Japanese Language

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.

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.

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.

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.

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) 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) 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).



  • 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) 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


  • That, or…

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!


How to say Hope and I Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Dream in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Are you a Legend of Zelda fan and like Japanese? Come and quest with me on my YouTube channel!

I Like You in Japanese

20+ Ways to say “I Like You” in Japanese Explained (Not Just Suki)!

The best way to tell someone “I like you” in Japanese is to use either the casual 好き (suki) or the formal 好きです (suki desu).

It’s important to know that the distinction between “I like you” and “I love you” in Japanese is a little blurred, compared to English.

Although saying “I love you” in Japanese could be better expressed through 大好き (daisuki) or 愛している (aishiteru), sometimes it can be felt through 好き (suki) as well.

That’s why the context and the way you say 好き (suki) will determine whether you tell someone you like them or love them.

However, there are ways to explicitly emphasise that you like someone as a friend in Japanese to avoid misunderstanding.

Furthermore, there are plenty of ways to generally complement a particular feature or part of someone by telling them you like them in Japanese too. This includes ways of describing someone as being a very likeable person.

It’s important to know that the best way to address someone as “you” in Japanese is to call them by their actual name, even when you’re talking to that person directly. Therefore the following entries will have [name] as a placeholder. This also means you can use these entries to talk about [name] to someone else entirely. No need to fuss over pronoun usage here!

Each entry is accompanied by an audio clip with a native Japanese speaker for your reference.

I Like You in Japanese

  • I like you.

The best way to tell someone that you like them in Japanese is to use 好き (suki). You can use 好き (suki) just like that, as a standalone without any pronouns. This is because you don’t need to use pronouns when speaking in Japanese. This makes everything really easy to understand!

Therefore if you were to say to someone: 好き (suki), you are saying “I like you” to them in Japanese. Although 好き (suki) doesn’t explicitly mean “I love you”, it can be interpreted as a confession if you were to randomly blurt it out.

There are other ways you can use 好き (suki) to tell someone you like them to avoid confusion.

Confessing You Like Someone in Japanese

Confessing in Japanese

The first is to be much more direct with the intention and meaning behind your words. To achieve this, use 好きだ (suki da) with the inclusion of だ (da).

  • I like you.

When you tell someone 好きだ (suki da), you’re emphasising the finality of your speech. This is because だ (da) functions as a kind of final-sentence marker that expresses the certainty in your words. This means that when you tell someone 好きだ (suki da), they will 100% assume that you are confessing to them that you like them as more than just a friend.

It is a very direct way that ensures the person knows that you like them.

Another way to express that you like them more than a friend is to say:

  • [name] のことが好き。
     [name] no koto ga suki.
    I like you.

As the most natural way to address the person you’re talking with is to use their name rather than using “you” in Japanese, simply replace the above [name] with the person’s actual name.

When you use the above phrase, you’re telling the person that you like them and who they are. This is because of こと (koto). When paired with の (no) the possessive grammar particle, you express that you like the person for who they are.

Literally speaking, こと (koto) means an “intangible thing” in Japanese. Therefore you’re quite literally telling them that you like things about them.

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

I Like You As a Friend in Japanese

The second way is to emphasise slightly more that you like a person in general. You can do this with 好きだよ (suki da yo) which mellows down the confession-like feeling depending on the context.

For instance, imagine someone asks you if you like someone in general. You could reply:

  • その人? うん、普通に好きだよ。
     sono hito? un, futsuu ni suki da yo.
    That person? Yeah, I like them.

When spoken like this, the emphasis on liking someone romantically is lessened. You’re not implying that you like them in a romantic way, as opposed to simply saying 好き (suki). You can be even more specific though, and completely friendzone someone by telling them:

  • 友達として好きだよ。
    tomodachi toshite suki da yo.
    I like you as a friend.

Note that the sentence above can be interpreted as “I like you as a friend”, or “I like them as a friend” depending on the context. It is also the most direct way to safely confirm that you like someone strictly as a friend.

The first word that appears is 友達 (tomodachi), which means “friend” in Japanese. Next is として (toshite), a grammar point that can be paired with any Japanese noun to express “as”. Lastly is 好きだよ (suki da yo) which we have confirmed to mean “like you”.

Combined together the complete phrase is literally the exact same as the translation. You can’t go wrong with accidentally confusing someone with this phrase!

The Kanji for Like

The kanji for “like” in Japanese is 好. It can be associated with other meanings such as “fondness” or “pleasing”.

It does appear in other words, however, the most common is 好き (suki).

It’s also worth remembering that although simply saying 好き (suki) is enough to express your fondness for someone despite the lack of pronouns, 好き (suki) can also be used to refer to objects.

For instance, if someone were to ask you if you like sushi, you could reply with 好き (suki), which means “I like it”.

Formal Way to say I Like You in Japanese

  • I like you (formal speech).
    suki desu.

It’s important to adjust your speech depending on whom you are talking with. This is because Japanese is an honorific language with different styles of speech to express different levels of politeness.

When speaking with those who are of a higher social status than yourself, such as a manager, a teacher, or even a stranger you need to speak with increased politeness by using Keigo.

Although you most likely won’t be telling a stranger “I like you” in Japanese, you may however express those words to someone who is older than you. Especially in a school or work setting, addressing your upperclassmen, known as 先輩 (senpai), or superiors with polite speech is important.

To express that you like someone formally in Japanese, simply attach です (desu) to 好き (suki), making 好きです (suki desu).

Similar to how 好き (suki) functions when on its own (explained above), 好きです(suki desu) can also be used to say that you like someone (or something) in general, or as someone more than a friend.

Using the phrase 好きです (suki desu) has the implication of being a confession. Whereas, 好きですよ (suki desu yo) is a much lighter expression that conveys the implications of just liking someone in general.

Despite this, it ultimately comes down to the context beforehand. To ensure clarity, you could always say:

  • 友達として好きですよ。
    tomodachi toshite suki desu yo.
    I like you as a friend (formal).

This way, even in polite speech you can ensure no misunderstandings will happen.

I Like You Too in Japanese

I Like You too in Japanese

  • I like you too.
    watashi mo suki da yo.

If someone tells you that they like you, and you also like them too, you can reply with 私も好きだよ (watashi mo suki da yo).

Similar to English, telling someone directly that you like them too as a response can be interpreted as a confession on your end.

This phrase is made up of three parts. Firstly, 私 (watashi) is the word for “I” in Japanese. Although you should omit pronouns where possible to sound more natural, you need to include “I” this time. This is because the following word is も (mo) a Japanese particle that means “also” and sentences in Japanese do not start with particles.

The last part is 好きだよ (suki da yo) which we’ve already established to mean “like” in Japanese.

Unlike the pronoun for “I”, you can omit the pronoun for “you” in this sentence if you are talking to the person directly.

Specifying Who You Like Too – Pronouns

If you need to specify who it is that you also like, you can do so by referring to the person by their name, even if you are speaking to them directly.

In the case that you are speaking with that very person, calling them by their name functions the exact way as “you” does in English.

This means that the best way to call someone “you” in Japanese is to use their actual name.  You can use the following sentence structure:

  • [name] のことも好きだよ。
     [name] no koto mo suki.
    I like you/[name] too.

The biggest difference with this sentence is the inclusion of も (mo) to emphasise the “also” or “too”.

To make this formal, simply change 好きだよ (suki da yo), to 好きですよ (suki desu yo). This makes it 私も好きですよ (watashi mo suki desu yo).

The complete phrase is understood as a confession, so it can be seen as the most complete way to express your feelings for someone in Japanese.

Asking Someone Out in Japanese

When confessing in Japanese, you may also wish to ask the person out. You can do this in polite or casual speech depending on who you’re talking with.

If you’re looking to take your relationship to the next level with your friend, you can say:

  • 付き合ってくれる?
    Will you go out with me?

For anyone with whom you have a relationship that’s a little different to just friends, such as a co-worker or upperclassman, known as 先輩 (senpai), you’ll want to say:

  • 付き合ってください。
     tsukiatte kudasai.
    Please go out with me.

Both expressions share 付き合って (tsukiatte), the te-form of the verb 付き合う (tsukiau), with means “to go out with” in English.

The te-form has many uses, however, in this case, it enables the sentence to continue, as Japanese sentences typically end in verbs.

The main difference between the two expressions after 付き合って (tsukiatte) is that the casual variant ends with くれる (kureru), whereas, the formal ends with ください (kudasai).

Firstly, the くれる (kureru) in 付き合ってくれる? (tsukiatte kureru) emphasises the expression as a question. くれる (kureru) is typically attached to the end of te-form verbs to add a nuance of “for me” to the expression.

It is necessary here as you’re the one asking if someone could accept your proposal and go out with you, and くれる (kureru) emphasises that.

Secondly, the formal 付き合ってください (tsukiatte kudasai) features ください (kudasai), which is a polite way of saying “please” in Japanese.

Another function of the te-form is that it emphasises a request. ください (kudasai) is also typically attached to the end of te-form verbs, which transforms the phrase into a polite request.

With 付き合ってください (tsukiatte kudasai), you’re making a formal request to go out with someone.

We Are Dating in Japanese

If you end up together, you can say:

  • 私たちは付き合っている。
    watashitachi ha tsukiwatteiru.
    We are dating.

The word 付き合っている (tsukiatteiru) is the present progressive form of the verb 付き合う (tsukiau), meaning to go out with. This form is used to describe an action that is ongoing. Similar to how verbs end in “ing” in English. In this case, 付き合っている (tsukiatteiru) means “dating”.

私 (watashi) is the pronoun “I” in Japanese, and たち (tachi) is the suffix that makes it plural. This means that 私たち (watashitachi) means “we”.

You can use 私たちは付き合っている (watashitachi ha tsukiatteiru) to state that you two are a couple and are currently dating.

The Japanese word for Confession

The word for confession in Japanese is:

  • 告白。

You may want to express to your friends how someone’s confessed to you.

To do this, you can say:

  • 彼に告白された!
    kare ni kokuhaku sareta!
    He confessed to me!

Or perhaps you are the one doing the confessing!

  • さき告白した!
    saki kokuhaku shita!
    I just confessed!

Asking Do You Like Me? in Japanese

Do you like me in Japanese

Perhaps you have a suspicion that someone likes you, or maybe you’re just curious and want to know. To ask this question, you can say:

  • Do you like me?
    watashi no koto ga suki?

It’s important to know that when you use this expression, you’re asking specifically if the other person likes you as more than a friend.

私の (watashi no) consists of 私 (watashi), meaning “I”,  and の (no), the Japanese possessive particle. When this particle is combined with 私 (watashi), the meaning changes to “my”.

Literally speaking, こと (koto) is referred to as “intangible things”. However, when talking about the こと (koto) of a person, you refer to the very elements, the features that make them who they are.

が (ga) is another Japanese particle that defines the subject of the sentence. The speaker is asking if they are liked by someone, so the speaker themselves are the subject.

We know that 好き (suki) means “like”, therefore when you ask someone 私のことが好き? (watashi no koto ga suki), you are really asking them if they like you.

Complimenting Someone

You can use 好き (suki) to say what you like specifically like about someone in Japanese. Complimenting someone on their appearance or personality for example is similar to English in that it does not always have romantic connotations.

With that said, it entirely depends on the context, the situation, and your relationship with that person.

In this section, we’ll cover all the ways to express what it is you like about someone in particular.

It’s important to note that in the following entries, pronouns are not required. Simply replace [name] with the person’s actual name.

Even when talking with the person directly, you should use their name. This is the most natural way to address someone in Japanese.

This means that you can take any of the following expressions, replace [name] with the person’s actual name, and it’ll function the same as saying  “you” specifically.

You can also use any of the expressions below to say what you like about someone to someone else. This is because there are no pronouns, making these expressions extremely flexible.

I Like Your Personality in Japanese

I Like Your Personality

  • I like your personality.
    [name] no hitogara ga suki.

The most natural way to say personality in Japanese is 人柄 (hitogara). This word is a noun that has the meaning of one’s “personality”, “character”, or “personal appearance”.

人柄 (hitogara) has two kanji. The first is 人, which means “person” in Japanese. Secondly, 柄 has a few meanings such as “design” or “pattern”, however, it can also mean “essential qualities”, “character” or “one’s nature”.

This means when you use 人柄 (hitogara) you’re referring to one’s character and nature as a whole.

You can also describe what it is you like about their personality, by saying how it’s beautiful for instance.

To make this expression formal, attach です (desu) to the end of 好き (suki), making it 好きです (suki desu).

I Like Your Fashion Sense in Japanese

  • I like your fashion sense.
    [name] のファッションセンスが好き。
    [name] no fasshon sensu ga suki.

The word for fashion sense in Japanese is ファッションセンス (fasshon sensu). It is a word that has been borrowed from English, referred to as a “loan word”. For more information on katakana and loan words, refer to this ultimate guide.

The word ファッションセンス (fasshon sensu) has the same meaning as “fashion sense” does in English. The challenging part though is to adopt the correct pronunciation. Refer to the audio clip above, as it is pronounced slightly different to that of English.

It’s also possible to drop the ファッション (fasshon) part and just compliment someone on their sense.

  • [name] のセンスが好き。
    [name] no sensu ga suki.
    I like your taste (in things).

Although we probably wouldn’t express to someone how much we like their “sense” in English, in Japanese it’s possible to do. For instance, if you like someone’s overall taste in things, their style and character, you can refer to it all as センス (sensu).

Attach です (desu) to the end of the sentence to make it formal.

I Like Your Sense of Humour in Japanese

There are a few ways to express that you like someone’s sense of humour in Japanese. The first is to say it directly, by saying:

  • I like your sense of humour.
    [name] のユーモアのセンスが好き。
    [name] no yu-moa no sensu ga suki.

The word ユーモアのセンス (yu-moa no sensu) is, like the entry above, borrowed from English and is known as a “load word”. The の (no) which appears in the centre of the word is the possessive grammar particle. You use it to connect nouns together. In this case, it functions similarly to the English “of”, with the complete meaning being “sense of humour”.

The word ユーモア directly translates to the English word ” humour” and センス translates as “sense”.

Another way to express that you find someone funny is to simply say:

  • [name] は面白い!
    [name] ha omoshiroi!
    You’re hilarious/interesting.

The word 面白い (omoshiroi) is an i-adjective that can mean both “funny” and “interesting” in Japanese. Which meaning you want to use depends on the context of the situation.

But generally, if you’re laughing and showing a degree of happiness, telling someone that they’re 面白い (omoshiroi) would mean that you’re telling them that you think they’re funny.

It is also possible to simply shout out 面白い (omoshiroi) in Japanese. When you say 面白い (omoshiroi) by itself, you infer that you think the other person is funny or interesting.

  • 面白い!
    That’s hilarious/interesting.

To make any of these expressions formal, simply attachです (desu) to the end. For example, the casual 面白い (omoshiroi)! would become the formal 面白いです (omoshiroi desu)

I Like Your Kindness in Japanese

  • I like how kind you are.
    [name] の優しさが好き。
    [name] no yasashisa ga suki.

The word you can use to talk about “kindness” in Japanese is 優しさ (yasashisa).

優しさ originates from the i-adjective やさしい (yasashii), meaning “kind”. It has been conjugated into the sa-form which essentially adds the nuance of “ness” to the word.

This means that by conjugating the adjective from 優しい (yasashii) to the sa-form it becomes 優しさ (yasashisa), and the meaning changes from “kind” to “kindness”.

Another function of the sa-form is that it also transforms adjectives into nouns. Therefore, we can express that we like it.

The kanji that appears here is 優, which means “tenderness” “excel” or “gentleness”.

I Like Spending Time With You in Japanese

I Like Spending Time With You

  • I like to spend time with you.
    [name] と過ごす時間が好き。
    [name] to sugosu jikan ga suki.

To express that you like spending time with someone in Japanese, say their name followed by the sentence と過ごす時間が好き (to sugosu jikan ga suki). Attaching です (desu) after 好き (suki) will make it formal.

When you say と (to) straight after saying the person’s name, you’re saying “with you” in Japanese. This is because you can use と (to) to connect nouns, or in this case, two people together. Essentially と (to) functions as “with”.

The word 過ごす (sugosu) is a verb that means “to spend” in Japanese. You will mostly pair this word with the word for “time”, which is the next word that follows. Time in Japanese is 時間 (jikan).

When 過ごす (sugosu) and 時間 (jikan) and paired together, you create the meaning “spend time”.

As 時間 (jikan) is a noun, we can attach the final part of the phrase が好き (ga suki) without making any modifications.

Which completes the expression as [name]と過ごす時間が好き ([name]to sugosu jikan ga suki).

I Think I Like You in Japanese

  • I think I like you.
    [name] が好きになったみたい。
    [name] ga suki ni natta mitai.

Just like the above entries, to address someone as “you” in Japanese, you have to refer to them by their actual name, even if you’re talking with them directly.

You can use this phrase to express how you think you like someone in Japanese. Just like in English, when telling someone that you think you like them, you’re also arguably confessing to them.

Simply saying the first part of this expression [name] が好き ([name] ga suki), you’re already telling the person you like them. We covered this in the first entry!

The rest of the phrase can be understood as two parts. The first is the section that follows immediately after 好き (suki). These words are になった (ni natta).

The word なった (natta) is the past tense of the verb なる (naru) which means “to become”. Therefore, なった (natta) means “became”.

The preceding に (ni) is the grammar particle that always accompanies なる (naru) to connect it to a preceding non-verb.

If you were to say the sentence up to this point, excluding the last part みたい (mitai), the meaning would be:

  • [name] が好きになった。
    [name] ga suki ni natta.
    I’ve come/started to like you.

Expressing “I think”

The final part of this phrase is みたい (mitai).

When you end a sentence with みたい (mitai), you add the nuance of “seeming” to the entire phrase. Therefore the complete phrase can be understood literally as “it seems I’ve started to like you”.

If you were to express this phrase to someone in Japanese, they would most likely take it as a confession!

I Don’t Like You in Japanese

  • I don’t like you.
    [name] が好きではない。
    [name] ga suki dewanai.

After saying the person’s name plus が (ga), take the word “to like”, 好き (suki) and attach ではない (dewanai) to express that you dislike someone in Japanese.

ではない (dewanai) is the negative form of だ (da), which is the casual, or plain form of です (desu). The ではない (dewanai) is needed here to transform the affirmative phrase into a negative one.

A reminder that you should address the person by their name even if you’re speaking with the person in question directly!

Expressing Hatred

If you truly despise someone, you can express your hatred by using the word 嫌い (kirai), a na-adjective that means “hate” in Japanese.

  • [name] が嫌い。
    [name] ga kirai.
    I hate you.

The kanji for “hate” in Japanese is 嫌 which can mean “disagreeable” or “detestable”. This means that when you say 嫌い (kirai) you’re really telling someone that you detest them! Ouch!

It’s also worth knowing that simply saying 嫌い (kirai) by itself translates to “I hate it” in Japanese. For instance, if someone were to ask you if you like chocolate (and you despite it), you could say:

  • いや、嫌い。
    iya, kirai.
    Nope, I hate it.

The いや (iya) here is optional is a way to say “no” in Japanese.

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

If you are asked by anyone such as your teacher, co-worker, manager or a stranger, you should reply in polite speech. To do this, attach です (desu) to the end of the phrase. This makes it 嫌いです (kirai desu).

I am Attracted To You in Japanese

  • I am attracted to you.
    [name] ni hikareteiru.

Perhaps one of the most expressive ways to tell someone you like them is to say that you find them attractive.

To say that you’re attracted to someone in Japanese, you first need to address the person’s name, even if you are speaking with them directly. You do not need to use the pronoun “you” but instead, the person in question’s actual name.

Coming secondly is the grammar particle に (ni), which in this case translates as “into”.

Lastly is the word 惹かれている (hikareteiru), which is the progressive form of the verb 惹かれる (hikareru), which means “to be charmed by”, or “to be attracted to” in Japanese.

As 惹かれている (hikareteiru) is a progressive form verb, it conveys that the verb is in a constant, continuous state. This means that when you use 惹かれている (hikareteiru), you’re saying that you are already attracted to the person, and are continuing to be attracted to them at this very moment.

Therefore, by combing the entire phrase together you get [name]に惹かれている ([name] ni hikareteiru), which is how you express that you’re attracted to someone in Japanese.

Here’s how to say you’re attracted to someone in polite speech:

  • [name]に惹かれています。
    [name] ni hikareteimasu.
    I am attracted to you. (formal).

The only difference is that you conjugate the main verb 惹かれている (hikareteiru) into the polite/masu-form. This makes it 惹かれています (hikareteimasu).

Likeable Person in Japanese

Likeable Person

  • You are a likeable person.
    [name] ha kisaku na hito da.

Referring to someone as a 気さくな人 (kisaku na hito) is the best way to call someone a “likeable person” in Japanese.

The word 気さくな (kisaku na) is a na-adjective that means “friendly”, “openhearted”, “willing” and “amicable”. All the stuff that qualifies someone to be generally likeable.

Next, 気さくな (kisaku na) is followed by 人 (hito), which means “person” in Japanese.

Therefore, 気さくな人 (kisaku na hito) connotes someone who’s easy to get along with, makes you feel comfortable, doesn’t make anyone feel nervous – a likeable person.

By using the complete phrase, you can express how you think someone, in particular, is a likeable person in casual Japanese.


The most commonly used word for “like” in Japanese is 好き (suki).

You can simply say 好き (suki) to anyone and you’ll convey the message of “I like you” in Japanese.

There are multiple ways to emphasise that you like someone specifically as a friend or more than that.

One of the ways to express you like someone in the form of a confession is to say 好きだ (sukida).

A few of the ways to say that you like someone in general in Japanese are:

  • to call them a likeable person 気さくな人 (kisaku na hito)
  • to state explicitly that you only like them as a friend: 友達として好きだよ (tomodachi toshite suki da yo).

It is also possible to use 好き (suki) in conjunction with other words to specify what it is that you like about someone. Perhaps you like their personality, for instance, you can say: [name]の人柄が好きだよ ([name] no hitogara ga suki da yo).

This guide is part of a collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides.


How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Good Job in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Are you a Legend of Zelda Adventurer and a Japanese Adventurer? Come and quest with me on my YouTube channel!

How to say Happy in Japanese: #1 Ultimate Guide

To say “happy” in Japanese, there are two common words you should know. These are, 嬉しい (ureshii) and 幸せ (shiawase).

The former, 嬉しい (ureshii), is the best and most common way to say “happy” in Japanese.

嬉しい (ureshii) is purely an adjective that is very easy to use as pronouns in Japanese are frequently omitted. By simply saying 嬉しい (ureshii) by itself, you can say “I’m happy” in Japanese.

You can also phrase it like a question 嬉しい? (ureshii?) – which changes the meaning to “are you happy?” Frequent omission of pronouns makes using adjectives like 嬉しい (ureshii) very easy to use and understand!

幸せ (shiawase) is the second most common word for “happy”. The main difference is that 幸せ (shiawase) is both an adjective and a noun, whereas 嬉しい (ureshii) is strictly an adjective.

This means that 幸せ (shiawase) can mean “happy” or “happiness”. What’s more, is that it can also mean “good fortune” or “blessing” depending on the context.

There are plenty of other ways you can express happiness in Japanese too, let’s jump straight in!

All entries are accompanied by an audio track for your pronunciation reference. I have tailored these ultimate guides for both beginners and intermediate learners alike!

Happy in Japanese

  • Happy.

The best way to say “happy” in Japanese is to use the i-adjective, 嬉しい (ureshii).

The kanji that appears in 嬉しい (ureshii) is 嬉. By itself, this kanji means “glad”, “pleased”, or “joy”. It most commonly appears in 嬉しい (ureshii).

When the context is understood, pronouns are often dropped in Japanese. This means that by simply saying 嬉しい (ureshii), you say “I am happy” in Japanese.

You can include the pronoun “I” if you’d like to, however, it is optional. This would make it:

  • 私は嬉しい。
    watashi wa ureshii.
    I am happy.

The 私は (watashi wa) part essentially means “I am”, and you can use it to specify that it is you who is happy. Again, you can simply say 嬉しい (ureshii) by itself, and that would also convey the meaning of “I am happy” perfectly.

With that said, you can apply the same principles and create longer sentences.

  • チョコレートを食べてる時に嬉しい。
    chokore-to wo tabeteru toki ni ureshii.
    I am happy when eating chocolate.

All in all, you can use 嬉しい (ureshii) to express a feeling of pleasure.

Are You Happy?

Are you Happy?

To distinguish between a statement or question, all you have to do is phrase it like one. For instance, you could say:

  • Are you happy?

Unlike in English, you don’t need to include the pronoun “you” in Japanese to specify. By emphasising the end of the expression like you would when asking a question, you convey the meaning of: “Are you happy?” in Japanese.

Asking “Are You Happy?” Formally in Japanese

As Japanese is an honorific language, you should use different styles of speech depending on who you are speaking to.

Therefore at times when you are speaking to people such as a manager, teacher or stranger, it’s important to show respect in your speech. To emphasise this politeness, we need to speak formally.

To ask someone if they are happy formally in Japanese, you can attach ですか (desu ka) to 嬉しい (ureshii). Unless the preceding word is a verb, ですか (desu ka) is required to transform them into formal questions at the end of sentences.

For instance:

  • 嬉しいですか。
    ureshii desuka?
    Are you happy? (formal)

You can then reply:

  • 嬉しいです。
    ureshii desu?
    I am happy. (formal)

Just like the examples above, you do not need to specify any pronouns here.

The complete expression 嬉しいです (ureshii desu) is the word for happy or “I am happy” in polite Japanese. The only difference between the casual and formal variants is that the formal version includes です (desu) at the end.

5 Ways to say Very Happy in Japanese

As there are many words for “very” in Japanese, the best way to say it is subjective. What’s more, is that they all have slightly different nuances. Listed below are 5 powerful and natural ways to express yourself when you’re really happy in Japanese.

Note: The below-listed phrases are presented in casual form. Therefore they should be used between friends, family, and those with who you are close. To make them formal, attach です (desu) to the end of each 嬉しい (ureshii).

1. とても (Very Happy)

  • とても嬉しい。
    totemo ureshii.
    I’m very happy.

とても (totemo) is one of the more polite words to use when you want to express your happiness formally.

You can use it in both formal and casual speech, however, it’s very general.

2. すごく (Immensely Happy)

  • すごく嬉しい。
    sugoku ureshii.
    I’m immensely happy.

The word すごく (sugoku) is an adverb that originates from すごい (sugoi), an i-adjective that means “amazing”, “awesome” or “immense”.

Making すごい (sugoi) into an adverb changes the meaning to “immensely” or “amazingly”. Therefore you can use すごく (sugoku) to express an overwhelming amount of happiness (or something else).

It’s worth knowing that すごく (sugoku) can be considered to be quite casual, so it might be best to use an alternative when politeness is required.

3. 本当に (Truly Happy)

  • 本当に嬉しい。
    hontouni ureshii.
    I’m truly happy.

本当に (hontouni) is an adverb that expresses “truly” in Japanese. When you want to express your happiness earnestly, using 本当に would do the trick. It’s a dedicated word that implies a higher level of seriousness than the more playful すごく (sugoku).

I have composed an ultimate guide that lists similar ways to express touching emotions in Japanese.

4. 超 (Super Happy)

  • 超嬉しい。
    chou ureshii.
    I’m super happy.

超 (chou) is most frequently used as a prefix which amplifies the following word into the meaning of “super”. It can also be used as a noun to express “more than”. In this case, you could also understand the phrase as: “I’m more than happy”. 超 (chou) is quite a casual prefix, so is best used only in such situations.

5. 泣くほど嬉しい (I’m So Happy I Could Cry)

I'm So Happy I Could Cry in Japanese

  • 泣くほど嬉しい。
    naku hodo ureshii.
    I’m so happy I could cry.

To truly express your happiness towards something, you can say 泣くほど嬉しい (naku hodo ureshii), which means “I’m so happy I could cry” in Japanese.

The first part of this expression is the verb 泣く (naku) which means “to cry”. Appearing second is ほど (hodo), a Japanese grammar point which means “to the extent of”.

Finally, we know that 嬉しい means “happy”.

Putting all this together, this expression quite literally translates to “I’m happy to the extent of crying”.

Unhappy in Japanese

  • Unhappy.

On the other hand, if you’re not happy, you can express this with 嬉しくない (ureshikunai).

The word 嬉しくない (ureshikunai) is essentially the i-adjective 嬉しい (ureshii) conjugated into its negative or nai-form.

Just like how you can simply say 嬉しい (ureshii) without any pronouns to emphasise how you’re happy, you can do the same with 嬉しくない (ureshikunai).

For instance, you could say:

  • 今日はあまり嬉しくない。
    kyou ha amari ureshikunai.
    I’m not very happy today.

Of course, if someone close to you expresses their unhappiness, you might want to ask them what’s wrong, or what’s up in Japanese.

To make it formal, attach です (desu) to the end of the expression. This makes it 嬉しくないです (ureshikunai desu).

I understand how conjugating the nai-form can be considerably challenging, especially when you see it for the first time.

That’s why I recommend this excellent video which explains how the nai-form is conjugated if you’d like to learn more.

Happiness in Japanese

  • Happiness.

There are two main ways to express “happiness” in Japanese. The purest way to express it is through 幸せ (shiawase).

幸せ (shiawase) is both a noun and a na-adjective, unlike 嬉しい (ureshii) which is an i-adjective. Furthermore, 幸せ (shiawase) expresses the feeling of life-long/pure happiness. Essentially, it is a stronger word than 嬉しい (ureshii).

Also, the kanji that appears in 幸せ (shiawase) is the kanji for “happiness” in Japanese.

Because 幸せ (shiawase) also functions as a noun, you can express that something is happiness, rather than just describing something as being happy.

For instance:

  • 悩みのことを忘れて海の近くにリラックスするのは幸せ。
    kyou ha amari ureshikunai.
    I’m not very happy today.

幸せ (shiawase) can also be used as an adjective.  You can use it to describe something, just how you would with 嬉しい (ureshii). However, the main difference between 嬉しい (ureshii) and 幸せ (shiawase) is that the latter conveys a much deeper image.

  • 今日は人生で一番幸せ一日だったんだ。
    kyou ha jinsei de ichiban shiawase na ichi nichi dattanda.
    Today was the happiest day of my life.

It’s also important to note that when using 幸せ (shiawase) as an adjective, な (na) is required to come after it. This is the same with all na-adjectives when they appear before a noun. The structure follows Adjective+な+noun. Have a look at the video above for more information!

I Want to Make You Happy in Japanese

  • [name]を幸せにしたいんだ。
    [name] wo shiawase ni shitainda.
    I want to make you happy.

When you’re feeling romantic and find yourself wanting to say to someone that you’ll make them happy, you’ll want to use the above phrase.

Simply replace [name] with the name of the person whom you’re talking to/or about. Even if you’re talking to the person directly, you should use their name. This is because the best way to say “you” in Japanese is to use their name.

There are other ways to say “you” in Japanese, such as あなた (anata), however, they have unique nuances. Therefore, the most natural way is to use the person’s name.

You begin this phrase with the person’s name. Afterwards, you follow it with を (wo), a Japanese grammar particle that marks the preceding noun as the object of the following verb.

You then follow the を (wo) with the verb phrase 幸せにしたい (shiawase ni shitai), which can be best understood as “want to make happy” in Japanese.

The final part んだ (nda) is actually optional. The two ending characters んだ (nda) are used solely to add emphasis and emotion to the whole expression. When んだ (nda) is included, it emphasises a sense of deepness and seriousness, compared to not using it.

That’s not to say that if you exclude んだ (nda) the expression would not sound sincere. It’s just that adding the んだ (nda) adds that extra level of emotion.

More Ways to Say Happiness in Japanese

  • Happiness.

Another natural way of expressing “happiness” in Japanese is to use 嬉しさ (ureshisa). The word 嬉しさ (ureshisa) is a conjugation of the word 嬉しい (ureshii) into the さ (sa) form.

The さ (sa) form can be conjugated by replacing the final い (i) or な (na) of i/na-adjectives with さ (sa) respectively.

For instance, 嬉しい (ureshii) is an i-adjective, which if we replace the final い (i) with さ (sa), the meaning changes from “happy” to “happiness”.

  • 嬉し (ureshii) becomes 嬉し (ureshisa)

Essentially, by conjugating adjectives into the さ (sa) form, they become nouns with the added nuance of being measurable.

For example, the adjective “beautiful” in English would become “beauty” when transformed from an adjective to an object of measurability.

The word for beautiful in Japanese is 美しい (utsukushii). By removing the final い (i) and attaching さ (sa), the word’s meaning transforms to “beauty”.

  • 美し (utsukushii) becomes 美し (utsukushisa)

Going back to the word 嬉しさ (ureshisa), it is similar to the word 幸せ (shiawase), however, it is more general. To refer to the happiness you feel when you are delighted in the general sense, should use 嬉しさ (ureshisa). Whereas to refer to deeper happiness where you feel complete satisfaction towards something, you can use 幸せ (shiawase). 

  • 彼女の顔は嬉しさで輝いていた。
    kanojo no kao ha ureshisa de kagayaiteita.
    Her face was shining with happiness.

I’d Be Happy to in Japanese


  • Delight.

The word to describe “delight” in Japanese is the verb 喜び (yorokobu). It essentially means “to be delighted”. You can use 喜び (yorokobu) in its te-form to express how you’d be happy to do something.

The te-form is one of many forms that involve verb conjugation. It also has many uses.

One of the functions of the te-form is to allow the sentence to be continued, as Japanese sentences typically end with the verb. In this case, by changing 喜ぶ (yorokobu) into the te-form, we create the expression “I’d be delighted to”. In the te-form, 喜ぶ (yorokobu) is 喜んで (yorokonde).

As in both English and Japanese, the thing that you’d be delighted to do is already being implied, you do not need to mention it.

You also do not need to specify that it is you who is delighted to do the thing, as pronouns are often omitted in Japanese too!

For instance, say that a friend asks you to accompany them on a walk:

  • 一緒に散歩しに行かない?
    isshounni sanpo shi ni ikanai?
    Why don’t we go on a walk together?

To which you can reply:

  • うん!喜んで!
    un! yorokonde!
    Yeah! I’d be delighted to!

In every scenario where you would like to express how you’re more than happy to do something, you can use the expression 喜んで (yorokonde) by itself!

Related: How to say Let’s Go in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to Say I’m Happy For You in Japanese

The way to express that you’re happy for someone in Japanese is not the as in English. This is because, in Japanese, there is not an exact phrase that contains the same nuances as “I’m happy for you” in English. They do certainly come close, but they’re not quite the same.

With that said, there is also a way to express your feeling of happiness for someone in a way that’s absent in English. So both languages have unique expressions here.

Saying “I’m Happy For You” in Japanese

Whenever I ask Japanese natives how to actually say “I’m happy for you” in Japanese, they emphasise how a translation doesn’t exist, and that the phrase is unique to English.

Instead, they always tell me that the best way to express your happiness for someone is to say that you’re happy when they are obviously already happy. This way it feels like you are both relishing joy together. I understand this, but I somehow feel it’s not quite the same.

We’ve established that the word for “happy” in Japanese is 嬉しい (ureshii), and pronouns are not needed. Therefore, simply saying 嬉しい (ureshii) when the person who you are happy for is happy, conveys a jolly and cheerful feeling.

  • 嬉しい!
    I’m happy (for you)!

Something you can do is when the person is happy, often they will express this with their mood and by saying 嬉しい (ureshii) themselves. You could then emphasise to them how you too are feeling the same emotion as them.

  • 私も嬉しい!
    watashi mo ureshii!
    I’m also happy!

In this way, you express how you are sharing their happiness with them.

I’m Glad/That’s Good (Relief)

Although not as strong as directly expressing how you’re happy with うれしい (ureshii), in situations where you’re feeling relief from something you may wish to use 良かった (yokatta).

The expression 良かった (yokatta) has two main uses.

  1. When you want to say that you’re pleased for someone.
  2. Used when you’re feeling happy that something is over.

Let’s take a look at the first usage. For instance, say you ask your friend what they got for Christmas. They tell you how they got that watch they’ve been wanting for so long. In this scenario you may say:

  • 良かったね!
    yokatta ne!
    I’m pleased (for you)!

You can use 良かった (yokatta) in situations when you wish to express “I’m pleased for you”, or “I’m glad” in Japanese.

Secondly, 良かった (yokatta) can also be used as an expression to emphasise relief. For example, say you’re in a rush and are unsure if you are going to make the last train home.

  • 間に合った!良かった!
    maniatta! yokatta!
    I made it! I’m glad!

The word 良かった (yokatta) is the past tense of the word いい (ii), meaning “good” in Japanese. Therefore, the literal translation is “that was good”.  When used in one of the two scenarios above, however, it conveys nuances of “I’m pleased” and/or relief.

I’m Happy That You Are Delighted

The following expression is one that contains nuances that are unique to the Japanese language.

Here is essentially how you can interpret its meaning in the most simple way.

It can be used to express gratitude for being able to experience happiness as a result of your action that has made someone else happy.  

  • 喜んでくれて、嬉しい!
    yorokonde kurete, ureshii!
    I’m happy that you’re delighted!

The reason the meaning of this expression is a little more exaggerated is because of the addition of くれて (kurete). Let’s break down the meaning of the entire expression.

The first word that appears is 喜んで (yorokonde), which is the te-form of the verb 喜ぶ (yorokobu). This word can be understood as “delight”. We explored a full explanation of how this word functions in the entry titled “I’d be happy to/ Delighted in Japanese”, above.

Combining 喜んで (yorokonde) with くれて (kurete) is what gives the expression a deeper meaning.  The wordくれて (kurete) is the te-form of the verb くれる (kureru) which can be best understood as “for me” in Japanese.

However, there is a little more to くれる (kureru) than just “for me”. The nuances that can be felt from this word can be described as emotions that convey an “especially for me” kind of thing.

We know that 嬉しい (ureshii) means “happy”. Therefore, when combined with 喜んで (yorokonde) to make the expression 喜んでくれて, 嬉しい (yorokonde kurete ureshii) the meaning is more like “I’m happy that you are delighted/happy”.

Technically, you can omit the くれて (kurete), which would make more grammatical sense. However, including くれて (kurete) really adds weight to your words when you speak them.

Happier/Cheer Up in Japanese

  • Cheer Up.
    genki dashite.

If someone seems a little down in the dumps, you may want to tell them 元気出して (genki dashite) which literally means “cheer up” in Japanese. You can use this expression on any occasion when you want to encourage someone to be a little happier.

For instance, you first might want to tell them how everything is okay first, then support them in becoming happy again.

  • 絶対に大丈夫だよ!元気出して!
    zettaini daijoubu da yo! genki dashite!
    It will definitely be okay! Cheer up!

The expression 元気出して (genki dashite) can be broken down into two parts. Firstly, 元気 (genki) which means “lively”, “energetic” or “healthy” in Japanese. You can also use 元気 (genki) to ask someone how they are too!

Secondly, the word 出して is the te-form of the verb 出す (dasu), which means “to take out”, “to show”, or “to submit”.

The role of the te-form here is to emphasise a request. Technically, saying to someone “cheer up” is a kind of request. However, in both the English and Japanese versions of this phrase, it’s more of a gentle push.

With that said, the literal meaning of 元気出して (genki dashite) can be understood as “take out some energy”.

The Word For Laugh in Japanese

Laugh in Japanese

  • Laugh.

Happiness and laughter function well together, so there may be times when you want to express how funny something was and how happy it made you in Japanese.

The verb for laugh in Japanese is 笑う (warau).

Interestingly, when texting in slang, 笑う (warau) is often used to say “lol” in Japanese.

You don’t simply write the verb though. Instead, it’s often shorted to just the kanji 笑. Posting a number of these consecutively conveys the meaning of “hahaha” in Japanese. It would look something like this 笑笑笑.

As the first romaji character for 笑う (warau) is “w”, sometimes the letter “w” is typed instead. Other times it’s repeated multiple times to express something like “lololol”. This would be “wwwwwww”. Sometimes a single “w” can appear at the end of the sentence, just like how we type “lol” at the end of sentences in English.

You can use the verb 笑う (warau) on other occasions too, not just those when you want to type “lol” in Japanese to your friend. For instance, you could say to a friend:

  • いつも笑わせてくれるね!
    itsumo warawasetekureru ne!
    You always make me laugh!

In the above example, 笑う (warau) has been conjugated into the causative form, which is a form used to indicate an action that another person makes happen. In this case, they are making you laugh!

We covered くれる (kureru) earlier too. But as a recap, you can understand it as “for me”. The addition of くれる (kureru) in this phrase emphasises an element of gratitude that can be felt within it.

Smile in Japanese

  • Smile.

You can say “smile” in Japanese by using the word 笑顔 (egao). The first kanji that appears in 笑顔 (egao) is 笑, which is the same kanji that appears in the verb 笑う (warau), meaning  “to laugh”.

The second kanji is 顔, which is the kanji for “face” in Japanese. Combined together they make a word that quite literally means “laughing face”. You can use 笑顔 (egao) in a sentence where you’d like to compliment someone too.

  • 彼の笑顔はとても素敵だ!
    kare no egao ha totemo suteki da!
    His smile is so wonderful!

You can also attach a verb to the end of 笑顔 (egao) to make it into a verb phrase too. For instance, perhaps a friend is feeling unhappy. You may wish to cheer them up and say:

  • 笑顔を見せて!
    egao wo misete!
    Show me a smile!

Summary of How to Say Happy in Japanese

Here is a list of all the ways to conjugate the word “happy” in Japanese.

  • 嬉しい – Happy
  • 嬉しくない – Not Happy
  • 嬉しかった – Was Happy
  • 嬉しくなかった – Was Not Happy
  • 嬉しくなる – Will Be Happy
  • 嬉しくならない – Will Not Be Happy
  • 嬉しくなった – Became Happy
  • 嬉しくならなかった – Did Not Become Happy

To make any of these formal, simply attach です (desu) to the end. As you can omit pronouns in Japanese, you can use these expressions as they are in the right context to say things like “I was not happy”.

For instance, by simply saying 嬉しくなかった (ureshikunakatta) by itself, you’re saying “I was not happy in Japanese.

You Seem Happy! in Japanese

  • You seem happy.
    ureshisou ne.

You can use 嬉しそうね (ureshisou ne) to tell someone that they seem happy in Japanese. To say it formally, you will need to include です (desu) in there. This would make it 嬉しそうですね (ureshisou desune).

What’s great about this expression, is that all of the nuances inferred are the same in both Japanese and English. This means that you can use 嬉しそうね (ureshisou ne) to imply a question.

This could be something like “you look, happy what happened?”.

Furthermore, if someone just seems happy and you’d like to compliment that mood, you can also say 嬉しそうね (ureshisou ne).

The expression 嬉しそうね (ureshisou ne) contains the grammar point そう (sou). Including そう (sou) adds the nuance of “seemingly” to a word. In the case of i-adjectives, you first remove the final い (i) and replace it with そう (sou).

For example, the word for happy is 嬉しい (ureshii). By removing the い (i), it becomes 嬉し (ureshi). Finally, attach そう (sou), making it 嬉しそう (ureshisou), meaning (seems happy). If you include ね (ne) in the expression, you emphasise a “don’t you” kind of feeling.

Also, as you don’t need to speak with pronouns in Japanese, you can use 嬉しそうね (ureshisou ne) in any context to mean “you look happy” or “they look happy”.

Happy Studies!

  • Happy studies.
    happi- no benkyou.

This brings us to the end of this ultimate guide. To summarise, 嬉しい (ureshii) and 幸せ (shiawase) are the best and most common words you’ll need to say “happy” in Japanese. 嬉しい (ureshii) is the more general way to say it, whereas 幸せ (shiawase) invokes a deeper emotion.

To sound natural, you don’t want to go around saying how you’re feeling 幸せ (shiawase) in regards to everything. Unless of course, you are just that happy! 😀

You can find full conjugations of 嬉しい (ureshii) under the summary section above.

Happy to study more? Have a look at the collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese Guides.


How to say Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Beautiful in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Do you love the Legend of Zelda and Japanese? Me too! Why not come and quest with me on Youtube!

Beautiful in Japanese

How to say Beautiful in Japanese

There are plenty of ways to say “beautiful” in Japanese. The most common way is to say 美しい (utsukushii) which quite literally translates to “beautiful”.

美しい (utsukushii) is what’s called an i-adjective. Its meaning is considerably more intense than the English word “beautiful”.

In short, when you describe something as 美しい (utsukushii), you’re conveying a little more than simply “beautiful”.

In Japanese, saying 美しい (utsukushii) conveys an image of “true beauty”. Therefore it should be reserved for when you feel something is truly breathtaking.

There are many other ways to say “beautiful” in Japanese, such as 綺麗 (kirei).

綺麗 (kirei) is a less intensive version of 美しい (utsukushii) that also means “beautiful”.

However, unlike 美しい (utsukushii), you can use 綺麗 (kirei) to describe the cleanliness of something too. If something is 綺麗 (kirei), it means it’s tidy and/or clean.

To call someone beautiful in Japanese, you can use either the more intense 美しい (utsukushii), or the pleasant 綺麗 (kirei).

You will become increasingly aware of the myriad intricacies associated with many Japanese words and phrases as your studies progress.

There are also many ways to conjugate 美しい (utsukushii) and 綺麗 (kirei) to express things such as “beauty”, “was beautiful” and so on.

To master these conjugations and intricacies, I recommend taking a look at LingoDeer, a unique language app that is not only fun and educational but entertaining too.

LingoDeer features a host of themes extending from personal to professional life, all of which are taught in a variety of lesson styles and feature excellent audio quality voiced by native Japanese speakers.

All entries in this ultimate guide have been coupled with an audio clip for your correct pronunciation reference!

Beautiful in Japanese

  • Beautiful.

美しい (utsukushii) is one of the two main ways to say “beautiful” in Japanese. It is an i-adjective that can be used to describe something or someone that is truly beautiful.

The kanji is 美 which directly translates to “beauty” or “beautiful”.

美しい (utsukushii) is a very powerful word that means “beautiful” in Japanese. It is much stronger than the English word.

This means that calling someone or something 美しい (utsukushii) should be done sparingly, and only when you honestly feel the sheer beauty radiating from the person or thing.

You’re Beautiful in Japanese – 美しい (utsukushii)

To compliment someone and say “you’re beautiful” in casual Japanese you can simply say the person’s name +は美しい (ha utsukushii).

  • [name]は美しい。
    [name] ha utsukushii.
    You’re beautiful.

In Japanese, instead of referring to others as “you” like we do in English, you should instead use the person’s actual name. You can use あなた (anata) which does mean “you”, however calling someone who is not your significant other あなた (anata) can sound unnatural. Therefore using the person’s name is the best way to address them!

美しい (utsukushii) is a considerably intense word. Hence, you’re best off using it to describe someone only when you feel that they are truly beautiful. There is a lot of emphasis on “truly”! Overuse of this word to compliment someone can radiate abnormal vibes.

Beautiful on The Inside

Unique to 美しい (utsukushii), you can use this word to describe someone or something as being beautiful both on the outside and inside. This means that 美しい (utsukushii) can describe the fundamental core of something as being beautiful.

For example, you could describe a particular place as 美しい (utsukushii).

  • この村はとても美しい。
    kono mura ha totemo utsukushii.
    This village is really beautiful.

By calling the village 美しい (utsukushii), you refer not only to its outside appearance but also to the spirit and history of the village as a whole. For that reason, 美しい (utsukushii) is a very pure and sophisticated adjective. It has different nuances compared to the other ways to say “beautiful” in Japanese.

Something is Beautiful in Japanese

Pretty in Japanese

There are two ways to say “something is beautiful” in Japanese using 美しい (utsukushii). Firstly, you can use the sentence structure [noun]は美しい, replacing [noun] with the subject. For example:

  • 景色は美しい。
    keshiki ha utsukushii.
    The scenery is beautiful.

The second way is to use 美しい (utsukushii) as a noun modifier. As 美しい (utsukushii) is an adjective, it can be placed before a noun to modify it.

  • 美しい物語だった。
    utsukushii monogatari data.
    That was a beautiful story.

You do not need to do any conjugations with 美しい (utsukushii) when you use it to modify nouns. Simply say it before a noun to describe it as beautiful.

The Word For Beauty in Japanese

  • Beauty.

The word for “beauty” in Japanese is 美しさ (utsukushisa). You can use 美しさ (utsukushisa) to refer to the beauty of someone or something.

  • 日本は自然の美しさで有名だ。
    nihon ha shizen no utsukushisa de yuumei da.
    Japan is famous for its natural beauty.

In Japanese, when you replace the final い (i) of an i-adjective with さ (sa) you nominalise it. What this means is that you’re essentially transforming the adjective into a noun. 美しい (utsukushishii), an adjective which means “beautiful”, becomes 美しさ (utsukushisa) a noun that means “beauty”.

You can do this with any i-adjective in Japanese. For na-adjectives, simply replace the な (na) with さ (sa).

Beautiful Person in Japanese

  • Beautiful Person/Woman.

A great way to compliment someone is to call them a beautiful person. In Japanese, you can do this by calling them 美人 (bijin). The word 美人 (bijin) is a noun that you can use to describe someone as being naturally beautiful.

You’ll often hear 美人 (bijin) used to compliment someone’s appearance rather than their personality. I have composed an ultimate guide titled “How to say Soul in Japanese” that covers this in more detail.

Furthermore, 美人 (bijin) is a compliment that is mostly used for women in Japanese.

  • 相変わらず美人だね。
    aikawarazu bijin da ne.
    You’re as beautiful as ever.

As mentioned earlier, it’s very common to omit pronouns in Japanese when the context is clear. For that reason, in the above example, the pronoun “you” has been omitted from the Japanese text.

The word 美人 (bijin) is composed of two kanji. Firstly, 美 which means “beautiful” appears in 美しい (utsukushii) (explained above). The second kanji is 人 (hito), which when used as part of a compound, reads as じん (jin). 人 (hito) means “person” in Japanese.

Combined they make 美人 (bijin), which quite literally means “beautiful person”. Despite this 美人 (bijin) is still mostly used to describe a beautiful woman. That is not to say that complimenting anyone else with 美人 (bijin) is wrong though. It’s entirely down to the individual.

The Japanese Word For Beautiful Girl

  • Beautiful Girl.

To specify that the person you’re complimenting is a female, you can use 美女 (bijo). When you call someone 美女 (bijo), you’re calling them a “beautiful girl”, or “beautiful woman” in Japanese.

  • 彼女は世界で一番美女だ。
    kanojo ha sekai de ichiban bijo da.
    She is the most beautiful girl in the world.

The only difference between 美女 (bijo) and 美人 (bijin) is the final kanji. In 美女 (bijo), the final kanji is 女, which means “woman” or “female” in Japanese. So quite literally, the word 美女 (bijo) means “beautiful female”.

Pretty in Japanese

Meaning of Kirei in Japanese

  • Pretty.

The second out of the two main ways to call something or someone pretty in Japanese is 綺麗 (kirei). When you want to describe an object or person having a pleasant appearance, you can use 綺麗 (kirei).

Unlike 美しい (utsukushii), 綺麗 (kirei) strictly refers to the appearance of something or someone. 綺麗 (kirei) is the best way to describe something or someone as beautiful in a general sense.

For example, you could compliment someone on being pretty or beautiful:

  • 髪は超綺麗だね。
    kami ha chou kirei da ne.
    Your hair is so pretty.

Note how in the above example, the pronoun “you” has been omitted. This is because the omission of pronouns is common in Japanese when the context is clear.

You can also describe an object as being pretty:

  • たくさん綺麗写真を持ってるね。
    takusan kirei na shashin wo motteru ne.
    You have so many beautiful photos, don’t you?

Where 美しい (utsukushii) is an i-adjective, 綺麗 (kirei) is a na-adjective, despite ending with “i”. This means that when you modify a noun with 綺麗 (kirei) you have to include the な (na) between the adjective and noun.

For example, “beautiful scenery” in Japanese, would be 綺麗景色。

  • 綺麗な景色を見るのが好き。
    kirei na keshiki wo miru no ga suki.
    I like looking at the beautiful scenery.

By itself, 綺麗な (kireina) simply means “beautiful” or “pretty”.  When な (na) is included, it becomes 綺麗な (kireina) which works as a noun modifier. It is important to remember to include the な (na) when 綺麗 (kirei) comes before a noun. This is a question that often appears in the JLPT exams!

Describing Something as Clean/Tidy

The na-adjective 綺麗 (kirei), can also be used to describe something as being clean or tidy. For instance, if you notice that your friend’s room was surprisingly free of clutter today, you could say:

  • 今日部屋が綺麗だね。
    kyou heya ga kirei da ne.
    Your room is clean today, isn’t it?

You’re also not limited to using 綺麗 (kirei) to describe clean objects or places either. You can also use 綺麗 (kirei) to refer to a “clean” person. For example, you could say after a shower:

  • シャワー気持ちよかった!綺麗になった。
    shawa- kimochiyokatta! kirei ni natta.
    The shower was refreshing! I feel clean now.

You can only describe clean or tidy things with 綺麗 (kirei). Using 美しい (utsukushii) would sound unnatural.

The Kanji For “Beautiful” 綺麗 (kirei)

The kanji for 綺麗 (kirei) is, as you may have noticed, quite complex. For this reason, it’s actually common to simply write it in hiragana instead.

In hiragana, 綺麗 (kirei) is きれい.

The first kanji is 綺, which means “beautiful”. However, this kanji is rarely seen outside of 綺麗 (kirei). The second kanji is 麗 which means “lovely”, “beautiful” or “graceful”.

You may see 綺麗 (kirei) written in kanji in newspapers and articles, but not so much elsewhere.

Different to 美しい (utsukushii), you can use 綺麗 (kirei) often in general conversation to describe the beauty of something or someone.

For instance, say you’re out hiking and you reach the top of the mountain. You turn around and are greeted with a beautiful view. In English, we may say something along the lines of “wow, amazing!”

In Japanese, it’s common to say 綺麗 (kirei)! Essentially “it’s beautiful!”.

Cute in Japanese

  • Cute.

To describe something as “cute” in Japanese, you can use the i-adjective 可愛い (kawaii). Sometimes, 可愛い (kawaii) is written in hiragana, かわいい.

The Japanese word for cute, 可愛い (kawaii) has a much broader meaning and usage compared to the English word. This is predominantly because of the development of Japan’s cute culture.

The cute culture has become increasingly dominant in Japanese popular culture, aesthetics, entertainment and even mannerisms.

The word 可愛い has a much wider range of definitions when put into the dictionary. However, you can use it to describe anything (including objects & people) that you recognise as being anything along the lines of cute, adorable, charming or pretty.

To describe an object:

  • この服は超可愛い!
    kono fuku ha chou kawaii!
    These clothes are so cute!

Because 可愛い (kawaii) can mean more than “cute”, using it to compliment somebody can definitely make them happy.

  • あなたは本当に可愛いよ。
    anata ha hontouni kawaii yo.
    You are really cute.

When you know the person’s name, it’s almost always better to substitute あなた (anata) or any other Japanese variant of “you” for it. This is because あなた (anata) is typically used between couples.

可愛い (kawaii) Kanji

Honestly, I’ve heard native Japanese speakers call all kinds of things 可愛い (kawaii). Even things I wouldn’t even consider to associate with the word “cute” in English, such as a laptop.

This is mainly because of the many meanings 可愛い (kawaii) has. It can stretch out to mean “pretty” or “lovely”.

What’s more is that when we look at the kanji of 可愛い (kawaii), the literal meaning becomes clearer. The first kanji, 可 means “can” or “passable”. This is followed by 愛, the kanji for “love” and “affection”. This means we can understand the meaning of 可愛い (kawaii) to be “can love”.

Therefore, when there’s an object that you conclude it’s possible to love, you can technically refer to it as 可愛い (kawaii).

The Word For Handsome

Handsome in Japanese

  • Handsome.

The word イケメン (ikemen) is a noun that can be used to refer to a good-looking male. It is a very casual word that’s most commonly used by young people.

It is said that イケメン (ikemen) is derived from two different elements. The former half of イケメン (ikemen) is derived from the verb イケてる (iketeru) which means “cool” or “stylish”. The latter half comes from メンズ (menzu), which is “men” rendered in Japanese phonetics, and 面 (men) meaning “surface”.

イケメン (ikemen) refers to strictly the appearance of a male. When one perceives another to be handsome, イケメン (ikemen) can be used to express it.

  • さっきの店員は超イケメンだったね。
    sakki no tenin ha chou ikemen datta ne.
    The store clerk a minute ago was super handsome.

As イケメン (ikemen) is a noun, it can’t be conjugated like 綺麗 (kirei) or 美しい (utsukushii) can. Referring to yourself as an イケメン (ikemen) is also uncommon.

Instead, you could use a more general word like かっこいい (kakkoii).

More ways to Compliment

  • Cool/Stylish.

The easiest way to understand かっこいい (kakkoii) is to interpret it as “cool” in Japanese.

かっこいい (kakkoii) is an i-adjective that is rarely written in its kanji form 格好いい (かっこいい). You can use かっこいい (kakkoii) to describe a person as being “cool” in Japanese. However, it can also mean “handsome”, “attractive” “smooth” or even “dreamy” depending on the context.

For instance, you could describe someone as being handsome:

  • 髪型はいいね! かっこいいよ!
    kami gata ha ii ne! kakkoii yo!
    Your hair is great! It’s cool/handsome!

You can also use かっこいい (kakkoii) to compliment someone on a skill they have:

  • アイススケート上手だね!超かっこいい。
    aisu suke-to jouzu da ne! chou kakkoii.
    You’re so good at ice skating! You’re so cool/smooth.

What’s more, is that you can also describe an object as being かっこいい (kakkoii):

  • その靴はかっこいいね。
    sono kutsu ha kakkoii ne.
    Those shoes are so cool.

You can also use かっこいい (kakkoii) to describe someone as “dreamy” which I explain in this ultimate guide.

Conjugating かっこいい (kakkoii)

Conjugating かっこいい (kakkoii) can be tricky at first glance. This is because it’s very easy to assume that because it’s an i-adjective you can modify the ending い (i).

For example, when you want to conjugate かっこいい (kakkoii) into the te-form, you might think it’d be かっこいって (kakkoitte) or かっこいくて (kakkoikute). However, both of these are wrong. 

To understand how to properly conjugate かっこいい (kakkoii), it’s important to know its components.

As mentioned, the kanji for かっこいい (kakkoii) is 格好いい (かっこいい). By removing the いい (ii) we are left with 格好 (kakkou), which is an actual word meaning “shape”, “form” of “figure”.

This means that the いい (ii) part of かっこいい (kakkoii) is actually the Japanese for “good”. If you’ve studied Japanese before, you may recall that to conjugate, いい (ii) we have to turn it into 良い (yoi).

Therefore, to conjugate かっこいい (kakkoii), we first have to change it into かっこよい (kakkoyoi). From here we can conjugate it like normal:

  • かっこいい – cool.
  • かっこよくない – not cool.
  • かっこよかった – was cool.
  • かっこよくなかった – was not cool.
  • かっこよくて – (te-form) cool.

Lovely in Japanese

Lovely in Japanese

  • Lovely.

When you realise something as being beautiful, wonderful or lovely, you can use 素敵 (suteki) to express it.

素敵 (suteki) can be used to describe pretty much anything as being “lovely”. For example, it can be used to describe the appearance of an object or person. It can also be used to describe a thought, idea, action or experience.

To describe the appearance of someone:

  • 彼は素敵な笑顔を見せてくれた。
    kare ha suteki na egao wo misete kureta.
    He showed me a lovely smile.

To describe an object:

  • ネクタイは素敵だね!
    neku tai ha suteki da ne!
    That is a lovely necktie!

Or even describe an experience:

  • 素敵な旅だったね。
    suteki na tabi datta ne.
    That was a lovely trip.

Similar to 綺麗 (kirei), 素敵 (suteki) is a na-adjective that requires a な (na) to follow it when modifying a noun. For instance, 素敵笑顔 (suteki na egao) would mean “lovely smile”. They test you on this in the JLPT exams, so it’s handy to remember!

Elegant in Japanese

  • Elegant.

When something (or someone) is extraordinarily beautiful, you may wish to refer to it (or them) as elegant. The word for elegant in Japanese is 上品 (jouhin).

You can use the word 上品 (jouhin) to describe anything that you perceive as refined or graceful. 上品 (jouhin) can be used to compliment someone or to describe something.

For instance, you could simply say to someone:

  • 上品だね。
    jouhin da ne.
    You’re elegant.

Or, you may wish to describe something:

  • その指輪は上品です。
    sono yubiwa ha jouhin desu.
    That ring is elegant (formal speech).

Both the English word elegant, and the Japanese word 上品 (jouhin) refer to something that is of high class or sophisticated. Therefore you can also use 上品 (jouhin) the same way we use the “ly” suffix in English. For example, you may want to say “elegantly”. To say “elegantly” in Japanese, simply attach に (ni) to the end of 上品 (jouhin).

This makes it 上品に (jouhin ni). This enables us to say things such as:

  • とても上品に食べるね。
    totemo jouhin ni taberu ne.
    You eat very elegantly, don’t you?

It’s also important to know that 上品 (jouhin) is a na-adjective. This means that上品 (jouhin) has to be followed by な (na) in order to modify the following verb. For instance:

  • 上品お皿を買いたい。
    jouhinn na osara wo kaitai.
    I want to buy an elegant plate.

Gorgeous in Japanese

  • Gorgeous.

The best word for gorgeous in Japanese is 豪華 (gouka). The word 豪華 (gouka) can be used as an adjective to describe a noun, or it can be used as a noun itself.

As an adjective, you can use 豪華 (gouka) to describe something as extravagant. For instance:

  • そのホテルは豪華だね。
    sono hoteru ha gouka da ne.
    That hotel is gorgeous.

The word “gorgeous” typically has an element of high quality or expensiveness to it. The word 豪華 (gouka) is the same and can imply something as being high class.

  • そんな豪華な食事のためにお金足りない。
    sonna gouka na shokuji no tame ni okane tarinai.
    I don’t have enough money for such a luxurious meal.

The kanji for 豪華 (gouka) explains the meaning very well. The first kanji is 豪 which means “great” or “overpowering”. The second kanji, 華 means “splendour”. This means that 豪華 (gouka) literally means “great splendour”. What better way to express gorgeous in Japanese!

Japanese Names That Mean Beautiful

Japanese names consist of a surname, or the family name, followed by the first name. They are written with kanji, however, can also be romanised. Each kanji of a Japanese name will have its own individual meaning that contributes to the overall meaning of the name.

Some names may also sound similar, however, the kanji may be different. This is why you may see Japanese people ask each other “how is your name written” in order to clarify the kanji.

As we’ve covered in this guide, 美しい (utsukushii) is a common, yet strong way to say “beautiful” in Japanese. The kanji for 美しい (utsukushii), 美, can also be used in Japanese names. However, its reading changes to み (mi).  The kanji 美 can then be put together with other kanji for a deeper meaning and complete name.

For example, the Japanese name 愛美 (aimi) consists of two kanji characters. Firstly, 愛, which means “affection” or “love”, followed by 美 (mi) which means beautiful.

List of Japanese Names Meaning “Beautiful”

Here is a list of 10 Japanese names that mean “beautiful” in Japanese:

  1. 愛美 (aimi) – 愛 (ai) “love, affection” and 美 (mi) “beautiful”.
  2. 明美 (akemi) –  (ake) “bright” and  (mi) “beautiful”.
  3. 絵美 (emi) –   (e) “picture, painting” and  (mi)  “beautiful”.
  4. 貴美子 (kimiko) – 貴 (ki) “valuable” with  (mi) “beautiful”, and  (ko) “child”.
  5. 真美 (mami) – 真 (ma) “real, true” and  (mi) “beautiful”.
  6. 美智子 (michiko) – (mi) “beautiful”, with (chi) “wisdom, intellect” and (ko) “child”.
  7. 美保 (miho) – 美 (mi) “beautiful” and  (ho) “protect”.
  8. 美咲 (misaki) – 美 (mi) “beautiful” and  (saki) “blossom”.
  9. 美優 (miyu) – 美 (mi)  “beautiful” with  (yu) “excellence, gentleness”.
  10. 夏美 (natsumi) – (natsu) “summer” and (mi) “beautiful”.

Beautifying Words in Keigo

Japanese Honorifics

There is a concept in Japanese that refers to the beautification of words. This is typically only applied to honorific speech, known as Japanese Keigo.

Japanese Keigo is used during situations when one must show the utmost respect to the other. For instance, a waiter talking with a customer.

When speaking in this honorific speech, it’s common to attach the prefixes ご (go) or お (o) to words to beautify them. By doing this you can increase the amount of politeness felt in your speech.

  • お (o) is attached to words with the Japanese kunyomi reading.
  • ご (go) is attached to words with the Chinese onyomi reading.

For more information on distinguishing the different readings, I have composed a complete ultimate guide here.

For example, the word for alcohol in Japanese is 酒 (sake). However, you can beautify the word by attaching お (o), making it お酒 (osake). As another example, you can also do the same with the word 花 (hana), meaning flower. Therefore, it becomes お花 (ohana).

By doing this, you add more politeness to your speech.

You can’t do this with every single word though. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Meaning Change During Beautification

There are a few words that have the prefix ご (go) or お (o) already attached to them. The word お腹 (onaka) for example, means stomach. The お (o) prefix here is baked into the word. You cannot beautify it any further.

On the other hand, if you were to take away the お (o) in an attempt to sound more casual, the meaning would change. This means that お腹 (onaka), meaning “stomach” would become 中 (naka), meaning “inside”. Therefore you shouldn’t remove prefixes that are already a part of the word.

In fact, there are some words that have the honorific ご (go) or お (o) prefixes attached to them, even though they’re not polite or respectful.

For example, the word お尻 (oshiri), meaning “butt” in Japanese already has the お (o) prefix attached. This is similar to the word お腹 (onaka), however, there will be some words you’d probably not expect to be already beautified like the word for butt.

Commonly Heard Phrases

There are a few phrases that you may hear in Japan that utilise the beautifying concept.

For instance, you could be at a drive-through for McDonald’s, and you will be asked:

  • ご注文お願いいたします。
    go chuumon onegai itashimasu.
    I’d like to request your order, please.

The keyword here is ご注文 (go chuumon), meaning “order” in Japanese.

Another phrase you may hear, or perhaps may even want to use yourself when speaking with a stranger.

  • お手伝いしましょうか?
    Shall I help you?

This phrase stems from the verb 手伝う (tetsudau), meaning “to help” in Japanese. It is the politest way possible to ask someone in Japanese if they need some help.

That Was Beautifully Done!

Sometimes you may wish to encourage someone by expressing how well you think they’ve done at something. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to compliment someone on a job well done in Japanese.

Not done yet? Take a look at the collection of How-To Japanese Ultimate Guides.

Recommended How-To Guides:

Okay in Japanese [Ultumate Guide]

Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Good Luck in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Soul in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

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

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Dream in Japanese

How to say Dream in Japanese: #1 Ultimate Guide

The best way to say “dream” in Japanese is 夢 (yume). The Japanese word 夢 (yume) corresponds to the English word “dream” very well.

Therefore, 夢 (yume) can be used in similar situations where you would use the English word “dream.” You can use 夢 (yume) to refer to the images and sensations that occupy your mind while you sleep. Moreover, you can also use 夢 (yume) to talk about your cherished ambition or a wish that you desire to make a reality.

What’s more, is that you can use 夢 (yume) to express your indulgence or fantasy of something. For instance, you might want to say to someone “I’ve always dreamed of kissing you”, or something romantic along those lines.

In this ultimate guide, we look at deeper explanations and examples of 夢 (yume), as well as translations of other words that contain the word “dream.” I also include a section on how to dream in Japanese!

Other examples may include:

  • the word for daydream in Japanese,
  • how to say sweet dreams in Japanese before bed,
  • or even how to describe someone as being dreamy.

All entries are coupled with audio for pronunciation reference!

Dream in Japanese

  • Dream.

As discussed in the introduction, the best word for “dream” in Japanese is 夢 (yume). In hiragana, it’s written as ゆめ (yume).

夢 (yume) is a noun that, just like the English word, can be used to refer to the series of images or sensations that fill your mind as you sleep. You can also use it to express a wish that you would like to come true in the future.

Conveniently, you can also use 夢 (yume) as a plural noun! For instance,

  • 夢を見る島。
    yume wo miru shima.
    The Island of Dreams.

Notice how you can simply write 夢 (yume), yet the translation is “dreams” not “dream”.

This is because, in the Japanese language, there is no distinction between plural and singular. Therefore 夢 (yume) can be used to say either. For any of you The Legend of Zelda fans out there, the above example is actually the original Japanese title for the Gameboy Classic game Link’s Awakening!

Saying “I Had a Dream” in Japanese

Dreaming in Japanese

  • I had a dream.
    yume wo mita.

When you want to refer to the dreams that fill your mind when sleep, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

In English, we say “last night I had a dream”. However, in Japanese, we say “last night I saw a dream”, rather than saying “I had” one. 

This is because, when you say “I had a dream” in Japanese, you’re specifically referring to the type of dream that is your future goal, your ambition.

Therefore, to talk about a dream you had in your sleep in Japanese, you have to use the verb 見る (miru).

  • 昨夜、夢を見た。
    yuube, yume wo mita。
    I had a dream last night.

As a quick side note- it’s common to omit pronouns in Japanese when it is understood who/what is the subject. That’s why in the above example, 私は (watashi ha), meaning “I” is absent.

見る (miru) is a verb that means “to see” or “to look” in Japanese. を (wo) in a Japanese particle that marks the object of the verb. In this example, the noun 夢 (yume) becomes the object of the verb 見る (miru).

On the other hand, to say that you have an ambition, a dream you wish to fulfil, you can say:

  • 私は夢がある。
    watashi ha yume ga aru。
    I have a dream (an ambition).

ある (aru) is an intransitive verb that refers to an inanimate object that exists. The が (ga) marks the subject of the verb. In this case, 夢 (yume) is the subject of ある (aru). You can use the sentence sequence: Nounがある (Noun ga aru) to say “I have noun” in Japanese.

This means that 夢がある (yume ga aru) can be directly translated to “I have a dream”.

My Dream Is… in Japanese

  • My Dream is…
    watashi no yume ha…

When talking about a dream, an ambition or a wish you have, naturally, you’ll want to specify what it is. To do that, you can use 私の夢は...(watashi no yume ha…).

This sentence structure can be understood as “My dream is…” in Japanese.

私 (watashi) means “I” in Japanese, and 私の (watashi no) means “my”. This is because の (no) is a Japanese particle that indicates possession. Therefore, when 私 (watashi) is paired with の (no), the meaning changes to “my”.

To end this sentence, simply state what your dream is.

  • 私の夢は日本に行くことだ。
    watashi no yume ha nihon ni iku koto da.
    My dream is to go to Japan.

You may have noticed the こと (koto) in this phrase. Although こと (koto) means “thing” in Japanese, here it is required to make the preceding verb a noun.

We have to make the verb 行く (iku) into a noun because we need to end the sentence with the だ (da) if speaking casually, or です (desu) if speaking politely. By ending the phrase with だ (da) or です (desu) which by themselves mean “is” or “be” in Japanese, the sentence becomes grammatically complete.

More Examples!

With 私の夢は...(watashi no yume ha…) you can freely express exactly what your dream is in Japanese. You may even want to express your hope or wish in Japanese.

For instance, if you’re asked at an interview what your dream is, you could say:

  • 私の夢は日本語を流暢に話せるようになることです。
    watashi no yume ha nihongo wo ryuuchou ni hanaseru youni naru koto desu.
    My dream is to be able to speak Japanese fluently.

This is a longer sentence with plenty of grammar. However, the same principle applies to the ending of the sentence. You need to attach こと (koto) as the preceding word なる (naru) is a verb.

What is Your Dream? in Japanese

What is Your Dream

  • What is your dream?
    [name] no yume wa nani?

To ask a friend, family member or someone who you’re close with what their dream is, you can say [name]の夢は何? ([name] no yume wa nani?). Simply replace the text for “name” with the person’s actual name! In Japanese, instead of referring to someone as “you” it’s much more common to call them by their name.

Japanese is a language with different levels of honorifics you must adhere to depending on who you’re speaking with. Therefore, if you’re speaking with someone you must show respect to, like a stranger, teacher or manager, you will want to ask this question formally.

  • [name] の夢は何ですか?
    [name] no yume wa nan desu ka?
    What is your dream? (formally)

The only difference between these two phrases is that the formal one ends with 何ですか (nan desu ka) rather than simply 何 (nani).

何 (nani) means “what” in Japanese, making the phrase a literal translation of “what is [name’s] dream?”.

Make a Dream Come True

In Japan, to enter a university, all applicants must take and pass the dreaded entrance exam. Perhaps it’s been your dream to get accepted into a particular university… you’ve taken the exam and are awaiting the results. On the results day, you receive your grades and see you’ve made it in! Congratulations! At this moment, you might say:

  • 私の夢が叶った!
    watashi no yume ga kanatta!
    My dream came true!

叶った (kanatta) is the past tense for 叶う (kanau), the verb for “to come true” in casual Japanese. This verb is made of the kanji 叶, which means “grant” or “answer”. To say “my dream was granted” in polite Japanese, use the formal form: 叶いました (kanaimashita). This would make the full phrase: 私の夢が叶いました (watashi no yume ga kanaimashita).

More Examples of 夢を叶う!

You can also use かなう (kanau) to express your romantic side too. You could say to someone:

  • あなたの夢を叶えってあげたい!
    anata no yume wo kanaette agetai!
    I want to make your dream come true!

The above phrase is made up of multiple parts. Firstly, あなた (anata) means “you” in Japanese. Although it is much more common to instead refer to the person by their actual name, you can use あなた (anata) to refer to your partner.

Secondly, の (no) is a Japanese particle that indicates possession. In this case, あなた (anata) + の (no) together is the same as saying “your” in Japanese. Thirdly, 夢 (yume) means “dream” in Japanese (as discussed in entry #1). 夢 (yume) is followed by を (wo) which is a Japanese particle that marks the object of a verb. In this case, 夢 (yume) is the object and the following verb 叶う (kanau) is the verb.

Difference between 叶う and 叶える 

Next, 叶えって (kanette) is the potential form of the verb 叶う (kanau) that’s been conjugated to the te-form. I appreciate this is a lot, but bear with me!

The potential form of a verb expresses the capability of being able to do the verb’s action. For example, the potential form of “do” in English, is “can do”. The potential form of “make” is “can make” etc.

This means that the potential form of “come true” is “can come true” in English.  Therefore, in Japanese, 叶う (kanau), becomes 叶える (kanaeru).

Finally, the te-form refers to verbs that have been conjugated to end with て (te) or で (de) depending on the verb. Japanese sentences typically end with a verb. However, by conjugating the ending verb into the te-form, you can chain multiple verbs together in the same sentence.

あげたい (agetai) is the final section of the phrase. あげたい (agetai) is the tai-form of the verb あげる (ageru), which means “to give to someone” in Japanese. The tai-form expresses a desire, therefore, あげたい (agetai) means “want to give” in Japanese.

When あげたい (agetai) follows a te-form verb, the overall meaning changes slightly to mean “want to do for” in Japanese. Therefore, this phrase implies that the speaker wants to make the other person’s dream be able to come true (for them).

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

Scary Dream in Japanese

Scary Dream

  • Scary dream.
    kowai yume.

To refer to a scary dream you had in your sleep, you can use the word 怖い (kowai). By itself, 怖い (kowai) is an adjective that means “scary” or “frightening” in Japanese.

What’s great in Japanese is that you can say 怖い (kowai) just like that to refer to something you feel is scary.

  • 怖い!
    That’s scary!

By attaching a noun to follow after 怖い (kowai) you can state something as being scary or frightful. To say “scary dream” in Japanese, you can simply take the word for dream 夢 (yume) and place it after 怖い (kowai) as part of the same word.

  • 昨日すごく怖い夢を見た!
    kinou sugoku kowai yume wo mita!
    I had a really scary dream yesterday!

As explained above, to refer to a dream you had when you were sleeping you have to use the verb 見た (mita) (to see), rather than ある (aru) (to have). When you use ある (aru), you’re saying you literally have a dream, an ambition, a goal of some kind.

Nightmare in Japanese

  • Nightmare.

Some dreams go beyond what we might refer to as being scary. When you have a really unpleasant terrifying dream, you would describe it as a nightmare. To say “nightmare” in Japanese, you can use the word 悪夢 (akumu).

  • よく悪夢を見る。
    yoku akumu wo miru.
    I often have nightmares.

The word 悪夢 (akumu) is made up of two kanji. The latter is 夢 (yume) which means “dream”. The first kanji, 悪 means “bad” in Japanese. You’ll see this kanji most commonly in the adjective for “bad”, 悪い (warui).

This means that the word 悪夢 (akumu) quite literally means “bad dream”.

Sweet Dreams in Japanese

Sweet Dreams in Japanese

In English, when we want to wish someone good night, we may wish them to have sweet dreams. In Japanese however, saying sweet dreams to someone before bed isn’t something that translates well at all.

If you do a google search on “how to say sweet dreams” in Japanese, you’ll get 良い夢を (yoi yume wo), or 良い夢をみて (yoi yume wo mite). It’s very important to know that although these translations are grammatically correct, they sound extremely unnatural and somewhat out of place.

Therefore, you should not use these to wish someone sweet dreams in Japanese. Instead, you can simply say a softer “good night”. This is the most natural way, and closest way to express “sweet dreams” in Japanese.

  • おやすみ。
    Good night.

Although it’s common to translate this expression as “good night”, there is no mention of “good” or “night” in the expression at all.  The お (o) is an honorific suffix that is used to beautify the following word – and that word is やすみ which comes from 休み (yasumi) which means to “rest” in Japanese.

Note that although the expression contains an honorific suffix, it’s still perfectly natural to use this expression even between friends and family without sounding weird.

Instead, a more direct translation of おやすみ (oyasumi) could be “rest up”. However, おやすみ (oyasumi) is still commonly said between people before sleeping in Japan, in place of “good night”.

Is there really no way to say Sweet Dreams in Japanese?

Although there is no way to directly wish someone to have sweet dreams in Japanese, there are a few alternatives that could be considered.

The first is:

  • 楽しい夢を見てね。
    tanoshii yume wo mite ne.
    Have some fun dreams.

This phrase should probably be used sparingly and would be best reserved for when speaking with children. It’s not something you’d really use that often, if at all to friends or a partner.

As my partner and I are currently in a long-distance relationship, sometimes I tell them before sleep:

  • 夢で会おう!
    yume de aou!
    Let’s meet in our dreams.

This is perhaps the closest natural translation of “sweet dreams” in Japanese. Of course, as you’re telling the person to meet in their dreams, it can come across as romantic. Therefore, even this translation will have situational uses.

Daydream in Japanese


  • Daydream.
    bo-tto suru.

When you’re spacing out a little and find yourself in the midst of a daydream, someone may ask you 大丈夫? (daijoubu) which means “are you okay?” in Japanese.

To answer this, you may want to tell them that you were just daydreaming.

  • ぼーっとしてた!
    I was spacing out/I was daydreaming.

The root of this word is ぼーっと (bo-tto), which means “absent-minded”, “blankly” or “in a daze”. する (suru) is the Japanese casual verb for “to do”. Therefore this complete expression is actually a verb that means “to daydream”.

The expression ぼーっとする (bo-tto suru) can also be used to describe situations when you feel completely out of it. This could be because you feel ill or are unwell.

  • 熱があるせいで、頭がぼーっとしてる。
    netsu ga aru seide, atama ga bo-ttoshiteru.
    I feel completely out of it as I’ve got a fever.

Dreamy in Japanese!

  • Dreamy.

To describe someone as really attractive, or as dreamy in Japanese, you can use かっこいい (kakkoii).

You may have heard かっこいい (kakkoii) used to describe someone or something as “cool” in Japanese before. However, you can actually use it to describe someone as being “dreamy” too.

In contexts where someone appears to be “dreamy” to you, you can use かっこいい (kakkoii) to express it.

  • 彼はまじでかっこいい!
    kare ha majide kakkoii!
    He is seriously so dreamy/cool.

Alternatively, you can also use 素敵 (suteki) to express “dreamy”. Like かっこいい (kakkoii), 素敵 (suteki) is also dependent on the context. This is because you can use 素敵 (suteki) to describe other things such as flowers, or a story from a book as being lovely or wonderful.

  • 素敵な映画だった!
    suteki na eiga datta!
    That was a lovely movie.

On the other hand, if you are dazzled by the dreaminess of someone, you can say:

  • 私の心が盗まれた! 彼は本当に素敵!
    watashi no kokoro ga nusumareta! kare ha hontouni suteki!
    My heart’s been stolen. He is truly dreamy!

Dream Person/Partner

Dream Person

  • Dream Person/Dream Partner
    risou no hito

You can refer to someone as your dream or ideal partner by saying 理想の人 (risou no hito).

  • 彼女は私の理想の人。
    kanojo ha watashi no risou no hito.
    She is my dream partner.

The 理想 (risou) in 理想の人 (risou no hito) is made up of two kanji. The first kanji 理 means “logic” and the second kanji, 想 means “concept”, “idea” or “thought”. Put together they make 理想 (risou)  which means “ideal”.

Secondly, the の (no) is a Japanese particle that indicates possession and links two nouns together. 人 (hito) literally means person, so we can understand the complete phrase 理想の人 (risou no hito) to mean literally: “Person of ideal” or, “ideal person”.

In Japanese, 理想の人 (risou no hito) is used to refer to a dream person. You can also use this phrase to ask someone who their type is for instance.

  • 理想の人はだれ?
    risou no hito ha dare?
    Who is your dream/ideal person?

Sometimes you may wish to refer to your partner as your soulmate, which can display a little more affection. I explain how to say everything to do with “soulmate” and “soul” in Japanese in this ultimate guide

Imagination in Japanese


  • Imagination.

To dream big, sometimes we have to use our imagination. In Japanese, the word for imagination is 想像 (souzou). You can use 想像 (souzou) the way you would use the word “imagination” in English. For instance, you could say:

  • 想像力を働かせて。
    souzouryoku wo hatarakasete.
    Use your imagination.

You can also use 想像 (souzou) to share your feelings with someone by saying something like:

  • あなたがいない人生想像できない。
    anata ga inai jinsei souzou dekinai.
    I can’t imagine a life without you.

The first kanji of 想像 (souzou), 想 is the same kanji that appears in 理想 (risou) (explained above) and means “concept” or “idea”. The second kanji is 像 which means “image” or “shape”. Put together they make 想像 (souzou) meaning literally” concept image” or “imagination”.

Just My Imagination in Japanese

When you thought you had observed something to be as something, but conclude that you made a mistake, in English, we say “It was just my imagination”. For instance, say you’re trying to sleep at night, and you suddenly hear an unsettling noise. Your brain immediately jumps to the conclusion that something is out to get you, but you realise it’s just the thunder. You might think:

  • 気のせいだ。
    ki no sei da.
    It was just my imagination.

The breakdown for 気のせい (ki no sei) is actually quite interesting. The first kanji 気 (ki) refers to the mind. The の (no) is a possession particle that can be understood as “of” in this case. Finally, せい (sei) refers to the fault of something. So quite literally 気のせい (ki no sei) refers to “the fault of the mind”.

Quite an interesting way to blame your imagination for perceiving something the way it’s not right?

How to Actually Dream in Japanese

In my experience to be able to begin dreaming in Japanese, you first have to immerse yourself into the language and develop a positive outlook on it. One of the most fun and effective learning techniques I’ve incorporated into my studies is to create mnemonics or references to refer to in order to remember and recall words.

The Dream Trigger

For instance, talking about new words you’re learning with friends can really help you to remember them as you develop a kind of relationship with the words.

As a result, these associations you’ve developed for the words tend to linger in the back of your mind. They inevitably resurface again as something triggers your memory to recall it. The trigger can be a simple conversation with friends or even a meme of some kind.

This can also come in the form of luck too. For example, say you have a word you’ve been trying to remember for so long, you keep looking at it, then coming back to it later, only to find you still lack the ability to recall it. You take a break and watch anime or a Japanese movie. Suddenly the word you’ve been trying to remember pops up and you instantly recognise it.

That experience on its own would have sharpened your memory of that word, making it significantly easier to recall.

Creating The Dream Trigger

Of course, this doesn’t always have to come down to chance. You can also create a trigger on your own too. For so long I couldn’t remember the word 複雑 (fukusatsu) which ironically means “complicated” in Japanese.

During a road trip with some friends, we played Avril Lavigne’s Complicated in the car which we all sang to. The chorus of this song includes lines that include the word “complicated”. I thought it would be a good idea to replace this word with the Japanese equivalent 複雑 (fukusatsu) every time the word came up.

Before I knew it I was able to recall this word easily. This was because I created a trigger.

When you start making these kinds of triggers with longer sentences, you’ll find that you’ll be able to recall much more. Speaking will come naturally to you at this point. When I reached a level where I was confident enough to have mostly effortless basic conversations in Japanese, the magic happened.

Dreaming in Japanese

The first time I was able to properly dream in Japanese was during my year abroad in Japan, which to my advantage, had me immersed in a complete Japanese-only environment. The only time I would speak English was when I would contact family members once a month.

At this point, I realised that my brain had adjusted to Japanese, and I found that I was able to recall some Japanese words faster than the English variants.

Then, I dreamt in Japanese for the first time. It’s important to know though, that I was still unable to have complete dreams in Japanese. Instead of a full-blown dream story in Japanese, the occasional Japanese word would pop up during the English story.

Later though, this began to transition to “Japanese-only” dreams. From my experience, to dream in Japanese, you have to reach a point where elements of your output ability (aka speaking) become second nature to you.

Dreams are at their strongest during REM, the deepest element of sleep. There is no scientific research on this yet, however, I personally believe that when you have enough triggers combined with an active/immersed Japanese learning environment, dreaming in Japanese becomes possible.

That’s just my thoughts though, what do you think? Can you dream in Japanese?

More Japanese Study

I have a collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese Guides tailored for all language levels.

More Ultimate Guides:

How to Say Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to Say What’s up in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

OK in Japanese

How to say OK, Okay and It’s Okay in Japanese

The best way to say “Okay” in Japanese to express your acknowledgement of something is to say わかった (wakatta). If you need to speak formally you can use わかりました (wakarimashita).

To ask, or tell someone that something is okay, you’ll need to use a different expression. You can phrase the Japanese expression 大丈夫? (daijoubu?) as a question to express your concern and/or ask someone if they’re okay and everything is alright. To ask someone “are you okay” in polite Japanese, you can use 大丈夫ですか (daijoubu desuka).

You can also use the same expression 大丈夫 (daijoubu), as a response to any time when you wish to say “it’s okay”, or “I’m okay” in Japanese.

The word OK has also been borrowed from English into the Japanese language. When you want to say “OK” in Japanese, for casual situations you can say オーケー (o-ke-), or the formal オーケーです (o-ke- desu) for scenarios where you find yourself needing to show respect.

As you can see, there are many different ways to say “okay” in Japanese.

It’s also important to use the correct level of politeness in your speech! Speaking casually usually involves situations with your friends and family. Whereas you may need to speak in Japanese Keigo, aka honorific speech, when conversing with strangers, teachers and managers etc.

I have tailored this ultimate guide to cover all of the above instances, and you’ll be well equipped to combat any situation after reading it!

Each entry is coupled with audio for pronunciation reference, as well as example sentences and explanations of all of the best ways to say anything along the lines of “Ok, Okay, It’s Okay” in Japanese!

Okeydokey, let’s begin!

Okay in Japanese

  • Okay.

As mentioned earlier, there are three different situations that could prompt you to say “okay”. Each of these situations has a different word that is best used for it. The first is わかった (wakatta).

When want to say “okay” to express that you understand or acknowledge something, you can use the expression わかった (wakatta). You can also use it to affirm something you will do.

わかった (wakatta) is the past tense of the verb わかる (wakaru), meaning “to understand”. Having now understood or acknowledged something in your head is technically something that has already happened in the past (even though it could have literally been moments ago). Therefore, for this reason, we have to say わかった (wakatta) when saying “okay” to things in Japanese.

There are also ways to say that you don’t understand, or don’t know in Japanese using variants of わかる (wakaru) and other expressions too!

Examples & Uses

Say you’re planning on going out with a friend. They ask you to meet at the bus stop at a certain time. You can respond:

  • わかった。9時に会おう!
    wakatta. 9ji ni aou!
    Okay. Let’s meet at 9!

Simply saying わかった (wakatta) by itself as a response is also okay here! In this example, you affirm and understand that you will meet your friend at 9.

You can also use わかった (wakatta) to express “okay” in Japanese explicitly when you understand something. Perhaps a friend is explaining some super difficult Japanese grammar to you. You may say:

  • ああ、わかった。そういうことだ!
    aa, wakatta. souiu koto da!
    Ah, okay, so that’s how it is.

Another fun way to use わかった (wakatta) is when you finally get the meaning of something. Perhaps you’ve been up all night trying to figure out what on earth your friend was on about. Suddenly, a eureka moment!

  • わかった!!なるほど。
    wakatta!! naruhodo.
    I get it now (I understand)! That’s it.

Okay in Formal Japanese

Okay in Japanese

  • Okay (formal).

During situations when you want to say “okay” formally in Japanese, such as when speaking with a stranger, you can use わかりました (wakarimashita).

The word わかりました (wakarimashita) is the past tense of わかります (wakarimasu), which is わかる (wakaru) conjugated into polite form. わかる (wakaru)  means “to understand” in Japanese.

わかりました (wakarimashita) can be used to express your understanding, acknowledgement or your affirmation of something in Japanese. However, compared to わかった (wakatta), わかりました (wakarimashita) should not be used when speaking with friends. Instead, you can use it when speaking with managers, teachers or strangers for instance.


Say you walk into a store, and you ask a member of staff where an item is. They tell you they do not sell it. You can say:

  • わかりました。ありがとうございます。
    wakarimashita. arigatou gozaimasu.
    Okay. Thanks anyway.

In this example, you’re telling the person that you understand the item is not sold here and then thank them.

Like the casual わかった (wakatta), the formal わかりました (wakarimashita) can also be used to say explicitly that you understand something. Instead of your friend teaching you, it could be a teacher who is explaining some grammar.

With teachers, we also have to use polite speech. When calling your teacher in Japanese, instead of using their name, it’s also polite to refer to them as 先生 (sensei), which means “teacher” in Japanese.

  • 先生!わかりました。
    sensei ! wakarimashita.
    sensei! I understand now.

Very Formal: Certainly

  • Certainly.

When you say “okay” to agree to assist someone, in polite English, we may say “certainly”. During these situations in Japanese, we can say かしこまりました (kashikomarimashita). The Japanese equivalent is much, much politer though.

You probably won’t be using this phrase very often, unless you work in customer service like in a hotel or a restaurant. On the other hand, you’ll likely be hearing かしこまりました (kashikomarimashita) a lot when you go to a hotel or restaurant yourself in Japan.

The word かしこまりました (kashikomarimashita) is essentially the most polite way one can say “okay” or “I understand” in Japanese. The most casual way is, of course, わかる (wakaru), which is explained above.

In a restaurant, when you order food you are essentially putting in a request. The waiter, whose job it is to accept and fulfil these requests, will always respond with かしこまりました (kashikomarimashita).

After you tell your waiter the meal you’d like to eat, they’ll respond with an honorific speech, even when asking you, the customer to do something.

  • かしこまりました。少々お待ちください。
    kashikomarimashita. shoushou omachi kudasai.
    Certainly. Please kindly wait for a moment.

In Japan, customers are spoken to with the highest level of polite speech. This is because to businesses, it is important to show the customer the most respect possible. They’re the ones who pay the salaries after all!

More Ways to say Okay in Japanese

  • Okay.

The expression 大丈夫 can mean “okay” in a plethora of contexts. It can also be used to indirectly say “No” in Japanese.

Here are all the ways it can be used in the context of “okay”.

It’s Okay in Japanese

It's Okay in Japanese

You can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu) to request, propose or enquire about something. This is the same as asking if something is okay, or if it’s “okay” to do something in English.

For example, say you’re hungry and you’re searching for something quick to eat in the cupboards. You come across some bread with no expiry date labelled. You might ask a person you’re living with:

  • このパンの賞味期限は大丈夫?
    kono pan no shoumikigen wa daijoubu?.
    Is this bread’s best-by date ok?

What’s great about 大丈夫 (daijoubu), is that you can also use it as a response to someone’s request, proposition or enquiry too! At any time you want to tell someone that something is “okay” you can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu).

  • うん!大丈夫だよ!
    un! daijoubu da yo!.
    Yeah! It should be okay!

I Think It’s Okay in Japanese

You can also combine it with other words to form other expressions such as “I think it’s okay” in Japanese too:

  • 大丈夫だと思う。
    daijoubu da to omou. 
    I think it’s okay.

As the Japanese language frequently omits pronouns, depending on the context, the above phrase can also mean “I think I’m okay” in Japanese!

It’s Not Okay in Japanese

If it’s not okay, however, you might want to tell them!

  • 大丈夫じゃない。
    daijoubu janai. 
    It’s not okay.

じゃない (janai) is a negative casual variant of the word です (desu), which means “It is” in Japanese.

Are you Okay? in Japanese

There may also be occasions where you want to ask someone if they’re alright or okay. To do this, you can phrase 大丈夫 (daijoubu) as a question.

Perhaps a friend has had a hard time on an exam, or maybe they’ve fallen over learning how to ice skate.

  • 大変そう。大丈夫?
    taihen sou. daijoubu? 
    That looks rough. Are you okay?

You can add even more emotional emphasis by attaching なの (na no) to the end of 大丈夫 (daijoubu). Although this is completely optional, attaching の (na no) conveys your concern a lot stronger than just saying 大丈夫 (daijoubu) by itself.

  • 大丈夫なの?
    daijoubu na no? 
    Are you okay? (added emphasis).

It’s also worth noting that attaching の (no) to express further concern is sometimes viewed as more feminine by native speakers.

I’m Okay in Japanese

I'm Okay in Japanese

If someone has asked you if you are alright because something has happened, you can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu) to ease their worries. Using 大丈夫 (daijoubu) as a response to someone’s question like this is the same as saying “I’m okay” in Japanese.

This conversation can look very simple, especially when the context is understood by both parties involved.

Someone may ask:

  • 大丈夫?
    Are you okay?

The perfect response:

  • 大丈夫!
    I’m okay!

Perhaps you’re not okay though… If you’re upset, in pain, unhappy, unsure, or anything along those lines, you’ll want to tell them you’re not okay in Japanese.

  • 大丈夫じゃない。
    daijoubu janai.
    I’m not okay.

That’s Okay in Japanese

Another occasion where you may wish to tell someone “okay” could be in the form of an apology or empathy. If someone has told you that they’re not okay, you might want to reassure them that everything will be alright.

There are a few ways you can do this. The first is to use 大丈夫だよ (daijoubu dayo). だよ (da yo) conveys a very forward kind of feeling. In this context, the だよ (dayo) would be best understood as “I’m sure” in English. This is a great way to uplift someone from the despair their feeling.

  • 大丈夫だよ。
    daijoubu da yo.
    It’ll be okay.

We can also attach the word きっと (kitto) to emphasise our certainty that it’ll be even more okay. きっと (kitto) is the word for “surely” in Japanese.

  • きっと大丈夫だよ。
    kitto daijoubu da yo.
    I’m sure that it’s okay.

In other contexts, 大丈夫だよ (daijoubu dayo) can be understood as “it’s okay”, with much more emphasis on “it’s”. This means that when you say 大丈夫だよ (daijoubu da yo), you’re telling the person that the subject in question is certainly okay.

For instance, someone may apologise to you for waking you up early in the morning for some reason. To which you can say:

  • 大丈夫だよ。気にしないで。
    daijoubu da yo. kinishinaide. 
    That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.

Definitely Okay in Japanese

You can even go one step further to sound even more encouraging in Japanese. Attach 絶対に (zettaini) to the beginning of 大丈夫だよ (daijoubu da yo).

The word 絶対に (zettaini) means definitely in Japanese. As a complete phrase, 絶対に大丈夫だよ (zettaini daijoubu da yo), means “it’ll definitely be okay” in Japanese.

  • 絶対に大丈夫だよ。
    zettaini daijoubu da yo.
    It’ll definitely be okay.

Formal It’s Okay 

All of the above entries of 大丈夫 (daijoubu) introduce ways to say “okay” in Japanese casually. However, if your teacher, manager or even a stranger asks you if you’re okay, or if something is wrong, you’ll want to respond with 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu).

大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) can be used the same way 大丈夫 can, except in situations when you’re expected to show respect.

  • 大丈夫ですか。
    daijoubu desu ka?
    Are you okay? Is it okay?

As pronouns and subjects are often omitted in Japanese, simply saying the above phrase can convey one of two meanings depending on the context. Firstly, you can ask someone 大丈夫ですか (daijoubu desu ka) to question someone if they themselves are okay. Perhaps they’ve hurt themselves, or seem a little down.

Secondly, you can use 大丈夫ですか (daijoubu desu ka) to ask someone if something is okay the way it is. For instance, perhaps you’ve been working on a task your manager has assigned you. You complete it, show it to them and ask if it is satisfactory.

You can also reply to 大丈夫ですか (daijoubu desu ka) the same way you can when speaking casually. Simply respond with 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) to let the person know that you’re/it’s okay.

  • 大丈夫です。
    daijoubu desu.
    I’m okay/ It’s okay.

No problem in Japanese

When someone asks us if we or something is okay, we’ll often reply with”it’s okay” to them. (assuming it is okay).

As a response to a request or proposition, a better way might be to say “no problem”. For all the ways how to say “no problem” in Japanese, have a glance at this ultimate guide.

OK in Japanese

  • OK.

Borrowed straight from the English language, オーケー (o-ke-) is another expression you can use to say “okay” in Japanese. Sometimes, you may even see the word “OK” appear in Japanese text. If you’re changing the settings for a video game in Japanese for instance, to confirm your changes, you may see a button labelled “OK”.

オーケー (o-ke-) is very similar to わかった (wakatta) as you can use either as a response to when you understand or accept something. Perhaps a friend has asked you to send a text message to someone on their behalf.

  • オーケー。今送るね。
    o-ke-. ima okuru ne.
    OK. I’ll send it now.

Additionally, you can use オーケー (o-ke-) to ask someone if something is satisfactory. Say you’ve been asked by your colleague if you can finish up their work. Once you’ve finished, you ask them:

  • これでオーケーですか。
    kore de o-ke- desuka?
    Is this OK?

It’s important to note that オーケー (o-ke-) is considered to be quite casual. You can actually say オーケーです (o-ke- desu) to increase the politeness, but you may be best off using わかりました (wakarimashita) or another variant instead.

Ok, Ok/ Yeah, Yeah

  • Ok, ok.
    hai, hai.

The expression はい、はい (hai, hai) has two main uses.

In English, we sometimes respond to someone’s explanation of something with “yeah, yeah” when we suddenly understand what they mean. These occasions are usually eureka moments, or times when we suddenly remember the answer to something.

Say for instance a friend asks you about someone you both had gone to school with together 10 years ago. You have no idea who that person was, but your friend is telling you how you all used to play Pokemon together after school. Suddenly, you remember. That person was the one who stole your newly evolved Gengar after trading and never gave it back all those years ago! How awful.

During this situation, you suddenly recall who exactly the person was. In English, we may say something like “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I remember them now”. In Japanese, this may look like this:

  • はい、はい。思い出した。
    hai, hai. omoidashita.
    Ok, ok (yeah, yeah). I remember them.

The second use of はい、はい (hai, hai) is a response to someone’s request or statement. Say your partner has been bugging you all day to let them have a slice of cake you were saving. You give in to their request and say:

  • はい、はい。食べていいよ。
    hai, hai. tabete ii yo.
    Ok, ok. Feel free to eat it.

Sure/Sounds Good in Japanese

Sounds Good in Japanese

  • Sure/sounds good.
    ii yo.

いいよ (iiyo) is a casual way of saying “sure, no problem” or “sounds good” in Japanese. You can use いいよ (ii yo) as a response to a friend or family member’s request or proposition.

This expression is made of two parts. The first part いい (ii), sometimes written as 良い (yoi) means “good” in Japanese. The final part よ (yo) is a Japanese Ending Particle that is used to emphasise the meaning of the word that precedes it.

Therefore よ (yo) emphasises the いい (ii). This means using いいよ (iiyo) is the same as telling someone that it’s really okay, or that something is “good”.

With that said, the complete expression can be understood as “sounds good” or “sure” in Japanese.

Say a family member asks if you could cook later… You can reply with: いいよ (ii yo) – meaning sure, no problem.

A friend asks if it’s okay to meet at 2 pm instead of 1 pm… Your reply: いいよ (ii yo). – meaning sure, sounds good.

  • 後で鬼滅の刃をみに行かない?
    atode kimetsu no yaiba wo miniikanai?
    Fancy going to see Demon Slayer later?

Your response can be:

  • いいよ!楽しみ!
    ii yo! tanoshimi!
    Sounds great! I can’t wait!

If you’re not that up for it, you may be best off declining and saying no in Japanese instead.

Saying Sure/Sounds Good Formally

  • Sure/sounds good (Formally).
    ii desu yo.

To say “sure” or “sounds good” as a response to a person’s request or proposition formally in Japanese, you can use いいですよ (ii desu yo).

いいですよ (ii desu yo) includes です (desu) which formalises the expression. You can use いいですよ the same way you can its casual variant, but in formal situations instead.

A colleague might ask you if you’d like to join them for coffee during the break. You can simply reply with いいですよ (ii desu yo), meaning “sure, sounds good”.

When speaking with managers, however, it may be best to respond with a simple はい (hai) instead. はい (hai) in Japanese means “yes”, but you can also use it when you want to say “sure” formally in Japanese.

Alright in Japanese

Alright in Japanese

  • Alright.

When we’re preparing ourselves mentally for something, sometimes we say something along the lines of “okay, let’s do this”, or “alright, let’s go”. The type of “okay” or “alright” that we use in these situations can be translated as よし (yoshi) in Japanese.

If you’re looking for a way to ask someone if they are alright in Japanese, take a look at the 大丈夫 (daijoubu) entry above. We can’t use よし (yoshi) in that context here.

Let’s say you’ve been preparing for a very important examination. You’ve studied (or procrastinated) a lot, and you’re ready. You’re waiting outside the examination room with your friends. When the time comes to begin you may say:

  • よし! やろう!
    yoshi! yarou!
    Okay! Let’s smash this!

Okay, Let’s Study More Japanese!

  • Okay! Let’s study more Japanese.
    yoshi. motto nihongo wo benkyou shiyou.

Sounds like you’re hyped up for more Japanese study!

I’ve composed a collection of ultimate How-To Japanese guides similar to the one you’re reading now.

You can also check out some of these recommended guides:

How to say Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Reading Practice? – I’ve recently launched free interactive eLearning PDFs tailored for those who want to practice reading Japanese. Claim yours! They’re free.

Speaking Practice? – It’s so important to find the person who is right for you when looking for an online Japanese tutor.

Being able to practice speaking Japanese with someone who meets your personal needs is such a wonderful feeling. That’s why I recommend Preply, which I have composed a fully in-depth and honest review on right here!

Soul in Japanese

How to say Soul in Japanese

The best and most direct translation for the word “soul” in Japanese is 魂 (tamashii). In Japanese, there are also a bunch of other words you can use to refer to a “soul” or the “spirit” of something.

There are many situations where we may refer to the soul of something. For instance, we may be talking about a soulmate, the spirit of someone, or the heart and soul of something. In English, when we’re talking about these things, the words and expressions we use all contain the word “soul”.

Say you wish to talk about “the heart and soul” of something for instance. In Japanese, you’d be best off using the word 心 (kokoro). If you look it up in a dictionary, the meaning would be “heart”.

However, there are many more nuances to 心 (kokoro) that dictionaries just won’t cover. That’s where this guide comes in!

Let’s learn about the significance of the “soul” in Japanese culture!

In this guide, I explain the definition and explore the nuances of the word 魂 (tamashii), and all the other related words and expressions.

All of my guides are tailored for beginners and advanced learners alike, with each entry coupled with detailed explanations and examples.

With that said, let’s begin!

Soul in Japanese

  • Soul.

Without a doubt, the word 魂 (tamashii) is the best way to refer to “soul” in Japanese. The word 魂 (tamashii) refers directly to the soul that resides within a person, put simply, the very essence of a person.

When we talk about our soul, we’re speaking of our life force, the spirit that exists within us. You can use the word 魂 (tamashii) to refer to all of these things. A person’s 魂 (tamashii) is their fundamental energy source as a human being.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people who joke that they’re so emo, that they have no soul.

  • 私には魂がない
    watashi ni ha tamashii ga nai
    I have no soul.

As your 魂 (tamashii), your soul, is an energy that is unique to you as an individual, you can also use this word to express deeper things.

That Was Soul-stirring/Moving in Japanese

  • That is soul-stirring/moving.
    tamashii wo yusaburu.

When something was so moving that you felt it touched your soul, you can use the idiomatic expression 魂を揺さぶる (tamashii wo yusaburu). For instance, you could be absolutely blown away by your favourite singers’ performance and may say something like:

  • 歌手の歌声は魂を揺さぶった。
    kashu no utagoe ha tamashii wo yusabutta
    The singers’ voice was soul-stirring (very moving).

As you may have expected, this is an extremely powerful expression you can use. There is a lot more weight to your words than simply saying “I was moved”. As such, you’re best off using such expressions in Japanese when you’re really impressed.

Let’s take a look at the components of this expression.

Firstly, 魂 (tamashii) is soul, as we’ve covered.

Secondly, を (wo) is a Japanese particle that marks the object of a verb. Ie, the person or thing the verb is done to.

Lastly, 揺さぶる is a verb that means “to shake”, or “to jolt” in Japanese. In the past tense, it becomes 揺さぶった (yusabutta), meaning “shaken” or “jolted.”

With that said, we can understand the expression 魂を揺さぶる (tamashii wo yusaburu) to literally mean “shake my soul” in Japanese.

Just like how pronouns have been omitted in the example sentence, (as they usually are in Japanese) when the context is clear, you can simply say 魂を揺さぶった (tamashii wo yusabutta) to express that you felt something was very moving.

That Was Moving/Touching in Japanese

That was Touching/Moving

  • That was very moving/touching.
    kandou shita.

To express that something was really touching, you can use 感動した (kandou shta).

Perhaps you’ve just watched a movie that made you feel warm inside, or maybe someone has complimented you and you feel touched. During these situations, you can say 感動した (kandou shta).

  • 本当にありがとう。とても感動した。
    hontouni arigatou. totemo kandou shta.
    Thank you so much (casual). I’m really touched.

How’s that for a way to thank someone for their kind compliment.

Let’s take a look at the kanji! 感動 (kandou) is made up of two kanji.

The first 感 (kan) means “emotion”, or “feeling” in Japanese.

The second, 動 (dou) means “move” in Japanese.

Lastly, した (shta) is the past tense of the verb する (suru), which means “to do” in casual Japanese.

Putting it all together, we have an expression that quite literally means “feelings were moved”.

The above 魂を揺さぶった (tamashii wo yusabutta) is very strong, so of course, you should only use it during situations where you truly feel something as moved your soul.

Put Soul Into Something in Japanese

  • I put my soul into [something].
    [something] ni tamashii wo kometa.

This is another idiomatic Japanese expression you can use to emphasise how much effort you’ve put into something. Perhaps you’re super invested in your work, you may say:

  • 仕事に魂を込めた。
    shigoto ni tamashii wo kometa
    I put my soul into my work.

The verb 込めた (kometa) is the past tense for the verb that means “to put into” in Japanese. It’s important to note that the 込めた (kometa) specifically refers to putting emotion or effort into something.

In English and Japanese, saying that you’ve put your soul into something is of course a very strong thing to say. In some cases, when you say [something]に魂を込めた ([something] ni tamashii wo kometa), you’re also saying that you’ve put your heart and soul into that something. However, this can be subjective and depends on what that something is.

When you use 魂 (tamashii) here, perhaps a better translation might be “I put everything into [something]” instead. After all, your 魂 (tamashii), or your soul is the very core that makes you, you right?

When you want to emphasise that you’ve poured your heart and soul into something, you may be better off using 心 (kokoro), which I explain in the next entry of this guide.

It’s worth knowing that the word 魂 (tamashii) is very strong. When you want to say things that have emotions attached like “You have a kind soul”, or if you’re wanting to be romantic and tell someone that your souls are one of the same, you should use 心 (kokoro) instead. Let’s take a look!

Heart/Soul in Japanese

  • Heart/soul.

Put simply, 心 (kokoro) is a single word that unites the notion of  “heart”, “soul, “spirit” and “mind”  in its meaning in Japanese. You can use it to refer to the inner heart of someone. For this reason, when you put this word into google translate or any dictionary, it’ll tell you that it means “heart”.

Translating 心 (kokoro) as “heart” does not do the word enough justice. There is a lot more to this word than simply meaning “heart”.

It’s very important to remember that 心 (kokoro) does not refer to the heart that keeps us alive in the physical sense, but rather in the emotional sense. What this means is that if you’re talking about the organ that’s pumping blood around your body, you’re going to want to use the word 心臓 (shinzou), rather than 心 (kokoro).

The word 心臓 (shinzou) refers to your heart, as in the organ. Whereas 心 (kokoro) is a word that interconnects notions of “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind”.

When you say the word 心 (kokoro), you aren’t simply linking those four words as one… but rather, those four words; “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind” are one. 

心 (kokoro) Example Sentences

With the notion of “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind” in mind, when we talk about the word 心 (kokoro), let’s take a look at some examples.

You can use 心 (kokoro) to express some very deep things. For instance, perhaps you’d like to compliment someone on their kindness:

  • あなたは心の優しい人。
    anata ha kokoro yasashii hito
    You are a kind-hearted person.

As the word 心 (kokoro) does not simply just mean “heart”, we can also translate the above expression as “You are a kind soul”.

Speaking of compliments, we can also use 心 (kokoro) to tell someone how considerate they are:

  • 心が温かい人だね。
    kokoro ga atatakai hito da ne
    You really are a warm-hearted person.

When we talk about someone’s 心 (kokoro), we’re concentrating our words on their spirit, their soul, and their heart. It really is difficult to explain the meaning of 心 (kokoro) without implying divisions in regard to the meaning.

心 (kokoro) refers to the “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind” as one word.

Put Heart and Soul Into Something in Japanese

Heart and Soul in Japanese

  • Put heart and soul into something.
    kokoro wo komeru.

Earlier, we discussed the expression 魂を込めた (tamashii wo kometa) which can be used to say that you’ve put your soul into something.

However, as we’ve also discussed, 心 (kokoro) brings the four words: heart, soul, spirit, mind, and their meanings together as a single entity.

This means that when we say 心を込める (kokoro wo komeru), we’re really stressing how much effort, love, and dedication we’ve put into something.

There are two ways to say that someone put their heart and soul into something in Japanese. The first is to express how someone has poured their heart and soul into something.

  • [person] は [noun] に心を込めた。

Begin by replacing [person] with a pronoun or the person’s name. Secondly, replace the [noun] with the subject. For instance,

  • 彼女は料理に心を込めた。
    kanojo ha ryouri ni kokoro wo kometa.
    She poured her heart and soul into her cooking.

As you can imagine, if someone has poured their heart and soul into something, they’ve really put in everything they’ve had into it.

The verb of this sentence 込めた (kometa), combined with 心 (kokoro) is what gives this phrase so much weight. 込めた (kometa) is the past tense of the verb 込める (komeru) which means “to put an emotion into something” in Japanese.

Wholeheartedly in Japanese

The second is to say that someone did something wholeheartedly using the template:

  • [person] は心を込めて [verb].

First, replace [person] with the person’s name to who you’re referring (or use a pronoun!). Then, simply replace [verb] with the action it is that the person did wholeheartedly. For instance,

  • 彼女は心を込めて料理を作った。
    kanojo ha kokoro wo komete ryouri wo tsukutta.
    She cooked a meal wholeheartedly.

Another way we can translate this exact same phrase would be “she cooked a meal with love”, essentially saying that the person has done their absolute best in making the meal.

You can use this phrase to express that you or someone else has sincerely exerted effort in something.

There is an expression we can use to convey a much stronger “with love”, however, with more emphasis on the “love” part.

Put Love Into Something

  • Put love into something.
    ai wo komeru.

The above phrase 心を込めた (kokoro wo kometa) largely refers to times when a huge amount of effort has been devoted to something. Whereas 愛を込める (ai wo komeru) explicitly refers to the love that has been put into the subject.

This is because the kanji 愛 (ai) means “love” or “affection”. And… as you may or may not already know, when 愛 (ai) is used in the word 愛してる (aishiteru) which is one of many ways of saying “I love you” in Japanese, it’s very strong.

The word 愛してる (aishiteru) is only used between people who are very, very much in love and have a deep bond. It should not be used as a confession to say “I like you”, or “I love you” to someone, or towards your family members.

Therefore, just like how 愛してる (aishiteru) is very strong, 愛を込める (ai wo komeru) can be a very strong expression too. Say you’re making a dish, and you want to make it with love. This might mean that you carefully measure out the ingredients properly, staying focused so that you can make it delicious for the people who are close to you.

This gentleness can be translated as:

  • 愛を込めてスープを作った。
    ai wo komete su-pu wo tsukutta.
    I made the soup with love.

With Love/Love From – In Letters

As we’re on the topic of 愛を込める (ai wo komeru), I wanted to point out that you can also use 愛を込めて (ai wo komete) to say “with love” to conclude a letter or message.

Perhaps you’re writing a Christmas card to a loved one, and want to end the message with a warm greeting. You can also say:

With Lots of Love in Japanese
  • たくさん愛を込めて。
    takusan ai wo komete.
    With lots of love.
With All My Love in Japanese
  • 精一杯愛を込めて。
    seiipai ai wo komete.
    With all my love.

Spirit/Soul in Japanese

Spirit in Japanese

  • Spirit/soul.

When searching up “soul” in a Japanese dictionary, you’ll undoubtedly come across the word 精神 (seishin). Like 魂 (tamashii) and 心 (kokoro), this word too has elements of “soul” to it.

Let’s jump straight into the kanji for 精神 (seishin) to uncover this word’s true meaning.

The first kanji, 精 (sei) has many meanings, but you’ll most often see it meaning “refined” in Japanese.

The second kanji 神 (shin) means “gods” or “mind” in Japanese. You may also see this kanji appear in words such as 神経 (shinkei), meaning “nerve”, 神話 (shinwa) meaning “myth”, or 神社 (jinja) meaning “shrine”. It’s worth noting that the word 神社 (jinja) is often used to refer to the Shinto shrine, a place for gods in Japan.

With this in mind, we can understand 精神 (seishin) to mean “a refined state of mind”.

Put simply, when we use the word 精神 (seishin) we are referring to the spirit, or the mental energy levels of someone or something.

We can use 精神 (seishin) to talk about the mentality or spirit of someone. For instance:

  • 精神的な援助をあたえよう。
    seishinteki na enjou wo ataeyou.
    Let’s give them moral support.

You can also use 精神 (seishin) to talk about nouns. For example, a 精神的な人(seishinteki na hito) may refer to a spiritual person. One who is thoughtful, knowledgeable and can look at things objectively.

On top of that, you can use it to refer to someone’s state of mind too.

  • 精神的な健康は大切だ。
    seishinteki na kenkou ha taisetsu da.
    Mental health is important.

Soul/Life in Japanese

  • Soul/Life.

There are times where we use the word “soul” to refer to someone’s life force. When talking about the very essence of the soul, or of life itself, we can use 生命 (seimei).

Let’s take a look at the kanji meanings. The first kanji, 生 (sei) means “birth” in Japanese. You may also see it in verbs such as 生む (umu), meaning “to give birth”.

Secondly, 命 (mei) is actually another word by itself. As a standalone, 命 (inochi) means “life”, “fate”, or “destiny” in Japanese. Although it is most often used as 命 (inochi), which literally refers to the life that exists within your soul.

With that said, 生命 (seimei) can be understood quite literally to mean “birth of life” in Japanese.

We can use 生命 (seimei) to ask questions such as:

  • 生命はいつ誕生しましたか。
    seimei ha itsu tanjou shimashita ka.
    When did life come into being?

Or we can use it to say things like:

  • 私は生命保険に入ってる。
    watashi ha seimei hoken ni haitteru.
    I have Life Insurance.

Soulmate in Japanese

Soulmate in Japanese

  • Soulmate.
    unmei no hito.

There are two ways to say “soulmate” in Japanese. The first is 運命の人 (unmei no hito).

The first part of the phrase 運命 (unmei) consists of two kanji. We’ve already covered 命 (sei) which is also in 生命 (seimei) above. It means “life” or “destiny” in Japanese.

The second kanji is 運 (un). It can mean “to carry” or “destiny” in Japanese. 運 (un) can also be used to mean luck in Japanese. You can use it to say things like 運がいい (un ga ii), meaning, “I have good luck”.

Thus, the word 運命 (unmei) means “destiny” in Japanese.

The second part of the phrase is の (no), a Japanese particle, used to indicate possession. Lastly, 人 (hito) simply means “person”.

Putting all of this together, the literal translation for 運命の人 (unmei no hito) is “person of destiny”.

  • あなたは私の運命の人だよ。
    anata ha watashi no unmei no hito da yo.
    You are my soulmate.

How romantic is that? Calling the love of your life your “person of destiny”.

More Ways to Say Soulmate in Japanese

  • Soulmate.

The second way to say “soulmate” in Japanese is ソウルメイト (sourumeito). It means the same as 運命の人 (unmei no hito), explained above. Both are common ways to say “soulmate” in Japanese, and which one you use is dependent on only your preferences.

As you may have noticed, ソウルメイト (sourumeito) is very similar to the English word “soulmate”. That is because this expression is one that has been borrowed from the English language.

  • 私たちはお互いのソウルメイトだよ。
    watashitachi ha otagai no sourumeito da yo.
    We are each other’s soulmates.

You may also be wondering if you can say 魂の人 (tamashii no hito) to say soulmate in Japanese. The answer to that is you can’t. This is because 魂 (tamashii) does not convey the same nuances. (see more on this in entry #1.).

What Colour is Your Soul?

  • What colour is your soul?
    tamashii no iro ha nani iro desuka.

I had to include this because it’s part of the lyrics from a Japanese song I like called Anima by Reona. It’s a good question though, what colour would you say yours is?

Anyways, that concludes this article on all the ways to say “soul” in Japanese!

In summary, use 魂 (tamashii) to talk about the soul in general, 心 (kokoro) to talk about the heart and soul, and 精神 (seishin) to talk about the spirit and mind!

I hope you found this guide useful. Any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my absolute best to help you.

Before you go, fancy looking at more ultimate How-To Japanese guides?


How to say Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say I Don’t Know in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Do you love Japanese and are a The Legend of Zelda fan?

Come and quest with me on my YouTube channel!

Practice speaking Japanese is so important, and it’s so easily skipped when doing self-study. I personally recommend Preply or Italki for online Japanese tutors because of the superb quality. To learn more, have a look at my full in-depth review of my own experiences, and honest opinions on the platform!

Good Job in Japanese

How to say Good Job in Japanese

Whether you want to shower someone with praise, or simply tell them that they’ve done a good job in Japanese, there are a few expressions you should know.

Which expression you’ll need will depend on the situation, who you want to praise, and even when you want to praise them. This is primarily because the Japanese language is full of honorifics, which means your style of speech can drastically change subject to the circumstances.

Like many other words and expressions, there is no perfect direct one-to-one translation with all the same nuances.

With that said, the best way to say “good job” in casual and formal Japanese is お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) and お疲れ様です (otsukarasama desu) respectively. You may also see よくやった (yoku yatta) or よくできた (yoku dekita) floating around. While these two expressions do translate to “good job” in Japanese, their nuances are different.

Put simply, よくやった (yoku yatta) and よくできた (yoku dekita) are best used when you’re a superior who is praising a subordinate. These kinds of relationships include those such as teacher to student, or manager to employee.

This ultimate guide explores the most common ways to say “good job” in Japanese before jumping into similar expressions. Each entry is coupled with explanations and examples suitable for beginner or intermediate learners. Let’s begin!

Good Job in Formal Japanese

  • Good job.
    otsukare sama desu.

In Japanese culture, it’s very common to say “good job” or “good work today” to each other and colleagues at the end of a work shift. After your work is done for the day, it’s common courtesy to say お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) to your co-workers as you are about to head home.

Your colleagues will then return the expression back to you and thank you for your work today with another お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu).

  • 今日はお疲れ様です。
    kyou ha otsukare sama desu.
    Good job today, much appreciated.

The expression お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) is not really used to praise someone. Instead, it is used to express gratitude for someone’s hard work.

There are, however, phrases such as よくやった (yoku yatta) or よくできた (yoku dekita) which much better directly express your praise towards someone. They come with their limitations though, and will be discussed in-depth later!

Let’s have a glance at the etymology of お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu).

お (o) – This is an honorific prefix. It is used to essentially beautify the word.  

疲れ (tsukare) – This is the stem of the verb 疲れる (tsukareru) which means “fatigue”, or “tiredness”.

様 (sama) – An honorific suffix used in other words such as 王様 (ousama), meaning “king”. It can also be used to say “the state of something” in Japanese.

です (desu) – A polite way to say  “be” or “is” in Japanese. In the past tense, this can become でした (deshita), meaning “it was”.

The uses of お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) are not just limited to that of the workplace though. It can be used between people who have completed an activity together to thank each other for their hard work for instance.

Good Job in Japanese

Good Job in Formal Japanese

  • Good job.
    otsukare sama.

As we just mentioned above, お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) can also be used to express appreciation for someone’s effort in an activity outside of the traditional workplace.

For example, two students who have worked together on a school project might say “good job” to each other after finishing up. I’ve even seen the chat in a Japanese live stream fill up with お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) from viewers when the stream is ending!

However, when you’re speaking with someone who is on the same social level as you, for instance, a friend or family member, you can simply use お疲れ様 (otsukare sama) without the addition of です (desu). The です (desu) is only really required when it’s necessary to be polite, such as when you’re speaking to a manager or stranger.

Furthermore, you don’t necessarily have to have worked together with said person on an activity. If you know and are aware that the person has exerted their effort towards something, and this is your first time seeing them, it’s common to say お疲れ様 (otsukare sama).

In this situation, you’re expressing “good job” with the implication that you appreciate that the person must be tired.

Perhaps your partner has just come home after finishing work, or an activity. You could say:

  • お帰り!お疲れ様。
    okaeri! otsukare sama.
    Welcome home! Good job/Good effort.

To make this expression even more casual you can drop the 様 (sama) to make it お疲れ (otsukare). If you do, the meaning is slightly altered. お疲れ (otsukare) is a much lighter expression, thus you’re conveying a much more casual “Thanks for helping” rather than a “Thank you for today” kind of thing.

Good Job in Casual Japanese

  • Good job/Cheers.

It’s actually possible to casualise お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) a fourth time. The ultimate casual way to say “good job” in Japanese is to simply say おつ (otsu).

As you may expect, おつ (otsu) is essentially slang for “good job” in Japanese, therefore is lacking in emotion compared to the full expression.

You can use it during scenarios where you don’t need to express your full-blown appreciation for someone’s effort. Imagine you’re playing an online video game with friends, it’s getting late and someone decides to go to bed. The conversation may look like this:

  • 眠いからそろそろ寝る。
    nemui kara sorosoro neru.
    I’m tired so I’m going to sleep now.

As a response to this:

  • おつ。おやすみ!
    otsu. oyasumi!
    GGs. Good night!

During this situation, you don’t need to graciously thank them for their hard work today. It’s sufficient enough to just say おつ (otsu). In the example above, you could even drop the おやすみ(oyasumi), as there is enough implication in the おつ (otsu) to convey a “good night” already.

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

There is a kanji for おつ (otsu), but you’ll probably see it written in hiragana, or even sometimes katakana more frequently.

More Ways to Say Good Job in Japanese

  • Good job.
    yoku dekita.

As we’ve mentioned, よくできた (yoku dekita) is probably the most direct way of saying “good job” in Japanese. It is important to note that although it’ll be the closest translation, it should be avoided when speaking to anyone with who you are on equal social terms, or when you are the subordinate.

This is because that よくできた (yoku dekita) is used when a senior or supervisor is speaking to a subordinate. This could be a teacher to student, manager to employee, or even parent to child.

When I first met my partner, who is a native Japanese speaker, there were plenty of situations where I wanted to encourage them by praising them for their effort. So many times I told them よくできたね (yoku dekita ne) while being completely oblivious to the fact that this is actually extremely condescending.

Unless you want to come across as very patronising and arrogant, you’re probably best off not doing what I did and telling my partner よくできた (yoku dekita).

Of course, I purely intended to praise them and express how amazing I thought they were. There are expressions you can do this, see any entry below this one (and よくやった (yoku yatta) to do so.

Understanding よくできた (yoku dekita)

So, why did I make the mistake of thinking よくできた (yoku dekita) can be used to say “good job” to anyone in Japanese… It is a direct translation after all.

The first part, よく (yoku) is the adverb for よい (yoi), sometimes said as いい (ii), meaning “good” in Japanese.

Secondly, できた (dekita) is the past tense of the verb できる (dekiru), meaning “can do” in Japanese.

So yes, よくできた (yoku dekita) literally means “you did a good job” in Japanese.

This is all information you can get from a dictionary… But what a dictionary won’t tell you though, is how よくできた (yoku dekita) is used and perceived in Japanese culture.

When I asked my partner about what it is that makes this expression feel condescending when used between people who are on two equal social levels, they told me it was because it gave them flashbacks to when they were praised by their parents as a child. So when you’re being told よくできた (yoku dekita) by a friend, for instance, it would feel like they’re looking down on you. Not so nice right? I learned my lesson.

If you are a teacher, and you want to praise your student and tell them “good job”! You can use よくできた (yoku dekita). Likewise, you may also find parents saying the same thing to their child or a boss to their subordinate.

  • 満点だ! よくできた!
    manten da yoku dekita!
    A perfect score! Good job!

During the above example, you can imagine a child receiving praise from their teacher or parent after nailing a 100/100 on a mathematics test.

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

Well Done in Japanese

  • Well done.
    yoku yatta.

よくやった (yoku yatta) and よくできた (yoku dekita) can be used pretty much interchangeably. It is important to remember, that both of these expressions should only be used to praise someone who is your subordinate in a social setting.

To reiterate, the kind of relationships where it is okay to use these expressions include teacher to student, manager to employee, parent to child etc. 

You can use よくやった (yoku yatta) to express praise, or gratitude to someone for their contribution to something. It can be used to convey anything along the lines of “good job” or “good work” in Japanese.

Perhaps your manager is evaluating your work. If they are pleased with your efforts, they may say:

  • とても素晴らしい!よくやった!
    totemo subarashii! yoku yatta!
    This is really wonderful. Well done!

The first part よく (yoku), which we’ve covered above, is the adverb for よい, meaning “good”. This means that よく (yoku) would translate to “well”.

The second part is やった (yatta), the past tense of the verb やる (yaru). This verb やる (yaru) has many meanings, but in this case, it means “to do” in Japanese. With this knowledge, we can understand that やった (yatta) means “done” or “did in Japanese.

We can understand that the literal meaning of よくやった (yoku yatta) is “well done.”

Excellent/Great Job in Japanese

Great Job in Japanese

  • Great!

えらい (erai) is also another expression with many meanings, one of which is “excellent”. To really praise someone on a job well done, telling them that what they’ve done is “great” is a superb way to do it.

You can use えらい (erai) on its own to commend someone. Usually, this would again be for people who are your subordinate or who are younger than you. For instance, teachers would typically use えらい (erai) to praise students or commend them.

  • えらい! えらい!
    erai! erai!
    You’re so clever!

You can actually use えらい (erai) to commend someone who is your equal. In these cases, it’s safer to use it sarcastically, or as a fun way to praise someone on something trivial. Say you have a friend who hasn’t been outside for a while, so they’ve been lazing around in pyjamas.

  • 聞いて聞いて!今日はちゃんと服を着たよ。
    kiite kiite! kyou ha channto fuku wo kita yo.
    Listen, listen! I wore proper clothes today.

You could reply:

  • えらいね。
    erai ne.
    Wow, good for you.

Using it with people whose status is higher than yours though may come across as quite obnoxious.

You can use えらい (erai) with nouns to describe something that is remarkable. An えらい人 (erai hito) for instance could be understood as a person who is remarkable. Their remarkableness is subjective, therefore an えらい人 (erai hito) can refer to someone of fame, your manager, or an important individual.

That’s Amazing! in Japanese

  • That’s amazing!

すごい (sugoi) is without a doubt an expression you’ll hear everywhere. You can use it when you want to say “amazing” or “awesome” in Japanese. Of course, you can imagine that telling someone that what they’ve done is amazing will light up their face.

Perhaps the easiest expression to use, you can use すごい (sugoi) any time when you want to praise and encourage someone. Perhaps a friend shows you their painting that they’ve invested a lot of time and effort into.

  • これはすごいよ。
    kore ha sugoi yo.
    This is amazing.

Simply saying すごい (sugoi) by itself will also convey the meaning of “amazing” just fine too.

In Japanese, instead of telling someone directly that they’ve done a good job, between friends at least, it’s much more common to shower them with compliments.  By expressing your thoughts like this, your friend will perhaps feel even more encouragement compared to if you simply told them well done.

The Ultimate “Good Job” in Japanese

Sasuga - As expected

  • Excellence, just as expected from you!

さすが (sasuga) is a heavily nuanced expression that is uniquely Japanese. It also falls into the category of untranslatable Japanese words with no direct English equivalent.

What’s more, is that the expression さすが (sasuga) is probably the absolute best and most powerful way to praise someone in Japanese. When you say さすが (sasuga) to someone, you’re conveying much, much more than a regular “good job”.

You can use さすが (sasuga) as a powerful complement for when someone (or something) lives up to their (or its) reputation. To put it another way, さすが (sasuga) nuances that someone has truly matched or exceeded our expectations.

For instance, Mt Fuji, Japan’s iconic mountain is famous for its beauty. When you do go to Japan to see the mountain, because you’ve heard the rumours, you’re already expecting it to be beautiful. Then, when you see it for the first time, you may say something like:

  • 日本の富士山はさすがにきれい!
    nihon no fujisan ha sasugani kirei!
    Japan’s Mt Fuji is impressively beautiful (true to its reputation)!

In terms of complimenting others, you can use さすが (sasuga) when you really want to flatter them.

  • さすがだね。
    sasuga da ne.
    You’re incredible (as always, just as I expected).

With さすが (sasuga), you’re telling the person that you are beyond impressed, to the level that it’s only natural that they would impress you (because of who they are as a person).

Nice Work in Japanese

  • Nice work.

As you may have guessed, ナイス (naisu) is borrowed directly from the English language. ナイス (naisu) represents the English word “nice”. There are occasions where the Japanese word ナイス (naisu) and the English word “nice” are interchangeable, and also a few where they are not.

In Japanese, ナイス (naisu) is often used as a response to when something has gone well for someone or when they have done a good job at something. Just like how we can say “nice” on its own in English to mean “good job”, we can do the same with ナイス (naisu).

For example, I said to my friend the other day:

  • 最近「夢を見る島」というゼルダゲームをクリアしたよ。
    saikin “yume wo miru shima” toiu ge-mu wo kuria shita yo.
    I completed the Link’s Awakening Zelda game recently.

To which, they replied:

  • ナイス! 楽しかった?
    naisu! tanoshikatta?
    Nice! Was it fun?

You can use ナイス (naisu) for all similar situations to the example above. Hey, you finished your homework? ナイス (naisu)! Passed your driving test? ナイス (naisu)! Off work today? ナイス (naisu)! This can become a pretty exhaustive list.

Other Ways to Say Nice in Japanese

When you want to say nice as an adjective though, such as if you were describing a nice or kind person… You can use ナイス (naisu), but it sounds a little strange. Instead, you’ll want to use other words that mean “nice” or “friendly” in Japanese. These are 親切 (shinsetsu) and 優しい (yasashii).

  • 彼は親切な人だ。
    kare ha shinsetsu na hito da.
    He is a nice (kind) person.

Or perhaps…

  • 彼女は優しい
    kanojo ha yasashii.
    She is kind (friendly).

To summarise, ナイス (naisu) is used more so as an interjection when you want to convey a “good job”, rather than as an adjective. For other expressions, such as if you wanted to say “I hope you had a nice time” have a glance at these two articles:

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

Related: How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

You Did Well in Japanese

  • You Did Well.
    gannbatta ne.

We can use 頑張ったね (gannbatta ne) when someone has obviously put a lot of effort into something. Regardless of whether or not that “something” was a success or not, hearing words of praise such as “you did well” can really make them feel good about themselves.

頑張った (gannbatta) is the past tense of the word 頑張る (gannbaru), which means to persevere or to keep at something. Therefore, we can understand 頑張ったね (gannbatta ne) anything along the lines of “you did well” or “you did your best” in Japanese.

There are other ways to send words of encouragement to someone using variations of 頑張る (gannbaru) too, such as saying “good luck” in Japanese. 

The addition of ね (ne) here, translates to “isn’t it?” or “right?” in English. This means that when you say 頑張ったね (gannbatta ne), you’re essentially saying “You did your best, didn’t you?”. It’s worth noting that the ね (ne) is completely optional, and it’s perfectly fine to say 頑張った (gannnbatta).

However, when you say 頑張った (gannbatta) without the ね (ne), it sounds like you’re making a statement that someone tried hard at something, rather than telling them directly they did a good job with implications of empathy.

For instance, say you were talking with a friend about someone:

  • 彼はめっちゃ頑張った。
    kare ha meccha gannbatta.
    He tried really hard.

Whereas, if you were to attach the ね (ne), and direct the expression to the person in question:

  • めちゃ頑張ったね。
    meccha gannbatta ne.
    You tried really hard, didn’t you?

When the context is understood between the speaker and listener, we can omit pronouns in our speech. Moreover, the listener will feel much more emotion in your words when you say 頑張ったね (gannbatta ne).

Keep It Up in Japanese

Keep it up

  • Keep it up.

Sometimes we want to encourage someone to keep doing a good job at whatever it is they’re doing. There are many ways to cheer someone on in Japanese, which I discuss in detail. To cheer on a friend, family member, or someone close to you during the midst of all the action, you can use 頑張れ (gannbare).

You can use 頑張れ (gannbare) to cheer on a friend at the moment that they are trying hard at something. For example, they may be in the middle of running a marathon, at which point they run past you. You could shout out to them 頑張れ! (gannbare!) to encourage them to keep it up.

Perfect! in Japanese

Perfect in Japanese

  • Perfect.

What better way to tell someone that they’ve done a good job than to tell them what they’ve done is perfect! You can’t go wrong with 完璧 (kannpeki), you can use it at any time you want to say to someone that something is perfect or flawless in Japanese.

You can use 完璧 (kannpeki) on its own, or as part of a longer phrase. Say you’ve asked a friend to design or make you something. Upon completion, they show you the finished product. Simply responding with 完璧 (kannpeki) here will no doubt make your friend feel accomplished in what they’ve done.

  • これは完璧じゃん! 本当にありがとう!
    kore ha kannpeki jan! hontouni arigatou!
    This is perfect! Thanks so much!

You’re also telling your friend that you are more than happy/satisfied with the result. 完璧 (kannpeki) is a great way to tell someone they’ve done a good job in Japanese, without sounding patronising.

Not a Good Job in Japanese

On the other hand, if you wanted to tell someone that they have not done a good job for whatever reason, we can do that with 完璧 (kannpeki) too.

It goes without saying that telling someone they haven’t done well directly can come across as quite blunt, so use this next one with caution!

  • これは完璧からほど遠い。
    kore ha kanpeki kara hodo tooi.
    This is far from perfect.

There are also ways to tell someone that they need to do a better job a little more kindly in Japanese. Just like how we need to be indirect when saying “no” to someone in Japanese, a lighter expression here would probably go down better.

  • もうちょっとだけ!
    mou chotto dake!
    Just a little more!

The above phrase is twofold. We are both encouraging the person to carry on, while also indirectly telling them that the job is not finished to our standard.

Spectacular! Well Done! in Japanese

Well Done in Japanese

  • Spectacular.

Imagine you’ve gone to the theatre to watch a performance and the middle-high class crowd is mesmerised by the performance. They are utterly astonished… It was marvelous, outstanding, spectacular! That’s the kind of image I have when I hear お見事 (omigoto).

お見事 (omigoto) is essentially applause, a way of showing your deep appreciation for someones’ high-quality work.

This means that when you say お見事 (omigoto) to someone, you are telling them that they’ve done a superb job, to the point where you’re taken away by their work.

  • お見事! 素晴らしい演技だった!
    omigoto! subarashii engi datta!
    Spectacular! What wonderful acting!

Receiving this kind of praise from someone such as your manager would of course feel amazing. When someone says this to you, you know you’ve done a fantastic job.

The お (o) in お見事 (omigoto) is an honorific prefix. Despite this, お見事 can be used in casual situations. The purpose of the お (o) here is to beautify the word, to make it more appropriate to describe the masterpiece you’ve produced!

I Got a Good Job! in Japanese

  • I got a good job!
    watashi wa ii shigoto no mou shi ire wo uketa!

Just in case you’re proud of an actual job you’ve acquired, a good one that you’ve been hired for, this is the phrase you can use!

Bonus! Good Work in Formal Japanese

  • Good Work (Formal).
    go kurou sama desu.

Just like お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu), you can also use ご苦労様です (go kurou sama desu) to say “good work” to someone after a day at work.

The main difference though is that ご苦労様です (go kurou sama desu) is strictly an expression used in the workplace.

It isn’t explicitly used to praise someone, instead, when you say ご苦労様です (go kurou sama desu) to someone, you’re thanking them for their troubles.

Let’s look at the components of ご苦労様です(go kurou sama desu).

Firstly, ご is very similar to the お (o) we’ve been seeing a lot, in that it’s an honorific prefix.

Secondly, 苦労 as a complete word means “labour”. 苦 actually means “suffering” or “hardship,” and 労 means “labour”.

様 is the same as we’ve seen in お疲れ様です. It is an honorific suffix. Lastly, です (desu) means “is” in polite Japanese.

Quite literally, ご苦労様です (go kurou sama desu) is simply stating that something was suffering or heavy labour.

When we use ご苦労様です (go kurou sama desu) in the workplace though, we’re expressing our gratitude for someone’s effort. You’ll most likely hear managers who supervisors say this to their subordinates.

Good Job on the Lecture

  • Good Job on the lecture.
    ii benkyou ni narimashita.

This phrase above is perhaps the only way you can express a good job to anyone who is of higher status than you in Japanese. You could say it to your teachers after they’ve delivered you a lecture, or taught you something useful.

When you say いい勉強になりました (ii benkyou ni narimashita) you’re explicitly saying that you’ve learned something of value, thanks to whoever (or whatever) taught you.

On that note, that brings me to the end of this ultimate guide.


I hope that you found the information you were looking for. If you have any questions at all, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help the best I can.

Guides related to this article:

How to say Good in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

While you’re here, fancy looking at more ultimate guides?

How to say I Don’t Know in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

How to say Let’s Go in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Do you like The Legend of Zelda + Japanese? Come and quest with me!

Good luck with your Japanese learning!

Hope in Japanese

How to say Hope and I Hope in Japanese: #1 Ultimate Guide

Despite seeming a little puzzling at first glance, there are actually a handful of ways to say “hope” in Japanese. There are two words often used to refer to “hope”, and there are even more ways to express it.

These two words for hope in Japanese are 希望 (kibou) and 望み (nozomi) respectively. Both of them are nouns and are used when referring to a hope that exists.

At other times we may want to express our hope for something. This could be when we’re feeling hopeful or when we’re wishing for something. Whether we’re wishing for something, or praying that something will pan out a certain way, in English, we use the word “hope” in all of these scenarios.

However, in Japanese, there are a number of expressions and phrases that we can use to express our hope. Which expression you will need depends on which kind of situation you’re in.

In this ultimate guide, I explore all the ways to say “hope” in Japanese. Let’s take a look at the meanings and kanji of 希望 (kibou) and 望み (nozomi)!  Additionally, let’s talk about expressions you can use to say things like “I hope that…”, “hopefully”, or “I hope you feel better” in Japanese.

I have tailored this guide for beginners and intermediate learners of Japanese alike, so hopefully, you can find what you’re looking for!

Hope in Japanese

  • Hope.

If you were to search “hope” in a Japanese dictionary, 希望 (kibou) will always be the first entry. 希望 (kibou) is a noun – it is the best translation of “hope” in Japanese. Depending on the context, it can also overlap with nuances of wishing, or of an ambition/desire for something.

It is composed of two kanji, 希 and 望.

The first kanji, 希, means “hope” in Japanese. It is associated with scarcity, and is used in other words such as 希薄 (kihaku), meaning “thin, lacking, insufficient” and 希少 (kishou), meaning “rare”.

The second kanji, 望, means “hope” or “ambition” in Japanese. This kanji appears in words that express “wish”, or “desire”.

These two similar kanji in succession form 希望 (kibou), a word we can understand as quite literally “hope” in Japanese.

How To Use 希望 (kibou)

Quite often, 希望 (kibou) is used as a negative in neutral language.

  • 私たちは生きているかぎりまだ希望がある
    watashi tachi ha ikiteiru kagiri mada kibou ga aru.
    As long as we’re living, there is still hope.

In the same way, it can also be used to express a wish.

  • 彼らが私の希望に反対している
    karera ga watashi no kibou ni hantai shiteiru.
    They’re going against my wishes.

In the first example, the final part “there is still hope” conveys a little positivity. However, the meaning of the sentence as a whole still has nuances of uncertainty lingering around it. In the second example, although the speaker has not explicitly stated that they are unhappy with the situation, it is still felt and understood by the listener that the speaker is probably not exactly overjoyed.

You could use it to convey complete despair:

  • 希望がない
    kibou ga nai.
    There is no hope.

In terms of neutral nuances, 希望 (kibou) can be used in Japanese Keigo to express a desire, want or preference.

  • ご希望の時間をお知らせください
    go kibou no jikan o wo shirasekudasai.
    Please let us know your desired/preferred time.

In formal Japanese, 希望 (kibou) is used to express a want/desire instead of the grammar たい (tai) or 欲しい (hoshii).

Hope/Wish in Japanese

I wish in Japanese

  • Hope/Wish.

Like 希望 (kibou), 望み (nozomi) is a noun that also means “hope” or “wish” in Japanese. When translating 望み (nozomi) into English, it comes out as “hope”, and it may appear that it can be used interchangeably with 希望 (kibou). 

The kanji for 望み is the same one as the second kanji in 希望 (kibou) too. So from that, we can deduce it also has similar nuances. 

There are some differences between 希望 (kibou) and 望み (nozomi) though. They are used differently depending on the context. 

So, we know that they can both be used to express “hope”. As we discussed above, 希望 (kibou) is most frequently used as a negative in neutral language. It sounds like a firm statement, an educated one, that can sometimes appear harsh.

On the other hand, 望み (nozomi) sounds much more emotional, intimate and positive. When someone says:

  • 私の望みは留学生として日本に行くことだ
    watashi no nozomi ha ryuugakusei toshite nihon ni iku koto da.
    It’s my wish/hope to go to Japan as an exchange student.

We can really feel the emotion in the speaker’s words with 望み (nozomi). Unlike 希望 (kibou), when someone uses 望み (nozomi) we can really establish a deeper connection with their feelings and wishes. It feels considerably more intimate. Another example:

  • 彼女の望みは声優になることだ
    kanojo no nozomi ha seiyuu ni naru koto da.
    It’s her ambition to become a voice actress.

望み (nozomi) is exceptionally powerful at conveying someone’s ambition towards something. 

Hope As a Name in Japanese

Just like how Hope is a person’s name in English, there is also an equivalent in Japanese!

The name for Hope in Japanese is 望み (nozomi). It is a unisex given name and is often spelt with the kanji for hope as seen here, but there are other variations also.

Furthermore 望み (nozomi) is also the name given to Japan’s fastest bullet train, called the Nozomi Shinkansen. It operates at speeds of 185mph (300km/h), with a full trip from Tokyo to Osaka taking a mere 146 minutes. This is crazy compared to the 6 hours + time it would take to make the same journey by car.

I Hope It Goes Well in Japanese

  • I hope it goes well.
    XXmasu you ni.

When you want to express your wish or hope that something will pan out a certain way, you can use XXますように (XXmasuyouni). 

Replace the XX with a ます (masu) form verb to express your hope towards something.

For instance, perhaps you’re really hoping that something will go well. You can say:

  • すべてはうまくいきますように
    subete ha umakuikimasu you ni.
    I hope everything will go smoothly.

The catch with this expression is that it’s not widely said to express your hope about something to other people. You can use it, but it would sound really strong.

Instead, XXますように (XXmasuyouni) is most commonly used when visiting and praying at temples in Japan. Visiting temples to pray in Japan is a popular cultural practice that is often done particularly during times of importance.

It could be that you’re about to take an exam you’ve been dreading for so long, and you really hope you pass. Or it could be that you/or a family member is about to undergo surgery, and you want to pray – hope that it’ll go well. 

  • 試験に合格しますように
    shiken ni goukaku shimasu you ni.
    I hope I can pass the exam.

Tanabata Festival – Expressing a Wish

Tanabata Festival - Symbol of Hope in Japan

Every year on July 7th there is a national event called the Tanabata festival. This Japanese festival is celebrated by writing down your wish or hope on a coloured paper called Tanzaku.

The Tanzaku is then tied to bamboo with string along with other people’s wishes. When writing down your wish on the Tanzaku, you can use XXますように (XXmasuyouni). You’ll find that lots of other people will use this format to express their wishes and hopes regarding something that’s important to them. 

  • 幸せになれますように
    shiawase ni naremasu you ni.
    I hope I can be happy.

Good Luck in Japanese

Sometimes when we want to wish that something will go well for someone, we also want to send them good luck.

To view all the ways you can wish someone “good luck” in Japanese, have a look at this ultimate guide that details how to do so!

I hope That… in Japanese

  • I hope that…
    …といい (な・ね)
    …to ii (na/ ne).

The perhaps best way to express “hope” in Japanese is through the …といい (to ii) expression. といい (to ii) is the most natural way to say “I hope that…” in Japanese. Let’s take a look at an example. Perhaps you’ve been really busy recently, you might think:

  • 今夜やっとリラックスができるといいな
    konnya yatto rirrakusu ga dekiru to ii na.
    I hope that I can finally relax tonight.

When you use といい (to ii), the preceding word has to be a verb that’s in plain form. It can’t be a verb in the ます (masu) form. For instance, say you’re hoping that it won’t’ rain tomorrow:

  • 明日雨が降らないといいな
    ashita ame ga furanai to ii na.
    I hope that it won’t rain tomorrow.

The verb can be negative or affirmative, as in the case here with 降らない (furanai).

Understanding と (to) and いい (ii). 

と (to) is one of the four ways to say “if” in Japanese. It is the conditional way to say “if” meaning that the result of the condition is definite. Put simply, when と (to) is used, it’s saying that if Y happens, X will absolutely, definitely happen as a consequence. As an example:

  • いっぱい食べる太るよ
    ippai taberu to futoru yo.
    You’ll get fat if you eat a lot.

With this in mind, let’s go back to our previous example.

  • 明日雨が降らないといいな
    ashita ame ga furanai to ii na.
    I hope that it won’t rain tomorrow.

We can understand that this と (to) means a definitive “if”. 

And if we know that いい (ii) means “good” in Japanese, we can understand that this expression is another way to say “It would be good if…” in Japanese. As a complete phrase, “It would be good if it didn’t rain tomorrow”.

といい(to ii na) VS といいね (to ii ne)

I Hope That... in Japanese

You can use といい (to ii) to express your hope that something will pan a certain way. To finish up the expression, you need to attach one of two endings, な (na) or ね (ne).

When you say といいな (to ii na) you’re directing the hope to benefit yourself. Whereas when you say といいね (to ii ne) you’re instead sending your hope to another person.

For instance, if you were to say the following phrase with な (na), it’ll read like this.

  • 今夜よく寝られるといい
    konya yoku nerareru to ii na.
    I hope that I can sleep well.

On the other hand, if ね (ne) is used instead…

  • 今夜よく寝られるといい
    konya yoku nerareru to ii ne.
    I hope that you can sleep well.

With ね (ne) you’re expressing your hope for the benefit of someone else. 

I Hope So… in Japanese

  • I hope so.
    sou da to ii na.

When someone expresses their hope that something pans out in your favour, you can respond in agreement with そうだといいな (sou da to ii na). 

Let’s say you’ve been really looking forward to playing that new Zelda game, but you’ve recently been super busy with no time at all! The weekend finally arrives and your friend says to you:

  • 今週末ゼルダをやる時間があるといいね!
    konnshuumatsu zeruda wo yaru jikan ga aru to ii ne!
    I hope you have time to play Zelda this weekend!

Not being too optimistic, you respond;

  • そうだといいな
    sou da to ii na!
    I hope so!

In the そうだといいな (sou da to ii na) expression, the といいな (to ii na) element returns (explained above), only this time it’s attached to the end of そうだ (souda).

そうだ (souda) means “that is so” in Japanese. Now that we understand the functions of といいな (to ii na), we can understand the literal meaning of this phrase as “that would be good if that is so”. 

I Hope You Feel Better

I Hope You Feel Better Japanese

  • I hope you feel better.

When someone is sick or unwell, it’s natural to want to wish them a speedy recovery. There are two main ways we can say to someone “I hope you feel better” in Japanese.

The first is by using といい (to ii), explained above, to say it directly. 

  • 早くよくなるといいね
    hayaku yoku naru to ii ne!
    I hope you can get well soon!

The second way to wish someone to get well soon is to use お大事に (odaiji ni). By using お大事に (odaiji ni), you express your hope that someone will feel better.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that someone has caught a cold. You may say:

  • 風邪ひったね。お大事に。
    kaze hitta ne. o daiji ni.
    You’ve caught a cold, haven’t you? I hope you feel better.

You can also use お大事に (odaiji ni) to say something similar to “bless you” in Japanese. It’s not really a thing to say “bless you” to one another in Japan… However,  due to my influence, some of my Japanese friends have recently picked up the habit of saying お大事に (odaiji ni) after someone sneezes.

I Hope You Have a Good Day

You may find that you want to wish someone in having a good day in Japanese. We do it all the time in English, often as a parting phrase. Because saying “I hope” in Japanese is mostly associated with praying, or making a wish really hard, finding a suitable expression for “I hope you have a good day” in Japanese can seem quite the challenge.

I have however tailored an ultimate guide that discusses the best ways to say “I hope you have a good day” in Japanese. Surprisingly, there are many ways you can express it, so much that I had to compose a separate guide on the topic. Take a look!

I Wish/I Request in Japanese

  • Please/I wish.
    onegai shimasu.

When talking about our hopes, it often overlaps with our wishes towards something. You may already know ください (kudasai), a formal way to say please in Japanese.

The formal お願いします (onegai shimasu), or casually, お願い (onegai), is another way to say “please” in Japanese.  By itself, お願いします (onegai shimasu) is a complete sentence.  Unlike ください (kudasai), you can simply use お願いします (onegai shimasu) on its own when you want to say “yes please” in Japanese. It can also be used as part of a longer sentence. 

For instance, say you walk into a cafe and order a cookie. You’re asked what you would like. Your reply:

  • 一つお願いします。
    hitotsu onegai shimasu.
    One, please.

Although お願いします (onegai shimasu) is best understood as please, there are other nuances conveyed here. 

When we take a look at the kanji, the meaning becomes clear.

願, the kanji in お願いします (onegai shimasu), means: request, wish or hope. This means, that whenever you use お願いします (onegai shimasu), you’re actually saying “I wish”. In the previous example with the cookies, instead of “one, please,” another meaning could be interpreted as “I wish for one”.

お願いします (onegai shimasu) is not used to express any wish though. You use it when you want to express your wish as a request. 

What’s really cool is that the casual variant, simply お願い (onegai), can also convey nuances of begging.

Say for instance you and your partner are getting cheeky, and are tickling each other. You’ve found their weak point and they can’t stop laughing. It’s really ticklish, so you don’t stop. In Japanese, they may tell you:

  • お願いだからやめて!
    onegai dakara yamete!
    I’m begging you, so please stop!

it was too much for them! I explore other ways to say Stop in Japanese in this ultimate guide.


  • Hope/Chance/Possibility.

Sometimes when we talk about hope, we’re referring to the chance or possibility of something happening. This can be referring to either a negative or positive thing. Say for instance you take your pet dog to the vet because they’re not feeling well. You might ask them:

  • すぐよくなる見込みはありませんか
    Sugu yokunaru mikomi ha arimasenka?
    Is there any hope/chance that they’ll get better soon?

Hopefully, they’ll get better soon!

Other scenarios could include one where you have an unreliable (but good) friend. Every time you and they make plans to hang out, they are either late or don’t show up at all. To express your insecurity about if they are really going to show up this time or not, you could say:

  • 彼が本当に来る見込みはありますか
    kare ga hontouni kuru mikomi ha arimasuka?
    Is there any hope/chance of him actually coming?

So, we can use 見込み (mikomi) to express a statement or question about something that may or may not happen.

Ambition/Hope in Japanese


  • Ambition/Hope

Another way we often use the word “hope” is when we talk about our hope in regard to what we want to do with our life. This is mainly in the form of aspiration or ambition. Perhaps you have a dream, something you’ve always wanted to do, or become.

We could just use the word 夢 (yume), which means dream in Japanese. However, ambition is a kind of hope that has a certain kind of determination to be felt along with it.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to be an idol, it is your hope, your ambition to become one. You can express this with 抱負 (houfu). For instance:

  • 私の抱負はアイドルになることだ。
    watashi no houfu ha aidoru ni naru kotoda.
    It is my ambition to become an idol.

Feels like a stronger hope right? One that can become reality with enough dedication.

Talking about your ambition (depending on what it is of course) could also be a great thing to do in an interview. During interview situations, you’ll want to use です (desu), instead of だ (da).

Surely… (Strong Hope)


  • Surely.

If you’re confident about how something will pan out, or perhaps you want to invoke that confidence in another person, you can use きっと (kitto). Although きっと (kitto) does not explicitly mean “hope” in Japanese, you can use it to convey something a little stronger, or a little more certain. 

For instance, imagine a friend is really worried about their examination results that are due soon. Simply saying “I hope it goes well for you” will probably not make them feel much better. In fact, sometimes, it could even do the opposite and make them feel more uncertain.

That’s why, during this kind of situation, we may wish to send some positive energy in our friend’s direction. We can instead say something like:

  • きっと大丈夫だよ!
    kitto daijoubu da yo!
    I’m sure it’ll be okay!

You could even send an even stronger level of hope their way and say:

  • 絶対に大丈夫だよ!
    zettaini daijoubu dayo!
    It’ll definitely be okay!

The word 絶対に (zettai ni) means “definitely” in Japanese, and you can use it exactly the same way as you would in English. 

Hopeful/Optimistic in Japanese

  • Hopeful.

So after we’ve expressed to our friends that they surely have passed the exam, we may come across as optimistic, or hopeful. We could describe ourselves like this:

  • 私は結構楽観的な人だよ!
    watashi ha kekkou rakkanteki na hito dayo!
    I’m quite an optimistic person!

When describing a noun, we always need to attach な (na) to the end of 楽観的 (rakkanteki), making it 楽観的な (rakkan teki na).

The kanji for 楽観的 (rakkan teki) is quite interesting. The first kanji, 楽 is one you’ve probably seen in 楽しい (tanoshii), meaning “fun”. However, it can also mean “comfort” or “ease.” The second kanji 観 means “outlook” or “view”. 

So quite literally we can understand 楽観 (rakkan) as a “comfortable outlook.” A pretty good word to describe someone who is hopeful in Japanese I think!

When we want to say how we feel about something, we can attach する (suru) to 楽観 (rakkan). する (suru) is the verb for “do” in Japanese. When there are two kanji compounds together like 楽観 (rakkan), nine times out of ten you can attach する (suru) to it to make it a verb.

This enables us to say things like:

  • 未来のことをかなり楽観する!
    mirai no koto wo kanari rakkan suru!
    I feel hopeful about the future!

Very optimistic!

Despair – Opposite of Hope

  • Despair.

With all this hope and optimism, we might need some ultimate despair to finish off the guide. The opposite of 希望 (kibou) is 絶望 (zetsubou), which quite literally means “despair” or “hopeless” in Japanese.

You may have noticed that 希望 (kibou) and 絶望 (zetsubou) share the same kanji, at least in the ending. We’ve established that 望 means “hope” or “ambition” in Japanese. 

The other kanji, , which appears first in 絶望 (zetsubou) means: discontinue, disrupt, suppress, or cut off. This means that we can understand the literal translation of 絶望 (zetsubou) as “suppress hope” or “discontinue hope”.

You can use 絶望 (zetsubou) to describe really grim or dire situations, such as war. 

  • 絶望に満ちた戦況だった。
    zetsubou ni michita senkyou datta.
    It was a war full of despair.

I Hope You Find Something Useful

  • I hope you find some useful information here.
    koko de yaku ni tatsu jouhou ga mitsukerareru to iina.

That concludes today’s guide, I hope you found it useful and enjoyable. There are a plethora of ways you can say and express all different kinds of hope in Japanese, despite it seeming not that way at first.

If you’re interested in more ultimate How-To Japanese guides, check out our page!

Fancy learning Japanese with some free eLearning Reading Practice PDFs? Have a look at my newly developed resource!

If you like The Legend of Zelda, come and say hello and quest with me!

I Don't Know in Japanese

How to say I Don’t Know in Japanese

There could be numerous reasons why you might want to say “I don’t know” in Japanese. Especially early on when you’re still a beginner. Being able to tell someone through speech that you don’t understand what they’re saying can save you from a lot of awkward body language.

You’d think that many simple expressions in English would translate fluidly over to Japanese. However, there are many English words and expressions that do not have an exact equivalent in Japanese.

Figuring out the most suitable Japanese translation for what you want to say can sometimes be a hassle. Like when you want to say “good luck” to someone in Japanese for example.

Luckily though, when you want to say “I don’t know” in Japanese, it isn’t that complex! There are two main ways you express your lack of knowledge in something in Japanese. These are  知らない (shiranai) and わからない (wakaranai).

In This Ultimate Guide, I break down the meaning of わからない (wakaranai), 知らない (shiranai) and discuss the differences between them. No longer will you lack a verbal response when you have no idea about something in Japanese. Instead, if you’re lucky, you might even get a 日本語上手 (nihongo jouzu) come your way!

This guide is tailored for beginners and advanced learners alike and goes beyond the bounds of just how to say “I don’t know” in Japanese. I also cover related expressions such as “I have no clue” or “I don’t get it” in Japanese. No matter the situation, formal or casual, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge of the most suitable way on how to say “I don’t know” in Japanese!

Let’s begin!

I Don’t Know in Japanese

  • I Don’t Know.

In most contexts, when you have no clue about something, the best expression (and safest) you can use 知らない (shiranai).

知らない (shiranai) is the negative form of the verb 知る (shiru), which means “to know” in Japanese. Interestingly, the kanji, 知, which is used in both verbs means “wisdom” or “knowledge” in Japanese.

Therefore when you say 知らない (shiranai) in Japanese, you’re saying that you don’t have the wisdom or knowledge about something. 知らない (shiranai) is a very general way to say “I don’t know” in Japanese, and you can even use it in regards to people.

For instance:

  • その人をあまり知らない。
    sono hito wo amari shiranai.
    I don’t really know that person.

That person could be anyone. When you say it like this, you’re saying you have minimal knowledge of the person, their personality etc.

Interesting uses of 知らない (shiranai) can occur during arguments. Say someone you’re engaged in conversation with is doing something you’d never thought they would do. To express your extreme shock, you could say:

  • あなたをもう知らない!
    anata wo mou shiranai!
    I’ve no idea who you are anymore!

You can also use it in regards to objects and other things. Say I were to ask you if you know what The Legend of Zelda is for example…

  • それをらない。
    sore wo shiranai.
    I don’t know what that is.

Essentially, when you don’t have any awareness or knowledge of a topic or thing, you can use 知らない (shiranai) to express it.

A quick thing about “I” and “you” in Japanese… pronouns in Japanese are very frequently omitted when the context is clear. Hence you’ll see them absent in the Japanese translations too.

I Don’t Know in Polite Japanese

As Japanese is a polite language that uses honorifics (keigo), you may need to conjugate 知らない (shiranai) to the polite form depending on the situation.

The polite form is a style of speech that is reserved for situations when you need to speak respectfully. These include, but are not limited to, conversations with your manager, teacher or strangers.

In the polite form, 知らない (shiranai) becomes 知りません (shirimasen). You can use it the same way you would use 知らない (shiranai) when you want to express a lack of knowledge on a topic.

  • 今日は給料日ですか? 知りませんでした!
    kyou ha kyuuryouhi desu ka? shirimasen deshita!
    Today is payday? I didn’t know!

In this example, you’re telling the person that you had no information on the fact that it’s payday.

I Don’t Understand in Japanese

  • I Don’t Understand.

わからない (wakaranai) is the second of the two most common expressions to say “I don’t know” in Japanese. Rather than just “I don’t know”, when you use わからない (wakaranai), the meaning is closer to “I don’t understand.”

Consequently, わからない (wakaranai) is reserved for mostly intellectual or emotional matters. When you say わからない (wakaranai) you’re saying that you tried to understand something, but were unable to so you don’t know.

  • あなたが言ってることわからない。
    anata ga itteru koto wakaranai.
    I don’t know what you’re saying.

Or, you can say:

  • 日本語がわからない。
    nihongo ga wakaranai.
    I don’t know/understand Japanese.

In both of these examples, the speaker is saying they don’t know something, but in the context of not being able to understand. Because they don’t understand, despite their efforts they just don’t know.

わからない (wakaranai), and the affirmative form わかる (wakaru), meaning to “understand” in Japanese has a nuance of the trying to relate to the speaker and their words/feelings.

During situations when you’ve tried to understand and establish a deeper connection to a person’s feelings, but are unable to, you can use わからない (wakaranai). Alternatively, if you do understand you can use わかる (wakaru), of course.

  • 気持ちいわかる。
    kimochi wakaru.
    I understand/know how you feel.

Difference Between わからない (wakaranai) & 知らない (shiranai)

Let’s summarise the differences between わからない (wakaranai) and 知らない (shiranai).

知らない (shiranai) is purely informational. When you have not heard/seen or read about a certain topic, you can use 知らない (shiranai). It’s indicative of a lack of superficial information about something. Therefore, when you say 知らない (shiranai), you’re saying that you do not possess information or knowledge on a topic.

Whereas わからない (wakaranai) shows that you tried to understand something but were unable to. Using わからない (wakaranai) invokes a deeper meaning and has a nuance that you tried to relate and connect to the other person. 

There is an exception to these rules, and I think it’s worth pointing out so you don’t accidentally say the wrong thing to someone.

If someone were to ask you, “hey is the bus stop around here?” for instance… Based on the explanations I shared above, you might think to say 知らない (shiranai). This is not necessarily wrong, it’s grammatically correct actually. But I think native Japanese speakers would prefer using わからない (wakaranai), or rather, the polite わかりません (wakarimasen) if speaking with a stranger. 

This is because わからない (wakaranai) conveys a much softer “no, I don’t know” rather than 知らない (shiranai). Simply saying 知らない (shiranai) can come across as somewhat cold. In this situation, although the speaker is asking for information from you, saying 知らない (shiranai) comes across as a blunt “No, I don’t know, why would I?” kind of answer.

Instead, using わからない (wakaranai) acts as a much gentler negation that conveys something along the lines of “I’m not too sure, I’m not very acquainted with this area” kind of thing.

This is similar to how the Japanese avoid saying “no” directly to things. It’s in the culture to be polite about your response to save the other person’s face.

I Don’t Know At All in Japanese

I Don't Know at All in Japanese


  • I have no clue.

During situations when you have absolutely no knowledge of an informational topic, you can say 知らん (shiran).

知らん (shiran) is a shortened version of 知らない (shiranai), meaning that it’s a very casual way of saying “I don’t know” in Japanese. They both can be used in the same contexts – those of which you have no awareness or knowledge.

The expression 知らん (shiran) also falls into the Kansai dialect, meaning that it is most frequently used around Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara regions.

  • 実はその有名人がだれか知らん。
    jitsu ha sono yuumei jin ga dare ka shiran.
    Actually, I’ve no clue who that famous person is.

Probably more so than the full-length version, with 知らん (shiran) you can really emphasise you’re completely void of information about something. To emphasise this even further you could say:

  • 何も知らん。
    nani mo shiran.
    I know nothing.

知らん (shiran) is also considered to be Japanese slang, so you really want to avoid using it during situations where you want to show respect.

I Don’t Get it in Japanese

  • I don’t get it

Similar to the relationship between 知らん (shiran) and 知らない (shiranai), わからん (wakaran) is the shortened version of わからない (wakaranai). Being a shortened version, it is considered to be Japanese slang.

So why would you use わからん (wakaran) over わからない (wakaranai)? They both convey the same meaning of “I don’t understand” in casual Japanese, so what’s the difference?

Well, apart from the former being slang, when you say わからない (wakaranai), you’re essentially saying that you’ve tried to understand (the topic) but were unable to. As a result, you don’t know.

わからん (wakaran) is also indicative of the very same thing, however, it has a bit of the finality of “it’s impossible to understand” to it.

For instance, say you’ve just started taking coding classes. You look at a huge page of Javascript, and your friend does their best to explain it to you. This is your response:

  • 何これ?わからん。
    nani kore? wakaran.
    What is this? I don’t get it.

When you say わからん (wakaran), you’re really placing emphasis on the fact you don’t get it.

I Don’t Understand Well in Japanese

  • I don’t understand well.
    yoku wakaranai.

At times when you are unable to understand something very well, you can use わからない.

The first part is よく (yoku), meaning “well” in Japanese. Following after is わからない (wakaranai), which we’ve already looked at above, means “don’t understand”. Consequently, the literal meaning of わからない is “I don’t understand well.”

In particular, this could mean that you were unable to relate to a piece of content, whether that be because you don’t have the same experience, or because it just doesn’t resonate with you. Whichever the reason, you just don’t understand what the thing/person is trying to say.

Perhaps you still couldn’t understand something despite the person sharing their opinion and/or trying to explain something to you. When your understanding is not adequate enough on something, you can use よくわからない (yoku wakaranai). For instance, say you’ve bought a new book.

  • この本はかなりずかしくて、何度読んでもよくわからない。
    kono hon ha kanari muzukashikute nando yondemo yoku wakaranai.
    This book is quite complex, I don’t understand it no matter how many times I read it.

By expressing that you don’t understand something well through よくわからない (yoku wakaranai), it implies that you have tried to understand, but alas to no avail.

I Don’t Really Understand in Japanese

I Don't Really Understand in Japanese

  • I don’t really understand.
    amari wakarnai.

When you have a very limited understanding of something, you can say あまりわからない (amari wakaranai).

The main nuance with あまりわからない (amari wakaranai) is that it implies that there is an absence of a considerable understanding.

What this means is that when you say あまりわからない (amari wakaranai) to someone, you’re telling them that you only understand a little or very minimal. 

It does not mean that you are completely clueless, but rather that your knowledge of something is not enough for you to be able to say you understand.  For instance when you say:

  • 日本語を1年しか勉強しなかったので、あまりわからない。
    nihongo wo ichi nen shika benkyou shinakattta node, amari wakaranai
    I’ve only studied Japanese for a year, so I’m not really able to understand it.

This sentence could also mean the same as: “I’ve only studied Japanese for a year, so I only understand a little”.

Saying あまりわからない (amari wakaranai) is the same as saying you only possess minimal knowledge on something. 

However, because あまり (amari) is used here, there is an emphasis placed on “not really” being able to understand something. This is because あまり (amari) in Japanese is used to express when something is not much. As an example:

  • あまり甘いものを食べない。
    amari amaimono wo tabenai.
    I don’t really eat many sweets.

A perfect response to this might be to express your shock in the form of a “no way!

I Have Absolutely No Idea in Japanese

  • I Have Absolutely No Idea.
    zenzen wakaranai.

As an alternative to the slangy わからん (wakaran), you can also use 全然わからない when you’re completely at a loss.

全然わからない (zenzen wakaranai), is probably the most powerful way to convey an “I have absolutely no idea” or “I absolutely don’t understand” in Japanese. Hence, when you say 全然わからない, you’re saying that you have tried to understand something, but are utterly clueless on it.

For instance, if you completely don’t understand this guide, you could tell me:

  • あなたが言ってることを全然わからない。
    anata ga itteru koto wo zenzen wakaranai.
    I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

I hope that’s not the case, but all feedback is greatly welcomed and appreciated!

The increased emphasis of “absolutely” on this expression comes from 全然 (zenzen).

全然 (zenzen) is used in conjunction with a negative verb to convey the nuance of “not at all,” or “not in the slightest”. So when used together with わからない (wakaranai), it essentially means “I don’t understand at all” in Japanese.

You could even attach 全然 (zenzen) to the beginning of all of the expressions we’ve looked at so far to emphasise them.

Who Knows in Casual Japanese

Who Knows in Japanese

  • Who Knows.

We often use filler words in English to fill those pauses in our speech, and Japanese is the same. Actually, さあ (saa) has a number of different meanings, and can also be used as a filler word. However, in this case, we’re going to look at how it can be used to say “who knows” in Japanese.

When you’ve been asked a question on something that you don’t know the answer to, you can reply with さあ (saa). By replying with さあ (saa), you convey the nuance of “who knows” in Japanese.

Just like how when we say “who knows” in English, we’re kind of shrugging off our opinion or knowledge on the matter, the same concept applies here in Japanese. This means that さあ (saa) is a very casual way to say “I don’t know” in Japanese with a nuance of “I’m not really bothered” kind of thing. Let’s look at a quick example of a conversation. Imagine a detective asking a suspect where the money is.

  • 金はどこだ?
    kane ha doko da?
    Where is the money?

To which they reply:

  • さあ…
    Who Knows…

When さあ (saa) in a “who knows” context, it is said somewhat hesitantly with a dragged-out “aah” sound. Ever seen the Harry Potter YouTube video meme with everyone shouting out Wingardium Leviosaaa… Yeah, that “sa” is the exact same. Albeit maybe not that exaggerated, but it’s certainly very similar!

I Don’t Get You in Japanese

  • I don’t get you.
    rikai dekinai.

When you want to express to someone that you strongly can’t understand something in Japanese, you can say 理解できない (rikai dekinai). The word “strongly” here refers to how much you can’t comprehend/relate to that something.

It is a very powerful expression that expresses your incapability to understand or feel the same thing as the other person. Because of this, you can use 理解できない (rikai dekinai) to say things like “I don’t get you” or “I can’t understand you.”

  • 彼を理解できない。
    kare wo rikai dekinai.
    I don’t get him/ I can’t understand him.

理解できない (rikai dekinai) also uses the verb できない (dekinai) which means “can’t” in Japanese. Therefore, rather than simply meaning “I don’t understand you”, 理解できない (rikai dekinai) heavily emphasises an inability to understand the person.

Saying 理解できない (rikai dekinai) to someone can come across much more personal than simply saying わからない (wakaranai).

I Don’t Know What I Should Do in Japanese

I Don't Know What To Do in Japanese

  • I don’t know what I should do.
    dou sureba ii.

Sometimes, when we say “I don’t know”, we want to express our concern about what to do about it a little more. We all reach times in our life when we’re not too sure what the best course of action is.

During these times, it might be best to consult a friend or family member to find an answer. When you say どうすればいい (dousureba ii) to someone, you’re conveying two things.

  1. You’re saying: I don’t know what I should do.
  2. You’re asking: What do you think I should do?

どうすればいい (dousureba ii) can be both a statement about the fact you don’t know what to do, as well as an enquiry for advice. This is because of the entities in the expression. The すれば (sureba) part of the expression is one of the four ways of saying “if” in Japanese. In this case, it is the hypothetical “if”.

Secondly the いい (ii) part means “good” in Japanese. Combining this with どう (dou) which can mean “how” or “what” we have a phrase that translates to something like  “What would be good if I did it?”

Let’s take a look at an example. Perhaps you’ve landed yourself a job you’ve wanted. Congrats! But you also have the opportunity to go and study abroad for a year. You’re puzzled about what to do, so you might ask/say:

  • どうすればいいのかわからない。
    dou sureba ii no ka wakaranai.
    I’m at a loss about what to do.

The のかわからない (no ka wakaranai) part is optional, but by saying it, you emphasise that you’re really stuck.

To really tell someone you’re completely clueless about what to do you could also say:

  • 一体どうすればいい?
    ittai dou sureba ii?
    I’m at a loss about what to do.

I Don’t Know What I Should Do in Formal Japanese

To say “I don’t know what to do” in Japanese formally, simply attach ですか (desuka) to the end of the expression.

  • どうすればいいですか。
    dou sureba ii desuka.
    What should I do? (I don’t know).

By attaching ですか (desuka), the question element of the expression is more direct. This is because ですか (desuka) is used to make questions in Japanese.

You can also achieve the same thing when using this phrase casually by phrasing it like a question when you say it.

I’m Not Sure in Japanese

  • I’m not sure.
    dou kana.

When we’re not confident about something, in English we often say things like “I’m not too sure”, or  “I wonder”. In Japanese, we can say どうかな (dou kana) to express that same uncertainty.

Perhaps your friends are asking if you can make it to the party, or maybe you’re wondering if it’ll rain tomorrow.

When you’re questioning the legitimacy, truth or possibility of something happening, you can say どうかな (dou kana). You can also use どうかな (dou kana) to say no in indirectly in Japanese to turn down an invitation for instance.

There are two ways you can use this expression. The first is when you want to say “I’m not sure” as a general response. The second is when you want to say you’re not sure about something specifically.

An example of using どうかな (dou kana) as a general response could be when someone asks you if you’re coming to the party later. You’re not so keen so you simply reply with どうかな (dou kana), meaning “I’m not sure.”

You may have also heard どうかしら (dou kashira). The main difference between the two is that どうかしら (dou kashira) is considered to be a feminine style of speech, whereas どうかな (dou kana) is more general. Other than that, they mean the same thing!

  • どうかしら.
    dou kashira.
    I wonder (feminine).

I Wonder If… in Japanese

When you want to express that you’re not sure about something specific, firstly we want to drop the どう (dou) part and keep かな (kana).

This is because かな (kana) is a sentence ending particle that transforms any sentence it’s attached to into an “I’m not sure if…” expression.

Let’s take a look at an example! Say if someone asks you if you think it’s going to rain tomorrow. You can say:

  • 明日雨が降るかな.
    ashita ame ga furu kana.
    I wonder if it’ll rain tomorrow.

かな (kana) is a very flexible particle that can be attached to the end of most sentences to convey an “I wonder”.

  • 彼女は本当に大丈夫かな.
    kanojo ha hontouni daijobu kana.
    I wonder if she is really okay.

As かな (kana) is actually a particle, it is rarely used on its own. The only time you might use it on its own is after a pause in your speech.

  • 試験に合格した…かな。
    shiken ni goukaku shita… kana
    I wonder if… I passed the exam.

When you say it with a pause like this, your uncertainty in regard to the topic may be emphasised.

I Know in Japanese

I Know in Japanese

  • I know.

With all of these different ways to express that you don’t know or don’t understand something, what about when you’re on the other side of the spectrum.

That being said, when you want to say “I know” in Japanese, the most general expression is 知ってる (shitteru). You may recall from the first entry of this guide that the affirmative way to say “I know” in Japanese is the verb 知る (shiru). However, to say it naturally, we first have to conjugate 知る (shiru) into te-form. When we do, it becomes 知ってる (shitteru).

The reason we have to use 知ってる (shitteru) over 知る (shiru) is because 知ってる (shitteru) is the progressive form of 知る (shiru). This is because, when we know something, it’s a continuous thing. We don’t just know something for an instant and then forget. When we say that we know something, we’re saying that we have (and will continue to have) knowledge or information on a topic.

When we say 知ってる (shitteru) we’re saying that we possess information on the topic at hand. We can also phrase it like a question.

  • 彼が来るかどうか知ってる?
    kara ga kuru kadouka shitteru?
    Do you know if he’s coming or not?

To say “I know” formally in Japanese, use 知っています (shitteimasu).

What If I Don’t Know How To Study More Japanese!

  • どうやってもっと日本語の勉強ができるかわからない!
    douyatte motto nihongo no benkyou ga dekiruka wakaranai!
    I don’t know how to study more Japanese!

This brings us to the end of this ultimate guide on how to say “I don’t know” in Japanese. If you have any questions about anything covered/not covered here feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message!

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