforward and to the point. Each lesson and topic is designed in such a way that learning progression feels natural and practical. Strong visual aids are provided for context.

Lessons start with a dialogue, followed by the vocabulary, clean grammar explanations and examples and a practice page.

Lessons feel intuitive and flow really well. The pacing is not too fast and not too slow. The book also includes some activities to do if you’re studying with a friend or in a class.

Learning hiragana is one of the first things you should do as early as possible when learning Japanese.

In the reading section, Genki I teaches hiragana and provides diverse hiragana learning activities keeping your studies enjoyable.

Genki I Cons

The biggest con of Genki I is that you have to purchase another separate book, called the workbook to truly get the most out of it.

While the Genki I textbook contains all the dialogues, vocabulary, and grammar, the practice questions are limited.

Instead, the practice questions are mostly contained in a separate book, called the Genki I workbook.

While having two books side by side makes questions on dialogues easier to refer to, having to purchase a second book to get the most out of the Genki experience is something I did not realise myself at first.

The workbook is, in my opinion, an essential supplement to the Genki I textbook.

The Best Ways to Minimise How Long it Takes To Learn Japanese

Study techniques, high-quality resources and how you implement them into your studies are vital.

You don’t need to know tens of thousands of words and hundred and grammar combinations to be “fluent” in Japanese.

Instead, there are other, often overlooked factors and techniques that substantially increase language proficiency.

Listed below are five crucial factors/study techniques that will significantly improve your Japanese proficiency.

  1. Learn the core vocabulary necessary for your goals.
  2. Refrain from stressing about learning complex grammar.
  3. Develop the ability to explain the meaning of words in Japanese.

By implementing these steps into your studies, you’ll greatly reduce the length of time you’ll need to confidently communicate in Japanese.

Establish a Core Japanese Vocabulary (1)

As a complete beginner with zero knowledge of Japanese, after learning how to read hiragana, the very next thing you should do is establish a core vocabulary.

Begin by building up a vocabulary of around 100-500 words to get you started.

While the Genki textbooks are one of the best resources for a beginner learning Japanese, there are many good free resources you can use as well.

You can find a list of 100 core words in Japanese here which is a great place to start from.

If your goal is to obtain the N5 certificate to prove your Japanese ability, it might be better for you to learn the words that appear on the N5 exam.

Retaining Vocabulary

Of course, simply staring at a list won’t keep the words in your memory. You’ll need to implement study techniques to ensure they stick. There is a multitude of effective ways to do this.

Learning words in context coupled with well-composed explanations will greatly reduce the time it takes for you to learn Japanese words.

We have a collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides that you can use for free. All guides list how to say numerous expressions and phrases, all of which are coupled with explanations, sentence examples and audio for your pronunciation reference.

As a beginner, you can start by familiarising yourself with a bunch of words and then watch videos that explain and show how to use them.

 

You may find remembering Japanese words challenging at first and feel that it’s taking you a while to learn them. This is completely natural; the more words you learn, the quicker your brain will adjust to recognising and understanding how Japanese words generally look and feel to read.

Some videos add some colour to your learning. You may find this more visually appealing and thus easier to remember.

 

Learning new words, phrases and expressions in context will drastically reduce the time how long it takes you to learn Japanese.

This is because your brain will retain information much more effectively, compared to trying to absorb information from a list with no examples/explanations.

If and when you can, try explaining the use of the new vocabulary you’ve acquired to someone else.

Explaining what you’ve learned to someone else increases your ability to recall. It’s a fantastic way for your brain to process the information and turn what you’ve learned via input, into output.

Why Learning Lots of Grammar is Not Necessary (2)

While grammar is another core element of language, learning the advanced stuff is not necessary to be able to communicate effectively in Japanese.

It’s more important to focus on learning and improving your knowledge of beginner N5 and N4 grammar. There are multiple reasons for this.

Firstly, you will use and hear the beginner grammar in everyday conversation more.

Secondly, a lot of advanced grammar is not used in general conversation.

Thirdly, mastering beginner grammar will make studying the advanced stuff significantly easier.

With that said, you will need to understand as much grammar as possible if your goals are to pass the JLPT exams.

Ensuring you have a solid understanding of beginner grammar will provide the perfect platform for you to increase your knowledge further.

Complex Grammar is Not Necessary for Conversation

 

Yet if your goal is to communicate well in Japanese in as short a time as possible, refrain from stressing about learning intermediate/advanced grammar.

Instead, focus on learning and mastering beginner grammar to become confident and fluid in communicating in Japanese quickly.

Much more often than not, you can communicate almost everything you’ll want to say with beginner grammar.

So much of the advanced grammar has specific uses and unique nuances that are hard to recognise and understand without context.

Attempting to use more advanced grammar in conversations that you don’t fully understand risks sounding very unnatural.

This is because N2 and N1 contain advanced grammar that is often used for academic writings, newspapers, public speeches etc.

Words and grammar that are usually reserved for these kinds of instances are called 書き言葉 (kakikotoba). These are words and grammar that are generally only used in essays/papers etc.

In essence, don’t overwhelm yourself with the grammar, study a bit at a time. Focus on mastering beginner grammar. 

This will make transitioning into learning the more difficult grammar so much easier later on.

Mastering Beginner Grammar Makes Learning Complex Grammar Easy

Moreover, strengthening your knowledge of beginner grammar will prepare you for when you do learn more advanced sequences and conjugations.

A huge amount of the advanced N2 and N1 grammar expands on the beginner N5 and N4 content.

For example, the て (te form) is one of the hardest grammar conjugations to learn for beginners.

But don’t worry if you’ve yet to encounter the て (te form) yourself! Once you do learn it and master it, you will find learning and using all of the other grammar to be noticeably easier.

Furthermore, as you refine your understanding of the beginner stuff you’ll begin to notice a pattern in how Japanese grammar sequences are formed.

The once seemingly confusing rules of how Japanese grammar works will become easier to understand.

More often than not, Japanese grammar follows the simple pattern of “verb+conjugation+grammar point”.

Once you master the て (te-form), conjugating words in Japanese, in general, becomes easier. There is always a lot of conjugation going on in Japanese and the て (te-form) is the biggest hurdle for beginners to overcome.

The Post-Beginner Hurdle

Is studying Japanese Difficult

During post-beginner (N4) to intermediate (N3) levels of Japanese learning, recognising conjugated words can very be challenging.

This is because, by this point in your studies, your vocabulary and grammar knowledge has expanded to the point where you are capable of communicating a variety of things.

You’ll likely know a good number of words and a range of different verbs. The vocabulary and grammar knowledge you possess will be versatile enough to have solid conversations in Japanese.

When you’re learning verbs, in particular, you’ll probably only learn them in their stem-form or dictionary form.

In simple terms, you’ll be learning verbs in the present tense. You won’t be learning them in the past tense or in the te-form etc.

Firstly, you’ll want to develop the ability to recognise words when they’re spoken.

In particular, practice recognising words that are in a post-conjugated state. For example, you might know the verb 行く (iku), which means “to go”. Kanji will also help you with this.

But can you recognise 行く (iku) when it’s spoken? What about when it’s conjugated into another form?

To list a few, imagine you hear 行く (iku), 行って (itte), 行かない (ikanai), 行かなくて (ikanakute), 行け (ike), 行った (itta), 行かなければならない (ikanakerebanaranai), and 行ける (ikeru).

You can’t see the kanji of a word when it’s spoken, and you can’t control the speed that which the word is spoken either.

Therefore as your grammar and vocabulary expand, be sure to try making example sentences with a variety of verbs and words.

Eventually, as you become more familiar with hearing conjugated verbs, your brain will be able to process the meaning much faster.

Explain the Meaning of Words in Japanese (3)

When you don’t know a word in Japanese, it’s very easy to jump to English. This is especially true when you’re still a beginner as your current vocabulary repertoire is small.

However, you should refrain from switching to English when you can.

Instead, focus on utilising your current knowledge of Japanese to explain a word/phrase you don’t know or understand. Think of related words, synonyms, and ways you can explain the word’s meaning.

Explaining a word you don’t know using words you do is without a doubt one of the absolute best skills you can develop.

By explaining the word you don’t know or are unable to recall you’ll be able to keep a conversation going with minimal pauses.

Hence not only will the flow of the conversation will be much smoother, but you’ll also sound much more natural.

The best part of this skill is that you’re substantially more likely to remember the word you didn’t know/ couldn’t recall after you’ve finished explaining its meaning.

The person you’re speaking with can likely deduce what word it is that you’re explaining. It’s a eureka moment when they mention it and you’ll retain the word you were explaining better.

Example!

Let’s say you want to know the word for “astronaut” in Japanese. You can say something such as:

  • ね、職業として宇宙に行く人って何という?
    ne, shokugyou toshite uchuu ni iku hito tte nantoiu?
    Hey, what do you call someone who goes to space as their occupation?

It takes some practice to be able to explain the meaning of words in Japanese. However, with a bit of time, it will massively boost your Japanese skills.

When you’re able to explain the meaning of any word, the time it takes you to learn Japanese will be cut drastically as you won’t need to spend all that time hammering vocabulary.

In fact, I recommend making a note of the words you explain each day. You’ll find it a hundred times faster and easier when you do sit down and study the words again later.

Therefore, even when you don’t know a word, being able to explain the meaning of what you want to say is an extremely powerful skill to have.

How Long Does it Take to Learn the Japanese Alphabet?

How Long Does it Take to Learn the Japanese Alphabet?

The more accurate question is “how long does it take to learn the Japanese alphabets” as there are three of them.

The three Japanese alphabets are hiragana, katakana and kanji. Kanji are Chinese characters, katakana is mainly used for words “borrowed” from other languages, and hiragana is a Japanese phonetic alphabet/script.

There are 46 characters in hiragana, 46 in katakana, and more than 50,000 kanji.

Out of the more than 50,000 kanji, only 2136 of them are considered to be the most important.

These select 2136 are referred to as the joyo kanji, the number of kanji learned in compulsory education in Japan.

However, very few Japanese people know anywhere near 50,000 kanji.

Even so, 2136 kanji is a considerable amount and it may be daunting to think about how long it would take you to learn them all.

For starters, you don’t need to know any of them to speak Japanese at a conversational or fluent level.

However, kanji is important for reading and writing.

But perhaps more important is hiragana; the core of the Japanese language.

Out of the three (kanji, hiragana, katakana) hiragana is the most used.

Furthermore, to be able to read kanji, you first need to be able to read hiragana. And to top it all off, Japanese kanji can be written in hiragana.

You might be thinking that if kanji can be written in hiragana, why is kanji (and this many of them) even needed? This guide has more coverage: How to Read Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

In short, hiragana is the most important and the alphabet you need to prioritise learning.

Let’s have a look at how long it takes to learn hiragana, kanji and katakana respectively.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Hiragana?

Hiragana makes up the core of the Japanese language and can be picked up surprisingly quickly.

There are only 46 hiragana and you can become consistent in recognising them within a matter of hours.

Some textbooks begin by teaching Japanese in romaji, which is Japanese written in roman characters; the alphabet we use in English.

As a native English speaker, you may feel this method of learning Japanese is more suited to you as romaji is familiar.

Yet, in Japanese, romaji is only used in a few unique situations. For example, Japanese city names are written in both kanji and romaji on signs.

For this reason, I strongly recommend avoiding any language resources that teach solely in romaji.

Romaji is not used outside of a few sparse scenarios as outlined above. Learning Japanese in romaji won’t help you when you need to read or write actual Japanese.

Instead, your priority should be to learn hiragana and become proficient in recognising the characters.

Learning hiragana is not difficult and can be done in a day. I recommend revising the characters every day for at least the first week or so after you’ve finished learning them. This helps them stick in your long-term memory.

Besides, all post-beginner textbooks teach in hiragana. You’ll need to learn it sooner than later to progress in your studies.

After you’ve learned the hiragana, being able to jump in and read actual Japanese text that early on in your studies feels overwhelmingly satisfying! I promise.

How to Learn Hiragana

Learning Hiragana was the first thing I did when I decided I wanted to learn Japanese.

Becoming familiar with Hiragana and being able to decipher their readings within 5 seconds was my goal.

There are so many superb free resources available online to learn hiragana. You do not need to make any purchases!

Firstly, I recommend taking a look at a hiragana chart.

Hiragana Chart

Once you’ve spent a little time familiarizing yourself with how hiragana generally look, you have a few pathways.

One of these pathways entails utilising spaced-repetition learning methods to rapidly increase your ability to recall Japanese characters.

I used this site to learn Japanese hiragana. The English equivalent of hiragana will appear. Click on the hiragana that it represents. Continue practising until you can achieve a perfect score of 100-0 as quickly as possible.

Kana Bento is also a fantastic web game with more visuals to learn hiragana and katakana.

You can also utilise mnemonics. This is a learning method that helps you remember hiragana by associating them with images, songs, rhymes etc.

Take a look at our Japanese Core; a fun way to learn Japanese hiragana quickly through mnemonics.

There are a few really good videos that can help you can learn hiragana:

 

Furthermore, Misa has an excellent video for beginners looking to learn hiragana that introduces some vocab too!

 

There are only 46 hiragana and you can learn them in less than a day. Learning to write hiragana is not that challenging either! Learning how to write hiragana will also rapidly speed up your ability to recognise and recall them.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Kanji?

As mentioned, there are over 50000 kanji in Japanese.

But, you only need to know 2136 of them to be in line with what Japanese students learn in their compulsory education. These 2136 kanji have been labelled as the joyo kanji by the Japanese Ministry of Education.

It takes Japanese students 6 years to learn the first 1006 of the joyo kanji. They learn 1006 kanji in Primary (Elementary) school through grades 1-6.

In Secondary (Junior High) school Japanese students learn an additional 1130 kanji through grades 7-12. Therefore it takes students another 6 years to learn the remaining 1130 kanji.

In total, Japanese students spend 12 years learning kanji. By the end of these 12 years, they will have learned 2136 kanji.

For people who didn’t go through the Japanese compulsory education system, how long it takes to learn kanji will differ.

Let’s use the 2136 joyo kanji metric. If you were to learn 10 kanji a day, it would take you almost 214 days to finish learning all of them.

How to Learn Kanji

Before going further, let’s look at some popular methods to learn kanji.

While there are without a doubt many fantastic methods out there, finding the right one for yourself is vital. Especially when it comes to how long it’ll take you to learn all the joyo kanji.

Learn Kanji Using Anki

The most popular, and in my opinion, the best way to successfully learn kanji is through the spaced-repetition method using Anki.

Spaced repetition is a memory technique that involves reviewing information (often via flashcards) during spaced intervals. The spaced intervals gradually increase in size as you become more proficient.

Anki is a digital flashcard app that utilised spaced repetition learning. You can use Anki on your computer, or your android phone, for free (there is no paid service).

Anki offers complete freedom in creating your own flashcards as well as the freedom to download pre-existing decks online.

I recommend downloading pre-existing Japanese decks, there are hundreds available online.

There are even multiple decks available for download that contain the joyo kanji. This means you can start learning the most important kanji straight away!

How Anki Works

You can choose how many words you learn each day/session.

When you learn words through flashcards using Anki, it will remember what cards you’re good at and which ones you need some more practice with.

Each day you complete a review of cards that you previously got wrong. Eventually, as you get better at remembering those cards, Anki will increase the intervals in which they are shown.

For instance, let’s say there’s a card that you failed to recall. Anki will show it to you again in the following day’s review. If you get it correct on that day, it won’t show it to you again until 2 days after. If you get it correct again, it won’t appear for 5 days.

The interval will keep increasing until it’s burned in your long-term memory.

You can adjust the speed of the interval to your liking, you can add notes to cards, and you can draw temporary notes on them (I recommend doing this to practice your writing!).

However, Anki is a spaced-repetition app. This means that if you miss your review because you didn’t have time (this will inevitably happen) your review for the next day will contain your regular cards and the previous day’s cards in the same review.

This can get quite chaotic and overwhelming if you miss multiple days in a row.

Therefore, I recommend whenever you have a spare minute, before bed, in the morning after waking up, or commuting to work/school etc, open Anki! You can even schedule an additional review session if you have the time!

The Heisig Method

One of the best ways to speed up how long it takes to learn kanji is to implement the Heisig Method.

The Heisig Method teaches how to learn kanji by using your imagination in a creative way. It’s a method to learn and remember kanji that involves using your imagination and creative stories.

It’s a much more effective and enjoyable way to learn kanji as opposed to mindlessly staring at them without a strategy and just hoping they will stick in your head.

Each kanji is composed of multiple small pieces called radicals. There are 214 radicals in Japanese and kanji are made up of multiple combinations of them. Some radicals also function independently as kanji, too.

Using the Heisig Method we can break down the individual radicals in each kanji and make connections/stories using our imagination.

For instance, the kanji for “tree” in Japanese is 木 (ki). This kanji also functions as a radical.

By placing two trees together we make the kanji 林, which means “grove”.

Finally, by placing three trees together we make the kanji 森 (mori), which means “forest”.

The Heisig Method helps you remember the kanji through stories and explanations like these. It makes learning the kanji intuitive and the meanings make sense.

By breaking down each individual component of the kanji and understanding them, kanji no longer looks like jumbled-up scribbles. But rather of a combination of radicals that make sense.

You can download the Heisig flashcards for Anki for free online. I highly recommend learning kanji this way!

How Long Does it Take to Learn Kanji with Anki?

Learn kanji quickly

Going by the metric earlier, if you studied 10 kanji a day using Anki, you’d have to study for 214 days straight before you get through all the kanji.

This doesn’t include how many days afterwards you’ll need to review the new kanji until they’re burned to your long-term memory.

Of course, you could increase the number of kanji you learn in a day to reduce how long it would take. You could double it to 20 kanji a day, for instance.

This would halve how many days it takes to learn all the kanji to 107.

However, learning kanji is not a process you can rush. You can attempt to speed through it, but it will be tough.

The first few days or even weeks will feel pretty good. You’ll feel productive, motivated and generally positive about your learning progress.

This is all great until your reviews for each day keep getting bigger and bigger. After a certain threshold, your brain will begin to struggle to keep up. This is because your brain needs time to process your learning.

You’ll begin forgetting kanji you’ve already learned and it will become frustrating.

There will be some days where you can study, and some you cannot – you’ll feel pressured that you have to study/review your cards even when you’re exhausted, or are on holiday.

Managing Your Anki Studies

Although not Japanese, there’s this very interesting video of a guy who tries to memorise the 2500 most commonly used words in Spanish in a week.

He uses Anki to learn 500 Spanish words a day for a week. Take a look to see how he coped with this endeavour. It’s a very fascinating watch!

 

As incredible as having digital flashcards are, they only work as well as your brain lets them. Finding your comfortable number of kanji to study a day is important.

Timing is also a very valuable skill to have. On regular days I studied 5 kanji a day. If I knew I had a weekend with no plans I’d schedule 50 new kanji for Friday night and use Saturday and Sunday to review them, perhaps even adding a few more new ones over the weekend.

If I knew I was going on holiday, I’d hold off learning any new kanji until I got back. It’s quite discouraging to come back to a 1000+ card review on Anki.

With this method, it took me close to 3 years to finish my reviews and learn the joyo kanji. You could do it faster or slower, it depends on you and how much time you have to put in!

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese if You Know Chinese?

Having any knowledge of the Chinese language can help massively with learning Japanese.

Regardless of whether you’re a native Chinese speaker or a beginner, if you’ve studied Chinese before, you will quickly discover how much of an advantage your knowledge brings.

In short, this is because a large portion of Japanese vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. In particular, the kanji; Chinese characters.

The Chinese language is solely made up of kanji and the Japanese language adopts a hefty amount of them.

It’s worth noting that while the Chinese language is written in only kanji, the Japanese language is not.

With that said Kanji is the most dominant of the three alphabets/scripts in the Japanese language.

According to the Japanese Language Education Center, having prior knowledge of Chinese can cut how long it takes to learn Japanese to fluency down by up to a whopping 65%.

While it’s estimated that it takes up to 4800 hours to learn Japanese to fluency with zero prior knowledge, knowing Chinese can reduce that time to a mere 1700 hours.

How Knowing Chinese Helps You Learn Japanese Faster

How Knowing Chinese Helps you Learn Japanese Faster

Firstly, having any knowledge of Chinese can help you to understand and even read numerous Japanese sentences without having ever studied the language.

This is because the Chinese language shares many of the same characters (kanji) with the Japanese language.

If you’re fluent in Chinese or a native speaker, you will immediately feel the familiar presence of so many Chinese characters in Japanese text.

Take the kanji (Chinese characters) for numbers in Japanese and Chinese for instance, they are both the same!

Even if you’ve only studied Chinese a little, you will still find that you’re able to learn Japanese at a quicker pace than someone with no Chinese ability.

As long as you know the meaning of kanji, deciphering the general meaning of a sentence becomes easier.

How Knowing Kanji Speeds Up Your Japanese Learning (Example)

For example, take the below Japanese sentence.

  • 今年りは二月にある。
    kotoshi no matsuri ha ni gatsu ni aru.
    This year‘s festival is in February.

This sentence is full of kanji that are the same in Chinese. Therefore, even if you’ve never studied Japanese before, just by recognising/knowing the kanji, you can make a very good guess at the meaning.

Let’s see how much meaning we can comprehend by only looking at the kanji.

  1. 今年 means “this year“.
  2. means “festival“.
  3. 二月 means “February“.

Just from kanji alone and without even considering grammar, we can establish that the sentence is talking about a festival this year in February.

This can make studying Japanese, in general, feel less daunting, and instead be encouraging. Hence the time it would take you to learn Japanese can be significantly sped up.

Being a native speaker or learner of the Chinese language exposes you to various kanji quickly.

Hence with Chinese knowledge, you can significantly speed up how long it takes to learn Japanese.

In essence, knowing the meaning of kanji enables you to make a very solid guess at what a written sentence means in Japanese.

All that’s left is to study the grammar to help you to fill in the gaps in the sentences’ overall meaning.

Chinese & Japanese Pronunciation

Having any prior knowledge of Chinese can help with pronunciation and greatly speed up your Japanese learning process.

While the majority of words in Japanese and Chinese are pronounced differently, some words are more alike than you may realise at first.

In the beginning, it’s natural to feel lost with Japanese kanji pronunciation. However, as Japanese kanji are borrowed from the Chinese language, many pronunciation similarities exist.

Hence, you can often make a pretty good guess as to how a kanji is pronounced.

For instance, take the word for weather in both Japanese and Chinese.

  • In Japanese: 天気 (tenki)
  • In Chinese: 天氣 (tianqi)

These two words have very similar pronunciations and have the same meaning.

You’ll quickly notice how many Chinese and Japanese words sound alike, especially when the Japanese word is read with the onyomi reading.

Therefore, knowing Chinese can strongly impact your ability to learn and recall how a Japanese word is pronounced. You will notice that the more you progress in your studies, the more accurate your guesses will become.

How Knowing Chinese WON’T Help You Learn Japanese Faster

As discussed above, the Japanese and Chinese languages share many similarities when it comes to vocabulary.

There are also a few connections between how some of the grammar functions, too.

For instance, the Chinese (de) works similar to the Japanese grammar particle (no). Both can be used to refer to possession of something.

In Japanese, attaching to 私 (watashi), meaning “I” makes 私 (watashi no), meaning “my”.

In Chinese, attaching (de) to 我 (wo) meaning “I” makes 我(wo de), also meaning “my”.

Example sentence:

Japanese:

  • 犬。
    watashi no inu.
    My dog.

Chinese:

  • 狗。
    wo de gou.
    My dog.

Both sentences mean “my dog” and the の (no) in Japanese has a similar function to the 的 (de) in Chinese.

With that said, one of the biggest differences between the two languages is how the sentence structures are unlike.

Chinese sentence structure shares a lot of similarities with English. Whereas the Japanese language sentence structure flows like Korean.

As an example, in Japanese, the verb often comes at the end of the sentence. Whereas Chinese and English reflect each other.

Let’s take a look:

  • Japanese: 私はケーキを食べたい
    Chinese:要吃蛋糕
    English: I want to eat cake.

In summary, while the Japanese sentence structure is mostly different to Chinese, there are some grammar similarities and many identicals in terms of vocab/kanji.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese From English?

There are also many advantages you can reap as an English speaker learning Japanese.

You might think that because Japanese and English sentence structures and alphabets are vastly different it would be difficult for you to learn Japanese.

However, there is one element of the Japanese language that is considerably easier for English speakers to learn – even compared to Chinese speakers.

Even if you have zero knowledge of Japanese at all, there are a large bunch of Japanese words that you can learn right now.

English to Japanese Loan Words

The Japanese language is made up of three alphabets or scripts; hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

Most of the words written in katakana are called “loan words” or 外来語 (gairaigo). These are words that have been essentially “borrowed” from another language and adopted into the official Japanese dictionary.

A huge number of these “loan words” have been borrowed directly from English.

Hence, many words in Japanese sound very similar to how they do in English.

For example, take the word for Facebook. As this word has also been adopted into the Japanese language from English, the Japanese pronunciation is similar to the English one.

In Japanese, this word is フェイスブック (fueisubukku).

Let’s look at a few more examples of loan words.

  • インターネット。
    inta-netto.
    Internet.
  • ホテル。
    hoteru.
    Hotel.
  • ウェブサイト。
    uebusaito.
    Website.
  • ワイン。
    wain.
    Wine.
  • フォーク。
    fo-ku.
    Fork.

Some words come from other languages too, such as German and Russian.

  • アルバイト。
    arubaito.
    Part time job.
  • ノルマ。
    noruma.
    Quota.

For a more extensive look at loan words and their use in Japanese take a look at the following ultimate guide.

How to Read Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

When you improve your ability to recognise these borrowed words your vocabulary will quickly expand. Moreover, the number of words you’ll be able to say will drastically increase.

Therefore, as an English speaker who can recognise these loan words, the time it takes you to learn Japanese is reduced dramatically.

Japanese to English Loan Words

Furthermore, just as there are many “borrowed words” in Japanese, there are also a lot of Japanese words that have been adopted into the English language, too.

These words have become part of the English dictionary. Examples of Japanese words commonly used in the English language are:

  1. Anime
  2. Manga
  3. Karaoke
  4. Typhoon
  5. Sushi
  6. Samurai
  7. Emoji

All of these words are originally Japanese words. As an English speaker, you have the advantage of knowing a lot of these words straight off the bat.

Compared to a native Chinese speaker, who will most likely have to learn most of these words from scratch!

Some of these words have slightly different, or added nuances/meanings attached to them too. Take the word for “emoji” for instance. This Japanese word does not refer to the English word “emotion”!

 

Therefore, you will find that there are a whole bunch of Japanese words that feel familiar to you as an English speaker.

These loan words are used in Japanese all the time. Hence, once you adjust to how these words are pronounced and sound when spoken in Japanese, picking up on them will become a breeze.

This will help a lot with Japanese language ability tests too. As these words are unfamiliar to non-English speakers, they may appear in the reading section of the JLPT exam. The question may ask you to recognise the meaning and pick a synonym.

It’s a great confidence booster when you’re able to pick up on the meaning of these katakana words.

Thus, as an English speaker, the time it takes for you to learn Japanese katakana will be lessened.

With that said, it’s still important to learn their correct Japanese pronunciation!

It’s very easy to slip into English pronunciation when speaking the borrowed words in Japanese. Try to avoid doing this!

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese to N2?

The JLPT is the official standardised test that learners of Japanese can take to evaluate and prove their language proficiency. The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N2 is the second-highest level on the test.

Passing JLPT N2 is considered to be proof that your Japanese language ability is of business level or higher. This means that you should have little to no problem communicating in the Japanese workplace.

N2 is often considered to be the minimum level of Japanese ability required for working or studying at a university level in Japan. Although sometimes N1 is required.

The official amount of time it takes to learn Japanese to N2 (and pass the exam!) according to The Japanese Langauge Learning Center is 1600-2800 hours if you have no prior knowledge of kanji.

If you do know kanji the time it takes to learn Japanese to the N2 level is 1150-1800 hours.

It’s worth noting that kanji knowledge is essential for the JLPT exams because there is no speaking or writing component. Despite this, the JLPT exam is recognised as the official way to gauge your actual Japanese ability.

The N2 exam is 155 minutes in total with a 105-minute reading section and a 50-minute listening section. There are a total of 180 points in the N2 exam; you need 90 or higher to pass.

These points need to come from both sections of the exam. You also need to score at least 19 points in both the reading and listening sections to pass. You can’t just botch the reading section and smash the listening, for instance.

With that said, the amount of time it takes to reach Japanese N2 will also depend on your circumstance.

Resources to Learn Japanese N2 Quickly

There are a bunch of amazing resources you can use to speed up how long it takes to learn Japanese to the N2 level.

The best resources I used to learn Japanese to N2 are a combination of four things.

  1. Anki – a completely free digital flashcard app.
  2. Japanesetest4you – a site that contains a list of all the JLPT grammar and vocab.
  3. Jisho – The best free online Japanese dictionary.
  4. Kanzen Master Books – Language manuals that prepare you and give you confidence for all questions in the JLPT N4, N3, N2 and N1 exams.

Anki is hands down one of the best ways to learn kanji and vocabulary.

At first glance, it may seem like a regular digital flashcard app, but it’s so much more than that. It utilises spaced repetition learning to ensure that the words you’re learning stick in your head. I explain Anki in more detail under the “learning kanji” section of this guide.

Kanzen Master Books to Master the JLPT Exams

How Long to Study Japanese to N2

As the N2 exam mainly tests business Japanese I cannot recommend the Kanzen Master textbooks enough.

There are books for the N4-N1 exams and individual books for listening, kanji, reading comprehension, grammar and vocabulary respectively.

The vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension books particularly have helped me tremendously.

The Kanzen Master reading comprehension book is the best of the bunch. It’s a whole book that contains JLPT N2 style practice questions, and a lot of them too.

 

The reading comprehension in the book mirrors that of the actual N2 exam. It’s exactly the kind of reading the exam will present you with.

This kind of stuff is much more difficult to find online, especially reading comprehension practice that contains business emails.

Kanzen Master Textbooks - Best Books for JLPT N2

Nothing beats having a crack at past papers, and as the actual past papers of the JLPT are never published, this is the closest you’ll get.

While superb resources, the listening and kanji books aren’t as necessary, in my opinion. I say this because there are many just-as-good free resources available online.

Listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos or watching streams are excellent ways to boost your listening ability.

Can I reach N2 by Studying Japanese at University?

If you study Japanese at a university level (from zero) you can reach N2 by the end of the 4-year course.

You can also achieve the N2 level by studying at a university that’s not in Japan. Although I would only study at universities that offer a year abroad in Japan as part of the curriculum.

Some universities are affiliated with several Japanese universities. This means that if you study Japanese at a university that offers a year abroad, you will have multiple Japanese universities to choose from.

Therefore, research all the Japanese universities available when preparing for your year abroad.

If you can, stay at a dormitory where the majority of students there don’t speak your native language. You will be forced to use Japanese, hence, your ability will skyrocket especially if you put yourself out there and get involved with everyone and ongoing events.

When you’re surrounded by non-English speakers, you have to resort to Japanese. Thus, you’ll quickly learn how to communicate basic phrases you didn’t know how to say before. For example, “I’m hungry” or “I’m thirsty”.

When I first began texting in Japanese, it took me upwards of half an hour to compose a reply. Once I got done checking the grammar and spelling it felt like sending a simple text had transformed into a study session.

When studying abroad, all of these things quickly become natural to you. This is because of exposure. By being constantly surrounded by Japanese wherever you go you’ll see a massive improvement in your language ability and in your confidence to speak.

How Long Does it Take to Reach N2 Japanese at University?

To answer the question, how long does it take to reach the N2 level by studying at university, we can do some calculations. Using myself as an example, I began studying Japanese without any prior knowledge.

Excluding my year abroad, I had around 150 hours of Japanese language class time a year at University. I was there for 3 years, so that makes 450 hours. I had 850 hours of class time during my year abroad. In total, that’s 1300 hours of class time over four years.

Of course, I would also study for a few hours in the evening almost every day. Sometimes this would be more, sometimes it would be less. Let’s say I studied on average a generous one hour a day for the four years.

This means that I studied 1460 hours in four years by myself.

In total this would mean it took me 2760 hours to reach N2 level Japanese within four years.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese Fluently?

When asking how long it takes to learn Japanese to fluency, we have to remember that each person’s idea of what “fluency” is and sounds like will be different.

Generally, fluency is measured by the extent to which an individual possesses the ability to use language for communication and comprehension with a level of accuracy.

We often consider that level of accuracy to be very high.

The word “fluent” refers to an ability to express and communicate thoughts and ideas accurately and articulately. We can use the word “fluent” to refer to any one of (or all of) the four language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The Japanese Language Education Center estimates it takes upwards of 4800 hours to learn Japanese to N1 level, which is considered to be “fluency”.

Reaching Fluency

However, simply putting a number on how long it takes to reach that high a proficiency is not really an accurate representation.

For starters, exposing yourself to the language and culture by actually being in Japan can drastically affect those study hours. Yet, sometimes packing your bags and heading to Japan is not easily done.

Secondly, the JLPT only measures reading and listening proficiency. There are so many factors that are measured when gauging fluency as a whole.

From being able to read a book, or a newspaper, being able to articulate thoughts and ideas, comprehend audio, write in the language with accuracy, speak with correct pronunciation, understand dialects, speak with a native-like pitch accent and much more. 

All of these above factors are vital when considering what fluency actually is.

Popular YouTuber Matt vs Japan has composed an interesting formula on how to master Japanese from the comfort of your own bedroom and without ever going to Japan.

 

He was able to achieve native-level proficiency in five years via self-study.

However, language learning doesn’t really ever end. This goes for any second or third languages you learn, and for your native language.

Learning Japanese From Anime

If you’ve watched anime, it’s likely that you’ve picked up on a few words that are commonly spoken by characters.

Because of how often some words are used, it’s pretty easy to remember them. Here’s a list of a few words that you may have heard and the general meaning:

  • 先生 (sensei) – teacher
  • 先輩 (senpai) – upperclassman.
  • ばか (baka) – idiot/silly.
  • うるさい (urusai) – shut up.
  • お兄さん (oniisan) – older brother.
  • 妹 (imout0) – younger sister.
  • 大丈夫 (daijoubu) – okay.
  • かわいい (kawaii) – cute.
  • ダメ (dame) – no/not allowed.
  • 行こうぜ (ikouze) – let’s go (masculine).
  • 行くわよ (ikuwayo) – let’s go (feminine).

Some of these words are used in conversation outside of anime, as well. Whereas others, such as 行こうぜ (ikou ze), you will only really hear in anime.

Saying these kinds of words in everyday conversation would be unnatural and surprise some people. It may come across as you’re trying to mimic an anime character or that you speak in a childish way.

Therefore there are also elements of Japanese in anime that are unique only to anime.

In particular, characters in anime will often use fantasy words and unique expressions to exaggerate what’s happening.

A famous expression in the West is the expression お前はもう死んでる (omae ha mou shinderu) which translates roughly as “you’re already dead”.

The only time when you might actually use this phrase in natural speech is when you’re playing against a friend in a game.

To up the hype and express how easy it’s going to be to win, you tell them how they’re already dead with お前はもう死んでる (omae ha mou shinderu).

Even then, if you’re speaking to a Japanese person, it may come across as being unnatural.

These kinds of words and expressions aren’t really used in everyday conversation.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese From Anime?

If you’re fluent in Korean, you may be able to learn Japanese by only watching anime. I’ve met one Korean person who had learnt Japanese entirely from watching anime.

They were able to achieve a high level of proficiency this way because not only do Japanese and Korean sound very similar, but the grammar structures are also the same. The closest comparison I believe I can make is to compare English to German. Many phrases sound similar.

The Korean person claimed that they were able to reach a conversational level within two years. However, even though they reached a conversational level of Japanese from anime, many Japanese natives did comment on how they sounded like an anime character.

Therefore learning Japanese via anime-only is not recommended. You risk learning words and expressions that sound unnatural to use in everyday conversation.

Instead, you should use anime as a supplement to your overall language studies.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese to Watch Anime?

Furthermore, as anime is scripted, the conversation may be slightly unnatural at times.

However, if your main goals are to learn Japanese for the purpose of watching anime, I recommend the following.

Firstly, watching anime with English subtitles can hinder your language progress.

When you watch an anime with English subtitles, your brain will be more focused on reading the English text rather than taking in the Japanese.

Moreover, English and Japanese grammar are considerably different. This makes it harder to read the English subtitles and understand the Japanese at the same time.

Hence, when you reach a high enough level, try to watch Japanese with Japanese subtitles. You’ll find that you’ll learn so many new words. There may also be multiple instances where you’ll learn a word you knew but didn’t recognise before.

Many times when I rewatch an anime with Japanese subtitles, I’m able to pick up on a bunch of words that I already knew, but my brain wasn’t hearing and processing properly when they were spoken by the characters.

This could be because they were spoken with a unique dialect, accent, or even conjugated in a way that I’ve not seen it been conjugated before.

With that said, learning enough Japanese to understand slice-of-life anime (such as school setting) can be done relatively quickly

Yet learning enough Japanese to understand fantasy anime is much more challenging.

I recommend watching fantasy anime with Japanese subtitles. Learning the meaning of kanji to understand the subtitles in fantasy anime will also help tremendously.

The characters will speak the reading of the words for you. And you can deduce the meaning of the words by looking at the kanji in the subtitles.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese? Summary

How long it takes to learn Japanese will be different for each person. Learning the Japanese language is an adventure that should be enjoyed.

Discover your own purpose/reasons for learning Japanese and use that as the initial energy to fuel your motivation for studying.

Sometimes you may not feel like you’re making progress with your studies, even though you very much are.

Implementing the digital flashcard application Anki, into your studies is a powerful way to utilise spaced-repetition learning and accelerate your overall learning speed.

Studying abroad is another factor that can boost language acquisition significantly, especially if you’re in an environment where English is not used.

To reach conversational fluency, focus on mastering the beginner N5 and N4 grammar (and some N3) before moving on to the harder N2 stuff.

You can use beginner grammar to comprehend a huge amount of spoken Japanese. Likewise, N4 and N5 grammar are enough to articulate complex sentences in Japanese as well.

Refer to our collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides for detailed explanations of Japanese expressions and phrases.

Lastly, focus on having fun and enjoy your language learning adventure!

Nice to Meet You in Japanese

How to say Nice to Meet You in Japanese

There are two main ways to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

These are:

  1. 初めまして。(hajimemashite).
  2. よろしくお願いします。(yoroshiku onegaishimasu).

While both mean “it’s nice to meet you” they differ in terms of use and nuances.

You can use both 初めまして (hajimemashite) and よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

These are the best natural phrases to use when meeting someone for the first time.

However, よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) has additional meanings and uses that extend beyond being a simple polite formula that’s used when introducing yourself to someone. 

In short, use 初めまして (hajimemashite) at the beginning of your self-introduction or greeting.

Similar to English, saying 初めまして (hajimemashite), “nice to meet you” right around the moment you introduce your name is most natural.

Whereas it’s most natural to use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) at the end of your introduction or first meeting with someone.

This ultimate guide explains the meanings, uses and nuances associated with these two phrases and more along with plenty of examples and native audio samples for your pronunciation reference.

Similar expressions such as “nice to meet you, too” and how to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese formally and casually are also explained coupled with examples and audio!

I’ve composed this guide for beginners and intermediate learners of Japanese alike!

Nice to Meet You in Japanese

  • Nice to meet you.
    初めまして。
    hajimemashite. 

The word 初めまして (hajimemashite) is the best translation for “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

When you meet someone for the first time you’ll want to say 初めまして (hajimemashite). It’s the best way to greet someone new and start introducing yourself!

初めまして (hajimemashite) originates from the word 初めて (hajimete) which means “for the first time” in Japanese.

You can use the word 初めて (hajimete) to describe first-time things. For instance:

  • 初めてのあいさつ。
    hajimete no aisatsu.
    First-time greetings.

Therefore, you should only use the phrase 初めまして (hajimemashite) when meeting someone for the first time.

Generally speaking, 初めまして (hajimemashite) is used at the beginning of your introduction. It’s one of the first phrases you can use when meeting someone new.

Nice to Meet You. My Name is… in Japanese

Nice to Meet You, My name is.. in Japanese

It’s also a great phrase to use when you are about to introduce your name.

  • 初めまして。[name] です。
    hajimemashite. [name] desu. 
    Nice to meet you. I’m [name].

Using the above template, replace [name] with your own name for a natural way to introduce yourself in Japanese in any circumstance.

There are plenty of ways to introduce your name in Japanese, however, the above template is the most failproof method.

Japanese has many polite styles of speech which can be confusing and concerning when you’re not sure which style to use.

With that said, if you’re introducing yourself to your new manager for the first time, for instance, you can increase the formality:

  • 初めまして。[name] と申します
    hajimemashite. [name] to moushimasu.
    Nice to meet you. I’m [name]. (Formal). 

Refer to this ultimate guide for all the details on introducing your name in Japanese!

How to say My Name Is in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Nice to Meet You #1 in Japanese Kanji

The kanji for “nice to meet you” in Japanese is 初.

The kanji 初 means “beginning” or “first” in Japanese.

Hence, 初めまして (hajimemashite) quite literally refers to a meeting with a person for the first time. This means that 初めまして (hajimemashite) is best utilised as one of the first things you say!

Hello, Nice to Meet You in Japanese

  • Hello! Nice to meet you.
    こんにちは! 初めまして。
    konnichiwa! hajimemashite. 

If there’s one thing that’s definitely appropriate to say before saying “nice to meet you” to someone new, it’s going to be “hello”.

The best way to say “hello” in Japanese before saying “nice to meet you” is with こんにちは (konnichiwa).

Greeting someone with こんにちは (konnichiwa) is similar to saying “hello”, “good day” or “good afternoon” in English.

It’s a standard greeting that flows very nicely when paired with 初めまして (hajimemashite) for an introduction.

Related: How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

As well as こんにちは (konnichiwa), you may want to say “good morning” or “good evening” too. These are:

  • おはようございます。
    ohayou gozaimasu.
    Good morning.

And:

  • こんばんは。
    konbanwa.
    Good evening.

Related: How to say Good Night in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Typically, は is pronounced as “ha”. However, the final は (wa) in こんにちは (konnichiwa) and こんばんは (konbanwa) is unique as it’s pronounced as “wa”, rather than “ha”.

See the audio for pronunciation reference!

Nice to Meet You in Japanese #2

yoroshiku onegaishimasu meaning

  • Nice to meet you.
    よろしくお願いします。
    yoroshiku onegai shimasu. 

The phrase よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is unique in that it doesn’t have a direct English translation.

One of its meanings is commonly understood as “nice to meet you” in Japanese. You may see it translated like this in textbooks.

However, よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) has distinct nuances and a number of different uses compared to the former 初めまして (hajimemashite).

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) Meaning

Let’s take a look at what よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) actually means.

As mentioned, textbooks teach this phrase early on as meaning “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

よろしく (yoroshiku), the first part of the phrase, is an adverb that literally means “well” or “suitable” in Japanese.

お願いします (onegaishimasu), the second part, is a formal verb that originates from お願い (onegai). The word お願い (onegai) means “request” or “wish” in Japanese.

Therefore, being a verb, お願いします (onegaishimasu) means “to make a request/to make a wish” in Japanese.

This means that the full phrase よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) literally translates to “to make a well/suitable request”.

However, despite the strange literal translation of “making a suitable request”, よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is used as an expression which holds multiple intertwined meanings:

  1. “Best regards”.
  2. “Please treat me well”.
  3. “Please take care of…”.
  4. “It’s nice to meet you”.
  5. “Please do”.
  6. “Please remember me”.

Nice to Meet You in Japanese #2 Example

When you meet someone for the first time, you know you’ll be working together, or if you’ll be in each other’s company for a while, use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) to communicate that you’re hoping for a good, healthy relationship with them.

A simple yet natural dialogue may look like this:

  • 初めまして。[name] です。よろしくお願いします。
    hajiemashite. [name] desu. yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
    Nice to meet you. I’m [name]. Please take care of me. (nice to meet you).

Put simply, 初めまして (hajimemashite) is used at the beginning of an introduction or greeting to mean “nice to meet you”. While よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is used at the end of an introduction or greeting.

You don’t say よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) before you’ve introduced yourself.

The only exception to this is if someone else has introduced you first. In either case, once you’ve been introduced to the other party, saying よろしくお願いします (yoroshishiku onegaishimasu) is perfectly natural and it’s very polite to do so.

In short, use this phrase once your initial introduction has concluded!

It’s a nice way to finish and close off your initial conversation with someone you’ve not met before.

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) VS 初めまして (hajimemashite)

As mentioned, both 初めまして (hajimemashite) and よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) can be used to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

初めまして (hajimemashite) is said at the beginning of the first greeting, while よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) is said at the end.

However, unlike 初めまして (hajimemashite), よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) can be used outside of first-time greetings/introductions as well.

It has many unique uses and is generally said all the time, especially in the workplace.

For example, when a company makes a request to or has a conversation with another company via phone call, they may finish the call with よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu).

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) Examples

yoroshiku onegaishimasu example

Referring to the 6 intertwined meanings as listed earlier, you can also use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) when you want to say “please take care of…” in Japanese.

If you have a Japanese partner, for instance, their parents may say to you:

  • 娘をよろしくお願いします
    musume wo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    Please take care of our/my daughter.

You may also use it to say “give my regards to” in Japanese. This can be very useful to say things such as:

  • アーロンによろしくお願いします
    a-ron ni yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    Give my regards to Aaron.

Replace “Aaron” with the name of the person you wish to send greetings to. This is a great way to show positivity when you want to ask someone to tell a person to say hello to them.

It’s important to remember that you can also use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to communicate that you’re looking forward to developing a good relationship with someone.

This doesn’t necessarily only have to be said when you’re meeting them for the first time.

If you’re about to begin a task, project or some kind of work with someone, you may tell them:

  • 今日はよろしくお願いします
    kyou wa yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    I’m looking forward to working with you today.

Related: How to say Good Job in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

You even use it frequently in emails!

  • 不明点がありましたら、ご連絡ください。よろしくお願いします。
    fumeiten ga arimashitara, gorenraku kudasai. yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
    If something is unclear, please contact us. Best regards.

This is a phrase that you’ll hear frequently in Japanese, not just as a greeting!

Nice to Meet You #2 in Japanese Kanji

The kanji in よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) is 願.

願 means “request, vow, hope, wish” in Japanese. It is most often seen in the word お願い (onegai), which is used when making requests.

Related: How to say Hope & I Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

It’s worth noting that よろしく also has a kanji, although it is rarely written with it.

This kanji is 宜, which means “best regards” or “good” in Japanese.

The full phrase with kanji looks like this: 宜しくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu).

Related: How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Nice to Meet You Too in Japanese

There are two ways to respond to someone who has just said “nice to meet you” to you.

In the first entry, we clarified that 初めまして (hajimemashite) is best used to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese at the beginning of the initial greeting.

Therefore the best response to 初めまして (hajimemashite), is by also replying with 初めまして (hajimemashite).

This would be the same as responding with “nice to meet you” to “nice to meet you” in English.

A more accurate way to convey the full phrase “nice to meet you, too” in Japanese would be to use the following expression:

  • Nice to meet you too.
    こちらこそよろしくお願いします。
    kochira koso yoroshiku onegai shimasu. 

With the information explained in the earlier entry in this article, we know that よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) is an expression that functions as “nice to meet you” at the end of a greeting.

The word こちらこそ (kochira koso) is also an expression that is best translated as “it is I who should say so” in Japanese.

This is a formal expression that emphasises that it is you, the speaker who is delighted to meet the other person.

Therefore, attaching こちらこそ (kochira koso) to よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) means “nice to meet you too” in Japanese.

Another way to understand this expression is to interpret it as meaning “the pleasure is mine”  or “I’m pleased to meet you” in Japanese.

To summarise, when someone says よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to you in Japanese, you can reply with こちらこそよろしくお願いします (kochirakoso yoroshiku onegaishimasu).

For clarification, you cannot say こちらこそよろしくお願いします (kochirakoso yoroshiku onegaishimasu) straight after someone has said 初めまして (hajimemashite) to you.

In this case, it’s more natural to repeat 初めまして (hajimemashite) back to the other person!

Nice to Meet You in Japanese Formal

Nice to Meet You in Japanese Formal

While よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu), explained above, is already a formal way to express “nice to meet you” in Japanese, there is a way to increase that formality.

When you’re speaking with your company’s main boss or a headteacher, for instance, you may wish to make a good first impression and say “nice to meet you” in Japanese formally.

This level of high-formality style of speech is referred to as Keigo in Japanese.

Use the following expression to say “nice to meet” you in Japanese Keigo:

  • Nice to meet you (formal).
    よろしくお願いいたします。
    yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. 

This is the most formal way to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

Use it when speaking with those who are considered to be of higher social status than yourself.

This is useful when you’re speaking to your boss, or perhaps to a potential employer. This expression is great for interviews!

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) and よろしくお願いいたします (yoroshiku onegaiitashimasu) Difference

Grammatically speaking, there is one difference between よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) and よろしくお願いいたします (yoroshiku onegai itashimasu).

That is that the ending changes from します (shimasu) to いたします (itashimasu).

Put simply いたします (itashimasu) is the most formal version of します (shimasu).

To explain, します (shimasu) is the formal version of the verb する (suru), meaning “to do”. いたします (itashimasu) is one step beyond that to the most formal level.

Generally, you would use する (suru), the casual variant of the verb “to do” when speaking with friends or family.

します (shimasu) is the formal variant which you would use when speaking with colleagues or strangers.

Finally, いたします (itashimasu) is the most formal variant which you use in situations where the max level of formality is required.

We clarified earlier that the literal meaning of お願いします (onegai shimasu) is “to make a request.”

Breaking down the components reveals that お願い (onegai) means “request” and します (shimasu) means “to do”. Therefore the overall meaning is literally – to do a request.

Nice to Meet You in Japanese Casual

  • Nice to meet you (casual).
    よろしく。
    yoroshiku. 

You can shorten the expression よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to just よろしく (yoroshiku).

When you do this, the expression becomes casual. Therefore, you can use よろしく (yoroshiku) when you want to tell someone “nice to meet you” casually in Japanese.

Like the full expression, よろしく (yoroshiku) is most naturally used at the end of the initial greeting.

Once you’ve introduced your name and any other details you deem necessary, you finish with よろしく (yoroshiku) to communicate that it’s nice to meet the person.

It’s important to remember that よろしく(yoroshiku) is not a formal expression. When you meet someone for the first time, you’ll generally want to use formal language.

However, when you say よろしく(yoroshiku) to someone at the end of your introduction you establish the “social level” of the relationship. Using よろしく(yoroshiku) establishes a friendly relationship with the other person.

Yet, this friendliness is not to be mistaken for genuine goodwill. The type of relationship that is established by saying よろしく(yoroshiku) is a friend-friend one. 

You’re essentially communicating to the other person to skip the formalities.

You can also say “nice to meet you” casually in Japanese while conveying friendly vibes by using:

  • よろしく
    yoroshiku ne.
    Nice to meet you. (friendly).

Grammatically, ね (ne) is a sentence-ending particle that adds nuance to a phrase.

In this case, the addition of ね (ne) emphasises a friendly atmosphere.

For that reason, when you say よろしくね (yoroshiku ne) to someone you’re communicating “it’s nice to meet you, let’s skip the formalities and be friends”.

It’s Nice to Finally Meet You in Japanese

  • It’s nice to finally meet you.
    やっと会えて嬉しいです。
    yatto aete ureshii desu.

This is a polite phrase you can use to tell someone that you’re delighted to have at long last met them.

Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about this person from someone else, and now you’ve finally got the opportunity to meet them.

You can communicate that with the following sequence:

  • [name]のことをたくさん聞いてます。やっと会えて嬉しいです。
    [name] no koto wo takusan kitemasu. yatto aete ureshii desu.
    I’ve heard a lot about you. It’s nice to finally meet you.

To reiterate, when speaking Japanese, the pronoun “you” isn’t used often. Instead, it’s much more natural to address the person by their name, even when speaking to them directly!

This is a formal phrase that’s great for when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

The phrase begins with やっと (yatto), meaning “finally” in Japanese.

Next is 会えて (aete), which is the potential te-form of 会う (au), meaning to “meet”. The potential form refers to the conjugation of a verb to describe an ability or inability to do something.

This means that 会えて (aete) translates as “can meet”.

The te-form has many functions. Typically, sentences in Japanese end with the verb. However, the te-form enables the verb to connect with the second part of the sentence.

Finally, 嬉しい (ureshii) means “happy”, “glad” or “pleased” in Japanese. Attached to the end is です (desu). This makes the sentence formal.

Related: How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]. 

Let’s remember that it’s natural to omit pronouns in Japanese, therefore, there is no need to mention “I” or “you”.

You can simply use やっと会えて嬉しいです (yatto aete ureshii desu) to someone when you want to express that you’re happy to have finally met them.

I’m Happy to Meet You in Japanese

I'm Happy to Meet You in Japanese

  • I’m happy to meet you.
    お会いできて嬉しいです。
    odeai de kite ureshii desu.

Telling someone that you’re happy to meet them can be a nice gesture.

You can communicate that feeling in Japanese with the above phrase.

Use this phrase at the very beginning of your initial greeting with someone – right around the time when you introduce your name.

Likewise, if someone was to say this phrase to you, you can reply with こちらこそ (kochira koso). Replying like this is the same as saying “me too” in English.

It Was Nice to Meet You in Japanese

You can use a similar pattern to communicate the same expression at the end of your first meeting.

In English, when we’ve concluded the first greeting with someone and had a brief chat we sometimes say “it was nice to meet you” to round off the conversation.

This English sentence is in the past tense and the Japanese variant of this expression is in the past tense too.

  • It was nice to meet you.
    おで会いきて嬉しかったです。
    odeai de kite ureshikatta desu.

This is a formal phrase you can use when you wish to express that you feel delighted to have met someone. It would be most natural to use it at the end of your first chat with the person you’ve just met.

I’m Looking Forward to Meeting You

  • I’m looking forward to meeting you.
    お会いできるのを楽しみにしております。
    odeai de kiru no wo tanoshimishte orimasu.

You can express how you’re looking forward to seeing someone formally and casually in Japanese.

For the formal variant, please refer to the above expression.

You may want to use this expression after you’ve arranged a time and date to meet up with someone. This could be by email or phone for instance.

As such, you can say this phrase at the end of your conversation on the phone or via email. In doing so, you communicate that you’re fondly anticipating your meeting with them.

If you’re speaking with a friend or partner (whom you haven’t seen for a while), you may wish to use the casual variant of this expression.

The casual way to say “I’m looking forward to meeting you” in Japanese is:

  • 会うのを楽しみしてる。
    au no wo tansohimi shteru.
    I’m looking forward to meeting you. (casual).

This phrase begins with 会う (au) the kanji for “to meet” in Japanese.

It ends with 楽しみしてる (tanoshimi shteru). This is a verb that means “looking forward to” in Japanese.

The middle contains two particles. These are の (no) and を (wo). Grammatically speaking, の (no) transforms the preceding verb, 会う (au) into a noun. This allows it to be modified by another verb.

The を (wo) particle connects a noun and verb together. It marks the preceding noun as the “thing” that the following verb is doing.

We clarified that the verb “to meet”会う (au) has been transformed into a noun. The following verb is “looking forward to”, 楽しみしてる (tanoshi mi shteru).

Therefore the literal translation can be understood as “looking forward to meet”.

Just like others in this article, this expression also omits pronouns. This is because it’s natural to completely drop all pronouns in Japanese.

It’s an Honour to Meet You

You can express how it’s an honour to meet someone in Japanese through the use of Keigo; the polite style of Japanese speech.

In Keigo, words and phrases often change drastically from how they are in the dictionary (regular) form.

The verb for “to meet” in Japanese is 会う (au). In Keigo, it’s much longer. It becomes お目にかかる (me ni kakaru). For those curious, 目 is the kanji for “eyes” in Japanese.

As Keigo is a very polite style of speech, we can utilise it to say things such as “it’s an honour to meet you” in Japanese.

The word for honour in Japanese is 光栄 (kouei).

Combining these two words in the same sentence will make:

  • お目にかかれて光栄です。
    o me ni kakarete kouei desu.
    It’s an honour to meet you.

お目にかかる (o me ni kakaru) has been changed into お目にかかれて (o me ni kakarete). This is the potential te-form.

The potential form is used to describe an ability or inability to do something. Hence, the potential form of the Keigo word for “meet” in Japanese is a polite “can meet”.

Whereas the te-form enables verbs to connect to another noun/verb, extending the sentence length. The te-form is necessary here as Japanese sentences typically end with the verb. The te-form allows this to be bypassed.

In essence, you express how it’s an honour that you can meet this person when you use this phrase.

You may also wish to communicate things such as:

  • いつお目にかかれますか。
    itsu o me ni kakaremasu ka?
    When can I see you?

As this phrase is also in Keigo, it’s a very formal way of asking someone when you can see them.

Nice in Japanese!

  • ナイス!
    naisu!
    Nice.

The Japanese word for “nice” is ナイス (naisu)! Although this word is not used to communicate that you’re happy to meet someone. Instead, you use it to give compliments or to describe something as being good.

For more examples of how to introduce yourself properly in Japanese using some of the phrases listed in this guide, I recommend this video:

The video covers how to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese as part of your self-introduction. It also teaches how to expand your self-introduction with additional information.

For example, introducing your age, where you’re from, your job and where you live in Japanese.

For more ultimate How-to Japanese guides from me, I recommend these:

How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Good Job in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Take a look at the collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides! [View All Ultimate Guides].

Do you enjoy The Legend of Zelda and learning about the Japanese language and culture? Join me on my YouTube channel!

Good Night in Japanese

20+ Ways to say Good Night in Japanese (oyasumi Explained)

Generally, the best way to say “good night” in Japanese is with the casual おやすみ (oyasumi) or the formal おやすみなさい (oyasumi nasai).

You can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say “good night” to a friend in Japanese before you or they go to bed.

In Japanese, you can also use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say “good night” to someone when it’s late at night and they are leaving to go home.

For example, perhaps you and your friend are on the last train of the night together. At the moment when they are about to get off the train at a stop before yours, you can tell them おやすみ (oyasumi).

Likewise, we also use “good night” in various situations in English. For instance, we may also use it as a general parting greeting.

We may say a friendly good night to the staff at a store just before closing time. Or we may just want to wish someone in having a good night.

Furthermore, we normally include much more into our “good night” parting phrase in English. We add additional phrases and expressions after saying good night. For example, we may also say “sweet dreams”, “sleep well”, or even “I love you”.

These types of expressions can be challenging to translate into Japanese.

Yet, that’s not to say there is no way to communicate these expressions at all. There are many alternative expressions we can use to convey a similar meaning in Japanese.

This ultimate guide covers all the ways to say “good night” in Japanese as well as similar related expressions. All entries are coupled with a native pronunciation recording for your reference along with detailed explanations and examples.

This guide is suitable for beginners and intermediate users alike!

Good Night in Japanese

  • Good Night.
    おやすみ。
    oyasumi.

The expression おやすみ (oyasumi) is the casual way to say “good night” in Japanese. Thus, you use it between friends, family and those who you are close with.

As mentioned, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say “good night” to someone just before you or they go to bed.

Similar to English, it’s natural for the person to repeat おやすみ (oyasumi) back to you, the same as how someone would say “good night” to you after you’ve just said it to them.

You can also say おやすみ (oyasumi) as a parting greeting to someone when it’s late at night.

Perhaps you and your friend are walking home together late at night. Eventually, you go separate ways as your houses are in different directions. At this point you may say to them:

  • 今日ありがとう。おやすみ!
    kyou arigatou. oyasumi!
    Thanks for today. Good night!

Related: How to say Thank You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

In short, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say good night to someone before they go to bed, or as a parting greeting when it’s late at night.

Refer to the above recording for a native pronunciation reference on how to say “good night” in Japanese.

Good Night in Japanese Kanji

Good Night in Kanji

When written in kanji, おやすみ (oyasumi) is お休み (oyasumi).

The kanji is 休, which means “rest” in Japanese.

You’ll often see 休 appear in the verb 休む meaning “to rest”.

What does おやすみ (oyasumi) mean?

Strictly speaking, おやすみ (oyasumi) does not translate directly into “good night”. Instead, it is used to convey the meaning of “good night” to someone before sleep.

This is because おやすみ (oyasumi) is composed of two components.

Firstly is お (o) which is a pre-fix used in Japanese Keigo, polite style speech. You place it at the beginning of a word to essentially beautify and make the word polite.

Secondly, やすみ means “rest” in Japanese. Written in kanji it’s 休み (yasumi). The word 休み (yasumi) is the noun version of the verb 休む (yasumu), meaning “to rest”.

Combining お (o) and やすみ (yasumi) together makes おやすみ (oyasumi).

Therefore, when you say おやすみ (oyasumi) to someone you’re actually telling them to rest up, rather than to have a “good night” specifically.

With that said, you still communicate the same sentiment with おやすみ (oyasumi) as you do when you say “good night” to someone in English.

It’s worth noting that although おやすみ (oyasumi) is made up of a Japanese Keigo component, it’s still considered a word that you use casually. There is a different expression for saying good night formally.

おやすみ (oyasumi) Uses

Oyasumi Meaning

The expression おやすみ (oyasumi) has additional uses outside of just being a way to say “good night” to someone.

In the above section, we covered that おやすみ (oyasumi) is composed of two parts. First is お (o), a pre-fix to make the following polite. The second is やすみ (yasumi), the word for “rest” in Japanese.

One of the reasons おやすみ (oyasumi) does not translate directly to “good night” is because it can be used to mean “day off“, “rest“, or “holiday.

In essence, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to talk about a day off, a holiday or an absence.

For example, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to talk about when you have a day off from work/school.

  • 明日はお休みです。
    ashita wa oyasumi desu.
    Tomorrow is a day off.

If you’re going to be absent from work or school for a while, you can communicate this too.

  • 学校からしばらくお休みします。
    gakkou kara shibaraku oyasumi shimasu.
    I will be absent from school for a while.

Likewise, if you’ve taken some time off from work for any reason, you can use the following sequence:

  • お休みを取りました。
    oyasumi wo torimashita.
    I took a holiday.

Generally, you’ll hear おやすみ (oyasumi) used to say “good night” in Japanese.

However, it’s worth noting that you can also use おやすみ (oyasumi) to talk about a day off or an absence.

Good Night in Japanese Formal

  • Good Night (formal).
    おやすみなさい。
    oyasuminasai.

When you want to say “good night” in Japanese formally, use おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai).

Like おやすみ (oyasumi), this expression is also a night greeting.

おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) is an extension of おやすみ (oyasumi) with the addition of なさい (nasai).

It has three major components.

  1. お (o) is a prefix that beautifies the word it’s attached to; making it polite.
  2. やすみ (yasumi) is the noun version of the verb やすむ (yasumu), meaning “to rest”.
  3. なさい (nasai) is the command form of the verb なさる (nasaru), a polite way to say “to do” in Japanese.

Hence, using なさい (nasai) is a way to issue a soft command in Japanese.

By combining all three components together we have おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai). We can interpret it literally as a polite expression for ” have a rest”.

Therefore, when you want to tell someone to have a good night in Japanese, use おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) to wish them in having a rejuvenating sleep.

More Ways to Say Good Night in Japanese

While the casual おやすみ (oyasumi) and the formal おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) are great ways to say good night in Japanese, they do have their limitations.

In English, we use the phrase “good night” frequently in all kinds of situations. You may say it to your colleagues as a farewell when you go home for the day/evening, for instance.

In Japanese, unless it’s very late at night, it’s uncommon to wish someone a good night ahead of time.

Instead, when you’re finishing work for the day, to tell your colleagues “good night” you can use:

  • Good Night/Thank you (for your hard work).
    お疲れ様です。
    otsukare sama desu.

It’s common to say お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) to colleagues when you’ve finished work today. It’s a way to announce that you’re going home, thank them for the day and to express “good night” all in one word.

You’ll hear this expression all the time in the workplace even when you’re not actually finished for the day.

お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) Explanation

In any case, when someone has completed some kind of work, task or project it’s natural to say お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) to express gratitude and to compliment what they’ve done.

Remember that Japanese is an honorific language, meaning that it’s polite to thank others for work they’ve done regularly.

For a full in-depth explanation of お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu), refer to this ultimate guide:

Related: How to say Good Job in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

With that said お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) is an expression that means “good night” and “goodbye” in Japanese.

To clarify, it’s common to say お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) to colleagues or partners with who you have been working or completing some kind of task or project.

This can be any task, project or work – the use of お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) is very flexible.

You may say this expression throughout the day, however, you will always say it at the end of the day when it’s time to go home for the night.

This is when お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) can be interpreted as “good night”. This is because during these situations you wouldn’t say おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai).

Let’s remember that you use おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) to say goodnight to someone before you or they go to bed. The only exception to this rule is if it’s very late at night.

More Ways to Say Good Night in Japanese Casually

While お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu), explained above, is a formal expression, お疲れ様  (otsukare sama), withoutです (desu) the casual variant.

You use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) with friends and those who you are close with, rather than with colleagues.

Other than this difference, how you use it, and the nuances associated with this word remain the same as お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu).

  • Good Night/Thank you (for your hard work) (casual).
    お疲れ様。
    otsukare sama.

For instance, you may use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) after you’ve finished working on a project or studying together with a friend or classmate.

It’s late afternoon/earlier evening, you’re done for the day and it’s time to go home. This is the perfect time to use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) to thank your friend and wish them a good night.

If it is particularly late at night, you may even wish to use おやすみ (oyasumi) to communicate “good night” too. However, to reiterate, use おやすみ (oyasumi) only when it’s late.

Even without saying おやすみ (oyasumi), the sentiment associated with “good night” is expressed when you use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama).

There is a more casual variant of this expression, too.

This is お疲れ (otsukare).

As this is a very casual expression, make sure not to use it in formal situations!

This video does a fantastic job of explaining the nuances behind お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) in 1 minute!

Have a Good Night in Japanese

Sometimes we want to wish someone in having a genuinely good night, rather than just having a good sleep.

Perhaps the person is staying up all night playing a new video game release, having a movie night, or going to the club.

Whatever it may be, we want to wish that person a good night, in the sense of having fun!

There are a few ways you can express this and tell them to have a good night in Japanese.

  • Have lots of fun tonight. (Have a good night).
    今夜、たくさん遊んでね。
    konya, takusan asonde ne.

You can use the above phrase to communicate to someone to have a fun/good night.

The first part of this phrase is 今夜 (konya), a word that means “tonight” in Japanese.

The second word is たくさん (takusan) which means “lots”, or “many”.

The third word is 遊んで (asonde), the te-form version of the verb 遊ぶ (asobu), meaning “to play”.

While the te-form has many functions, here, it’s used to convey a request.

Thus, when you use this full phrase, you’re requesting that the person has lots of fun. It’s similar to saying “I hope you have lots of fun tonight” but in Japanese.

Related: How to say Hope and I Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

The final ね (ne), is a grammar particle. You use it at the end of a sentence to ask or show agreement.

In summary, use the above phrase to express “good night” to someone in Japanese in the sense of having a good time.

Enjoy Your Night in Japanese

If someone is particularly excited about something that’s happening at night, you can join in on their feeling of joy with this phrase:

  • 今夜楽しみだね。
    konya tanoshimi da ne.
    Tonight will be exciting, won’t it?

You can use this phrase if you’ll be participating in whatever it is that they are looking forward to or not. Using this phrase is a considerate way to acknowledge someone’s enthusiasm or excitement for something.

The Japanese Word For Night

The word and kanji for “night” in Japanese is 夜 (yoru). In hiragana, it’s written as よる (yoru).

When saying “good night” to someone in Japanese, you don’t actually use the word 夜 (yoru) at all.

With that said, you can use the word 夜 (yoru) to refer to the night or at a particular time in the night using other words.

  1. 今夜 (konya) – Tonight.
  2. ゆうべ (yuube) – Last night.
  3. 夜中 (yonaka) – In the middle of the night/ Midnight.
  4. 明日の夜 (ashita no yoru) – Tomorrow night.

The Japanese Word for “Good”

Just like 夜 (yoru), you don’t use the word for “good” in Japanese when wishing someone a good night.

The word for good in Japanese is いい (ii). Yet there are many other ways to say “good”. I’ve composed an ultimate guide that covers all the ways to say “good” in Japanese coupled with explanations, examples and pronunciation references.

How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

When translating “good night” into Japanese using automated tools, you may come across the following phrase:

  • いい夜を。
    ii yoru wo.
    Good night.

This phrase contains the words いい (ii) and 夜 (yoru) which do mean “good” and “night” respectively.

However, this phrase sounds unnatural and you should not use it.

Instead, you should use おやすみ (oyasumi) and お疲れ様です (otsukaresama desu), as explained in earlier entries.

Good Night, Sleep Well in Japanese

Good Night Sleep Well in Japanese

There are a few ways to say “good night, sleep well” in Japanese.

The first way is to say it casually.

  • Good night, sleep well.
    ゆっくり寝てね。おやすみ。
    yukkuri nete ne. oyasumi.

You can use this phrase with a friend, family member or someone you’re close with just before you or they sleep as a natural way to wish them a restful sleep.

Let’s break down the entire phrase and the components. Firstly, we know that おやすみ (oyasumi) can be used to say “good night” in Japanese.

Secondly, the phrase ゆっくり寝てね (yukkuri nete ne) means “sleep well”. Yet, the literal meaning is sometimes interpreted as “sleep slowly”.

This is because the word ゆっくり (yukkuri) is most commonly associated with meaning “slowly“, “unhurriedly“, or “without haste“.

However, it can also mean “well (referring to sleep)“, or “comfortably“.

Thirdly, 寝て (nete) is the te-form of the verb 寝る (neru), meaning “to sleep“. Thus, when you combine 寝て (nete) with ゆっくり (yukkuri) in a sentence, you’re literally saying “sleep comfortably/sleep well” in Japanese.

Finally, the ね (ne) is an optional sentence-ending particle that you use to show or ask for agreement. In this example, it functions similarly to saying “get some good sleep tonight, okay?” in English.

Sleep Well in Polite Japanese

To wish someone in having a good night’s rest formally in Japanese, you can use the following phrase:

  • ゆっくりお休みください。
    yukkuri o yasumi kudasai.
    Sleep well (polite).

Similar to saying “sleep well” in Japanese casually, this phrase also utilises ゆっくり (yukkuri).

As mentioned ゆっくり (yukkuri) is an adverb that commonly means “slowly”, but it can also mean “well” or “comfortably”.

Also discussed in earlier entries, 休み (yasumi) that means “rest” in Japanese. Preceding 休み (yasumi) is お (o). This お (o) acts as a beautifier to transform a word into a formal one. You may see it appear in other words, such as:

  1. お水 (omizu) – Water.
  2. お寿司 (osushi) – Sushi.
  3. お酒 (sake) – Alcohol.
  4. お金 (okane) Money.

In all of these examples, お (o) functions as a beautifier, making the words respectful and formal.

Appearing last is ください (kudasai), a formal way to say “please” in Japanese.

Therefore, when put together, the full phrase ゆっくりお休みください (yukkuri oyasumi kudasai) literally translates as please rest well”.

With that said, you use it when you want to say “sleep well” to someone formally in Japanese.

Asking Did You Sleep Well in Japanese?

Did You Sleep Well

After saying to someone “sleep well”, the next thing would be to ask if they actually did manage to sleep well or not the next morning.

To ask someone “did you sleep well” formally in Japanese, use:

  • よくお休みしましたか。
    yoku yasumimashita ka.
    Did you sleep well? (formal).

よく (yoku) is the adverb of いい (ii), meaning “good” in Japanese. Therefore, the “well” part of this phrase is communicated through the word よく (yoku).

The word お休みしましたか is the polite form, or the ます (masu) form of 休む (yasumu), the verb for “to rest”.

The ending か (ka) is used to denote a question when speaking formally.

Therefore, asking someone if they slept well with this phrase is synonymous with asking if they rested well.

  • よく寝た?
    yoku neta?
    Did you sleep well? (casual).

Use the above phrase to ask if someone has had a rejuvenating sleep casually in Japanese.

A typical instance when you may use this phrase is with a friend who the next morning after they’ve travelled some distance to see you.

In essence, when you’re wondering if someone was able to get adequate sleep, or if you’re just wanting to be polite, use よく寝た (yoku neta).

Good Night, Sweet Dreams in Japanese

When someone is heading to bed, sometimes you may want to wish them sweet dreams in their sleep.

Although there is not a perfect translation for “sweet dreams” in Japanese, there are other expressions we can use that hold similar nuances.

Firstly, you can in fact convey the nuances attached to “sweet dreams” by using:

  • Good night (sweet dreams).
    おやすみ。
    oyasumi.

As discussed in the earlier section of this ultimate guide, you use おやすみ (oyasumi) when you want to say “good night” to someone in Japanese.

Yet, おやすみ (oyasumi) is not strictly only translated as “good night”. You can, of course, use it in place of the English “good night” as a night greeting before sleep. This is how this phrase is commonly used.

As explained, おやすみ (oyasumi) actually translates literally to “have a good rest” in Japanese. It’s often used when you want to wish someone a relaxing, peaceful rest.

In English, we use the phrase “sweet dreams” when we want to express good wishes to someone before they go to sleep. Therefore we can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to convey a similar meaning.

Native speakers also often translate the phrase “sweet dreams” as おやすみ (oyasumi) in Japanese.

Sweet Dreams in Japanese

With that said, there are also some alternative Japanese expressions that also convey something similar to the English “sweet dreams”.

Depending on the person you are saying “sweet dreams” to, there are different expressions you can use.

For instance, you may say to a child:

  • 楽しい夢を見てね。
    tanoshii yume wo mite ne.
    Have some fun dreams.

Or you may wish to communicate something more romantic to a partner.

  • 夢で一緒に遊ぼう!
    yume de isshoni asobou!
    Let’s have some fun (let’s play) together in our dreams!

For more information on how to express “sweet dreams” to someone in Japanese, take a look at the below ultimate guide.

How to say Dream in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Good Night My Love in Japanese

Calling someone “my love” after saying “good night” to them is another instance where it’s difficult to translate it perfectly into Japanese.

There are multiple workarounds, however, as well as a literal translation that you may be able to use in some unique circumstances.

The most natural way to express something similar to “good night, my love” in Japanese is to refer to the person with whom you are speaking by their actual name.

  • Good night, [name].
    おやすみ [name]。
    [name] oyasumi.

This is because calling someone by their actual name in your “good night” greeting makes it much more personal.

You can, of course, just say おやすみ (oyasumi) to them, which is the standard way of saying “good night” in Japanese.

However, including the person’s name, (especially their first name!) is a great way to personalise the expression.

The literal translation for “good night, my love” in Japanese is:

  • Good night, my love.
    おやすみ、私の愛。
    oyasumi, watashi no ai.

私の愛 (watashi no ai) translates literally as “my love” in Japanese. 私の (watashi no) means “my”, and 愛 (ai) means “love”.

But, calling someone your 愛 (ai) in Japanese can come across as very strong, and even unnatural at times.

This phrase is the kind of thing you may hear in a romantic-heavy drama series or movie.

Outside of this, you would hardly ever use it. If you were to use this with your Japanese partner, they may be taken a bit off guard and think you are mimicking a line you’ve heard in a script/video/movie somewhere.

Although with that said, it is a fun way to get a conversation going, so I’d recommend trying it, maybe!

Good Night Darling in Japanese

There are a few ways to refer to your significant other as “darling” while wishing them a good night in Japanese.

The first is to use the word ダーリン (da-rin), which is a borrowed word from the English word “darling”.

  • Good night, darling.
    おやすみ、ダーリン。
    oyasumi, da-rin.

We’ve learned that おやすみ (oyasumi) is the standard natural way to say “good night” in Japanese.

Hence, you can simply include the word ダーリン (da-rin) after saying おやすみ (oyasumi), to say “good night, darling” in Japanese.

However, ダーリン (da-rin) also has some strong romantic nuances attached. Therefore it’s not used very often.

Another way to call your partner “darling” in Japanese is to use あなた (anata).

  • Good night, darling.
    おやすみ、あなた。
    oyasumi, anata.

Textbooks teach あなた (anata) as the standard way to say “you” in Japanese. However, it’s much more natural to use the person’s actual name rather than あなた (anata).

You should still call the person by their name, even when you’re speaking with that person directly. This is the best way to say “you” in Japanese.

Yet, you may have heard あなた (anata) used in movies or songs to address someone as “you”. In these scenarios, あなた (anata) is considered a romantic word and translates as “darling”.

Outside of movies or song lyrics, あなた (anata) is not used to call someone “darling” very often at all.

It’s still safer to just use the person’s name instead. This is the most natural way to make the phrase “good night” more personal!

Good Night I Love You in Japanese

Good Night I Love You in Japanese

  • Good night, I love you.
    おやすみ、愛してるよ。
    oyasumi, aishiteru yo.

We include the expression “I love you” when saying “good night” to a partner in English fairly often.

For some people, saying  “I love you” when you go to bed may have become like second nature.

Yet, in Japanese, telling someone you love them is considered to be very strong by most people.

The closest phrase to the English “I love you” is 愛してる (aishteru). However, as mentioned, telling someone you love them with 愛してる (aishteru) can be considerably intense for the receiver.

Just like the phrases for “darling” in Japanese, 愛してる (aishteru) is often used in movies and song lyrics.

Using 愛してる (Using aishteru)

With that said, 愛してる (aishteru) can be said between two very closer lovers in Japanese. It conveys a very strong romantic image and therefore should not be used in high-frequency.

Instead, you should only use it for those exceptionally special situations when you love your partner (and they love you back) dearly.

In these scenarios, telling someone “good night, I love you” with おやすみ、愛してるよ (oyasumi, aishteru yo) is a great expression to use.

Using it on your honeymoon after marriage would be a great time to take advantage of this expression.

You could even make it even more personal by including the person’s name!

  • おやすみ [name]。愛してるよ。
    oyasumi [name]. aishteru yo.
    Good night [name]. I love you.

Have a glance at the below ultimate guide for a full breakdown of the nuances associated with saying “I love you” and “I like you” in Japanese.

Related: How to say I Like You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

To clarify, you don’t need to include the “I” pronoun when saying “I love you” in Japanese. Likewise, the “you” pronoun is also not needed! This is because it’s more natural to omit pronouns in Japanese.

The final よ (yo) in 愛してるよ (aishteru yo) is an optional grammar particle used to emphasise what’s being said.

It was a Good Night in Japanese

You can express how a night was particularly enjoyable for you in Japanese by using this phrase.

  • It was a good night.
    楽しい夜だった。
    tanoshii yoru datta.

This is a casual expression you can use to say how you enjoyed the night.

As this expression is in the past tense, you’ll want to use it when speaking about a night that has already happened.

This could be as soon as the night is over, as well. For instance, imagine you were out with friends for the night, you’re on your way home with them and you say:

  • 楽しい夜だったね!
    tanoshii yoru datta ne!
    That was a fun night! Wasn’t it?

楽しい (tanoshii) is an i-adjective, meaning “fun”.

夜 (yoru) is the word for “night”.

だった (datta) is the casual past tense for です (desu), meaning “it is”.

You can also use this expression to talk about an enjoyable night that’s happened in the distant past. Perhaps you’re feeling nostalgic about it. For example:

  • 去年のパーティーは楽しい夜だった
    kyonen no pa-tei- ha tanoshii yoru datta!
    Last year’s party was a great night!

You can make this expression formal, by changing だった (datta) to でした (deshita).

This would make it:

  • 楽しい夜でした!
    tanoshii yoru deshita!
    It was a fun night! (formal).

This phrase may come in handy if you’re reminiscing about a fun night with colleagues for instance.

See You in the Morning in Japanese

After saying “good night”, the next thing that naturally follows is “see you in the morning”.

We use this as the final sentence in our good night greetings. We generally specify that it will be the morning the next time we see each other.

Yet in Japanese, it’s usually “see you tomorrow” that’s said, rather than specifically “see you in the morning”.

With that said, the best way to say “see you in the morning” in Japanese is to use:

  • See you tomorrow (in the morning).
    また明日。
    mata ashita.

This is the expression that is used after you say good night to someone. Use it when you would usually say “see you in the morning” to someone in English.

Of course, as this phrase does actually mean “see you tomorrow”, you can use it as a general farewell too. It’s a casual parting phrase that you can say to friends or family to say goodbye.

To clarify また (mata) means “again”, and 明日 (ashita) means “tomorrow”. In the literal sense, this phrase translates as “tomorrow again”. Although it’s used to convey the meaning of “see you tomorrow” or “see you in the morning”.

However, if you have arranged to meet someone in the morning, you can communicate the specific time with this phrase:

  • また朝に会おう!
    mata asa ni aou!
    Let’s meet in the morning!

This is a casual phrase you can use to confirm that the morning is the time when you will next meet.

Generally speaking, however, you will want to use また明日 (mata ashita) to say “see you in the morning” to someone after you’ve told them “good night”.

おやすみ!(oyasumi)

The most natural way to express “good night” in Japanese is with おやすみ (oyasumi).

You’ll find that a lot of the phrases you use to say good night in English can be expressed with おやすみ (oyasumi) in Japanese.

Expressions such as “night night” or “night” are examples of this.

Have a look at the collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides!

Enjoy the Legend of Zelda and are interested in Japanese? Take a look at my YouTube channel!

Why in Japanese

How to say Why in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

There are three main ways to say “why” in Japanese. They are:

  1. 何で (nande).
  2. どうして (doushte).
  3. なぜ (naze).

These three words all mean “why” in Japanese and can be used when enquiring about the cause, reason, or purpose of something.

However, they each have specific differences and it’s important to be able to distinguish between them.

Generally speaking, 何で (nande) is mostly informal. It’s best used when speaking with friends.

どうして (doushte) can be either formal or informal. However, it is a slightly more ‘weighted’ way of asking someone “why”, meaning that you convey a little more emotion when you use it.

The third word, なぜ (naze) is a formal way of saying “why” in Japanese. You’ll mainly see it appear in academic writing, books, poetry, song lyrics etc.

With that said, there are other ways to say “why” in Japanese, as well as other nuances attached to the three words listed above. Although these three are certainly some of the most commonly appearing expressions.

In this ultimate guide, you can find a list of all of the ways to say “why” in Japanese, coupled with explanations, examples and native audio for your pronunciation reference.

Why in Japanese

  • Why.
    何で。
    nande.

The word 何で (nande) is one of the best ways to say “why” in Japanese.

It is mostly an informal way of asking “why” and should be used primarily when speaking with friends, family members, or those who are on the same ‘social’ level as you, such as a same-grade classmate.

You can use 何で (nande) to ask about the case, purpose or reason for something.

It is very similar to the English word for “why”. Just like the English word, you often place 何で (nande) at the beginning of a sentence when asking “why”.

How to say Why in Japanese with Examples

For instance:

  • 何で日本語を勉強してる?
    nande nihongo wo benkyou shteru?
    Why are you studying Japanese?

Essentially, place 何で (nande) at the beginning of a sentence when you wish to compose a “why” question.

Should context allow it, you can also use 何で (nande) by itself to ask “why” to something, just like you would in English.

Let’s say you’re with a friend at a restaurant you’re ordering food. They tell the waiter that they’ll just have water for their drink when you’re expecting them to order some alcohol with you. You may ask them:

  • え、何で? お酒飲まないの?
    e nande? osake nomanai no?
    Huh, why? Aren’t you going to drink any alcohol?

Related: How to say No in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Despite being a casual word, you may still hear 何で (nande) during formal speech. This is considered a little impolite (even if you attempt to make it formal by attaching ですか (desuka) to the end of the word. This would make it 何でですか (nande desuka).

Attaching ですか (desuka) transforms a sentence or phrase into a formal question. However, due to the nuances of 何で (nande), it still remains somewhat impolite even when it’s 何でですか (nande desuka).

Therefore you should avoid using 何で (nande) when speaking formally.

Use a different word (such as どうして (doushte), explained below) when you wish to ask “why” something in Japanese.

Why in Hiragana

The hiragana for 何で (nande), meaning “why” in Japanese, is なんで (nande).

As 何で (nande) is a casual word, you can write it in either hiragana or kanji as both are considered to be natural.

何で (nande) is commonly used in daily casual conversation, although you may find yourself writing (or typing) it when messaging a friend. During these situations writing 何で (nande) in hiragana is perfectly fine.

Why in Japanese Kanji

何で (nande) is a way to say “why” in Japanese that has a kanji. This kanji is 何 and means “what”. The kanji by itself is read as なに (nani), meaning “what” in Japanese.

Why Japanese kanji

Therefore, when you wish to ask “why” make sure that you include the で (de) that follows after 何 (nani). Otherwise, the meaning will change to “what”.

More Ways to Say Why in Japanese

Doushite Meaning

  • Why.
    どうして。
    doushte.

The word どうして (doushte) is the second of the three most common ways to say “why” in Japanese.

Unlike 何で (nande), どうして (doushte) can be used for both formal and informal speech.

However, when you use どうして (doushte) you’re asking with more ‘weight’ with your words. In other words, using どうして (doushte) communicates a little more emotion when you ask “why”.

You can use どうして (doushte) in many similar situations as you can 何で (nande) – to ask a for a reason, purpose or cause.

Generally, you place it at the beginning of the sentence, the same way as you would when asking “why” in English.

For instance:

  • どうして泣いてるの?
    doushte naiteru no?
    Why are you crying?

As mentioned, どうして (doushte) carries a little more emotional impact. Therefore using どうして (doushte) to express extra emotion or concern can be useful.

It’s also important to note that, using the above sentence as an example, it is common to omit pronouns in Japanese.

If you are with someone who is crying, it’s obvious that you’re speaking to them when you ask them “why”.

For this reason, when the context is understood, it’s natural to drop the pronouns.

Related: How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

The biggest difference between どうして (doushte) and なんで (nande) is that どうして (doushte) can also be used for formal speech.

For example:

  • どうして何も言わなかったのですか。
    doushte nanimo iwanakatta no desuka?
    Why didn’t you say anything?

Just like 何で (nande), you place どうして (doushte) at the beginning of a sentence to compose a why question.

Why in Japanese Formally

  • Why.
    なぜ。
    naze.

The word なぜ (naze) is a way to say “why” formally in Japanese with some specific usage.

First, it’s important to know that while なぜ (naze) is a formal word, it’s not formal in the sense that it’s polite. It sounds somewhat unnatural if you use なぜ (naze) when you wish to ask someone “why” in Japanese politely with Keigo (honorific language).

なぜ (naze) is a way to say “why” strictly in the formal sense – meaning that you’ll see it used mainly in academic essays, public speeches, books, song lyrics or poetry.

You don’t want to use なぜ (naze) when speaking with friends, for instance.

To ask a senior, a teacher, manager, stranger, (or customer if you’re staff) “why” formally/politely in Japanese, you should use どうして (doushte), explained above.

On the other hand, if you’re composing song lyrics, or writing a script for a speech or essay, なぜ (naze) is the best word to use.

Formal Why – Examples

Formal Why in Japanese

For song lyrics, you have all the freedom to use なぜ (naze) how you wish:

  • なぜいないの?
    naze inai no?
    Why aren’t you here?

There aren’t any restrictions on how you use なぜ (naze) in these types of scenarios, either.

  • なぜ君は私のそばにいてくれないの?
    naze kimi wa watashi no soba ni ite kurenai no?
    Why won’t you be by my side?

Related: How to say I Like You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Following the trend with 何で (nande) and どうして (doushte), なぜ (naze) can also be placed at the beginning of the sentence to make a “why” question.

Another way to understand なぜ (naze) is as a rational way to ask “why” in Japanese. Essentially, you can use it when you’re asking for the logic behind something. It can come across as considerably direct.

  • なぜ君はお金を使い果たしたのか?
    naze kimi wa okane wo tsukai hatashta no ka?
    Why did you use up all the money?

In the above example, you’re seeking the logic behind an action. Remember, that なぜ (naze) is impolite when used in everyday conversation.

何で (nande), どうして (doushte), なぜ (naze) Difference

The three main ways to say “why” in Japanese, each has their own nuances and usage. This section serves as a summary of the most important differences between 何で (nande), どうして (doushte) and なぜ (naze) for your reference.

For a more detailed explanation and examples please see each individual listing above.

(1)

  • 何で (nande)

The word 何で (nande) is a casual/informal way of saying “why” in Japanese. Using it with friends is the most natural way to use it.

It has a kanji that you may sometimes see. The kanji is 何 and means “what” in Japanese. Attaching で (de) makes it 何で (nande) and changes the meaning to “why”.

You can use 何で (nande) when speaking formally but should be avoided as it can appear impolite.

(2)

  • どうして (doushte)

The word どうして (doushte) is both a casual and formal word. This means you can use it in more situations compared to 何で (nande), which is generally perceived as a casual word.

どうして (doushte) communicates more emotion when you use it to ask “why” in Japanese.

(3)

  • なぜ (naze)

The word なぜ (naze) is a formal/rational way of saying “why” in Japanese. なぜ (naze) is not considered to be polite. Instead, it’s a formal way to ask “why”.

You primarily use it when writing academic pieces, essays, song lyrics, public speeches, poetry etc. Being a rational way of asking “why”, なぜ (naze) is best used to seek the logic or thought behind something.

It sounds unnatural to use なぜ (naze) when asking “why” to a friend.

Compared to どうして (doushte), なぜ (naze) carries no emotional context.

But Why in Japanese

But Why in Japanese

  • But why?
    でも、何で/どうして?
    demo nande/ doushte?

The literal translation for “but why” in Japanese is first to say でも (demo), and then follow it up with either 何で (nande) or どうして (doushte).

でも (demo) is a conjunction that means “but” in Japanese.

Just like in English, saying でも (demo) before asking 何で (nande) communicates an objection, uncertainty or confusion about something.

In English, we use “but” to introduce a word or phrase that contrasts with something. You use でも (demo) to do the same thing.

Sometimes we use the phrase “but why” to show that we’re seeking more information or an explanation. For example:

  • でもどうしてパーティーに来なかったの?
    demo doushte pa-tei ni konakatta no?
    But why didn’t you come to the party?

Here, the speaker is asking for clarification on why the person didn’t come to the party.

Related: How to say I Don’t Know in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

If you’re really wanting to know the reason behind something, you can communicate that feeling more directly, too.

  • でもどうして! 理由を教えてよ。
    demo doushte!– riyuu wo oshiete yo! 
    But why! Tell me the reason!

The above example is quite a strong way to express your feelings of wanting to know the truth. The person you’re speaking to will feel that too and will (hopefully) tell you their reasonings.

That’s Why in Japanese

  • That’s why.
    だから。
    dakara. 

The word だから (dakara) means “that’s why”,  “therefore” or “so” n Japanese. You say だから (dakara) at the beginning of a sentence to explain a reason or purpose.

It works similar to “that’s why” in English and is a great way to respond to a question or statement to give your reasoning behind something.

For instance, if someone tells you that you look pretty tired, you might say something like:

  • うん。だから帰ってから寝る。
    un. dakara kaette kara neru. 
    Yeah. That’s why I’m going to sleep when I get home.

When you want to explain your past or future actions, だから (dakara) is a fantastic word to use.

As another example, imagine it’s snowing pretty hard and you’re late to class or work because of it. When you arrive someone mentions how the snow is pretty bad.

You may say:

  • だから遅れたよ。
    dakra okureta yo.
    That’s why I was late.

So That’s Why in Japanese

You can also use だから (dakara) as a means to confirm a statement or to presume an answer to something.

For instance, perhaps yesterday a classmate or colleague went home unexpectedly early. Later, they tell you that they had a migraine that same day.

Similar to how we would say “so that’s why you…” in English, we can say:

  • だから昨日早く帰ったの?
    dakra kinou hayaku kaetta no?
    So that’s why you went home early yesterday?

In the above example, we use だから (dakara) to explain the answer to something.

You use it when talking about past or future circumstances.

Imagine you have a friend on a super strict diet. You know they won’t touch chocolate or sweets at all! Or at least that’s what you thought until they tell you they want to buy 2 mars bars and 3 snickers bars.

You find out later that they are having a celebration. You may respond:

  • だからチョコレートを買いたいんだ!珍しいと思ったよ。
    dakra chocore-to wo kaitainda! mezurashii to omotta yo. 
    So that’s why you want to buy chocolate! I did think it was unusual for you.

Having just worked out the reasoning behind something, you express your findings or thoughts with だから (dakara).

Why Do you Ask in Japanese

Saying “why do you ask” in Japanese can be done one of two ways.

The first way simply involves using 何で (nande) as a response to somebody’s question. We learned that 何で (nande) is one of the ways that mean “why” in Japanese. But the words’ meaning and nuances can stretch to mean “why do you ask” also.

The second, and more literal way of asking someone, is to use:

  • Why do you ask?
    何で聞くの?
    nande kiku no?

Note that this can come across as somewhat direct.

We know that 何で (nande) means “why” in Japanese.

The second word, 聞く (kiku) is a verb that means “to ask” or “to listen” in Japanese.

The final の (no) is an optional addition that adds a little more emotion to your words.

This sentence is a casual way of saying “why do you ask” in Japanese.

You can add more words to this phrase, too. For example, you can specify the matter or thing that the person is asking you about.

  • 何でそれを聞くの?
    nande sore wo kiku no?
    Why do you ask that?

Just like in English, each phrase conveys slightly different nuances depending on which version you use.

Why Are You Asking?

You can use the template of this phrase to change it to a continuous phrase, too.

  • Why are you asking?
    何で聞いている?
    nande kiite iru?

The word 聞いている (kiite iru) is the present continuous form of 聞く(kiku). This means that 聞いている (kiite iru)  means “asking”, and 聞く(kiku) means “to ask”.

In English, we use the two phrases “why do you ask” and “why are you asking” somewhat interchangeably. In Japanese, this is similar.

The Reason Why Is… in Japanese

naze Meaning

To give a reason for something using the phrase “the reason why is…” in Japanese, we have to use an N3 Grammar point.

There are two grammar points we can use to say this. They are:

(1)

  • The reason why is…
    なぜかというと…からだ。
    naze ka toiu to… kara da.

And:

(2)

  • The reason why is…/because.
    なぜなら。
    nazenara.

なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) Japanese Grammar

なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is an  N3 grammar point that quite literally translates to: “if I had to say why then…”

Out of the two phrases, なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is on the less-formal end of the scale.

The first part of this grammar is なぜか (naze ka), an adverb that means “somehow” or “for some reason” in Japanese.

Secondly, the という (toiu) that follows なぜか (naze ka) in なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is an expression verb that means “to say” in Japanese. Sometimes, you may see it written in kanji as と言う (to iu). To clarify, 言 is the kanji for “say” or “speak”.

The final と (to) is one of the four ways to say “if” in Japanese. Use this “if” to say that something is absolute if it happens. Use it to say things like:

  • ボタンを押すおつりがでる。
    botan wo osu to otsuri ga deru.. 
    If you push the button change will come out.

Just like in the example, you use と (to) to describe something that is definite or 99.9% expected.

In conclusion, the addition of the final と (to) at the end of なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) adds an “if” nuance to the construction of this grammar point.

Breaking down the grammar point like this may help you understand it. However, it’s not always necessary.

Instead, it’s important to understand the entire phrase なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) as a way to say “the reason why is…” in Japanese.

なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) Examples

Place なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to)  at the beginning of the sentence to compose a sentence that begins with “the reason why is”.

You use this grammar point when you wish to express a reason for something.

You can say things like:

  • なぜかというと甘いものが好きだからです。
    naze ka toiu to amaimono ga suki dakara desu. 
    The reason why is because I like sweet things.

When you use this grammar point to give a reason for something, you should end the sentence with から (kara).

The best way to understand から (kara) is to remember it as a way to say “because” in Japanese. By itself, から (kara) is an N5 beginner grammar point.

Remember that should the word preceding から (kara) be a na-adjective or noun, you need to include だ (da) between the word and から (kara).

To clarify, use なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) when the item/thing you’re giving a reason or explanation for has already been mentioned.

Another example:

  • なぜかというと疲れたからです。
    naze ka toiu to tsukareta kara desu. 
    The reason why is because I was tired.

In this example, the reason is given because of something that happened in the past. なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is a tool you can use to introduce that reason/explanation.

For more information on how と (to) functions in this sentence, I recommend this video by Misa.

なぜなら Explanation

The second way to say “the reason why is” in Japanese is to use なぜなら (nazenara).

This is mostly a formal phrase, therefore is best used in such situations.

  • なぜなら彼が招待したからです。
    nazenara kare ga shoutai shta kara desu.
    The reason why is because he invited me.

You also place なぜなら (nazenara) at the beginning of a sentence to introduce a reason or explanation for something.

Similarly, it’s important to include から (kara) at the end of the explanation/reason phrase to complete the sentence properly.

As mentioned, から (kara) is a beginner’s grammar point that means “because” in Japanese.

Why Not in Japanese

Why not in Japanese

  • Why not?
    いいんじゃない?
    iinjanai?

Use いいんじゃない (iinjanai) to say “why not” in Japanese. This phrase is fantastic to use as a response to encourage or prompt someone to do something.

If someone asks your opinion on if you think they should do something or not, you can use this phrase. In short, using いいんじゃない (iinjanai) is a way to express your approval of something.

An example conversation:

  • ね、今夜のパーティーに行っていいかな?
    ne, konya no pa-tei- ni itte ikana?
    Hey, I wonder if it’s okay if I go to tonight’s party… (?)

In the above question, the person is seeking another’s opinion.

The response:

  • うん。いいんじゃない?
    un. iinjanai?
    Yeah. Why not.

This phrase いいんじゃない (iinjanai) consists of three elements.

Firstly いい (ii) which means “good” in Japanese.

Related: How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Secondly, ん (n) is an optional addition which makes the phrase more natural and somewhat more considerate.

ん (n) adds slightly more emotion to your words.

The final じゃない (janai) is an expression that you use at the end of a sentence. It has a few meanings.  It functions as an expression that means “is not” or “am not” while also a tool that’s used to confirm the response being made.

I’ve written more about this word in detail in this guide: How to say No in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

In short, じゃない (janai) is used to confirm information in the sense of “isn’t it”?. By attaching it to いい (ii), (meaning “good” in Japanese) we can understand いいんじゃない (iinjanai) to mean “good, isn’t it?” in a literal translation.

Note that this is a casual phrase, and should only be used between friends. To make it formal, attach ですか (desuka) to the end, making it:

  • いいんじゃないですか。
    iinjanai desuka.
    Why not. (formal).

Why That Much? in Japanese

To emphasise an element of surprise when expressing “why” in Japanese, use the following phrase:

  • Why that much?
    何でそんなに?
    nande sonna ni?

We know that 何で (nande) is one of the standard ways to say “why” in Japanese.

You can use そんなに (sonna ni) to express something that is a lot in quantity. A great way to understand そんなに (sonna ni) is to interpret it as “that much”.

For instance, we can form the sentence:

  • 何でそんなに日本語を勉強したいの?
    nande sonna ni nihongo wo benkyou shtai no?
    Why do you want to study Japanese that much/badly?

A question that would certainly have many answers, indeed.

What makes you passionate about the Japanese language?

One of the reasons for me is The Legend of Zelda!

Looking at the original Japanese text of the Zelda games to uncover secrets and new insights into the lore and story is truly fascinating.

Join me on my YouTube channel where we delve into the Japanese versions of the Zelda games!

Want more How-To Japanese guides?

View all [Ultimate How-To Japanese Guides]

Recommended:

How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

How to say Thank You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

I Miss You in Japanese

25+ Ways to say I Miss You in Japanese Explained

The best way to express your longing for someone and say “I miss you” in Japanese is to use 会いたい (aitai).

The word 会いたい (aitai) literally translates as “I want to meet you”, but it’s most commonly understood as meaning “I want to see you”. This is the best and most common way to express that you miss someone in Japanese.

I say “way to express” because there is no perfect one-to-one literal translation for “I miss you” in Japanese.  The closest we get to a perfect translation is with 会いたい (aitai).

With that said, the meaning and nuances associated with 会いたい (aitai) are not limited to “I want to meet you”.

While 会いたい (aitai) communicates a desire to see someone, it also connotes a sense of loneliness.

To text your partner “I miss you” in Japanese, for instance, simply saying 会いたい (aitai) is the most natural way to do it.

Furthermore, as 会いたい (aitai) does carry these additional connotations, the implications of “I miss you” can be understood and felt even though the exact words “I miss you” were not spoken.

There are also so many other ways to convey the words “I miss you” in Japanese through other expressions and phrases.

This ultimate guide explains in detail how to say “I miss you” in Japanese with 会いたい (aitai), and with other expressions. All entries are coupled with native audio pronunciation for your reference.

I Miss You in Japanese

  • I miss you.
    会いたい。
    aitai.

When you miss someone, the best word you can use to express the feeling is to say 会いたい (aitai), which means “I want to see you”.

You can use 会いたい (aitai) to tell someone that you’re close to, such as a partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend, that you miss them. You should generally use it with those who you are close with.

With that said, telling your parents that you miss them with 会いたい (aitai) may be considered slightly strange. This is because saying “I miss you” to your parents is not something that’s done often in Japanese culture.

You could say it to a sibling if you are really close to them.

This is mainly because of how heavy a word 会いたい (aitai) can be when you want to tell someone you miss them.

You can say it to friends, however, when you say 会いたい (aitai) to someone, they may interpret your words to mean that you have a romantic interest in them. This is especially true if the person you’re saying “I miss you” to already has romantic feelings for you.

Related: How to say I Like You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Therefore 会いたい (aitai) is best used with partners. Saying it to a friend may communicate something more than friendship, depending on your relationship with that friend.

会いたい (aitai) Examples

You can use it just like that to tell someone you miss them. You could even use their name to make it more personal For instance:

  • [name]! 会いたいよ。
    [name]! aitai yo.
    [name]! I miss you!

Replace [name] with the person’s name to whom you’re speaking. Attaching よ (yo) to the end of the sentence is an optional addition.

よ (yo) adds emphasis to the expression. It essentially functions similarly to the (!); the exclamation mark we use in English.

In short, attaching the optional よ (yo) emphasises your longing to meet someone.

Another expression you may hear, especially in Japanese Anime or TV shows is the phrase:

  • 会いたいな。
    aitai na.
    I miss you (I wish I could see you).

You may hear 会いたい (aitai) with な (na) attached to the end of the expression. The な (na) adds an element of “wishing” or “hoping” when you communicate “I miss you” with 会いたい (aitai) in Japanese.

In essence, attaching な (na) exaggerates how much you wish or hope you could see someone.

Therefore 会いたいな (aitai na) can be translated as “I wish I could see you, I miss you” in Japanese.

Related: How to say I Hope & Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

会いたい (aitai) Meaning

会いたい (aitai) meaning

The word 会いたい (aitai) can be literally translated as “I want to meet you”, although it’s best understood as meaning “I want to see you”.

The kanji for 会いたい (aitai) is 会 which means “meet, meeting, party, association”.

会いたい (aitai) is made up of two parts.

The first part is 会い (ai), which is the ます (masu) stem of the verb 会う (au), which means “to meet”.

The second part is たい (tai) which is beginner N5 grammar that is used to express a desire or wish using verbs in Japanese.

To express a desire using verbs in Japanese, we have to use たい (tai). Here’s a quick guide on how to make and use the たい (tai) form and express “want” using verbs in Japanese.

  1. Firstly, take a verb. For example, 食べる (taberu). The verb for “eat” in Japanese.
  2. Secondly, change the verb into the ます (masu) mass form. Therefore, 食べる (taberu) becomes 食べます (tabemasu).
  3. Remove the ます (masu) from 食べます (tabemasu). It becomes 食べ (tabe).
  4. Finally, attach たい (tai) to the verb. 食べ (tabe) becomes 食べたい (tabetai); meaning “I want to eat”.

The same can be applied to the verb “to meet” in Japanese.

The verb is 会う (au), which, in ます (masu) form becomes 会います (aimasu).

Remove the ます (masu) from 会います (aimasu) and it becomes 会い (ai).

Attach たい (tai) to あい (ai), and it becomes 会いたい (aitai), meaning “I want to meet/I want to see” in Japanese.

It may also be worth knowing that 会いたい (aitai) functions as an i-adjective when conjugating it.

You in Japanese

As you may have noticed, you can say 会いたい (aitai) to someone to express how you miss them, without including any pronouns.

This is because pronouns are dropped in Japanese when the context is clear.

The full phrase “I miss you in Japanese” would be:

  • 私はあなたに会いたい。
    watashi wa anata ni aitai.
    I miss you (with pronouns).

However, this expression sounds unnatural for a number of reasons.

Firstly, is the use of あなた (anata). The word あなた (anata) is the most direct translation of the pronoun “you” in Japanese.

Yet when speaking the language, it’s much more common and natural to use the person’s actual name, rather than addressing them with the pronoun “you”. This means you will have to know the person’s name to address them in Japanese.

There are some rare exceptions to this rule, however. If you are a customer in a store, for instance, you’ll most likely be addressed as お客様 (okyaku sama), in place of the pronoun “you”.

Yet, I doubt you’ll find yourself in the position of a customer service representative who’s finding themself wanting to tell a customer “I miss you” in Japanese. So I don’t think it’ll be an issue!

In Japanese, あなた (anata) is used to address one’s significant other. A wife may call their husband あなた (anata), for example.

In these scenarios, using あなた (anata) to specify that it’s your significant other you miss, would be natural.

With that said, the easiest and best way to tell someone you miss them using pronouns is to use their name!

I recommend this video for a deeper dive into the nuances and connotations associated with あなた (anata) and Japanese pronouns in general.

Saying “I” in Japanese

Secondly, the use of 私 (watashi) may also be considered unnatural.

This is also because when you say 会いたい (aitai) to someone in Japanese, it’s already obvious that you are the one who is missing them. Specifying that it’s you who is missing them can sound unnatural and redundant.

I Miss You So Much in Japanese

I Miss You so Much in Japanese

  • I miss you so much.
    すごく会いたい。
    sugoku aitai.

Use this expression to say “I miss you so much” in Japanese. This expression is made up of two components.

The last part of the expression, 会いたい (aitai) is the same word that’s explained in detail in entry #1 above. It means “I miss you” in Japanese.

The inclusion of すごく (sugoku) makes the expression much more powerful. It amplifies how much you’re longing for someone.

すごく (sugoku) is an adverb that originates from the word すごい (sugoi), which means “great, awesome, incredible, amazing”.

Therefore すごく (sugoku), being an adverb, has the meaning of “amazingly” or “immensely”.

Pairing すごく (sugoku) with 会いたい (aitai) communicates “I miss you” but to a much greater extent.

In essence, we can understand すごく会いたい (sugoku aitai) to mean “I miss you immensely” or “I miss you so much”.

For instance, you might text your partner:

  • もうすぐ帰るの? すごく会いたい。
    mousugu kaeru no? sugoku aitai.
    Are you coming home soon? I miss you so much.

It goes without saying that this is a very strong expression. For that reason, it’s best reserved for partners.

I Really Miss You in Japanese

Another way to express how much you miss someone in Japanese is with the expression 本当に会いたい (hontou ni aitai).

We’ve covered 会いたい (aitai) to mean “I miss you” in Japanese, as explained above.

Saying 本当に (hontou ni) before 会いたい (aitai) is an alternate way to express how much you miss someone to a great extent.

  • ね…本当に会いたい。
    ne…hontou ni aitai.
    Hey…I really miss you.

This is because 本当に (hontou ni) means “really”, or “truly” in Japanese.

Therefore when you use this complete expression and tell someone 本当に会いたい (hontou ni aitai), you’re communicating how you’re really longing for them. You truly miss them.

An additional way to communicate how much you really miss someone is with 早く (hayaku).

早く (hayku) is another word you can place before 会いたい (aitai) to exaggerate the meaning. 早く (hayku) is an adverb/noun that originates from 早い (hayai), an i-adjective that means “fast”, “quick”, “rapid”, “soon” or “early”.

The adverb/noun 早く (hayaku), means “quickly” or “soon”.

  • 早く会いたい。
    hayaku aitai.
    I miss you (I want to see you soon/I want to hurry and see you).

For that reason, 早く会いたい (hayaku aitai) has a unique nuance that conveys a stronger desire to see someone soon/quickly.

I Miss You Too in Japanese

  • I miss you too.
    私も会いたい。
    watashi mo aitai.

To respond to someone who has told you that they miss you, (assuming the feelings are mutual) you can say 私も会いたい (watashi mo aitai), meaning “I miss you too” in Japanese.

A typical response may look something like this:

  • 会いたい。ずっとそばにいてほしい。
    watashu mo aitai. zutto soba ni ite hoshii.
    I miss you too. I want you to always be by my side.

You may have noticed that this expression contains the 私 (watashi), “I” pronoun. I mentioned before that pronouns are generally omitted in Japanese as it sounds more natural.

However, the usage of 私 (watashi), the pronoun for “I” in Japanese, is necessary here to communicate the words “I miss you too”.

This is because we need to follow 私 (watashi) with も (mo) which is a grammar particle that means “also, too, as well” in Japanese.

You use も (mo) to say “this too”, or “this also” in Japanese. Therefore も (mo) needs a preceding noun to function.

In the case of 私も会いたい (watashi mo aitai), meaning “I miss you too”, the preceding noun is 私 (watashi). In essence, it’s you.

This means that we can make the sentence:


  • watashi mo.
    Me too.

Which you could also use as a response to someone who has just told you they miss you. Although, they might be expecting you to relay the full phrase back “I miss you, too”, rather than simply saying “me too”.

I Will Miss You in Japanese

  • I will miss you.
    もう会いたい。
    mou aitai.

Let’s say you’re about to say goodbye to someone. You want to communicate that you are going to miss them when they do go.

To say “I will miss you” in Japanese, use もう会いたい (mou aitai).

This expression is made of two components. The second is 会いたい (aitai), meaning “I miss you” (fully explained in the earlier entries).

Preceding 会いたい (aitai) is もう (mou), an adverb that means “already, before long, by now” in Japanese.

In the expression, もう会いたい (mou aitai), the もう (mou) can be understood as meaning “already”. Interpreting it this way gives the expression the literal meaning of “I already miss you”.

Perhaps your partner is leaving tomorrow for a few weeks to go on a trip. The night before you may say something like this:

  • 明日行くよね。もう会いたいよ。
    ashita iku yo no. mou aitai yo.
    You’re going tomorrow, aren’t you? I will/already miss you.

To reiterate, use よ (yo) at the end of a sentence to emphasise the preceding words.

Attaching よ (yo) in the above example conveys a stronger sense of longing, as opposed to omitting it. With that said, よ (yo) is optional, and it’s fine to drop it!

I Missed You in Japanese

I Missed You in Japanese

  • I missed you.
    会いたかった。
    aitakatta.

Your loved one has just returned and they are back in the warmth of your arms. You are apart no more, and I’m sure you’re feeling overjoyed!

During this moment you may tell them 会いたかった (aitakatta), meaning “I missed you” in Japanese.

The biggest difference with this expression is the change of tense. To put it simply, 会いたかった (aitakatta) is the past tense of 会いたい (aitai), meaning “I miss you”.

Of course, being in the past tense, you should only use this expression when talking about something that happened in the past.

This is because you’re specifically communicating that your missing that person was a feeling you had.

It’s naturally assumed that that feeling has been erased now that you have been reunited (which is when you would use 会いたかった (aitakatta).

I Missed You So Much in Japanese

  • I missed you so much.
    ずっと会いたかった。
    zutto aitakatta.

If you’re feeling particularly overjoyed when being reunited with your partner for the first time in a while, you may wish to communicate how much you’ve truly missed them all this time.

By pairing ずっと (zutto) with 会いたかった (aitakatta), we compose the expressionずっと会いたかった (zutto aitakatta), which means “I missed you so much” in Japanese.

This is a powerful expression you can use for special moments when you and your partner are finally back together in person again.

The word ずっと (zutto) is what makes this expression so meaningful. ずっと (zutto) means “the whole time, all this time, all the way” in Japanese.

Use ずっと (zutto) to refer to a specific continuous state that has remained unchanged for an extended period of time.

The best way to interpret the meaning of ずっと (zutto) is as “for a long time”. Therefore when you connect it with 会いたかった (aitakatta), you express how you’ve missed the person for a prolonged duration.

It’s also possible to increase the number of times you say ずっと (zutto) in this expression.

  • ずっと、ずっと会いたかった。
    zutto, zutto aikatta. 
    I’ve missed you so so much.

You can also substitute the ずっと (zutto) for すごく (sugoku), the meaning of which is explained above in an earlier entry that covers “I miss you so much” in Japanese.

I Miss Him in Japanese

  • I miss him.
    彼に会いたい。
    kare ni aitai.

You can also use 会いたい (aitai) to specify who it is that you’re missing. If the person you miss is male, you can use 彼に会いたい (kare ni aitai).

This phrase is particularly useful when you’re talking to someone else about the person you miss.

  • ああ~...彼に会いたい。
    aa~… kare ni aitai.
    Ahh… I miss him.

彼 (kare) is the word for “him” in Japanese.

Following 彼 (kare) comes に (ni), a grammar particle that, in this case, marks the preceding word as the object of the upcoming verb.

In short, に (ni) marks 彼 (kare) as the thing that the verb is doing. To clarify, 彼 (kare), aka “him”, is the “thing” that’s being “missed”.

You always use に (ni) when talking about someone you miss, or someone you will meet with 会う (au) in Japanese.

I Miss My Boyfriend in Japanese

If the person you miss is your boyfriend, you can communicate that in Japanese too.

The word for boyfriend in Japanese is 彼氏 (kareshi).

Following the same structure as the above entry, we substitute the word 彼 (kare), meaning “him”, for 彼氏 (kareshi), meaning boyfriend.

Therefore to be specific and say you miss your boyfriend in Japanese, use the following phrase:

  • 彼氏に会いたい。
    kareshi ni aitai.
    I miss my boyfriend.

Note that it is possible to replace the word 彼氏 (kareshi) with the person’s actual name.

This would make it:

  • [name] に会いたい。
    [name] ni aitai.
    I miss [name].

I Miss Her/My Girlfriend in Japanese

  • I miss her.
    彼女に会いたい。
    kanojo ni aitai.

If the person you miss is female, you can specify with the phrase 彼女に会いたい (kanojo ni aitai).

彼女 (kanojo) means “her” or “girlfriend” in Japanese. Be careful in that there is no way to clearly distinguish the difference between the two meanings; “her” and “girlfriend”. The word 彼女 (kanojo) can mean both.

Therefore when you refer to someone using 彼女 (kanojo) in conversation, misunderstandings could happen, especially if the person you’re speaking with doesn’t know you very well.

Generally speaking, however, when you use 彼女 (kanojo) in a sentence to talk about them as the person you miss, it will be assumed that you are in a relationship.

This is because the word 会いたい (aitai) is generally used when speaking about partners as previously mentioned. People will naturally assume you’re together when you address the person you miss as 彼女 (kanojo).

The phrase 彼女に会いたい (kanojo ni aitai) generally follows the same grammatical structure as “I miss my boyfriend”, explained above.

The に (ni) functions to mark the preceding word as the object that the verb is doing. In essence, “she” (the object in the sentence and the verb is doing) is the one being “missed” (the verb).

More Ways to Express I Miss You in Japanese

Expressing Loneliness

  • I miss you (I’m lonely).
    寂しい。
    sabishii.

There are other ways to express “I miss you” in Japanese without using 会いたい (aitai).

One of these alternatives is with 寂しい (sabishii).

You can use 寂しい (sabishii) to communicate that you miss someone and that you desire their company.

The word 寂しい (sabishii) is an i-adjective that means “lonely” in Japanese. The kanji in 寂しい (sabishii)  is 寂 which also denotes loneliness or mellowness.

At the beginning of this guide, I mentioned that it’s natural to omit pronouns (you & I) in Japanese. You also omit them when using 寂しい (sabishii) to express how you miss someone.

This means that simply saying 寂しい (sabishii) to someone is enough to communicate the full sentence “I’m lonely” in Japanese, without using any pronouns.

Furthermore, the term 寂しい (sabishii) is often used to indirectly express that you miss someone.

If someone were to tell you that they are 寂しい (sabishii) it’s very probable that they are missing you.

  • いつまた会えるの? 寂しいよ
    itsu mata aeru no? sabishii yo
    When can we meet again? I miss you (I’m lonely).

Using the above sentence as an example, 寂しい (sabishii) can also be paired with よ (yo) to enhance the meaning of the word.

It’s an optional addition that you can use to communicate an extra level of emotion when telling someone you miss them.

Sometimes Japanese speakers may use the word さみしい (samishii). This word is the same as 寂しい (sabishii).

While さみしい (samishii) is the phonetically incorrect way to pronounce 寂しい (sabishii), many people choose to use it in daily conversation anyway. It has become somewhat of a culturally accepted way to pronounce the word.

More Ways to Express I Missed You in Japanese

Putting the word 寂しい (sabishii) into the past tense turns the meaning into “I missed you” (lit. I was lonely) in Japanese.

The past tense of 寂しい (sabishii) is 寂しかった (sabishikatta).  Similarly to the nuance and functions of the present tense 寂しい (sabishii), the past tense version can also be used without any pronouns.

Simply saying to someone 寂しかった (sabishikatta) communicates that you missed them and that you were lonely.

  • 寂しかった。
    sabishikatta. 
    I missed you.

You might use 寂しかった (sabishikatta) when you’ve finally been reunited with your partner after a long period of time without each other.

As 寂しかった (sabishikatta) is in the past tense, you express that you were lonely and you missed the person when you didn’t see them.

Using 寂しかった (sabishikatta) is the same as telling someone that you missed them in English, only with the added nuance of feeling lonely.

Related: How to say Soul and Soulmate in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

I Miss Your Voice in Japanese

  • I miss your voice.
    [name] の声を聞きたい。
    [name] no koe wo kikitai.

While you might miss the person themselves, you may also miss hearing their voice.

Telling someone that you miss their voice can be a romantic thing to do, and you can communicate that in Japanese!

Firstly, when telling someone that you miss their voice, you should address the person by their actual name (even when you’re speaking to that person directly).

This is because the best and natural way to say “you” or “your” in Japanese is to use the person’s name.

Therefore, begin this phrase with the person’s name, and attach の (no). This would make it [name]の.

の (no) is the possessive grammar particle that connects two nouns together. The noun preceding の (no) is the person’s name, and the noun following の (no) is 声 (koe), meaning “voice” in Japanese.

Saying [name] の声 ([name] no koe) is the same as saying “[name]’s voice” in Japanese.

Next comes を (wo), another grammar particle that identifies the verb’s object; the person or thing to which the action is performed.

In this case, the object is the person’s voice and the verb is the final component in the sentence: 聞きたい (kikitai).

The verb 聞きたい (kikitai) means “want to hear” in Japanese. The たい (tai) is the same たい (tai) as the one in 会いたい (aitai). To clarify, たい (tai) is a beginner’s grammar point that is used to express a desire or wish to do something.

In short, the phrase [name] の声を聞きたい ([name] no koe wo kikitai) literally means “I want to hear [name]’s voice”.

However, while this phrase does grammatically translate as wanting to hear someone’s voice, it also connotes a true feeling of longing; a desire for their voice.

I Miss Your Smile/Laugh in Japanese

I Miss Your Smile in Japanese

  • I miss your smile/laugh.
    [name] の笑顔をみたい。
    [name] no egao wo mitai.

While telling someone you miss their voice may be considered romantic, telling them you miss their smile or laugh could be even more so.

The grammatical structure of this sentence follows the exact same structure as “I miss your voice” in Japanese, explained above, just with different words. Read the above entry for a deeper explanation of the composure of the grammar in this sentence!

You can use this phrase to express how you miss someone’s laugh or smile. In Japanese, address the person whose laugh/smile you miss by their actual name (even when speaking to that person directly) instead of “you”.

笑顔 (egao) means “smiling face” or “smile” in Japanese. We know that の (no) is the possesive grammar particle that connects two nouns together.

Therefore saying the person’s name followed by の (no) and then 笑顔 (egao) would make: [name]の笑顔 ([name] no egao). This means “[name]’s smile” in Japanese.

The verb in this sentence is みたい (mitai), which is the たい (tai) form of みる (miru), meaning “to see”. The たい (tai) form is used to express a desire or wish, hence, みたい (mitai) means “want to see” in Japanese.

The literal translation of this phrase is “I want to see your smile”.

Yet, similar to saying “I want to hear your voice” in Japanese, expressing a desire to see someone’s smile has very close nuances to the English phrase “I miss your smile”.

In short, when you miss seeing someone’s smile, use this phrase to express that to them in Japanese!

I Miss You in Japanese Using Google Translate

Translating “I Miss you” or “I miss…” from English to Japanese using Google Translate will tell you that 恋しい (koishii) is the word you need.

However, the word 恋しい (koishii) is primarily used for objects and places, rather than for people.

Perhaps you’ve been away from home for a while and you miss your mother’s cooking. You may say:

  • 母の料理が恋しい
    haha no ryouri ga koishii
    I miss mum’s cooking.

In essence, use 恋しい (koishii) to describe something that you miss, rather than for someone who you miss.

You can place any noun and attach ~が恋しい (ga koishii) to say that you miss it in Japanese.

If you’re feeling nostalgic about your visit to Japan, for instance, you can express that using ~が恋しい (ga koishii).

  • 日本が恋しい
    nihon ga koishii
    I miss Japan.

You also don’t need to include any pronouns (I) when using this phrase!

Another example! Perhaps you miss getting out and adventuring:

  • 旅行が恋しい
    ryokou ga koishii
    I miss travelling.

Maybe you miss cold weather:

  • 寒い天気が恋しい
    samui tenki ga koishii
    I miss the cold weather.

I Miss When… in Japanese

There may be occasions when something feels nostalgic to you and you miss it. You can express nostalgia with:

  • 懐かしい。
    natsukashii. 
    Nostalgic.

Use the word 懐かしい (natsukashii) to describe something that you fondly remember, something that’s dear to you or something that is beloved.

Perhaps you’ve recently moved house and you’re feeling nostalgic about the old one.

  • 前の家が懐かしい。
    mae no ie ga natsukashii. 
    The old house is nostalgic (I miss the old house).

When you describe something as 懐かしい (natsukashii) in Japanese, you indicate that you remember it fondly, perhaps so much so that you kind of miss it.

  • ここ、懐かしい!
    koko natsukashii. 
    This place brings back memories!

Use 懐かしい (natsukashii) for those situations!

I Miss You Dearly in Japanese

The verb 慕う (shitau) is another word that appears frequently when using translation tools for “I miss you” in Japanese.

It is an old-fashioned way to say “I miss you dearly” in Japanese. It used to be an elegant/traditional way to express love or longing for someone. However, this is now an old meaning and thus is dated.

In more recent times, 慕う (shitau) is used when you find yourself attached to someone.

It’s not used to describe a relationship between partners or love, but rather to describe someone you idolise, someone you look up to.

  • 祖父を慕ってる!
    sofu wo shtatteru. 
    I adore/idolise my grandfather.

You’ll often see 慕う (shitau) used to express a feeling towards a parent or close relative.

I Miss Japan!

  • 日本が恋しい!
    nihon ga koishii!
    I miss Japan!

Japan is a wonderful place to visit, and it’s even better if you can converse in the language!

We have a collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides to help you learn Japanese! [View All Ultimate Guides]

Fancy practising your speaking skills? Have a look at Preply!

Do you like Japanese and The Legend of Zelda? Quest with me on my YouTube channel!

My Name is in Japanese

How to say My Name Is in Japanese

Japanese textbooks typically teach the following two phrases as the standard way to say “my name is” in Japanese.

  1. 私の名前は [name]です。
    watashi no namae wa [name] desu.
    My name is [name].


  2. 私は [name] です。
    watashi wa [name] desu.
    I am [name].

However, although these ways of introducing yourself are correct, there are more natural expressions that you can use.

With that said, the easiest and most common way to tell someone what your name is in Japanese is to simply state your name and attach です (desu). For example:

  • [name] です。
    [name] desu.
    I’m [name].

At the same time, there are a plethora of expressions that you can use to tell someone your name in Japanese outside of using です (desu).

As politeness and formalities are crucial in Japanese, it’s important to know the nuances of each expression.

This ultimate guide is tailored for beginners and intermediate learners alike. Entries are coupled with audio for your pronunciation reference.

Easiest Way to say “My name is…” in Japanese

As mentioned, the simplest and most widely used expression to introduce your name in Japanese is to use the following expression:

  • I’m [name].
    [name]です。
    [name] desu.

Simply say your name and attach です (desu), which is the equivalent of saying “I’m [name]” in Japanese.

Pronunciation for です (desu):

The word です (desu) is a formal Japanese linking verb that means “to be” in English. You may have also noticed the lack of pronouns in this sentence. This is because you often omit pronouns in speech as it sounds considerably more natural.

Therefore, simply stating your name and following it with です (desu) is sufficient enough to convey the meaning of “my name is [name]” in Japanese.

Even though you can apply more levels of formality to your speech, (more on that later), employing です (desu) in your speech is an excellent means to assure adequate politeness.

Hence, this expression is a general way to introduce your name to anyone, without stressing about formalities too much.  It is a very natural and common way to say “my name is” in Japanese.

When introducing your full name in Japanese, you say your surname first, followed by your first name.

For example, if your name was Harry Potter, you would say:

  • ポッター・ハリーです。
    Potta ・ hari- desu.
    I’m Harry Potter.

It’s also interesting that for non-Japanese names, a ・ is used to separate the surname and first name instead of a space.

Saying “Nice to meet you, my name is” in Japanese

  • Nice to meet you, my name is [name].
    はじめまして。[name]です。
    hajimemashite. [name] desu.

When you meet someone for the first time, you may want to say はじめまして (hajimemashite), before telling them your name.

はじめまして (hajimemashite) is the way to say “it’s nice to meet you” in Japanese. it is as simple as using a single word!

The word はじめまして (hajimemashite) originates from the verb はじめて (hajimete), meaning “first time” in Japanese. With that said, はじめまして (hajimemashite) is a great word to use when you want to show politeness to someone whom you’re just meeting for the first time.

After you’ve said はじめまして (hajimemashite), follow up with your name before finishing withです (desu) to tell someone “nice to meet you, my name is…” in Japanese.

Recommended: How to say Nice to Meet You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

“I am…” in Japanese

  • I am [name].
    私は [name] です。
    watashi wa [name] desu.

Textbooks and other learning resources may teach you to use the above expression to tell someone your name.

The main difference with this entry compared to the one before it is the inclusion of 私は (watashi wa). This preceding 私は (watashi wa) translates as “I am” in Japanese. Unlike in English, however, removing pronouns helps your speech sound much more natural.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to reduce the frequency of 私は (watashi wa) in your speech.

Many learning resources may include 私は (watashi wa) in examples sentences as a means to help you remember the meaning. However, because the word appears in so many resources, you’ll soon find that you’ve retained it without having to drill it into your head.

It’s not that using 私は (watashi wa) in your speech is grammatically incorrect, it’s just that it comes across as repetitive.

  • 私は [name] です。
    watashi wa [name] desu.
    I am I’m [name].

Therefore, simply saying your name plus です (desu) is the easiest and most common method to use.

“Hello, my name is” in Japanese

Hello, I'm... in Japanese

  • Hello, I’m [name].
    こんにちは。[name] です。
    konnichi wa. [name] desu.

The standard way to include a greeting in your introduction and say “hello, my name is [name] in Japanese is it use こんにちは (konnichi wa).

こんにちは (konnichi wa), as you may have heard, is a common way to say “hello” in Japanese. Generally, you can also use it to say “good day” or “good afternoon” as well.

Those of you who are more familiar with the language may be aware that the final は (ha) is actually pronounced as (wa). See the audio for native pronunciation reference!

The reason for this originates from the seldom-used kanji for the greeting. In kanji, こんにちは (konnnichi ha) is written as 今日は (konnnichi ha). 今 means “now” and 日 is the kanji for “day”.

Combined they make 今日 (kyou), the word for “today” in Japanese. The は (ha) is actually a grammar particle that is typically pronounced as (wa) when used as one.

The modern こんにちは (konnichi wa) is a condensed form of the traditional greeting, 今日は (kyou wa).

It stems from typical greetings such as those that refer to the weather, such as 今日は暑いですね! (kyou ha atsui desu ne!).

Stating your name and following it with です (desu) after saying こんにちは (konnichi wa) is an excellent way to say “hello, my name is…” in Japanese!

Suggested: How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

“Please Call Me…” in Japanese

  • Please call me [name].
    [name]と呼んでください。
    [name] to yonde kudasai.

After you’ve told someone your name using one of the above expressions, you may wish to inform them of an alias, nickname, or another name that you’d prefer to be called by.

You can specify how you’d like to be called using the above phrase. Simply insert your prefered way to be addressed into the [name] section, and you’re good to go.

Just like in English, you will typically use this phrase immediately after telling someone your given name.

For example, first, you begin with your introduction.

  • 初めまして。マイケルです。
    hajimemashite. maikeru desu.
    Nice to meet you. I’m Michael.

Secondly, you introduce your preferred way of being called:

  • マイクと呼んでください。
    maiku to yonde kudasai.
    Please call me Mike.

This phrase uses a conjugated form of the verb 呼ぶ (yobu), meaning “to be called” in Japanese. 呼ぶ (yobu) is conjugated into the te-form, which, in this case, transforms the sentence into a request.

Conjugating 呼ぶ (yobu) into the te-form makes it 呼んで (yonde).

Located at the end of the phrase is ください (kudasai) which means “please” in Japanese.

Therefore, when you use this phrase, you request that the person addresses you by a certain name.

Suggested: How to say Thank You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Direct Japanese Translation of “My name is”

  • My name is [name].
    私の名前は [name] です。
    watashi no namae ha [name] desu.

You may also see the above expression listed in Japanese textbooks.

We’ve established that 私 (watashi) is the pronoun for “I” in Japanese. Following the 私 (watashi) is の (no), a Japanese grammar particle that connects two nouns together.

Although it has many uses, its general function is to indicate possession of the preceding noun.

For instance, the word for “today” in Japanese is 今日 (kyou). Attaching the particle (no) to the word would make it: 今日 (kyou no), meaning “today‘s” indicating that “today” is in possession of something.

Add the word for “weather“, being 天気 (tenki) and you can make the sentence:

  • 今日天気はいい。
    kyou no tenki ha ii.
    Today‘s weather is good.

With this in mind, combining the の (no) particle with 私 (watashi) makes 私の (watashi no), meaning “my” in Japanese.

Suggested: How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

The next part of this expression is 名前 (namae), the word for “name” in Japanese. This word just so happens to be similar to the English word in terms of pronunciation, making it easy to remember!

Following this is は (ha), another particle that marks the preceding noun as the subject of the sentence. In the case of 私の名前 [name] です (watashi no namae ha [name] desu), emphasis is on the word “name” as the subject.

Like the previous entry, this method of telling someone your name is also not very common.

People typically choose the easier alternative of simply saying “I’m [name]” rather than dragging it out by saying “my name is [name].”

With that said, this is still a method you’ll see in textbooks and may hear used when speaking with children, for example.

Asking “What Is Your Name?” in Japanese

What is Your Name in Japanese

  • What is your name?
    お名前は何ですか。
    onamae ha nan desuka?

The standard way to ask someone for their name in Japanese is to use the above expression.

When introducing your own name to someone, it’s natural to omit pronouns, and the same is true when asking for someone’s name.

Therefore, when asking for someone’s name in Japanese, you don’t need to address them as “your”. Let’s break down the expression!

  • お名前 (onamae) is made up of two parts. The latter 名前 (namae) is the word for “name” in Japanese. The preceding お (o) acts as a kind of word-beautifier that transforms the following noun into a more respectful and polite word.
  • You could drop the お (o) and simply use 名前 (namae). It just sounds a little less polite. Whether you use 名前 (namae) or お名前 (onamae) is up to you. Although I recommend using the former!
  •  Appearing next is は (ha), a Japanese grammar particle that marks the preceding noun as the subject of the sentence.
  • 何ですか (nan desuka) is a polite way of saying “what is?” in Japanese. You may have noticed the lack of a question mark on the Japanese text. This is because the ending か (ka) functions similarly to the question mark!

An easier way to understand this expression is to read it backwards. In doing so, we can understand it as literally”what is (your) name?”.

An even easier way to ask someone “what is your name” in Japanese is to use:

  • お名前は?
    onamae ha.
    Your name is…?

It’s perfectly natural to drop the last part of the original expression and simply ask お名前は (onamae ha). If you do decide to opt for this method, be sure to not drop the お (o) before 名前 (namae) as it can come across as quite blunt!

Asking “Could You Tell Me Your Name?” in Japanese

  • Could you tell me your name?
    お名前を教えてもらえますか。
    onamae wo oshiete moraemasuka.

Although the above expression is considerably longer than the others, it’s the most natural way to ask someone if they could tell you their name in Japanese.

お名前 (oaname), the word for “name” in Japanese, is followed by を (wo), a grammar particle that designates the preceding noun as the object of the following verb.

The subsequent verb conjugation, 教えてもらえますか (oshiete moraemasu ka) is the Japanese phrase for “could you tell me”.

Similar to the previous entries, you don’t need to include any pronouns for this expression either!

The nature of this phrase is that it indicates that someone is doing you a kind of favour by telling you their name.

Therefore, when you need to be a little humble, you should use this phrase.

As an example, an interviewer may ask another if they could tell them their name using this phrase. The reason for this is that it sounds more polite than simply asking “what is your name?” directly.

Asking “What Was Your Name Again?” in Japanese

When you don’t know, or worse, have forgotten someone’s name in Japanese speech, the conversation can become extremely challenging.

This is because the most common way to say “you” in Japanese, is not to use the pronoun but to refer to the person by their name, even if you’re speaking with them directly.

This took some time to get used to as a beginner, yet, in basic terms, every time you refer to someone as “you” in Japanese, use their name. This is the most common and natural way to speak to someone.

For this reason, remembering names in Japanese is extremely important.

If you don’t know or don’t remember their name, you’ll be having a conversation without using the word “you”. It’s very difficult and it does become obvious that you’ve forgotten their name.

Therefore I recommend asking the person as soon as possible to remind you of their name. There are plenty of ways you can do this, and here’s how!

Suggested: I Don’t Know in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Asking Them Directly

  • Sorry. Could you tell me your name once more?
    すみません。もう一度お名前を教えてもらえますか。
    sumimasen mou ichidou onamae wo oshiete moraemasu ka.

The first method is to ask them directly. This is a very polite expression that you can use when you have forgotten someone’s name and wish to be reminded.

You can opt to begin with an apology by saying すみません (sumimasen). This is a respectful word that means “sorry” or “excuse me” in Japanese.

The main expression begins with もう一度 (mou ichidou), which means “once again”, or “once more”.

We’ve established that お名前 (onamae) is the polite word for “name” in Japanese.

This is followed by を (wo) which is another grammar particle that marks the preceding noun as the object of the following verb or action.

The final and longest section is 教えてもらえますか (oshiete moraemasu ka).

It begins with 教えて (oshiete), the te-form of the verb 教える (oshieru) meaning “to teach” or “to tell”.

One of the functions of the te-form is to link verbs together to extend the length of a sentence.

教えて (oshiete) connects to もらえます (moremasu), the potential form of the verb もらいます (moraimasu), meaning “to receive”.

Verbs in the potential form express the capability of being able to do an action. Essentially, this means that the potential form of “receive” is “can receive”.

Lastly, the か (ka) marks the entire sentence as a question. When か (ka) is present, question marks are not needed!

In summary, this expression asks if it’s possible to receive certain information once again, with that information being the person’s name.

For this reason, The inclusion of もらいます (moraimasu) makes the phrase humbling.

Thus it’s a formal and respectful phrase you can use when you wish to ask someone directly if they could remind you of their name!

Asking Another for Another’s Name

  • Who was that person just now?
    さっきの人は誰なんですか?
    sakki no hito ha dare nandesu ka.

Another way to discover a person’s name is to ask someone who has just spoken with them.

Using the above phrase, you can ask “who was that person just now” to someone else.

It goes without saying that you can only use this phrase to communicate naturally after someone has just finished interacting with the individual whose name you would like to find out.

The first word of this phrase is さっき (sakki), which refers to a moment in time that has just happened. Essentially, さっき (sakki) means “just now” or “a moment ago”.

Following さっき (sakki) is の (no), the possessive grammar particle. You use の (no) to indicate the possession of the following noun by the preceding one. The subsequent noun is 人 (hito), which means “person” in Japanese.

Therefore, we can understand the phrase さっき (sakki no hito) to mean “the person of just now“.

は (ha) is another particle that marks the prior noun as the subject of the sentence.

Finally, 誰なんですか (dare desu ka) is made of two parts. The first is 誰 (dare), which means “who” in Japanese. なんですか (nan desu ka) functions as the part that transforms the sentence into a question.

I Have Completely Forgotten Your Name

  • I’ve completely forgotten your name, what was it?
    名前を忘れちゃったんだけど、なんだっけ?
    namae wo wasurechattandakedo, nanndake?

The above phrase is a very casual way of telling someone directly that you have absolutely no memory of their name. You’ve completely forgotten it and are asking for it again.

As this phrase is best reserved strictly for casual speech, be careful with who you use it with.

It’s worth noting that this phrase also lacks any pronouns. As such, you can use this phrase as-is to ask someone what their name is or to ask someone else what the name of someone else is. 

The reason why you will be able to comprehend what this question is specifically asking, depends on the context of the prior conversation.

Let’s say you were having a talk about the Harry Potter series. You’re talking about the main antagonist of the series, but you’ve forgotten their name.

In this case, if you were to use the above phrase, you’d be saying “I’ve completely forgotten their name, what was it again?” rather than “I’ve forgotten your name…”.

Suggested: How to say Or in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

The Best Way to say “My name is” in Japanese

  • My name is [name].
    [name]と言います。
    [name] to iimasu.

As you’ll likely have just met the person for the first time, you will need to speak politely when you introduce your name to them. This is because there are many levels of honorifics in Japanese.

Which honorific you should use, depends on the situation and whom you’re speaking with.

When introducing yourself to a classmate, for instance, you could use slightly less formal speech.

Since it’s likely you are of the same age, and are of the same social status as “classmates”, lessening the extent of your formality during your greetings is a common thing to do.

On the other hand, you would be expected to speak much more humbly when speaking to a hiring manager, for instance.

The expression [NAME]と言います ([name] to iimasu) is a safe option to choose from when deciding on how you want to tell someone what your name is in Japanese.

Just like stating your name and attaching です (desu) is a great means to introduce yourself, this expression can be an excellent alternative.

The と言います (to iimasu) is a formalised version of the verb 言う (iu), which means “to say” or “to be called”.

Hence, when you tell someone your name using this expression, you’re essentially telling them “I’m called [name]”, which is a very natural way to introduce yourself in Japanese.

By saying your name followed by と言います (to iimasu), you’re communicating with a reasonable level of politeness.

With that said, there be some occasions where you may wish to increase formalities higher.

Telling Your Name in Formal Japanese

My Name is... Formally in Japanese

  • My name is [name].
    [name]と申します。
    [name] to moushimasu.

The most polite and formal way you can tell someone your name in Japanese is to use the above expression.

During business scenarios, interviews or meetings etc you will need to apply the highest formality possible to your speech.

For instance, during your self-introduction at an interview for a job, you should introduce yourself with と申します (to moushimasu).

It’s also important to remember that when introducing your full name in Japanese, you should say your surname first, then your first name.

The 申します (moushimasu) is the kenjougo, or humble version of the 言います (iimasu), which we looked at in the above entry.

This means that 申します (moushimasu) is just an even more formal way of introducing your name with 言います (iimasu).

How Are You in Japanese

As introducing your name to someone is typically a part of a greeting, you may wish to ask the person how they are doing too.

However, in Japanese, asking someone how they are doing is typically only done when you talk to someone for the first time in a while.

Therefore, asking someone how they are in Japanese is not something you’d really see to someone you saw just yesterday.

With that said, there are alternative expressions and phrases that you can use.

I’ve composed an extensive list in this ultimate guide that details how to say “how are you in Japanese.”

Asking “Should I Write My Name Here?” in Japanese

Write Your Name Here

  • Shall I write my name here?
    ここに名前を書きますか。
    koko ni namae wo kakimasu ka.

This is a particularly useful phrase to know when filling out forms in Japanese.

Many places in Japan prefer to use paper forms and paper documents, rather than digital ones.

For this reason, you’ll definitely be asked to write your name down a good few times.

But, what if you’re not sure where to write your name… as the form is in Japanese?

To confirm the location you can use one of two phrases. The first is the above phrase, which you can use to verify that you are going to write your name in the correct place.

The second phrase to use is:

  • どこに名前を書きますか。
    doko ni namae wo kakimasu ka.
    Where shall I write my name?

Use this phrase to ask where you should write your name when you’re completely unsure.

To clarify for anyone wondering, you do not need to use お名前 (onamae) in place of 名前 (namae) here.

This is because お名前 (onamae) should only be used when talking about someone else’s names. When you’re talking about your own name, omit the お (o), and use 名前 (namae).

 Surname/Family Name in Japanese

The word for “surname” in Japanese is 名字 (myouji).

It is made up of two kanji, 名 which means “name” and 字, meaning “character”.

You could use it to ask questions such as:

  • 名字は何ですか。
    myouji ha nandesu ka.
    What is your surname?
  • 名字の綴りは?
    myouji no tsutzuri ha?
    How do you spell your surname?

How to say Your Actual Name in Japanese

You may be wondering how your name is written and sounds in the Japanese language. While traditional Japanese-style names contain kanji, foreign names are typically rendered in katakana.

Katakana is one of the three scripts in the Japanese alphabet. It is used primarily for words of foreign origin. Therefore, there are plenty of words that may initially sound similar to English, however, they are phonetically different.  To learn more about what katakana is, refer to this ultimate guide.

For instance, my name is Aaron. Rendering it in katakana looks like this: アーロン. Use the audio below for a native pronunciation reference.

It’s also important to know that you don’t write foreign names in hiragana. It is always katakana.

So, how do you say your name in Japanese? Enter your name in this resource to see how it looks in written Japanese!

Take a look at the complete collection of ultimate how-to Japanese guides here!

[View all Ultimate How-to Japanese Guides]

Thank You in Japanese

25+ Ways to say Thank You and Thanks in Japanese

The most common and natural way to say “thank you” in Japanese is the casual ありがとう (arigatou) or the formal ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

You can use ありがとう (arigatou) or ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu) as a means to express thanks for a gift, a compliment, a service or even to accept or refuse an offer in Japanese.

ありがとう (arigatou) is the most common casual way to say “thank you” in Japanese. You should refrain from using ありがとう (arigatou) when expressing thanks to anyone who is not your friend or family. This is because ありがとう (arigatou) is strictly a casual expression.

It would be considered rude If you were to use ありがとう (arigatou) with those who are of a higher social status than yourself, such as a teacher, manager, or even a shop assistant.

Therefore in scenarios where a display of politeness is necessary such as those listed above, it’s natural to use ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

With that said, there are plenty of other ways to express thanks in Japanese outside of using ありがとう (arigatou).

There may be situations where you wish to express more than just “thanks” to someone. One example could be to attach 本当に (hontou ni) before ありがとう (arigatou) to make 本当にありがとう (hontou ni arigatou). This expression means “thank you very much” in Japanese.

The Japanese language is full of expressions that have unique implications and meanings that are absent in English. For instance, the term いただきます (itadakimasu) is an expression that’s commonly used to express thanks before eating a meal.

This ultimate guide is tailored towards beginners and intermediate learners alike. All entries are accompanied by audio, examples and explanations for your reference!

Thank You in Japanese

  • Thank you.
    ありがとう。
    arigatou.

The most common causal way to express your thanks to someone in Japanese is ありがとう (arigatou).  It’s a non-complex word and there are minimal nuances.

However, it should be noted that you should not use it to thank a stranger, manager, or any one of a higher social status than yourself. This is because the Japanese language has an extensive array of honorifics.

Despite your good intentions, it would be considered rude to say ありがとう (arigatou) to a cashier after they’ve served you, for instance.

Therefore, the best time to use ありがとう (arigatou) is when you want to express thanks to someone you have an intimate relationship with. This could be a friend, classmate, or even a co-worker, depending on the context.

ありがとう (arigatou) Examples

ありがとう (arigatou) Example

You can use ありがとう (arigatou) by itself, however, sometimes you may wish to be a little more specific about what you’re expressing your gratitude for.

  • プレゼント、ありがとう!
    purezento, arigatou!
    Thank you for the present!

You’ll find that short sentences in Japanese can be enough to express what you want to say. Often, you won’t need to add extra fluff to the sentence like “for” and “the” in English.

Instead, simply stating the item, followed by ありがとう (arigatou) translates to “thank you for X”. This formula cannot be applied to verbs.

If someone has been particularly helpful with a lot of things, you may wish to thank them with:

  • いろいろ ありがとう。
    iroiro arigatou.
    Thank you for everything.

The word いろいろ (iroiro) in the above expression refers to “various” or literally to “a variety of things”. You can use it to form sentences such as

  • いろいろな本が好き。
    iroiro na hon ga suki.
    I like various books.

Related: How to say I Like You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

In the case of the first example “thank you for everything”, the いろいろ (iroiro) functions similarly to the second example. This means that a more literal translation of the first example would be “thank you for a variety of things”.

With that said, いろいろありがとう (iroiro arigatou) is used to express your gratitude to someone for all the things (no matter how big or small) that they’ve done.

This is a generic way of expressing your gratitude for “everything” someone has done. There are more intimate ways to say this, see the entry #Thank You For Everything in Japanese, below.

You can also make the expression more personal by saying the name of the person whom you’re thanking, followed by ありがとう (arigatou).

  • [name]、ありがとう。
    [name], arigatou.
    [name], thank you.

Thank You for Everything in Japanese

Although you can express “thank you for everything” in Japanese with いろいろありがとう (iroiro arigatou), explained above, sometimes you may want to add more emotion to your words.

  • Thank you for everything.
    いつもありがとう。
    itsumo arigatou.

When you use いつもありがとう (itsumo arigatou) you’re expressing your gratitude for quite literally everything the person has done for you.

This is because いつも (itsumo), the first part of the expression, translates as “always” or “all the time”.

We know that ありがとう (arigatou) is a casual way of expressing general thanks in Japanese. Therefore when you tell someone いつもありがとう (itsumo arigatou) you communicate that you appreciate the things that they’re always doing for you.

You can pair the expression with other phrases to better communicate what you’re grateful for or/and how it’s made you feel. For instance,

  • 本当に嬉しい!いつもありがとう。
    hontouni ureshii! itsumo arigatou.
    I’m so happy! Thank you for everything.

Related: How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Thank You For Today in Japanese

  • Thank you for today.
    今日はありがとう。
    kyou wa arigatou.

If you’ve had a particularly enjoyable day with someone, you may wish to thank them for the experience. You can do this with 今日はありがとう (kyou ha arigatou), which also makes an excellent parting phrase.

The first part of the expression, 今日 (kyou) is made up of two kanji. 今 which means “now” and 日 which means “day”. Combine them and you get 今日 (kyou), the word for “today” in Japanese.

Following 今日 (kyou) is は (wa), a Japanese grammar particle that marks the preceding noun as the subject of the sentence. Grammatically speaking, the は (wa) emphasises the 今日 (kyou) as the subject.

Finally, by attaching ありがとう (arigatou), you complete the informal expression, 今日はありがとう (kyou ha arigatou).

You can pair the expression with remarks on why you’re grateful. You could do this by expressing how you feel. For example,

  • 楽しかった!今日はありがとう。
    tanoshikatta! kyou wa arigatou.
    That was fun! Thank you for today.

If you especially enjoyed the day, you could communicate how you’d like to hang out again.

  • 今日はありがとう! また遊ぼう!
    kyou wa arigatou! mata asobou!
    Thank you for today! Let’s hang out again!

You may even wish to ask someone directly how their day has been and if they’ve enjoyed it or not. To learn how to do so, visit the below recommended ultimate guide.

Recommended: How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Thank You For Today (Formal)

There may also be occasions where you wish to use this phrase in more formal scenarios. Perhaps you’ve just finished a training session with a manager at a job and you wish to express your thanks, for instance.

To do this, you will need to use honorific speech. This involves changing the expression to:

  • 今日はありがとうございます
    kyou wa arigatou gozaimasu.
    Thank you for today. (formal).

More information on expressing gratitude politely in Japanese is explained in the appropriately titled entry below!

Thank You For That (Informal) in Japanese

When you want to thank someone for something that happened a few moments ago, there are two expressions you can use.

Thank You For That #1

The first is:

  • Thanks for that.
    さっき、ありがとう。
    sakki, arigatou.

This expression incorporates ありがとう (arigatou), which we’ve established is the standard translation for “thank you”.

The preceding word is さっき (sakki). This word is both a noun and adverb that conveys the meaning “a moment ago” or “just now”. You use it when referring to an event that has recently happened. How recently, exactly, depends on the context.

If someone did you a favour for you, but you didn’t get a chance to properly thank them at the time, you can use this expression.

Thank You For That #2

The second is:

  • You helped me/”I’m saved”.
    助かった。
    tasukatta.

This expression is an indirect way to show your appreciation. You use it when you feel a sense of relief, or if someone “saved” you from a certain fate.

By using 助かった (tasukatta), you express that you feel thankful for having been removed or saved from a situation or circumstance.

For instance, your computer could have just broken down, and in that heart-breaking moment, you realise that all of your personal data may be lost. Luckily you have a friend who knows just how to solve the problem – and they do just that!

You could say:

  • [name] のおかげで助かった。
    [name] no okagede tasukatta.
    I’m saved thanks to [name].

Note that in the above example, you should always refer to the person’s actual name when you want to address them as “you” in Japanese. Although there are ways to say “you”, the most natural way is to call them by their name, even if you’re speaking to them directly.

It may be even more appropriate to combine the two expressions.

  • さっきありがとう! 助かったよ!
    sakki arigatou! tasukatta yo!
    Thanks for that! You helped/saved me!

The magic of Japanese is that even if you don’t know the person’s name, or if you don’t feel like using it, you can drop the pronouns altogether and the sentence will remain natural.

Thank You For This in Japanese

  • Thank you for this.
    [te-form verb]くれてありがとう。
    [te-form verb] kurete arigatou.

To express gratitude specifically for something that someone did for you, you’ll need to use the above formation.

You need to use this formation when working with verbs. For instance, perhaps you’d like to thank someone for inviting you to an event or party.

First, you’ll need the verb for “invite” in Japanese, which is 誘う (sasou). Secondly, you’ll need to transform it into the te-form, which makes it 誘って (sasotte). Then you can insert it into the formation listed above. This would make:

  • 誘ってくれてありがとう。
    sasotte kurete arigatou.
    Thank you for inviting me.

I appreciate that may have been a lot of information to take in. Here’s how it works.

Firstly, you can make sentences with this formation using any verb. Secondly, that verb must always be conjugated into the te-form.

The te-form is perhaps one of the first challenging “forms” you’ll encounter when learning Japanese. It is a grammatical conjugation pattern that has many uses. In this case, it lets us connect sequential actions together, something you can’t do with verbs in Japanese unless you conjugate them!

I recommend this page for more information on how to conjugate the te-form, should you be interested.

Once the verb has been conjugated into the te-form, you can then attach くれてありがとう (kuretearigatou) which will allow you to thank someone specifically for what they’ve done.

くれて (kurete) Explanation

The magic in this expression happens with くれて (kurete), which is the te-form of くれる (kureru), a verb that doesn’t quite have a literal English translation. The best way to understand くれて (kurete) would be to interpret it as a word that adds a subtle notion of “especially” to the English expression “for me”.

Although the nuance is different to the full impact of saying “especially for me” in English, similarities are present in the overall feeling of the meaning.

Therefore, when you use くれて (kurete), you’re expressing that extra little sense of gratitude.

For example, you could thank someone for accompanying you to a location.

  • 一緒に行ってくれてありがとう。
    isshouni itte kurete arigatou.
    Thank you for going together with me.

Although the addition of 一緒に (isshouni) is also optional, it adds even more weight to the already unique expressiveness of くれて (kurete).

Thank You Too in Japanese

There are two ways to express “thank you” back to someone who has just said it to you. The first way is to use the following sentence structure:

  • [name]もありがとう。
    [name] mo arigatou.
    Thank you too.

As previously highlighted, when you want to refer to someone as “you” in Japanese, it’s always best to use their actual name. Therefore, you begin this phrase by stating their name.

The last part of the phrase is ありがとう (arigatou), the standard way to communicate thanks in Japanese. The key difference here though is the inclusion of も (mo) between the person’s name, and the word ありがとう (arigatou).

This も (mo) is a Japanese grammar particle that means “also”.

Combining all three elements makes the complete phrase. To formalise it, extend ありがとう (arigatou) to ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

Thank You To You Too in Japanese

The second way to thank the thanker back is to use the following phrase:

  • Thank you to you too.
    こちらこそありがとう。
    kochirakoso arigatou.

When you say the above phrase as a response to someone who has just thanked you, you’re emphasising that you’re the one who should be thanking them.

Essentially you’re saying “no, thank you!“, or “I’m the one who should be thanking you” in Japanese.

This phrase can also be formalised by changing the ありがとう (arigatou), to ありがとうございます (arigatou gozimasu).

Thanks in Japanese

Thanks in Japanese

  • Thanks.
    どうも。
    doumo.

Although they are both a statement of gratitude, generally, “thank you” is considered to be slightly more formal than “thanks”.

The same applies to Japanese with ありがとう (arigatou) meaning “thank you”, and どうも (doumo), meaning “thanks”.

どうも (doumo) is marginally informal compared to ありがとう (arigatou). Therefore どうも (doumo) is the best way to express “thanks” in Japanese.

Another difference between the two is that ありがとう (arigatou) carries slightly more “emotional impact” or earnestness compared to どうも (doumo). For this reason, it’s better to use ありがとう (arigatou) when saying “thanks” to your friends. Using どうも (doumo) in these situations could be considered a little rude, depending on the person.

On the other hand, it’s natural to use どうも (doumo) as a casual response to a cashier at a convenience store who has just thanked you with the formal ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

  • どうもありがとうございます
    doumo arigatou gozaimasu.
    Thank you so much. (formal).

You can, however, combine どうも (doumo) and ありがとう (arigatou) together to make the phrase どうもありがとう (doumo arigatou), which would mean “thank you so much” in Japanese.

The addition of ございます (gozaimasu) in the example sentence above, makes the expression formal.  This is further explained in the entry below!

Thank You in Formal Japanese

Thank You Formally in Japanese

  • Thank you (formal).
    ありがとうございます。
    arigatou gozaimasu.

As mentioned, the Japanese language has many honorifics that require you to speak with different levels of politeness, depending on who you’re speaking to.

The way you do this with “thank you” in Japanese is to take the standard way to express gratitude, ありがとう (arigatou) and extend it to ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

You will be expected to use the formal ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu) to communicate your thanks to strangers, teachers and managers. For instance, when saying thank you to shop staff, you’ll want to use ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu), rather than ありがとう (arigatou), which would be considered rude.

Saying ございます (gozaimasu) is also necessary when saying “good morning” to someone formally in Japanese, which is おはようございます (ohayou gozimasu).

I recommend this video that explains the nuances of ございます (gozaimasu).

Thank You Very Much in Formal Japanese

  • Thank you very much (very formal).
    誠にありがとうございます。
    makotoni arigatou gozaimasu.

Perhaps the most polite way to express gratitude in Japanese is with the above phrase. It is an exceptionally sincere way of saying thank you, and you’ll most likely hear this from retail workers when speaking with customers, or from a company to their clients/viewers or customers.

As this is an expression that’s reserved for occasions when a high level of politeness is required, the words that you would typically find paired with it are also that of Keigo (honorific speech).

For instance, the word for “today” in Japanese is 今日 (kyou). Therefore the casual way of saying “thank you for today” in Japanese is:

  • 今日はありがとう。
    kyou ha arigatou.
    Thank you for today.

It’s most natural to use the above expression with friends and family.

To increase the politeness, you can use:

  • 今日はありがとうございます。
    kyou ha arigatou gozaimasu.
    Thank you for today.

This addition of ございます (gozaimasu) adds a considerable amount of formality. You can use this with managers, teachers or strangers.

The final, and most polite version would be:

  • 本日は誠にありがとうございます。
    honjitsu ha makotoni arigatou gozaimasu.
    Thank you for today.

Firstly, not only does the addition of 誠に (makoto ni) add more overall weight to the expression, but 今日 (kyou) changes to 本日 (honjitsu).

The reason for this change is that essentially, 本日 (honjitsu) is a much more formalised version of 今日 (kyou). You’d typically hear this phrase being used by a business to thank their clients or customers, whom they wish to treat with the utmost respect.

Hence, you’ll most likely hear 誠にありがとうございます (makoto ni arigatou gozaimasu) paired with unfamiliar words that are infrequently used outside daily conversation.

Thank You Very Much in Japanese

Thank You So Much in Japanese

  • Thank you very much.
    本当にありがとう。
    hontouni arigatou.

The expression 本当にありがとう (hontouni arigatou) has different nuances compared to other ways to communicate a deep thanks. The reason being is that the first part of the expression, 本当に (hontouni) is a word that means “really” or “truly”.

Therefore when you say 本当にありがとう (hontouni arigatou) to someone, you communicate an exemplified genuine expression of gratitude.

In other words, during situations where you feel you are truly grateful for something you can express this with 本当にありがとう (hontouni arigatou).

  • いつもそばにいてくれるね。本当にありがとう。
    itsumo soba no itekureru ne. hontouni ni arigatou.
    You’re always there for me. Thank you so much.

This expression is also a fantastic one to use when receiving a heartwarming gift from someone. For instance:

  • 結局買ってくれたんだ。本当にありがとう!
    kekkyoku katte kuretanda.  hontouni arigatou!
    You (kindly) bought it for me after all. Thank you so much.

To sum up, you can use 本当にありがとう (hontouni arigatou) to express a heartfelt thanks in Japanese.

Responding to Thank You in Japanese

One of the best ways to respond to someone when they say “thank you” in Japanese is to say “no problem”.

I’ve composed an ultimate guide that details all the possible ways you can express this, here’s the link!

How to say No Problem in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

You’re Welcome in Japanese

Perhaps the safest and standard way to respond to someone else’s expression of thanks is to say “you’re welcome”.

  • You’re welcome.
    どういたしまして。
    douitashimashite.

You can respond to ありがとう (arigatou) with どういたしまして (douitashimashite), which is the same as replying with “you’re welcome” to “thank you”.

Although this expression is generally formal, you can use it in casual situations to communicate a sincere “you’re welcome” to friends and family.

A typical conversation may flow like this:

  • パソコンのことを手伝ってくれてありがとう。
    pasokon no koto wo tetsudatte kurete arigatou.
    Thank you for helping me with my computer.

The reply:

  • どういたしまして。いつでもいいよ。
    douitashimashite. itsudemo ii yo.
    You’re welcome. Anytime.

I Appreciate It in Japanese

  • I appreciate it.
    感謝します。
    kansha shimasu.

To express feelings of gratitude outside of the bounds of ありがとう (arigatou), you can use the formal 感謝します (kansha shimasu) or the casual 感謝する (kansha suru).

The word 感謝 (kansha) means “gratitude” or appreciation in Japanese. There are two kanji that make up this expression. Firstly, 感, which means “feeling” or emotion”. This kanji is then followed by 謝 which means “thanks” or “apologise”.

Quite literally, the meaning of 感謝 (kansha) can be understood as “a feeling to apologise”. This is because Japan and Japanese are both polite culturally and linguistically. Therefore, when you thank someone with 感謝 (kansha), you’re expressing an apology for the inconvenience that you may have caused them.

However, you can use 感謝します (kansha shimasu) in a wide array of situations; at a time when you wish to communicate that you appreciate something that someone has done for you.

For instance, you could attach more emotion to the expression and make it into the phrase:

  • 心の底から感謝します。
    kokoro no soko kara kansha shimasu.
    I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart.

Remember that you’re absolutely fine to omit pronouns in colloquial Japanese you’ll sound more natural if you do! For that reason, although the above phrase lacks any pronouns, when it is directed from one to another, context is clear enough to allow the omission.

Using すみません (sumimasen) to Express Thanks

  • I’m sorry (thanks).
    すみません。
    sumimasen.

すみません (sumimasen) is a formal word that means “excuse me” in Japanese. Typically, you would use it when trying to grab someone’s attention. This could be when you want to ask a shop assistant for some assistance, or when you’d like to initiate a conversation with a stranger, for instance.

However, you can also use すみません (sumimasen) to express a form of gratitude in Japanese. A great example of this is when you find yourself on a crowded train and are trying to make your way to the exit as you have reached your stop.

The sheer number of people is making this difficult to do so. So, as you’re hastily making your (non-forceful) way through, it would be polite to say すみません (sumimasen) a few times.

Let’s look at another example! You find yourself busy at work. However, lucky for you, your kind co-worker has offered to complete some of the work on your behalf. In this situation, you would be better off using すみません (sumimasen), rather than simply ありがとうございます (arigatou gozimasu). The reason for this is that すみません (sumimasen) is considerably more humbling.

  • すみません。お願いします。
    sumimasen. onegai shimasu.
    Thank you. Yes, please.

By using すみません (sumimasen) to express your thanks, it’s as if you’re saying “I’m sorry for this, but thank you” all in a single word.

More Ways to Express Thank you in Japanese

  • Thank you.
    サンキュー。
    sankyu-.

The Japanese word サンキュー (sankyu-) derives from the English word “thank you”, hence the similarities in pronunciation. Unlike the English word, though, サンキュー (sankyu-) is considered to be a casual expression.

Therefore, you should use サンキュー (sankyu-) when speaking with friends, family, or those you have an intimate connection. Furthermore, the word may come across as somewhat playful, so, during serious conversations, you may be better off sticking with ありがとう (arigatou) instead.

Interestingly, the word サンキュー (sankyu-)  also happens to have the same phonetics as the numbers 3 and 9 when spoken in Japanese. The pronunciation for the number 3, is さん (san), and 9 is きゅう (kyuu).

For this reason, you may encounter some interesting takes on the numbers 3 and 9, that when put together, can represent サンキュー (sankyu-) in Japanese.

No Thank You in Japanese

There are a number of ways you can express “no thank you” and decline someone’s offer or request in Japanese.

Very Formal No Thank You

  • No thank you (formal).
    結構です。
    kekkou desu.

The word 結構です (kekkou desu) is the most formal and direct way to express “no thank you” in Japanese.

Being quite a direct word, it can come across as quite blunt or abrupt if used during the wrong scenarios. Thus, using it when you need to convey precisely that you are declining something is recommended.

It has the nuance of “I’m good, no thanks”.

For instance, perhaps a shop assistant is advertising a product to you. To state that you do not want it, you can say:

  • 私は結構です。
    watashi ha kekkou desu.
    No thank you, I am good.

Interestingly, you can pair 結構です (kekkou desu), meaning “no thank you with ありがとうございます (arigatou gozimasu) meaning “thank you”. Here’s how it works.

As mentioned, the subject of sentences in Japanese can be dropped. This means that if you are asked if you’d like something, you could first reply with simply 結構です (kekkou desu) which would convey the meaning of “no thank you”.

Following up with ありがとうございます (arigatou gozimasu) afterwards would then tell the other person that you’re grateful for their help.

  • 結構です。ありがとうございます。
    kekkou desu. arigatou gozaimasu.
    I’m good (no thanks). Thank you (for your help).

Body language is also important in Japanese culture, bowing and other etiquette can go a long way when wanting to be polite.

Formal No Thank You

A slightly less formal way to express “no thank you” in Japanese, and the way I personally prefer using is to use is the following phrase:

  • 大丈夫です。
    daijoubu desu.
    It’s okay.

I fully explain the ins and outs of expressing “okay” in Japanese in this ultimate guide.

In short, 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) is a much more friendly, yet polite way to express that you don’t need or want something in Japanese. The expression 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) is extremely flexible and can be used in a plethora of situations.

For instance, a cashier may ask you if you’d like a plastic bag at the convenience store. You could say:

  • 袋は大丈夫です。
    fukuro ha daijoubu desu.
    Don’t worry about the bag.

Of course, replying simply with 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) would also be sufficient.

As another example, imagine you’re at a restaurant and the waiter asks if you’d like a refill on your drink. You could reply:

  • 私は大丈夫です。
    watashi ha daijoubu desu.
    I’m okay.

By itself, 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) has many meanings. These include “no thanks”, “I’m good”, and “okay”, hence the wide variety of uses.

Casual No Thank You

You may also wish to express “no thank you” casually in Japanese, such as when speaking with friends. To do this, you can simply remove the です (desu) and say:

  • 大丈夫。
    daijoubu.
    It’s okay.

It’s also worth noting that as you don’t need to specify pronouns in Japanese, simply saying 大丈夫 (daijoubu) can mean both “I’m okay” or “it’s okay”. Which meaning is being referred to, can usually be understood from the context.

Thanks For The Meal in Japanese

Thanks for the Meal

  • Thanks for the meal.
    いただきます。
    itadakimasu.

The above phrase is often said before eating a meal in Japan. It is similar to saying grace, however, there is much more to this word that can’t be justified in a single translation.

The literal meaning of いただきます (itadakimasu), is “I humbly accept it”, yet there is an underlying sense of gratitude to be felt with these powerful words.

When you say いただきます (itadakimasu), you’re emphasising your gratitude for the source of the food and meal entirely. You honour those who were involved in making the meal a reality, not just the cook, but the farmers, fishermen, merchants – everyone and everything.

For that reason, while reciting the phrase, some people will clasp their hands together, occasionally grasping the chopsticks with their thumbs and closing their eyes.

Thanks For Your Work Today

  • Good work today/thanks for your work.
    お疲れ様です。
    otsukaresama desu.

The above phrase is often used to thank someone for their hard work. You can use it in the workplace with colleagues, or you can even say it to a friend who has just finished a study session.

You have reached the end of this ultimate guide! お疲れ様です!(otsukaresama desu).

There are, of course, many more nuances to this expression. You can find the full explanation and a list of synonyms in this ultimate guide, that details how to say “Good Job” in Japanese.

Or, if you fancy browsing through the collection of How-to Japanese Ultimate Guides, you can find a link here:

More Ultimate How-to Japanese Guides

Good in Japanese

How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

The best way to say “good” in Japanese is いい (ii). The word いい (ii) is an i-adjective that is very common in colloquial speech.

Simply saying いい (ii) by itself can have a multitude of meanings. Depending on the context, it can mean “good”, “that’s good” or even “I’m good”. This is because when speaking Japanese, you drop the pronouns and other parts of the sentence when it’s already obvious from the context what exactly it is you’re saying.

いい (ii) can be paired with many Japanese words to create entire different meanings. For example, pairing the word for “head” in Japanese with the word for “good” in Japanese creates the meaning “smart” or “intelligent”. You can get pretty creative with word pairings, and it’s so much fun to discover new ways to say things.

Furthermore, you conjugate いい (ii) a little differently from regular i-adjectives. This makes some word pairings a little tricky to conjugate at times.

This ultimate guide is tailored for beginners and advanced learners alike. Entries cover the many circumstances in which may want to say “good”, and how you can say it naturally.

As such, all entries are accompanied by examples, explanations and audio for your pronunciation reference!

Good in Japanese

  • Good.
    いい。
    ii.

The word いい (ii) is an i-adjective and the best way to say “good” in Japanese. There are two types of adjectives in Japanese; i-adjectives and na-adjectives. The difference is that you conjugate i-adjectives a little differently than na-adjectives.

Although the overarching meaning of いい (ii) is “good”, it can also mean “fine”, “nice”, “well” or “sufficient”. Despite the many meanings, the concept is the same.

Examples of いい (ii)

Good Idea

For instance:

  • いい考えだ!
    ii kangae da!
    Good idea!

We could also interpret the above example as “nice idea”, which ultimately shares the same meaning as the original. Therefore, during these occasions, “good” and “nice” are interchangeable.

It goes without saying that there are times where the “nice” may be a more natural interpretation of いい (ii). For example,

  • いい笑顔だ!
    ii egao da!
    Nice smile!

In this instance, the word “nice” fits much better than “good”. The meaning of the smile being “good” is still present, we just deliver it slightly differently in the English interpretation.

Suggested: How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

I’m Good (no thanks) in Japanese

Just like in English, when we say something is “good” we’re not always directing it as a compliment. Let’s say a family member has asked you if you’d like some cake. You may reply:

  • 私はいい、ありがとう。
    watashi ha ii, arigatou.
    I’m good, thanks.

During these circumstances, we’re using いい (ii) to decline an offer or request. The connotations here are the same in both Japanese and English.

Note that you can also just say いい (ii) by itself to decline something. However, this is a very casual way of speaking and would be considered rude if you were to say it to people who are not your close friends or family.

That’s Good in Japanese

Sometimes we say “that’s good” when something is sufficient enough in English. Imagine that someone is pouring you a glass of your favourite beverage, and ask you to let them know when to stop pouring. You can say:

  • いい!
    ii!
    That’s good!

We frequently omit pronouns and other parts of a sentence or phrase when the context is understood. This also applies to the above case, as it’s obvious from the context you’re referring to the fact that there is a sufficient amount of drink that’s been poured. This is why simply saying いい (ii) by itself can have a multitude of meanings!

If the person to whom you’re speaking is not a family member or friend, you’re going to need to speak politely. To do this, you can say いいです (ii desu), which is the formal way to say “good” in Japanese.

Suggested: How to say Stop in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Attaching and emphasising ね (ne) after saying いい (ii) will also render the meaning “that’s good”. However, unlike the example above, this variation can be interpreted as a way to compliment someone or something, with nuances similar to the phrase “that’s good, isn’t it?” in English.

  • いいね!
    ii ne!
    That’s good!

You can also insert a subject into this expression. For instance:

  • その服はいいね!
    sono fuku ii ne!
    Your clothes are good!

When you include the addition of ね (ne) you’re seeking agreement or confirmation from the person you’re communicating with. Hence, after expressing a phrase that ends with ね (ne) you would typically expect some kind of response.

The Kanji for Good

In Japanese hiragana “good” is いい (ii). However, it also has a kanji.

Unlike other Japanese words, when you put いい (ii) into kanji, the reading changes. The kanji for “good” in Japanese is 良い (yoi).

Although colloquially you pronounce it the same as its hiragana form いい (ii), you can also write いい (ii) in casual situations, such as when messaging a friend. In other words, you do not need to use the kanji in casual writing. It’s optional.

With that said, there is a much stronger formal connotation attached to 良い (yoi). Therefore, you’ll mostly see the kanji version written in newspapers, articles, and emails etc.

Very rarely is 良い (yoi) used in speech, however, it can be heard occasionally in very formal situations when Japanese Keigo is necessary.

On the other hand, 良い (yoi) is used as the base when conjugating tenses or forms, such as the past tense. Therefore, when conjugating the word for “good” into “was good” for instance, we first have to take the word for “good” with its kanji.

Was Good in Japanese

  • Was good.
    良かった。
    yokatta.

To express how something or someone “was good” in Japanese, you use 良かった (yokatta).

The word 良かった (yokatta) is essentially いい (ii), the word for “good” in Japanese in the past tense.

As stated above, to conjugate いい (ii), it’s necessary to put it into kanji, which makes it 良い (yoi). The act of rendering it into its kanji also changes its reading from (ii) to (yoi).

Once that process is complete, we can then conjugate 良い (yoi) into any tense as we would any other i-adjective.

To transform an i-adjective into the past tense, simply remove the ending い (i), and attach かった (katta).

Therefore, removing the い (i) from 良い (yoi) makes it よ (yo), then by attaching かった (katta), we get 良かった (yokatta), meaning “was good”.

Note that including the kanji is optional.

Examples

Good Time

You can express that something “was good” with かった (yokatta).

  • 祭りは良かった!
    matsuri ha yokatta!
    The festival was good!

It’s important to know that when you are speaking with a teacher, manager or stranger you will need to speak formally. To do this with the above sentence structure, simply attach です (desu) to 良かった (yokatta). This makes it 良かったです (yokatta desu).

The past form for “good” in Japanese is not いいでした (ii deshita).

  • 天気は良かったのに
    tenki ha yokatta no ni.
    (it’s a shame as) The weather was good.

Those of you who are lower-intermediate or higher will probably be aware of the のに (no ni) grammar.

The のに (no ni) grammar is a way to say “even though” in Japanese. It usually connects two phrases or sentences to form a complete sentence following the structure: Even though X, Y.

However, you do not always need to connect のに (no ni) with another sentence. Finishing the sentence with のに (no ni) connotates that the subject of the sentence was unfortunate or regrettable.

In the above example, we can use のに (no ni) to express how it’s a shame that that something didn’t happen, as the weather happened to be good.

I’m Glad in Japanese

Simply saying 良かった (yokatta) by itself emphasises a feeling of relief, similar to the feeling felt when expressing “I’m glad” in English.

As mentioned, you do not need to always specific pronouns in Japanese when the context is understood. Furthermore, 良かった (yokatta) is frequently used to express “I’m glad” in Japanese, so you needn’t worry about clarity in communication.

Perhaps, you’re worried about someone, so you ask them if they are okay. This could be because they were sick, an accident, or any event that would cause you to be concerned.

They tell you everything is fine, to which point you can respond:

  • 良かった!
    yokatta!
    I’m glad!

You can even express your satisfaction in how something turned out directly by saying:

  • 良かった!安心した。
    yokatta! annshin shita.
    I’m glad! I’m relieved.

To clarify, you do not need to specify that it is you, the speaker who is feeling relieved. This information is already inferred.

Not Good in Japanese

  • Not good.
    良くない。
    yokunai.

To describe something as bad or undesirable in Japanese, you can use 良くない (yokunai).

For instance:

  • そのドレスは良くない
    sono doresu ha yokunai.
    That dress is not good.

As explained above, the word 良い (yoi) is いい (ii), the Japanese word for “good” put into kanji. Regardless of whether or not it’s in kanji, 良い (yoi) and いい (ii) are both i-adjectives.

To make i-adjectives negative you replace the ending い (i) of the affirmative with くない (kunai).  Therefore 良い inflects to 良くない (yokunai) which forms the negative.

  • それは良くない態度だと思う。
    sore ha yokunai taido da to omou.
    I think that’s not a good attitude.

Note that it’s most natural to use 良くない (yokunai) when not referring to the skill or ability of someone or something. This is because there is a separate word for this in Japanese.

Not Good (ability) in Japanese

Not Good in Japanese

To express how your or someone else’s ability at something is poor, you can use the word 下手 (heta).

It’s important to know that this word is considerably strong. When you use 下手 (heta), you’re directly saying that someone’s ability is terrible.

  • 日本語が下手です。
    nihon go ga heta desu.
    My Japanese is terrible.

In the above example, the pronouns have been omitted because it’s more natural to speak without them in Japanese.

下手 (heta) with Nouns

To form a sentence using 下手 (heta) with nouns, follow the structure:

  • Noun+が下手 (です)。
    Noun + ga heta (desu).

The です (desu) is required if you are speaking formally to a manager, teacher or stranger. With friends feel free to omit it! With this sentence structure, you can express how anything has a poor skill level. For example:

  • ゲームが下手
    ge-mu ga heta.
    I’m awful at games.

下手 (heta) with Verbs

To use 下手 (heta) with verbs, use the following sentence structure:

  • Verb (dictionary form)+のが下手 (です)。
    Verb (dictionary form) + no ga heta (desu).

The dictionary form is a grammatical term used to refer to the base form of a verb, which is how you’ll find it in dictionaries. As a quick example, the dictionary form of します (shimasu), meaning “to do”, is する (suru).

You then take のが下手 (です) and attach it to the end of the dictionary form verb. This allows you to form sentences such as:

  • ゲームするのが下手
    ge-mu suru no ga heta.
    I’m awful at playing games.

You may be wondering why there is an inclusion of the の (no) particle. The purpose of this の (no) is to transform the preceding dictionary form verb into a noun. This allows us to apply all kinds of grammar to verbs (which typically appear at the end of the sentence) as they now function as nouns!

Wasn’t Good in Japanese

  • Wasn’t good.
    良くなかった。
    yokunakatta.

To express how something that happened was disappointing or bad, you can use 良くなかった (yokunakatta).

For instance, perhaps you’ve just finished watching a movie with a friend and you feel as if it wasn’t great. You could express this by saying:

  • 映画は良くなかった
    eiga ha yokunakatta.
    The movie wasn’t good.

良くなかった (yokunatta) is also inflected from 良い (yoi), the Japanese word for “good”. Firstly, 良い (yoi) becomes 良くない (yokunai), meaning not good. Then, as we covered, to make an i-adjective past tense, replace the ending い (i) with かった (katta). This transforms 良くない (yoknai) into 良くなかった (yokunakatta).

Gotten Good in Japanese

  • Gotten good.
    良くなった。
    yokunatta.

You can use 良くなった (yokunatta) to express that someone or something has gotten good, or better compared to previously. For instance:

  • 急に良くなった!
    kyuuni yokunatta! 
    I/It suddenly got good/better.

The word 良くなった (yokunatta) is formed from applying the なる (naru) grammar to the word 良い (yoi).

You can even use 良くなった (yokunatta) to talk about getting better after an illness.

  • 良くなったと思う。
    yokunatta to omou.
    I think I’ve gotten better.

I’ve composed an ultimate guide that covers how to express your concern about someone in Japanese, and how to wish them to feel better soon.

Very Good in Japanese

Good Person in Japanese

For all the ways on how to compliment someone on a good job in Japanese, have a glance at this ultimate guide.

  • Very Good.
    とてもいい。
    totemo ii.

To express your thoughts and opinions on something directly, you can use とてもいい (totemo ii).

We’ve covered the latter part of this phrase at the beginning of this guide. いい (ii) is the adjective for “good” in Japanese.

The former word is one of the many ways to say “very” in Japanese. It’s slightly formal, but you can use it to describe your thoughts on a topic. For instance,

  • とてもいい車ですね。
    totemo ii kuruma desu ne.
    Very nice car.

As いい (ii) also has the meanings of “nice” or “fine”, its usage becomes very flexible.

You can also use this expression for people:

  • かれはとてもいい人ですよ。
    kare ha totemo ii hito desu yo.
    He is a very good person.

Great in Japanese

Depending on the subject, the Japanese word for “great” will be different.

Here are examples of the many different ways of expressing “great” in Japanese.

  • Great Grandfather.
    ひいおじいさん。
    hii ojiisan.
  • Great Grandmother.
    ひいおばあさん。
    hii obaasan.

Just like in English, you can repeat ひい (hii) to increase the number of “greats”.

  • Great Achievement.
    大した功績。
    taishita kouseki.
  • Great Power.
    大きいな力。
    ookii na chikra

Note that 大きい (ookii) is also commonly understood as “big”.

  • Great Scientist.
    偉い科学者。
    erai kagaku sha.

偉い (erai) is a word that refers to a person who has reached a significant professional level in their career.

  • Great War/World War.

    taisen

大, the kanji for “large” or “big” can also be used to refer to events of significant importance.

Sometimes we want to compliment someone or something and refer to them/it as great. This is different to the nuances implied with 偉い (erai). I highly recommend watching this wonderful short and sweet video that explains the nuances and implications very clearly.

A  natural way to express your appreciation of something in Japanese is to use 素晴らしい (subarashii).

The adjective 素晴らしい (subarashii) is commonly understood to mean “wonderful” and can be used when you want to express how great something was.

  • 先生の授業は素晴らしい。
    sensei no jyugyou ha subarashii.
    The teachers/your lessons are wonderful.

I’ve used this exact phrase to my Japanese teachers in the past when I wanted to express my appreciation of their lessons. In Japanese, it’s natural to refer to your teacher as 先生 (sensei), regardless if you’re talking with them directly, or talking about them to someone else.

Complimenting Someone (Pairing いい)

Pairing the Japanese word for “good” with other words combines them into single words which you can use to compliment someone or something.

You’re Cool in Japanese

For instance, the word 恰好 (kakko) meaning “appearance”, “figure” or “shape” can be paired with いい (ii), the word for “good” in Japanese.

Combining them together makes the adjective 恰好いい (kakkoii), which means “cool” or “stylish”.

It’s a pretty creative part of the Japanese language that’s super fun to explore!

  • 彼女はマジで格好いい
    kanojo ha majide kakkoii.
    She is seriously so cool.

You can even use this adjective and other similar words to describe someone as “dreamy” in Japanese too.

You’re smart/intelligent in Japanese

Another example of one of these pairings involves the way you can describe someone as being smart or intelligent in Japanese.

To do this, we first have to take the word for “head” in Japanese. This word is 頭 (atama). Usually, 頭 (atama) will then be followed by the が (ga) particle, however, this can be omitted in casual speech.

Lastly, attach いい (ii) to the end of the phrase and you get:

  • Smart/intelligent.
    頭がいい。
    atama ga ii.

The word for smart/intelligent in Japanese quite literally translates to “good head” in English. Can’t argue with that logic! Again, the が (ga) particle is optional in casual speech.

By attaching the ね (ne) particle to the end of this expression and emphasising it in conversation renders the meaning to “you’re smart”.

  • 頭がいいね。
    atama ga ii ne.
    You’re smart.

The reason the meaning changes to “you’re” is because of two things. Firstly, pronouns are omitted frequently in Japanese as it is more natural to speak without them when the context is clear. Secondly, as the ね (ne) particle functions similar to “right?”, the meaning of the entire sentence connotates “You’re smart, right?”

Therefore it’s not necessary to use pronouns.

In circumstances where you do need to be more specific though, you should always use the person’s name to address them, even when speaking with them directly. This is more natural than any other way of saying “you” in Japanese.

  • [name], 頭がいいね。
    [name], atama ga ii ne.
    [name], You’re smart.

If you’re speaking about someone to someone else, make sure to drop the final ね (ne).

Regardless if you include the ね, attach です (desu) after いい (ii) to make it formal. This makes it 頭がいいですね (atama ga ii desu ne), which is a formal way of saying “you’re smart”.

Good Boy/Good Girl For Pets in Japanese

In English, we praise pets by calling them a “good girl” or “good boy”. In Japanese, a more gender-neutral expression is used instead.

  • Good boy/girl.
    いい子。
    ii ko.

The expression いい子 (ii ko), quite literally translates as “good child”. You can use it when praising your pets the same way as you would say “good boy” or “good girl in English.

Likewise, you can also use いい子 (ii ko) to praise a child or someone (in a cute way).

Good/Likes on Social Media

In English, we would typically send a thumbs up or even a heart on social media to express that we like the content.

Whereas in Japanese, interestingly, the text いいね (ii ne) appears instead. You then click いいね (ii ne) which tells people you “liked” it.

This いいね (ii ne) is the same as what we covered earlier under the first entry, meaning “that’s good”.

You are Good (ability) in Japanese

You can use 上手 (jouzu) to compliment someone’s ability or skill at doing something. It is the opposite of 下手 (heta) which is used to express a lack of ability in something. I full explain 下手 (heta) above.

  • 日本語上手ですね。
    nihongo jouzu desu ne.
    Your Japanese is good.

There is a little bit of a running joke in the Japanese language learning community that stems from Japanese people who are quick to compliment any foreigners’ Japanese.

Often you’ll hear the above phrase used by Japanese native speakers to compliment foreigners’ language ability, regardless if they are actually good or not. You can say a simple こんにちは (konnbichi ha), and you may get a 日本語上手 (nihongo jouzu) as a response.

Of course, native speakers who say this are not intending to be sarcastic or rude with their response. They are simply trying to encourage your learning and express their appreciation of you learning their language.

When the context is clear, you can use 上手 (jouzu) by itself to express “you’re good” in Japanese. For instance, perhaps a friend has painted a picture. They show it to you and you say:

  • 上手!
    jouzu!
    This is good! (you did a fantastic job!)

When you use 上手 (jouzu) by itself like this, the meaning becomes very flexible. It expresses how “good,” you think someone’s ability is, as well as how well the painting came out.

It’s important to know that it would be considered rude to express your own skillfulness at something with 上手 (jouzu).

上手 (jouzu) with Nouns

Too Good in Japanese

Grammatically speaking, 上手 (jouzu) follows the same rules as 下手 (heta) during conjugation.

To form a sentence with 上手 (jouzu) using nouns, follow the structure below.

  • Noun+が上手 (です)。
    Noun + ga jouzu (desu).

Note that the inclusion of です (desu) is required if you are speaking formally. As an example of a sentence using the above structure:

  • 料理が上手
    ryouri ga jouzu!
    You are good at cooking!

You may have noticed how in the very first example of “your Japanese is good” the が (ga) is absent. This is because が (ga) is sometimes dropped from the sentence in speech.

上手 (jouzu) with Verbs

上手 (jouzu) follows the same grammatical rules as 下手 (heta) with verbs too!

  • Verb (dictionary form)+のが上手 (です)。
    Verb (dictionary form) + no ga jouzu (desu).

To clarify, the dictionary form refers to verbs that are in a base form. This is how verbs generally appear when searched in the dictionary.

You cannot connect a verb to が上手 (ga jouzu). First, we have to make the entire preceding clause a noun. To do this, we place の (no) after the verb which then allows us to conjugate it the same as we would for nouns!

As an example,

  • 絵を描くのが上手
    e wo egaku no ga jouzu.
    You are good at painting pictures.

Looks Good in Japanese

  • Looks good.
    良さそう。
    yosasou.

It’s common to use 良さそう (yosasou) when referring to an object, event or an appearance to describe it as “looking good”. If something “seems” good to you, you can express it with 良さそう (yosasou).

However, to compliment someone more naturally on their appearance (or personality) in Japanese, refer to this guide:

How to say Beautiful in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

You can use 良さそう (yosasou) to express your overall positive opinion on an object.

  • あの家は良さそう
    ano ie ha yosasou.
    That house looks good.

You can also use it to emphasise that a time looks good to you.

  • 日曜日の天気は良さそう
    nichiyoubi no tenki ha yosasou.
    Sunday’s weather looks good.

If someone’s state of health has seemed a little poor recently, but today they seem better, you can express this:

  • 彼女は今日の調子が良さそう
    kanojo ha kyou no choushi ga yosasou.
    She looks well recently.

Too Good in Japanese

  • Too good.
    良すぎる。
    yosugiru.

You can use 良すぎる (yosugiru) to communicate that you feel something is “too good” in Japanese.

  • これは良すぎる
    kore ha yosugiru.
    This is too good.

The すぎる (sugiru) part of this expression is a grammar point that replaces the final い (i) on an i-adjective to emphasise excessiveness. We know that 良 (yo) is the kanji from いい (ii), the adjective for “good” in Japanese. Therefore, when combined with すぎる (sugiru), the meaning is quite literally “too good”.

  • 運が良すぎる
    un ga yosugiru.
    Your luck is too good.

Related: How to say Good Luck in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

An interesting idiom that uses this expression is 虫が良すぎる (mushi ga yosugiru). As 虫 (mushi) means “insect” in Japanese, this phrase literally means “the insect is too good”. The meaning, however, is used to imply selfishness.

In particular, using this idiom tells someone that they’re taking something for granted or are asking for a little too much.

Tastes Good in Japanese

Although the Japanese language gives plenty of flexibility and freedom with pronoun usage, there are occasions when being direct with some things is more natural.

For instance, to describe good food in Japanese, you don’t use the adjective いい (ii) at all. Instead, you use:

  • 美味しい。
    oishii.
    Tastes good/delicious.

Tastes Too Good

Likewise, when expressing that something tastes too good, you use 美味しい (oishii) and pair it with the grammar すぎる (sugiru).

This makes it:

  • 美味しすぎる。
    oishisugiru.
    Tastes too good.

Remember that with i-adjectives, you have to replace the final い (i) with すぎる (sugiru) to be grammatically correct. It is not 美味しいすぎる (oishii sugiru)

I’m Doing Good

  • I’m doing good.
    元気。
    genki.

元気 (genki) is the best way to express that you’re doing well after someone has asked you how you are. You can use it by itself if speaking casually, or pair it with です (desu), making 元気です (genki desu) to speak formally.

There are many nuances to 元気 (genki) as well as other alternatives that you can use.

I include a full explanation in these ultimate guides:

How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say What’s up in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

No Good in Japanese

  • No good.
    だめ。
    dame.

You can use だめ (dame) to decline an invitation or to describe a situation that doesn’t work for you.

For instance, if a friend asks you if you’re available on Saturday and you’re not, you can tell them using だめ (dame).

  • 土曜日はだめ
    douyoubi ha dame.
    Saturday is no good.

Interestingly, you can also use だめ (dame) in regards to people. Although as you might expect from calling someone useless, it’s quite rude.

  • だめ人。
    damehito
    Worthless person.

だめ (dame) is not just limited to these scenarios either. You can use だめ (dame) to describe objects that are no good.

This could be because either they’re broken, not the right tool for the task, or because they’ve gone off (because they are food).

  • 卵はだめだ。
    tamago ha dame da.
    The eggs are no good.

Amazing in Japanese

Amazing in Japanese

  • Amazing.
    すごい。
    sugoi.

To describe something truly good, or amazing in Japanese, useすごい (sugoi).

Appropriate times to use すごい (sugoi) include those when you’re filled with excitement, left awestruck, or are overwhelmed by something.

In Japanese, すごい (sugoi) is mostly a casual word that can be used in situations that are good or bad.

Just like the word “amazing” in English, there are many scenarios where you could use すごい (sugoi).

To express happiness:

  • テストに合格した?すごい
    tesuto ni goukaku shita? sugoi!
    So you passed the test? That’s amazing!

When you’re amazed by someone or something:

  • 日本語能力はすごいね!
    nihongo noyouryoku ha sugoi ne!
    Your Japanese ability is amazing!

As an adverb:

  • 景色はすごくきれい!
    keshiki ha sugoku kirei!
    The view is incredibly beautiful!

To express something very bad:

  • この状況はすごくまずい!
    kono joukyou ha sugoku mazui!
    This situation is extremely bad!

Crazy Good

  • Crazy good.
    やばい。
    yabai.

やばい (yabai) is strictly a slang term that a very large number of uses.

Similar to the English word “crazy” or “sick”, やばい (yabai) can be used to describe things that are really great, or really terrible.

It can mean anything along the lines of:

  1. dangerous
  2. awful
  3. terrible
  4. amazing
  5. terrific
  6. sick
  7. crazy
  8. insane
  9. extreme

Therefore, it’s possible to use やばい (yabai) to describe any number of these 9 situations.

You can really emphasise your opinion on something. For instance, you can say:

  • このピザはやばい。美味しすぎる!
    kono piza ha yabai. oishisugiru!
    This pizza is insane. It’s too tasty!

It’s possible to completely flip the subject of the sentence to one where something is terrible.

  • この計画はやばいよ!
    kono keikaku ha yabai yo!
    This plan is crazy/dangerous!

You can also use やばい (yabai) in regards to people.

Whether the meaning is やばい (yabai) is considered positive or not is up to interpretation and context.

  • 彼はやばいやつだ。
    kare ha yabai yatsu da.
    He is a crazy person.

More Ways to Say Good in Japanese

  • Come again if you’d like.
    良かったらまた来てね。
    yokattara mata kite ne.

There are so many ways to conjugate the word for “good” in Japanese, いい (ii).

In the example above, 良かったら (yokattara) is another conjugation of いい (ii) that can be interpreted as “if you’d like” or “if it’s okay”. You use it when you want to invite someone to something, or request something from someone.

  • 良かったら他の記事も見てみてね
    yokattara hoka ni kiji mo mite mte ne.
    If you’d like, have a look at some other articles also.

I have composed a collection of Ultimate How-to Japanese guides. Take a look if you’d like more content!

Or in Japanese

How to say Or in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

The most common way to say “or” in Japanese is to link the two words or sentences with the particle か (ka).

During the beginner stages of Japanese language learning, you may recognise か (ka) as the question particle. You place it at the end of a formal sentence to transform it into a question. Words such as です (desu) will become ですか (desuka) etc.

However, you can also use か (ka) to link two things together via “or“. You can also repeat it after multiple successive options. For instance,

  • ケーキコーラパン。
    ke-ki ka ko-ra ka pan.
    Cake or cola or bread.

For everyday conversation, using か (ka) when you want to say “or” in Japanese is sufficient and you will sound natural.

With that said, there are several other ways to say “or” in Japanese outside of this grammar.

You may encounter many of these alternative ways in written text or during conversations where formal speech is necessary.

It goes without saying that you will also need to know them for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), N4 or above!

All entries in this guide are accompanied by audio clips for your pronunciation reference.

Or in Japanese

  • Or.
    か~か。
    ka~ka.

The most common way to say “or” in Japanese is to use か (ka). You can use か (ka) after multiple verbs (dictionary form), nouns or adjectives to link them together with the equivalent to the English “or” in Japanese.

When connecting words with か (ka), you’re listing possible options, while emphasising that one of them will be suitable or appropriate.

Saying Or in Japanese Examples

Essentially, you use か (ka) to state two or more choices.

For instance:

  • バス電車で京都に行きます。
    basu ka densha de kyoto ni ikimasu.
    I’ll go to Kyoto by bus or train.

In the above example, the single か (ka) functions the same as “or” does in English.

You can use か (ka) as many times as you need to list choices with “or”.

  • 青、全部が好き!
    kuro ka aka ka ao, zenbu ga suki!
    Black or red or blue, I like them all!

When the list of alternatives emphasises further consideration or a decision, the final ending grammar particle needs to be replaced with another か (ka).

Let’s take a look at an example sentence.

  • 彼はすごいやばいわからない。
    kare ha sugoi ka yabai ka wakarnai.
    I don’t know if he’s awesome or just crazy.

It’s important to know that when deciding between the alternatives, you have to end the last word (or sentence) in the list with か (ka) to completely connect them naturally.

In the above example, the comparison is being made if the person is awesome or crazy. Despite there being only one “or” present in English, two か (ka)’s are required in Japanese. This would then replace any grammar particle that would otherwise be necessary.

Or in Japanese Examples

Related: How to say I don’t Know in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Here’s another example!

  • ケーキを食べる食べない決められない。
    ke-ki wo taberu ka tabenai ka kimerarenai.
    I can’t decide whether to eat or not to eat the cake.

This person is considering their alternatives – to eat or not eat the cake. Therefore final particle has to be replaced with か (ka).

Asking Questions – Which do You Prefer

To ask someone a question with “or” in Japanese, there is a very simple structure you should follow.

  • XかY, Question.

With the above pattern, replace the X and Y with the two choices, and follow with the question you’d like to ask.

For instance, you could say:

  • お肉お魚、どちらの方が好きですか?
    oniku ka osakana, dochira no hou ga suki desuka?
    Meat or fish, which do you prefer?

Or/Perhaps in Japanese

  • Or.
    あるいは。
    aruiwa.

The word あるいは means “or” in Japanese, and has formal connotations and would usually be found written in passages or heard in polite speech.

You can use あるいは (aruiwa) to list multiple items or options that are related to each other in some way. Using あるいは (aruiwa) emphasises the listed items as possible alternatives to/for something.

あるいは (aruiwa) Examples

For instance, let’s say you’re following a cake recipe. You notice this:

  • バターあるいはマーガリンが必要。
    bata- aruiwa ma-garin ga hitsuyou.
    Butter or margarine is needed.

In this example, it is conveyed that butter or margarine is required to make the cake. In this topic, these two ingredients fall into the same category as one can be substituted for the other.

Thus, using あるいは (aruiwa) emphasises that one of the possible options will be necessary.

Similarly, you can also use あるいは (aruiwa) in situations where there are several options to choose from that contribute to progression towards a certain goal.

To reiterate, using あるいは (aruiwa) is a way to present a list of alternatives to/for the purpose of something.

  • 学校に電車で行くか、あるいは自転車で行くか迷っている。
    gakkou ni densha de iku ka, aruiha jitensha de iku ka mayotteiru.
    I’m not sure if I’ll go to school by train or by bicycle.

In the above sentence, the emphasis is on how it’s possible to use both the train or bicycle to go to school. The options of walking or taking the bus can also be alternative to choose from.

Using あるいは (aruiwa) to say Perhaps in Japanese

The word あるいは (aruiwa) also has the nuance of “ or perhaps”, or ” or maybe”.

It’s also possible to begin a sentence with あるいは (aruiwa).

  • あるいは、彼はその可能性に気づいていたのかもしれない。
    aruiha, kare ha sono kanousei ni kizuiteitanokamoshirenai.
    Or perhaps, he had maybe noticed the possibility.

The above example is still presented as an alternative suggestion to something else.

To clarify, when you use あるいは (aruiha), you’re emphasising the possible available options that are of similar types or related in some way.

Or in Japanese with もしくは (moshikuha)

  • Or.
    もしくは。
    moshikuwa.

The word もしくは (moshikuwa) is a more literary way to say “or” in Japanese.

Similarly to あるいは (aruiwa), the word もしくは (moshikuwa) can also be used to list items as a possible option for something.

However, unlike あるいは (aruiwa), もしくは (moshikuwa) strictly emphasises the difference between the outcomes of the options.

あるいは (aruiwa) is used to list items or options as possible alternatives to a solution. Whereas もしくは (moshikuwa) can be used to list options that are different or present different outcomes from each other.

もしくは (moshikuwa) also has the nuance of “otherwise” or “perhaps” in Japanese.

もしくは (moshikuwa) Examples

You use もしくは (moshikuwa) in circumstances where it’s not possible to achieve the same result from the same options. Only one of the options can come to be.

  • 学校に行くか、もしくは休むか。
    gakkou ni iku ka, moshiku wa yasumu ka.
    To go, or to not go to school.

In this example, you are presented with two options. You use もしくは (moshikuwa) here as the conclusion of if you will go to school or not will be ultimately decided by which option you pick.

You can also use もしくは (moshikuwa) to state a fact that something will happen at one of two possible times.

  • 6月もしくは10月に行われるイベント。
    6gatsu moshikuwa 10 gatsu ni okonawareru ibento.
    An event that will take place in June or October.

It’s best to use もしくは (moshikuwa) here as the event will take place in June or October, quite different times. In this case, もしくは (moshikuwa) highlights the difference in the time, which is something あるいは (aruiwa) would only do to a lesser extent.

Asking Questions with Or in Japanese

  • Or.
    それとも。
    soretomo.

The word それとも (soretomo) is fundamentally used in questions, rather than statements. Therefore, when you want to ask someone a question with “or” in Japanese, you use れとも (soretomo). By using それとも (soretomo) to connect alternative options together in the form of a question.

Where you can use あるいは (aruiwa) in questions and statements, それとも (soretomo) can only be used in questions.

それとも (soretomo) Examples

For instance, you could ask:

  • 学校まで歩きましょうか。それともバスで行きますか。
    gakkou made arukimashouka? soretomo basu made ikimasuka?
    Shall we walk all the way to school? Or shall we take a bus?

You’re presenting two possible alternatives in the form of a question, therefore you can use それとも (soretomo) to connect them together.

Suggested: How to say I Like You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Which one in Japanese

As another example, you can use それとも (soretomo) to ask someone if they like X or Y in Japanese.

  • 犬が好きですか。それとも猫のほうが好きですか。
    inu ga suki desuka? soretomo neko no hou ga suki desuka?
    Do you like dogs? Or do you like cats more?

How Not to Use それとも (soretomo)

あるいは (aruiwa) and それとも (soretomo) can be used interchangeably, except in the case of questions.

For example, you cannot say:

  • バターそれともマーガリンが必要です
    bata- soretomo ma-garin ga hitsuyou desu.
    We need butter or margarine.

As this sentence is a statement, rather than a question, you cannot use それとも (soretomo) to say “or” here. Instead, you should use あるいは (aruiha).

Or in Japanese with または (mata wa)

Either/ mataha

  • Or/Either.
    または。
    matawa.

または (matawa) is another way to say “or” in Japanese. There is a kanji for または (matawa). However, you’ll rarely see it used. This kanji is 又は.

You use または (matawa) between two options or sentences to link them together as possible choices.

It is different to あるいは (aruiwa) as the options aren’t restricted to being of a similar type to be listed.

または (matawa) Examples

However, similarly to あるいは (aruiwa), you can use また (matawa) to show that both options for something are acceptable.

With the options listed with また (matawa) you commit to one and discard the others.

For example:

  • フォームは黒ペンまたは青ペンで記入してください。
    fo-mu ha kuropen matawa aopen de kinyuu shi tekudsai.
    Please fill in the form with a blue or black pen.

In this example, the blue or black pen are acceptable options. This gives you the choice to select one method, and discard the other.

Emphasising Either in Japanese

 

Where あるいは (aruiwa) and もしくは (moshikuwa) have the nuance of “perhaps” to them, または (matawa) does not.

Instead of “perhaps”, “either” is emphasised much more. Let’s look at an example.

  • ランチセットにはドリンクまたはデザートがつきます。
    ranchi setto ni ha dorinku matawa desa-to ga tsukimasu.
    The lunch set comes with either a drink or a dessert.

The above example is something you may hear when attending a restaurant or cafe in Japan. Using または (matawa) here emphasises that the included drink or desserts are separate options available for you to choose from.

It has a sense of being “absolute” – the meal comes with either a drink OR dessert. For comparison, if you were to use あるいは (aruiwa) instead, the connotation of perhaps would be applied to the overall meaning.  The fact that they are different options is stressed with または (matawa).

How Not to Use または (matawa)

As previously mentioned, you cannot use または (matawa) in any sentence where you express uncertainty towards the subject when you want to say “or” in Japanese.

Let’s take a look at an example.

  • ミーティングは7時終了予定だが、あるいは延びるかもしれない
    mi-teingu ha 7 ji shuuryou yotei daga, aruiwa nobiru kamoshirenai.
    The meeting is set to finish at 7, (or) perhaps it’ll be extended.

In the above example, as there is doubt that the meeting will actually finish at 7, you’ll need to use あるいは (aruiwa). It can even be substituted for もしくは (moshikuwa).

However, in this case as well as those similar, you cannot use または (matawa), unless the subject has 100% certainty.

More Ways to Say Or in Japanese

More Ways to say Or in Japanese

  • Or.
    なり~なり。
    nari~nari.

なり~なり (nari~nari) functions similarly to か~か (ka~ka), which I explain in entry #1. You can pair it with nouns and/or verbs that are in their dictionary form. By doing so, you can link multiple options together, creating the sequence: X or Y.

The grammar なり~なり (nari~nari) falls into the N1 category. Note that it should not be used when directed toward a person who is of a higher social status such as a teacher or manager.

When you use なり~なり (nari~nari), you express different acceptable options without emphasising a preference. Think of it as a way to express a proposal of two options by saying: “X or Y, either is OK”. In this case, it’s similar to (mata wa).

Examples

 

  • 進路について親になり、先生になり相談して決めよう。
    shinro nitsuite oya ni nari, sensei ni nari soudan shi tekimeyou.
    Let’s decide your future path by discussing it with either your parents or teachers.

Generally, you’ll need to use two なり~なり (nari~nari) to link options together with a single “or”. Think of なり~なり (nari~nari) as the grammar that marks the words or phrases that appear at opposite sides of a single “or”.

  • 退屈なら選択なり、掃除なり手伝ってほしい。
    taikutsu nara, sentaku nari, souji nari tetsudatte hoshii.
    If you’re bored I’d like you to help me with either the cleaning or the laundry.

To reiterate, using this grammar emphasises that both options are fine. It is also possible to use a single なり (nari) when you want to specify or emphasise an available option directly.

Related: How to say Okay in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

For instance, let’s take a look at the following sentence.

  • 彼女になり相談したらいいです。
    kanojo ni nari soudan shitara ii desu.
    You may discuss it with her (or someone else).

By only including a single なり (nari), you emphasise the possibility of other options that were not stated. In the case of the example sentence above the use of one なり (nari) creates the connotation of “or another person, whichever is fine”.

なり~なり (nari~nari) is only used during situations like this where advice or a request is being spoken.

Or, Etc in Japanese

  • Or, etc.
    とか。
    toka.

とか (toka) is an expression that you can use to offer up examples of several possibilities that one doesn’t have to choose a specific option from. 

With とか (toka) you can list as many options as you deem necessary, without emphasising that a choice from that list is required.

とか (toka) Examples

For instance:

  • クリスマスにプレゼントとして新しい本とか漫画とか、どう?。
    kurisumasu ni purezento toshi teatarashii hon toka manga toka, dou?
    What do you think about a new book or manga (or something) as a Christmas present?

You don’t even have to list the options as a question with とか (toka). You can also use it in a reply too.

  • ラメんとかすしとか好きだよ。
    ramen toka sushi toka suki dayo.
    I like ramen and sushi etc.

In the case of the example sentence above, the とか (toka) indicates that there are further foods you may like. It leaves your response open-ended, and not restricted to only the specific things you’ve said.

Similar to the first example, you can also use とか (toka) to infer both “or” and “etc” simultaneously.

  • かくれんぼとか鬼ごっことかして遊ぼう。
    kakurenbo toka oni gokko toka shi teasobou.
    Let’s play tag or hide and seek (or something).

Casual Or in Japanese

soreka

  • That, or…
    それか。
    soreka.

A colloquial way to say “or” in Japanese is それか (soreka). It is similar to または (matawa), but more casual.

When you use それか (soreka), you’re answering a question with another proposed alternative. You’ll use it to begin new sentences that can answer a question. A good way to think of それか (soreka) is as “that or”.

For instance,

  • 明日に行くのはどう?それかあっさって行く?
    ashita ni iku no ha dou? soreka asatte iku?
    How about going tomorrow? Or should we go the day after?

In the above example, we can assume that the original question would have been something along the lines of “when should we go?” Using それか(soreka) allows us to suggest a valid alternative. With それか (soreka) we can indicate that “tomorrow” is plausible, but “the day after” is also possible.

Summary of the Best Ways to say Or in Japanese

There are approximately 8 different ways to say “or” in Japanese.

  1. か~か – Allows phrases, words and sentences to be chained together in a sequence.
  2. あるいは –  Presents a list of similar alternatives that fall into the same category to/for the purpose of something. Also has the nuance of “perhaps”.
  3. もしくは – Lists options that are different or present significantly different outcomes from each other. Also has the nuance of “perhaps”.
  4. それとも – Connects two possible alternatives in the form of a question. It cannot be used for statements.
  5. または – Used for occasions when both options for something are acceptable. One option is selected, and the other is discarded.
  6. なり~なり – Expresses different acceptable options without emphasising a preference. A proposal of two choices where either answer is OK.
  7. とか – Lists several options where there is no single “correct” answer.
  8. それか – Casual way to answer a question with a proposed alternative.

Overall, the most common way to say “or” in Japanese will be to used か (ka). In formal writing and speech, you’ll hear あるいは (aruiwa), もしくは (moshikuwa) etc much more frequently, but they can be heard in everyday conversation every once in a while too.

Are You Done? Or Do You Want to Study More?

  • もう終わりますか? それとも勉強を続けますか?
    mou owarimasu ka? soretomo benkyou wo tsutzukemasu ka?
    Are you done already? Or do you fancy studying some more?

I recommend looking at this amazing online free Japanese dictionary for some further examples should you be curious.

Or if you’d like to learn more Japanese, take a look at:

All Ultimate How-To Japanese Guides!

Recommended:

How to say Hope and I Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Dream in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

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