Japanese Language

Go Away in Japanese

How to say Go Away in Japanese

Asking or telling someone to go away in Japanese, or in any language for that matter can be quite challenging to do. This is especially true if you want to do it without sounding too abrupt. Sometimes though, you may find yourself needing some alone time.  During these times you’ll want to ask (or tell) anyone who is around you to kindly go away.

Or perhaps, there might be someone who is just outright a nuisance. You’ve reached your limit and now it’s time to tell them firmly to “Go Away.”

Whether you want to focus on a task,  some relaxation time,  some peace and quiet or if someone has overstayed their welcome… Whatever the reason, there are plenty of reasons as to why you might want to say “go away” to someone.

In Japanese, there are plenty of ways you can say “go away.” Which one you’ll need or want will be dependent on you and your situation.

In this ultimate guide, we will look at the most common ways to say “Go away” in Japanese. We will also cover expressions and phrases with similar nuances. Each entry in this guide is supplemented with detailed explanations and examples for your reference.

Any questions at all, drop a comment and I’ll be right there with you!

With that said, let’s jump into the most direct way to say “go away” in Japanese.

Go Away in Japanese

  • Go Away
    あっちへ行け
    acchi e ike

When you want to tell someone directly to just “go away” in Japanese, you can use あっちへ行け (acchi e ike). By using this phrase you get straight to the point, there’s no extra fluff or cushioning with this one.

You’ll want to use あっちへ行け (acchi e ike) when you would say things like “buzz off” or any other firm phrase you would yell at someone to go away in English. For instance, as a strong example, let’s imagine you’re in the midst of a heated argument and the other person tells you:

  • 君は間違えてると思う。
    kimi ha machigaeteru to omou.
    I think you’re in the wrong.

To which, (assuming you’re at your limit) you could reply:

  • お前なんか嫌いだ。あっちへ行け!
    omae nanka kirai da. acchi e ike!
    I hate your guts. Go away!

By itself, あっちへ行け (acchi e ike) is a complete sentence, so you could use it as it is. As you can probably tell from the above example, it is also a very strong phrase. Hence, you should only use it when you’re super serious, or if you’re in a bad mood.

All of this makes this phrase a very informal one, one you can imagine would be quite rude to yell.

Understanding the Components

 

The first part, あっち (acchi) is a way of saying “over there” in Japanese. When you say あっち (acchi) in Japanese, you’re specifically referring to a place that’s away from both you, and the person to whom you’re speaking. This is why when we tell someone to go away, we use あっち (acchi) as we’re not telling them exactly where to go. Just away from you.

へ (e) is a Japanese particle that when used, indicates a direction or destination.

行け (ike) is the imperative form of the word  “go” in Japanese. I cover the word “go” in detail in this ultimate guide, which explains how to say “let’s go” in Japanese.

The imperative form is a way to add additional firmness to requests in Japanese. It adds so much firmness, it changes the request into a command.

So, when you use あっちへ行け (acchi e ike) you’re essentially commanding someone to go to a place that’s far away from you.

Get Lost 

  • Get Lost
    消えろ
    kiero

Speaking of commanding someone to go away, what better way to do it than to tell them to “get lost” in Japanese. Of course, I don’t mean to tell them to literally get lost and lose their way, which would be 迷子になって (maigo ni natte), in case you did want to know.

But rather, when you’re unable to take any more from someone and you’ve reached your breaking point you might want to tell them to simply “get lost.” At times like that, we can use 消える (kiero).

消える (kiero) is even more direct than the above あっちへ行け (acchi e ike). Instead of telling someone to just “go away,” when you use 消える (kiero) you’re telling them to disappear or vanish.

Like あっちへ行け (acchi e ike), this phrase is also imperative. This means that with 消える (kiero), you’re ordering or commanding the person to disappear or to completely vanish from existence (or your sight).

Let’s take a look at an example. You could tell someone:

  • お前の顔もう見たくない。消えろ。
    omae no kao mou mitakunai. kiero.
    I don’t want to see your face anymore. Get lost.

消える (kiero) is probably the strongest way to tell someone to “go away” in Japanese.

You may have also heard characters in movies or anime shout 消える (kiero). It’s mostly used by antagonists.

Get Out! in Japanese

  • Get out!
    出ていけ
    dete ike

Sometimes you might need to be firm with someone and tell them straight up to get out. To do that, you can tell them 出ていけ (dete ike) which is another aggressive expression in Japanese. This means that 出ていけ (dete ike) is also very direct, to the extent of being a command/order rather than a request to go away.

You might recognise that the いけ (ike) part returns to this expression. It is the same いけ (ike) from あっちへ行け (acchi e ike), above. The いけ (ike) means “go” imperatively. This is the part that changes this expression to come across as a command/order.

The first part of the expression 出て (dete) is te-form of the verb 出る, which means “to exit.” One of the uses of the te-form in Japanese is to express “and” in Japanese. So the meaning of 出ていけ (dete ike) is literally “exit and go!”

Kindly Get Out! in Japanese

If you want to ask someone nicely to get out in Japanese, you can use 出て行って (deteitte). The difference between 出て行って (deteitte) and 出ていけ (dete ike) is that the former ends without the same imperativeness of the latter. This makes it a somewhat nicer way to ask someone to get out. For instance, let’s say your friend is in your room and you want to ask them to get out, you can say:

  • 今忙しいから出て行って
    ima isogashii kara deteitte
    I’m busy right now so leave

出て行って (deteitte) by itself is a complete sentence though, so you’d be fine using it as is.

There are many verb conjugations in Japanese, the te-form and imperative form are two of them.

Don’t Get In My Way

 

Don't get in my Way in Japanese

  • Don’t get in my way
    邪魔しないで
    jama shinaide

When someone is being a little bit of a nuisance and is a bother, you may want to tell them 邪魔しないで (jama shinaide), meaning “don’t get in my way” in Japanese.

Although not as strong as 消えろ (kiero), or 出ていけ (deteike) above, you’re still directly telling someone that they are in your way.

For instance, imagine you’re focusing on your work, but you have someone who is (purposely) annoying you. You could say:

  • 邪魔しないで。今集中している。
    jama shinaide. ima shuuchuu shteiru.
    Don’t disturb me (Don’t be a bother). I’m concentrating right now.

If this phrase is a little too strong for you, you could attach a “please” to the end.

For formal situations:

  • 邪魔しないでください
    jama shinaide kudasai.
    Please don’t be a bother.

For casual situations:

  • 邪魔しないでお願い
    jama shinaide onegai.
    Please don’t be a bother.

The main difference between the two examples above is that they are both tailored for different situations. When speaking with someone you know, you’ll want to use 邪魔しないでお願い (jama shinaide onegai). For others, you’ll want to use ください (kudasai).

You are a Nuisance/Bother in Japanese

To call someone a nuisance or bother simply follow this sentence structure.

  • You are a Nuisance/bother
    [Person’s name] は邪魔
    [Person’s name] ha jama

It might end up with the other person telling you to 消える (kiero), but who knows, maybe this will come in useful one day.

Leave Me Alone in Japanese

Another Way to say Go Away in Japanese

  • Leave Me Alone
    放っておいて
    houttooite

You can use 放っておいて (hotteoite) to say “leave me alone” in Japanese. At times when you really need to have some time to yourself for whatever reason, you can use this phrase. Compared to the entries above, this phrase is less rude.

The first part, 放って (hotte) is the te-form of the verb 放る (houru), which means “to leave alone”. This is followed by おいて which is the te-form of (て)おく a Japanese grammar point which means “to do in advance.”

Combing them makes 放っておいて (houtteoite) which can be a good phrase you can use to ask someone to go away without sounding too rude.

Let’s take a look at an example. Perhaps you’re fed up and just want to tell someone to leave you alone straight up- without it being as heavy as the expressions 消えろ (kiero) or あっちへ行け (acchi he ike) above.

Someone says to you:

  • 泣いてしまったの?今は泣いてる場合じゃないよ
    naitteshimatta no? ima ha naitteru baai janai yo.
    Are you crying? This isn’t the time for that now.

To which you can reply:

  • うるさい。放っておいて!
    urusai. houtte oite !
    I don’t care. Leave me alone!

Colloquially speaking, this phrase often gets spoken very fast, especially when the speaker is angry. When it does, the て (te) and お (o) in 放っておいて it’s sometimes merged together. This makes it 放っいて (hottoite). When spoken like this, the meaning changes to “go away.”

  • 放っといて!
    hottoite!
    Go Away!

Let Me Be Alone in Japanese

  • Can you let me be alone?
    一人にしてくれる?
    hitori ni shtekureru?

When you want to ask someone to go away nicely, (at least more nicely compared to the expressions we’ve looked at so far) you’ll want to use 一人にしてくれる (hitori ni shtekureru). This expression is also my personal favourite, all because of くれる (kureru).

Anytime you use くれる (kureru), you’re turning your sentence into a question that expresses  “Can you do this…. for me” with emphasis on the “for me” part.

The first part of this expression is 一人, the kanji for “one” and “person” respectively. This is the part that conveys the “alone” in the full expression, as being alone = one person, you.

Imagine you’ve had a terrible day and you’re friends are trying to cheer you up. You appreciate the thought but you just want to be alone. During these kinds of situations when you’re not intending to be rude with your words, you can say 一人にしてくれる (hitori ni shtekureru). Let’s take a look at an example. A friend is trying to cheer you up:

  • 今日のことごめんね。後でカラオケに行かない?それとも何か食べに行く?
    kyou no koto gomen ne. atode karaoke ni ikanai? soretomo nanika tabeniiku?
    I’m sorry about today. Shall we go to karaoke today? Or would you like to get something to eat?

You see your friend is trying to be supportive, but you want some alone time.

  • ごめん、今日は一人にしてくれる?
    gomen, hitori ni shi ekureru?
    I’m sorry, could you let me be alone for today?

If you were to say the complete expression without くれる (kureru), which you can, by the way, you would be saying “let me be alone” without the emphasis on the “can you” part.

  • 一人にして
    hitori ni shi+te
    Let me be alone

Of course, just like in English, this isn’t as friendly as the full expression: 一人にしてくれる (hitori ni shtekureru).

Please Leave Me Alone

  • Please leave me alone
    一人にしてください
    hitori ni shtekudasai

When you want to ask someone nicely, but formally to “go away” in Japanese, you’ll want to use 一人にしてください (hitori ni shtekudasai). You can use this phrase to tell a person that you want to be alone right now, and that they should leave you be.

Like the above entry, this phrase still has 一人にして (hitori ni shi+te) as the core. ください (kudasai) is a formal way of saying please in Japanese. By itself 一人にして (hitori ni shi+te) means “let me be alone” in Japanese, so by attaching ください (kudasai), we can make 一人にしてください (hitori ni shtekudasai), literally meaning Leave me alone, please.

As this is a formal phrase, you can use it when speaking with people who you don’t know too well, (maybe saying this to your manager wouldn’t be the best idea).

In Japanese, we sometimes use 一人にしてください (hitori ni shtekudasai) to make 一人にしてくれる (hitori ni shtekureru) stronger. Imagine you’ve already asked the person to leave you alone nicely a few times and they’re not listening to you.

You could say 一人にしてください ! (hitori ni shtekudasai!) to emphasise that you’re getting irritated with them. In this case, we can translate 一人にしてください (hitori ni shtekudasai) as “just leave me alone please” or “just go away, please” in Japanese.  Imagine if someone asks you time and time again to do something, and it’s starting to frustrate you. they ask you:

  • ね、何でしない?もう何回も聞いたけど。
    ne, nande shinai? mou nankai mo kiita kedo.
    hey, why won’t you do it? I’ve asked you so many times already.

Your reply could be:

  • 一人にしてください!
    hitori ni shtekudasai!
    Just let me be alone, please!

No More/That’s Enough 

 

No More, That's Enough in Japanese

 

As this expression has many meanings, this section has three parts.

  • No More/That’s Enough/Forget it
    もういい
    mou ii

もういい Meaning 1 – That’s Enough/I’m done

The meaning of もういい (mou ii) can change depending on the context.  Firstly, you can use もういい (mou ii)  to say “I’m done,” or “That’s enough” in Japanese.  Imagine you go out to play mini-golf with friends. You complete the course twice and your friends are hyped to go again. So, they ask you:

  • もう一回する?
    mou ikkai suru?
    Let’s go again?

You’re tired now and have had enough for one day. So you reply with:

  • もういい。
    mou ii.
    That’s enough/ I’m done

もういい Meaning 2 – Forget it

Secondly,  you can use it to say No more/that’s enough, in the context of “go away.” When you say もういい (mou ii) in this context, you’re showing an abandoned attitude towards something.

It’s similar to the English expression “forget it,” or “that’s enough.” Let’s take a look at an example. Suppose you’ve asked your roommate if they could clean the mess they made in the kitchen. A couple of hours later you ask:

  • キッチンをきれいにしたの??
    kicchin wo kirei nishi tano?
    Have you tidied up the kitchen?

They reply:

  • まだ。暇の時する。
    mada. hima no toki suru.
    Not yet, I’ll do it when I have time.

At this point, you could respond with:

  • もういい。
    mou ii
    Forget it.

もういい Meaning 3 – Okay

Lastly, you can use it to describe a state that reaches a satisfactory or suitable level. For example, say you’re waiting to enter a room to speak with someone, you ask:

  • もう入ってもいいですか?
    mou haiitemoii desu ka?
    Is it okay to come in now?

Their reply could be:

  • もういいよ! 入って !
    mou ii yo! haitte!
    It’s okay now! Come in!

Depending on the context, the meaning of もういい (mou ii) can change drastically. Just because this expression can be used to mean “forget it” doesn’t mean that it has negative connotations attached to it when used in other contexts.

Stop it! in Japanese

Stop it in Japanese

  • Stop it
    やめて
    Yamete

Sometimes when we tell someone “go away” we’re actually asking them to “stop it” rather than to step away physically. When you want to say to someone “stop it” in Japanese you can use やめて (yamete). I’ve composed a full guide on how to say stop it in Japanese here.

Shut Up! in Japanese

 

Shut up in Japanese

  • Shut up!
    うるさい
    urusai

When you say うるさい (urusai) to someone in Japanese, you’re telling them to “shut up.” Although it has many meanings: annoying, noisy, fussy, in Japanese you can use it to tell someone to keep quiet. It’s commonly used in Japanese media for comedic effect, so you might hear movie/anime characters using it.

  • 結構お菓子を食べるね!もっと太るよ。
    kekkou okashi wo taberu ne! motto futoru yo
    You eat quite a lot of sweets. You’ll get even more fat, you know.

The reply:

  • うるさい。
    urusai.
    Shut it.

うるさい (urusai) is a flexible word that’s not just used to tell someone to stop being noisy though. When you use it, you express your irritation towards what’s happening.  You can also call someone うるさい (urusai)  for instance. When you do this, you’re telling them that they are annoying/loud and that it is irritating you. This is because うるさい (urusai) is actually an adjective.

  • あなたはうるさいね
    anata ha urusai ne
    You’re really loud (annoying)

You can also use うるさい (urusai) to express your irritation towards something that is not a sound, an overly insistent person for example.

Despite being often used to say “shut up” in Japanese, in terms of offensiveness, うるさい (urusai) is on the weaker end. That is because of the Imperative form that exists in Japanese. If you really want to tell someone to be quiet, in the same way as you would shout “SILENCE” in English, refer to the next entry.

Be Quiet!

  • Be Quiet!
    黙れ
    damare

Sometimes you might want to tell someone to “go away” because they are really loud. Or, you could just yell at them to be quiet, which is what 黙れ (damare) is in Japanese. 黙れ is the imperative form of the verb 黙る (damaru) which means “to be silent” in Japanese

. As we’ve discussed, the imperative form in Japanese is used to really put emphasis on a request and pretty much turn it into a command or an order.

With this in mind, 黙れ is a very aggressive expression that you can use when you want to tell someone straight-up:  “SILENCE.” A good example of when you might hear this expression being used would be in a movie or anime. Imagine the antagonist is trying to taunt the protagonist:

  • お前はまさか、もう限界なのか?
    omae ha masaka, mou genkai na no ka?
    There’s no way that’s all you can do, is it?

To which, the triggered protagonist would angrily shout:

  • 黙れ!
    damare!
    Silence!

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

Please Be Quiet in Japanese

  • Please Be Quiet!
    静かにしてください
    shizuka ni shtekudasa
  • i

When you want to ask someone to be quiet nicely, you’ll want to use 静かにしてください (shizuka ni shtekudasai). 静か (shizuka) the first part of the phrase means “quiet” in Japanese.

The remainder of the phrase にして (ni shi+te) means “to do” and ください (kudasai) is a polite way of saying “please” in Japanese. This means that we can translate the phrase as literally: “Please do it quietly.”

静かにしてください (shizuka ni shtekudasai) is something you might see at libraries in Japan to remind everyone to keep quiet in the facility.

You can use this phrase to kindly ask someone to be quiet though. This is a formal phrase, so you wouldn’t really use it with friends or anyone you’re close with. Instead, you can use:

  • 静かにしてくれる?
    shizuka ni shtekureru?
    Could you be quiet for me?

As you may remember, the addition of くれる (kureru) conveys the meaning of “for me” in Japanese. There’s nothing quite like it in English, but くれる (kureru) has a kinder connotation with it. You can use 静かにしてくれる (shizuka ni shtekureru) only with friends or people you are close with to ask them to kindly be quiet in Japanese.

Don’t Go! in Japanese

Don't Go Away in Japanese

  • Don’t go!
    行かないで
    ikanai de

To finish up today’s article I thought it would be a good idea to mention how to say the opposite of “go away,” in case you should need it. To do that you can say 行かないで (ikanaide), an expression to say “don’t go” in Japanese. Perhaps you’ve accidentally told someone to “go away” but actually you’ve changed your mind. Or maybe someone is about to leave, and you wish to express your true feelings that you want them to stay.  For all of these situations, you can use 行かないで (ikanaide).

Let’s take a look at an example. Someone special says to you:

  • ごめん、今行かないと、また後でね!
    gomen, ima ikanaito, mata atodene!
    I’m sorry, I have to go now. I’ll catch you later!

You can reply:

  • 待って!行かないで!
    matte! ikanaide!
    Wait! Don’t go!

By itself, 行かないで (ikanaide) is already a complete phrase, so the addition of 待って (matte), a casual way of saying “wait” in Japanese, is optional here.


With that said, that concludes today’s article. I hope you found it useful and enjoyable.

But wait! 行かないで!

We have more content to help you with learning Japanese expressions and phrases.

Check out more Ultimate Guides such as how to ask How Are You, or how to say Have a Good Day in Japanese.

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Let's Go in Japanese

How to say Let’s Go in Japanese

Unlike in English, saying “let’s go” in Japanese is not just about learning two simple words.

In fact, when you want to say “let’s go, let’s eat” or anything of the sort in Japanese you’ll instead be using a single word. This is because “let’s” in Japanese is actually a grammar point.

In this ultimate guide, I will be explaining both the grammar point for people who would like more info, and I will also be providing simple ready-to-use sentences coupled with examples for those who are just looking for ways on how to say “let’s go” in Japanese.

However, the grammar point is not so bad because once you know how to conjugate it, you can transform every verb into “let’s.”

With that said, now we’re going to explore and learn about all the ways you can say “let’s go and do something,” or “let’s go” in Japanese.

Let’s begin! 始めよう!

How to say “Go” in Japanese

First, let’s look at how to say “go.”

  • To Go
    行く
    iku

 To say “go” in Japanese, we can use the word 行く (iku). By itself, this word simply means “to go.” You can use it when you want to tell someone that you will go somewhere. For instance, if a friend asks if you’re going to the party that’s happening later the conversation might look like this:

  • 今日のパーティーに行く?
    kyou no pa-tei- ni iku?
    Are you going to today’s party?

If you’re going, you can simply say:

  • 行く?
    iku?
    I’m going.

Although 行く (iku) literally translates to “go,” you can use it by itself to say things like: “I’m going”,  or “I will go.” You can even use it as a way to say “yes” in Japanese. It’s worth noting that the Japanese language often omits pronouns where context is clear. You don’t even need to say “I” here! Another example:

  • 今日、ジムに行く?
    kyou, jimu ni iku?
    Are you going to the gym today?

Your reply:

  • 行く!
    iku
    Yeah!

Simply saying 行く (iku) is sufficient enough again here! Of course, if you’re not going you can say you aren’t by using 行かない (ikanai) instead.

Go in Formal Japanese

Currently, we’ve looked at the plain form of 行く (iku). The plain form (or dictionary form) refers to a casual style of speech. This means that you should only use 行く (iku) when you’re speaking with friends or family. This is because the Japanese language has many different styles of speech that show different levels of respect/politeness.

When you’re speaking with people such as a manager, teacher, or even a stranger you should use a more formal style of speech. These honorifics are called keigo.

In the case of 行く (iku), it becomes 行きます (ikimasu) when speaking formal Japanese.

Let’s say you’re having a conversation with your manager:

  • 会議に行きますか?
    kaigi ni ikimasu ka?
    Are you going to the meeting later?

Your (formal) response:

  • 行きます。
    ikimasu.
    Yes. (I am going)

How to say “Let’s” in Japanese

Now that we’ve covered how to say “go” in Japanese, let’s take a look at how to say “let’s.” Being able to say “let’s” in Japanese isn’t as simple as just learning a single word like in English. Instead, it’s a grammar point.

This grammar point is called the volitional form. You use it when you want to make a proposition to do something, invite someone to do something, or propose an action.

Put simply, you use the volitional form when you want to say “Let’s” in Japanese.

If you’re interested in learning all about the form in detail, as well as practising with it, you should definitely check out our Free Japanese Reading Practice.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how “let’s go” is said in Japanese.

Let’s Go in Japanese

Let's Go in Japanese

  • Let’s Go
    行こう
    ikou

When you want to say to someone “let’s go” in Japanese, you’ll want to use 行こう (ikou). Grammatically speaking, 行こう (ikou) is the volitional form of 行く (iku). All volitional words will end in う (u) so it makes it a little easier to recognise.

Just like 行く (iku), you can use 行こう (ikou) by itself as a sentence. For instance, imagine you’re preparing for a camping trip with your friend. Your friend says:

  • 準備できた!
    junbi dekita!
    I’ve packed!

And you reply:

  • 行こう!
    ikou!
    Let’s go!

Also like 行く (iku), you can use 行こう (ikou) to say yes to things. Let’s take a look at another example. Your partner asks you:

  • 今夜、レストランに行かない?
    konya, resutoran ni ikanai?
    Shall we go to a restaurant tonight?

Assuming you’re all up for wanting to watch a movie, you can simply reply:

  • 行こう!
    ikou!
    Yeah! (Let’s go)

Sometimes situations where you want to say “let’s go” is interchangeable with “yes.” That’s why you can also use 行こう (ikou) when you want to give an affirmative response to something.

It’s worth noting that all words in the volitional form can convey “yes” too.

As previously mentioned Japanese has many different styles of casual and formal speech that change depending on whom you’re speaking with. Saying 行こう (ikou) is something that you should only do with your friends, family, or in a casual setting. The formal variant is what we’ll discuss next!

Formal ways to say Let’s Go

Let's Go in Japanese Formally

  • Let’s Go (formal)
    行きましょう
    ikimashou

Understanding how the volitional form works in polite Japanese is much easier than in casual Japanese.

As a quick and simple explanation, take any Japanese verb in the ます (masu) form. Remove the す (su) and attach しょう (shou). That’s all there is to it.

A few examples:

べます ー べま ー べましょう (Let’s eat)

す -  ー しょう (Let’s see/ Let’s watch)

Back to the Star of today’s post! The casual 行く(iku), meaning “to go” becomes the formal 行きます (ikimasu). And then:

きます ー きま ー 行きましょう

Exactly like how you would use 行こう (ikou) to say “let’s go” in a casual setting, you can use 行きましょう (ikimashou) to say the same thing in a formal one.

Let’s take a look at examples. Let’s say you’ve joined a hiking group. You’re with people with whom you’re not too familiar.  You’re trying to work out where to go, and someone suggests a place:

  • このところはどうですか?
    kono tokoro ha dou desuka?
    How about this place?

If you’re all up for it, you can say:

  • 行きましょう!
    ikimashou!
    Let’s go!

In this example, you can think of 行きましょう (ikimashou) as a polite way to say “sounds good” in Japanese. You’re essentially telling the person that you’re happy to do the thing that they’re proposing.

If you’re wondering what to say when you’re not too keen on the idea, we have an ultimate guide on how to say No in Japanese. Declining things in Japanese can be a little tricky, but the guide should definitely be able to explain all the nuances and everything clearly to you.

Let’s Go in Japanese Keigo

  • Let’s Go (Very formal, Keigo)
    参りましょう
    mairimashou

There is actually another way to go even further beyond and say “let’s go” when you want to be super formal. This super formal Japanese is called Keigo. You will hear it a lot when you’re being spoken to as a customer.

For instance, when you are checking in at a hotel, or when you’re paying for an item at a cashier, the staff may use it with you. They use this super polite style of speech to really emphasize how valued you are (as a customer).

In the case of 参りましょう (mairimashou), you’ll probably not hear it as much in Japanese speech.

Let’s Go in Japanese Keigo Examples

Being a massive The Legend of Zelda fan I was playing Hyrule Warriors the other night. I play with Japanese voices out of preference and I noticed a great example of this phrase being used in the game.

I noticed how the character Impa, who is a loyal protector of Princess Zelda, speaks to the King of Hyrule. In Hyrule Warriors you can select characters you’d like to join you on quests and missions. When I selected Impa and the King of Hyrule together, she says:

  • 参りましょう陛下!
    mairimashou heika!
    Let us be off, your majesty!

I thought this was a fantastic example of how much formality 参りましょう (mairimashou) carries.

When you use this phrase, you’re really putting the person you’re speaking with on a pedestal.

Another situation where I’ve used this kind of phrase before was when I went to Mcdonalds (in Japan) for my job interview. After preparing to the best of my ability and trying to calm my nerves as much as possible I entered the building. I asked the staff:

  • すみません、店長がいらしゃいますか?
    sumimasen, tenchou ga irashaimasu ka?
    Excuse me, is the manager about?

To which they replied:

  • 少々お待ちください。すぐ参ります。
    shoushou omachikudasai. sugu mairimasu.
    Please wait for a moment. They’ll be with you momentarily.

参ります (mairimasu) can also mean “to come” as well as “to go” in Japanese, making it a little easier to use!

Let’s Go Together

Let's Go Together in Japanese

  • Let’s Go Together
    一緒に行こう
    isshoni ikou

Jumping back to 行こう, if you attach the word 一緒に (isshoni) to the phrase, you can say “let’s go together” in Japanese.

一緒に (isshoni) means “together” in Japanese, and you can use it exactly how you would use “together” in English.

As we discussed earlier, 行こう (ikou) is the casual way to say “let’s go” in Japanese. When you want to specify that you particularly want to go somewhere with someone you might want to use the phrase 一緒に行こう (isshoni ikou). For instance, let’s say your partner is looking at some photographs of a new theme park that’s opened up near you. They might say:

  • 新しい遊園地はすごく楽しそう。
    atarashii yuuenchi wa sugoku tanoshisou.
    The new theme park looks so fun.

You might respond:

  • 一緒に行こう!
    isshoni ikou!
    Let’s go together!

一緒に行こう (isshoni ikou) is a phrase that you should only use with friends and family. You can say 一緒に行きましょう (isshoni ikimashou) to say “let’s go together” in polite Japanese.

Right, Let’s Go

  • Right, Let’s Go
    さあ・よし・じゃあ・では +行こう
    saa / deha / jaa / yoshi + ikou

In situations where we are looking to depart or go somewhere, we might say “right, let’s go,” or “okay/alright, let’s go.”

These situations would mostly be those where you’re about to depart at any second. For instance, imagine you’ve just packed the car for a road trip. You quickly scan through your head to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

You think everything is good to go, and you’re ready to depart. In English, you might say “okay, let’s go.” The “okay” in this sentence is where the さあ (saa)・よし (yoshi)・じゃあ (jaa)・では (deha)  come in.

さあ (saa)・よし (yoshi)・じゃあ (jaa) ・では (deha) can be used pretty much interchangeably. The order in which you see them displayed on this page shows how formal each expression is, from casual to formal.

The difference between さあ・よし・じゃあ・では

さあ (saa) is the most casual of the group and is best used with those with whom you are familiar.

  You might also hear さあ (saa) being used as a filler word in sentences by young people.

When you want to use it as a filler word, you suggest you have something a little delicate to say and are working out how to word it correctly. In the case of today’s topic, you can use さあ、行こう (saa ikou) when you want to say “right, let’s go” casually in Japanese.

After you’ve finished packing the car for the trip, you might say よし行こう (yoshi ikou). Here the よし (yoshi) can be interpreted as “okay” as in “okay (that’s finished), let’s go.”

When you use じゃあ (jaa) and say じゃあ行こう (jaa ikou) you’re essentially saying “well then, let’s go.” For instance, let’s say you ask your partner, who is joining you on this camping trip if they’re ready. They say:

  • うん、準備が終った!
    un, junbi ga owatta
    Yeah, preparations are finished!

To which, you reply:

  • じゃあ行こう!
    jaa ikou!
    Well then, Let’s go!

When you say じゃあ (jaa), you’re essentially saying “if that’s the case, then…”

では (deha) is the most formal of the group.  Therefore, It is best used in conjunction with the polite 行きましょう (ikimashou), rather than the causal 行こう (ikou). Similar to じゃあ (jaa), you can use では行きましょう (deha ikimashou) when you want to say to someone “okay/well then, let’s go” in polite Japanese speech.

Let’s Go in Japanese slang

  • Let’s Go
    レッツゴー
    rettsu go-

If you’ve ever played a Super Mario video game, then I’m sure you’ve heard him shout out his catchphrase “Let’s go!” at some point. In the Japanese language, Mario’s catchphrase is actually what’s called a transcription of a foreign word, a loanword, or katakana. Basically, it’s a word borrowed directly from the English language that is a part of the Japanese dictionary.

This is what the phrase レッツゴー (rettsu go-) is. It is essentially English that is spoken with only Japanese phonetics. I’d expect you’re thinking if you can even use this phrase to say “let’s go” in Japanese. The answer is… Kind of. What I mean by this, is that while a native Japanese speaker will understand you, it depends on what kind of impressions you want to leave.

You can say レッツゴー (rettsu go-), but it has a somewhat playful vibe to it. This means, of course, you’ll probably not want to use it during formal situations.

More Ways to say Let’s Go in Japanese slang

If you’ve watched any anime like Dragonball Z or anything similar that has a targetted audience of young males in the Japanese dub, you’ve probably heard some of the characters shout things like 行くぞ! (ikuzo) at some point.

When looking at the English subtitles, it may be translated as “Let’s go.” But there are some more nuances to these kinds of words. So you’ll have to be careful when using them. Let’s take a look!

Meaning of ikuzo (行くぞ) in Japanese

Building from what we mentioned previously, 行くぞ (ikuzo) is essentially the verb 行く (iku) which means “to go” in Japanese (see entry #1). The main difference here is that 行くぞ (ikuzo) is followed by a special sentence-ending particle. In this case ぞ (zo).

When attached to the end of a word or sentence, ぞ (zo) emphasises the thing that the speaker is talking about. In Anime and Manga, it is primarily used only by men.

Thus, using ぞ (zo) gives a rash, aggressive impression. The, often male protagonist, might say 行くぞ (ikuzo) right before a big fight. In this sense, we get the impression that the protagonist is super pumped up, and is ready to give it his all.

It is similar to the Japanese sentence-ending particle よ (yo), which works a bit like an English exclamation mark. The ぞ (zo), however, really shows the speakers determination to something.

You could also use 行くぞ (ikuzo) to describe other things somewhat aggressively like:

  • 電車が行くぞ
    densha ga ikuzo
    The train is (about to) go.

However, again, this is only really heard by characters in anime. Saying 行くぞ (ikuzo) in a real-world environment would get you some weird looks for sure as it’s unnatural.

Meaning of ikuwayo (行くわよ) in Japanese

Similar to 行くぞ (ikuzo), 行くわよ (ikuwayo) can also be used to say “let’s go” in Japanese. It works as the feminine version of 行くぞ (ikuzo). Thus you will mostly hear it being used by females protagonists in anime that have a target audience of young females.  These distinctions are here because Japanese is a gendered language with many differences in speech between men and women.

Also, like 行くぞ (ikuzo), you’re probably best off avoiding using 行くわよ (ikuwayo) in real-world conversations. This is because it would essentially sound like you’re mimicking your favourite anime character. Instead, it’s better to simply say 行こう (ikou).

Want To Go

Want to go in Japanese

  • Want to go
    行きたい
    ikitai

When you want to say that you want to go somewhere in Japanese, you can use 行きたい (ikitai). Saying “I want to” in Japanese is actually a grammar point. If you’re interested in learning the details, you can check out our reading practice on this grammar point for beginners.

The great thing about 行きたい (ikitai) is that it’s already a complete sentence in itself. For instance, if your friend asks you if you’d like to go for a walk, the conversation might look like this.

  • 今夜一緒に散歩に行かない?
    konya isshoni sanpo ikanai?
    Would you like to go for a walk together this evening?

If you want to go, you can reply:

  • 行きたい!
    ikitai!
    I would like to (go)!

Just as a quick tip… When you want to ask someone if they would like to go somewhere or do something in Japanese, you don’t use this grammar point. Instead, you should simply say 行く? (iku?) or 行かない? (ikanai?) like in the example above.

  • 散歩に行きたい?
    sanpo ni ikitai?
    Want to go for a walk?

In summary, you should only say 行きたい (ikitai) as a response to something. I used to make this mistake all the time, so I think it’s a good thing to know as early as possible!

I Don’t Want To Go

If you’re not so keen on the idea, you might want to decline. But saying no in Japanese is another story, as it’s considered polite to decline indirectly.

To say “I don’t want to go” in Japanese though, you can use:

  • 行きたくない。
    ikitakunai.
    I don’t want to go.

If you were to say directly that you don’t want to go like the above expression, you’re feeling of not wanting to go may come across quite strongly. I’d recommend using this expression with those you’re really close with, or if you really really dislike the idea of going somewhere.

Telling someone to Go

  • Go (telling someone)
    行って
    itte

When you want to tell someone gently to go somewhere you can use 行って (itte). This isn’t an aggressive expression, but if you’re looking for one, you can use 行け (ike).  When you say 行け (ike) you are really telling someone to go.

Imagine you’re watching your friend play a game, and they’re on the last boss. They’re so close to beating it, and you might shout 行け! (ike), meaning “go!”

Be right Back in Japanese

With 行って (itte), the connotations attached are much calmer.  For instance, you can use this phrase to say brb (be right back) in Japanese. Imagine you’re chatting with a friend on the phone and you want to go and grab something from the fridge. You can say:

  • 行ってくる
    ittekuru
    I’ll be right back.

This phrase directly translates to “go and come back,” and you can use it the same way you would use “be right back” in English.

Should Go in Japanese

  • Should Go
    行ったほうがいい
    itta hou ga ii

When you want to give someone a suggestion or advice in regards to if they should go to a place you can use 行ったほうがいい (itta hou ga ii). In English, it translates to “should go”.

The amazing thing about this expression is that it’s already a complete sentence. Plus! As pronouns are often omitted in Japanese, you can use 行ったほうがいい (itta hou ga ii) as it is to say one of two things:

  1. I should go
  2. You should go

It just depends on the context of your conversation. For instance, say a friend isn’t too sure if they can be bothered to go to class today:

  • 授業に行きたくない。
    jugyou ni ikitakunai
    I don’t want to go to class.

Being the amazing friend that you are, you encourage them and say:

  • 行ったほうがいい。
    itta hou ga ii.
    You should go (to class).

The subject (which is also often omitted in Japanese) of this sentence is already understood by both people. Therefore you don’t need to specify and say  “class” here.

Giving advice comes from our thoughts and feelings about something. Naturally, we will sometimes want to say “I think” when giving it.

To say “I think you should go” in Japanese we can attach と思う (to omou) to the expression. It becomes:

  • 行ったほうがいいと思う。
    itta hou ga ii to omou.
    I think you should go.

Those of you who have studied Japanese before might have noticed that both of these are two grammar points.

  1. たほうがいい
  2. と思う

As a quick explanation, the たほうがいい grammar point functions like this. Take the plain form verb, in this case, its 行く. Turn it into the past tense, or, the た form. 行く becomes 行った. Then simply attach ほうがいい.

Let’s Go back in Japanese

Go Back in Japanese

 

  • Let’s go back
    戻ろう
    modorou

When you want to return to somewhere, you can say 戻ろう (modorou) in Japanese. 戻ろう (modorou) comes from the verb 戻る (modoru) which means “to return.” Like 行こう (ikou), 戻ろう (modorou) is also a volitional form word. This means that the meaning is essentially “let’s go back.”

You can use 戻ろう (modorou) to say “let’s go back” for any situation except for returning home. For example, let’s say you’re off on a hiking trip, and you decide to take a different path. The path becomes smaller and smaller until it’s looking like you should just go back. In this case, you can simply say 戻ろう (modorou).

Let’s Go Home

When returning home, there is a different word you should use. This word is 帰る (kaeru) which literally means “go home.” Let’s say you’re satisfied with your hiking today and you want to go home. To say this in Japanese, take the word 帰る (kaeru), and change it into the volitional form: 帰ろう (kaerou).  You could say something like:

  • お腹すいた!帰ろう!
    onaka suita! kaerou!
    I’m hungry! Let’s go home!

In any other situation where you want to go back to any place that’s not your home, you would use 戻ろう (modorou).

Volitional Form Learning Resources

Check out Japanese Ammo with Misa’s video on the volitional form. I think she does a great job of explaining it while keeping everything interesting!

Let’s Go and Do Something

  • Let’s go and do X
    Xに行こう
    X ni ikou

To say “let’s go and do something” in Japanese you need to use a grammar point. First, take the verb in ます form which you are doing. For instance, します, which means “to do”. Remove the ます, which makes it simply し. Lastly, attach に行こう.

Some examples:

ます ー ますに行こう – Let’s go and do it

ます ー ますに行こう – Let’s go and see

ます ー ますに行こう – Let’s go and eat

Let’s go and study some more Japanese!

  • もっと日本語を勉強しに行こう!
    motto nihongo wo benkyou shi ni ikou!
    Let’s go and study more Japanese!

How did you find today’s post? I hope you found all the information you were looking for. If you have any questions at all leave me a comment below!

If you’re interested in learning Japanese from the beginning, check out our ultimate guide.

Or, if you’re already studying you might be interested in visiting more of our ultimate How to Japanese guides.

We also have a personalised dedicated Japanese reading practice page for all language levels.

Are you into The Legend of Zelda? Quest with me!


More Ultimate Guides:

How to say No Way in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

No Way in Japanese

How to say No Way in Japanese

With many different ways to say “no way” in Japanese, it can seem a little overwhelming. In English, we often have one singular phrase that we can use to express all kinds of situations.

In Japanese, however, this is a little different. There are many different phrases and words in Japanese that you should use (and avoid) depending on the situation. This comes down to a couple of main things.

For instance, how the Japanese language changes dramatically when you’re speaking with different levels of respect. Or how some words and expressions are more frequently used depending on your age, and even gender.

In the case of this article, we’ll be exploring all of the nuances of, and ways you can say “No Way” in Japanese. There are quite a few of them, so you’ll be ready to tackle any situation.  You’ll know the best and most natural ways of saying “No Way” in Japanese.

But first, there are two things I’d like you to keep in mind as you read through this post.  In English, saying “No Way” is primarily used in one of two situations.

The first is when we’re surprised or shocked. When something sounds astonishing, or unbelievable to you, such as if there was a Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask sequel announcement, you’d think “no way!”

The second is when you’re outright denying or refusing a statement or suggestion. For instance, if someone were to tell you that getting hyped over a new Zelda game was a waste of time and that you shouldn’t buy it, you’d say “no way!”

With these two uses in mind, let’s jump in and explore all of the ways to say “No Way” in Japanese!

How not to say No Way in Japanese

Just before we learn how to say “no way” in Japanese, let’s look at how we should perhaps not say it. When looking around on the internet and in dictionaries, you’ll likely come across this one.

  • No way!
    とんでもない
    tondemonai

Although its grammatically correct, とんでもない (tondemonai) is best not used when you want to say “no way” in Japanese. It has many meanings. For instance, you can use it when you want to refer to something as absurd or unthinkable.

Or, you can also use it as an expression to say “Absolutely not,” amongst other expressions such as “No problem” in Japanese. Culturally though, you’d probably want to avoid using this expression in Japan. The main reason being is that it sounds outdated and somewhat formal.

In Japanese conversation, there are much better and more common words and expressions you can use to express your shock or refusal of something.

Let’s take a look!

No way in Japanese

  • No way!
    うそ
    uso

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the actual phrases and expressions worth using. A much more common way to say “no way” is the colloquial expression うそ (so). This one is fantastic, you’ll hear and use it all the time when speaking Japanese. While this expression actually means “lie” you’ll hear it being used when people are surprised or taken aback.

For instance:

  • ムジュラの仮面の続編が発表されたよ!
    majora no kamen no zokuhen ga happyou sareta yo!
    A sequel to Majora’s Mask was just announced!

Of course, you can reply:

  • うそ!
    uso!
    no way!

One of my most memorable experiences with encountering this expression is when I first heard it while watching the Japanese dubbed version of Pokemon. The Pokemon Sudowoodo and its pre-evolution in Japanese has literally one line it is capable of saying.

With that one line being うそ (uso), it makes for some great laughs when the Pokemon is shouting out うそ うそ うそ! (no way, no way, no way!) over and over again.

Check it out for yourself!

You can also use うそ (uso) as うそでしょう (uso desshou) adding more flavour to the expression. By attaching でしょう (desshou) to うそ (uso) you’re essentially saying “No way, you’re joking, right?” in Japanese.

There is also a kanji for (uso) you’ll probably encounter in manga and books to avoid confusion. In these cases that it is written in its kanji, 嘘, it will more often than not be referring to the actual lie in question rather than being used to say “no way.”

うそ (uso) is very easy to use and I’m sure you’ll have no problem remembering it. You’ll hear it all the time in Japan!

Seriously? 

 

Seriously in Japanese

  • Seriously?
    マジで
    maji de

When something happens that comes as a surprise to you, you can use マジで (maji de) to say “Seriously?!” in Japanese. You’ll see マジで (maji de) written in either katakana or hiragana.

マジで・まじで

So you can use either when you want to say “seriously” in Japanese yourself. マジで is actually an abbreviation of 真面目 (majime), meaning “sincere; honest” in Japanese.

There are plenty of occasions when you might want to use this expression. You can also combine it with うそ (uso) (explained above) to say “No way! Seriously?!” to really give a boost to your expressionism.

A few examples as to when you can use マジで (maji de) Your friend tells you:

  • 実はムジュラの仮面の続編がキャンセルされたらしい。
    jitsu ha majora no kamen no zokuhen ga kyanseru sareta rashi.
    Actually, it seems like the sequel to Majora’s Mask got cancelled.

Imagine the horror! Then you, (or I at least) would reply:

  • うそ!マジで?!
    uso! maji de?!
    No way! Seriously?!

マジで (maji de) is of course a casual expression. So you’re probably best off avoiding using this one during formal situations.

Sometimes you might see it written as マジでっ with the addition of a small hiragana つ (tsu).  You don’t actually pronounce the small つ (tsu) at all. In this case, it is instead used to exaggerate one’s expression of something. So if you see it written a マジでっ you can assume that the character is very surprised, like a huge “NO WAY!”

Really?! in Japanese

Really?! in Japanese

  • Really?!
    えええ
    eee

You might have heard this one before when speaking with Japanese people or watching Japanese anime or shows. For those of you who haven’t, えええ (eee) is actually pronounced like a very long, exaggerated English “Ehhhhh?!”

In Japanese, you can say actual words by making what we might consider as just noises in English. Take the way to deny something and say “no” in Japanese for instance, you can simply make a noise from the back of your mouth to say it.

Going back on topic… When you’re surprised, shocked, or just even if you’re somewhat disappointed you can say えええ (eee) to say “Really?!” in Japanese. Moreover, what’s great about this expression is that you can keep it as short or as long as you want, depending on how long you’re shocked for. For instance,

  • 新しポケモンは今年でないらしいよ
    atarashii pokemon wa kotoshi denai rashii yo
    Apparently, the new pokemon won’t be coming out this year.

With the perfect response:

  • えええええええええええ。
    eeeeeeeeeee
    Whaaaaaaaaat, really?

Of course, if you really wanted to spice up your response to express your complete disappointment/level of shock:

  • えええええええええええ、うそ!マジで?!
    eeeeeeeeeee, uso! maji de?!
    Whaaaaaaaaat, really? No way! Seriously?!

I know which sounds like the more appropriate reply for this scenario to me.

It’s very easy to mix and match all three entries covered so far, うそ (uso), マジで (maji de), and えええ (eee) to find a fitting response for any situation.

Huh?! in Japanese

 

Building on what we covered under the えええ (eee) section, we can use the same expression to say “huh” in Japanese.

All we have to do is take a singular え (e), and use it as is. Simply by saying え (e), which is pronounced like an English “eh” by the way, we can say “huh” in Japanese. For example:

  • 明日私は来ない。
    ashita watashi ha konai
    I’m not coming tomorrow.

Your response:

  • え、マジで?!
    e, maji de?!
    Huh, Seriously?!

You’ll probably hear this used frequently in Japanese conversation. Have fun with your え’s!

No way, really?! 

  • Really?!
    本当に?!
    hontou ni?!

On occasions where you hear something that you doubt the legitimacy of you can say 本当に?! (hontouni). It is the same as saying “No way! Really?!” in English when you can’t believe something. For instance, imagine you have a cake you’ve been saving, but your sister says:

  • お兄ちゃん、ごめん、ケーキ全部食べちゃった。
    onichan, gomen, ke-ki zenbu tabechatta
    I’m sorry, I kind of ate all of your cake.

To which, you reply:

  • うそ!本当に?!
    uso! hontou ni?!
    No way! Really?!

In situations like these that appear in stories such as that in Japanese manga, you might see it written as ほんとに (honto ni). This is just a shortened version of the expression. Of course, like in the example, you could say うそ (uso), (meaning explained above) followed by 本当に?! (hontouni).

But it is perfectly natural to just simply say 本当に?! (hontouni) on its own. It just comes down to your preference on what you want to say.

当に?! (hontouni) is great because you can use it in many ways. I use it in Japanese conversation all the time actually. You can also use it when you want to say that something is “very” something.

  • でも兄ちゃんのケーキは本当に美味しかったよ
    demo onichan no ke-ki ha hontouni oishikatta yo
    But your cake was really delicious!

You can use this expression during both casual and polite situations. If you want to use it when speaking polite Japanese, you should say 本当ですか? (hontou desuka).

There are also some cool dialects associated with this phrase. In the Kansai region of Japan, instead of saying 本当に (hontou ni) they would say ほんまに (honmani) instead. Of course, this would only be when speaking with friends, as it sounds very casual.

I can’t believe it 

 

Surprised no way

  • I can’t believe it
    信じられない
    shinjirarenai

What better way to express your shock towards something than saying the words “I can’t believe it.” Just as you’d expect from this expression, it can be used on any occasion where you want to say “I can’t believe it” in Japanese.

信じられない (shinjirarenai) is the negative potential form of the verb 信じる (shinjiru) which means “to believe.”

There is only one small real difference between the Japanese and English version of this expression. As there are many ways that you can express “no way” in Japanese, saying the words “I can’t believe it” in Japanese may have a stronger connotation associated with it. So you’re best off saying 信じられない (shinjirarenai) when something appears implausible and you really, really can’t believe that something.

  •  うそ!宝くじに当たった!信じられない!
    uso! takarakuji ni atta! shinjirarenai
    No way! I just won the lottery! I can’t believe it!

You can also express how something is so good/bad beyond your imagination. For instance, let’s say you finally get to go to that theme park and ride that rollercoaster you’ve been waiting all your life for. You’re enjoying yourself so much that you feel as if you’ve been taken to another world, free of stress and worries.

  • 信じられないほど楽しい!
    shinjirarenai hodo tanoshii!
    I can’t believe how fun this is!

Or maybe you’re absorbed in a book with a thrilling story…

  • 信じられないほど面白い!
    shinjirarenai hodo omoshiroi!
    I can’t believe how interesting this is!

With this structure, you can swap out the adjective at the end of the phrase with anything to express that something is completely unbelievable to you.

Absolutely no way

  • Absolutely no way
    ありえない
    arienai

During situations where you feel that something is completely impossible and that there is no way that it’s happening you’ll want to say ありえない (arienai).

It is the negative form of the Japanese verb ありえる (arieru), which essentially means “possible” or “probable”  in Japanese.  For example:

  • 宇宙人の存在はありえることだ。
    uchuu jin no sonzai ha arieru koto da.
    There’s a possibility of aliens existing.

If you strongly disagree you could reply with:

  • ありえない!
    arienai!
    Impossible, no way.

You can quite easily simply interpret ありえない (arienai) as “impossible” in Japanese. However, there is a little more to this expression than just that. When you use this phrase, you’re expressing that you really feel that something is impossible. That you truly believe that something won’t happen and you don’t believe in it.

It is a very strong phrase that you can use when you want to say “Absolutely no way” in Japanese.

The expression ありえない (arienai) is made of two parts. The first part, あり (ari), comes from ある (aru) which means “to exist” in Japanese. The second part えない (enai) is  the negative form of the Japanese grammar point える, meaning “is possible.” By putting the two part’s together we can see that the literal translation of this expression is “no possibility exists.”

I’m not so sure in Japanese

Huh? I'm not sure in Japanese

  • I’m not so sure…
    どうかな
    dou kana

If you feel that ありえない (arienai) is too strong for when you want to say “no way,” you can take it down a notch with どうかな (doukana). Although the purpose of this article is to cover all the ways you can say “no way” in Japanese, it is sometimes considered to be polite when using indirect expressions to express your doubt over something in Japanese culture.

This means that even though deep down you might be thinking ありえない (arienai) to the possible existence of aliens, sometimes you might want to tone down the power of your response. You can do this by saying どうかな (doukana).

Also, when you’re really not believing in something, you can use どうかな (doukana). You doubt it so much that you’re on the brink of just saying “no way.”

  • 宇宙人が存在をしていると思う。
    uchuu jin ga sonzai wo shiteiru to omou.
    I think aliens exist.

You can reply with:

  • どうかな
    dou kana
    I’m not so sure…

In Japanese culture, it is kind to always think about the other person’s feelings. Therefore, in situations when the said person really believes in something, but you’re not convinced, you can say どうかな (dou kana) to lessen the impact of your words a little.

There’s No Way 

there is no way in Japanese

  • There’s no way
    まさか
    masaka

At times when a situation that you thought was impossible turns out to be on the other side of the coin and be true, you can use まさか (masaka). Or, imagine you truly believe that something is true, and then you suddenly notice a crack in that truth.

That truth you had believed in for so long shows a sign of being false. On this occasion, you would say まさか (masaka), meaning “there’s no way… I was wrong?!”

Let’s take a look at an example.

Your sister starts hanging out one on one with a guy quite regularly and says:

  • お兄ちゃん、今日も彼に会おうと思っている。
    oniichan, kyou mo kare ni aou to omotteiru.
    Hey brother, I’m going to meet up with him today too.

And you can say:

  • 二人はまさか付き合っている?
    futari ha masaka tsukiatteiru?
    There’s no way you two are actually dating, right?

The best situations in which you can use まさか (masaka) is when you want to express that a revelation has taken you from surprise.

  • まさか新しいゼルダが発表される?
    masaka atarashii zeruda ga happyou sareru?
    There’s no way a new Zelda will be announced right?

If you’re a watcher of Japanese anime or movies, you may have noticed a villain say まさか (masaka). Perhaps they have just won the battle versus the hero and believe they had won until they see a bright light in the sky…

  • まさか… いったいどうやって生きてる!?
    masaka… ittai douyatte ikiteru!?
    There’s no way that… How on earth are you alive!?

Sometimes, translating this expression from Japanese to English can be difficult. I hope the additional examples here helped you understand how it works.

No Way, No Chance

 

  • No way, no chance
    絶対にやだ
    zettaini yada

During the introduction to this article, I highlighted how when we say “no way” we are predominantly in one of two situations. The first of which is the entries we’ve covered so far – when we are surprised.

The second is what we will cover from here onwards – situations when you want to express dismissal or refusal or something. Let’s take a look!

When someone asks you for something, be that a favour, a request or anything of the sort there are times when you want to outright refuse. Alternatively, it could also be a suggestion or simple statement that you want to deny.

For instance, let’s say you don’t like sushi, that you despite it. Personally, I love it, and I would highly recommend going to a kaitenzushi place in Japan if you haven’t been before! Anyway, if you’re  not a big lover of fish, our conversation could go something like this:

  • 日本に行ったらぜひ回転ずしに行ってみて!
    nihon ni ittara zehi kaitenzushi ni ittemite!
    You should definitely try out kaitenzushi when you go to Japan!
  • 魚が嫌いだから絶対にやだ。
    sakana ga kirai dakara zettaini yada.
    I hate fish so there’s absolutely no chance.

Sounds like a strong expression right? That’s because this phrase consists of two parts.

やだ -  (yada) means “no way” or “no chance” in Japanese and you can use it as-is for a less powerful expression.

絶対に - (zettaini) means “definitely” in Japanese, so you can see how by attaching this word the strength of your expression is amplified.

Another example:

  • 家の掃除をしてくれない?
    ie no souji wo shitekurenai?
    Could you clean the house for me?

Your response can simply be:

  • やだ
    yada
    No chance

This expression is very casual, so you should avoid saying やだ (yada) to anyone such as your manager, your teacher or a stranger.

Definitely Impossible 

  • Definitely Impossible
    絶対にむり
    zettaini muri

Another casual way to refuse a statement or suggestion is to use 絶対にむり (zettaini muri). Similar to 絶対にやだ (zettaini yada), above, you can use this expression when you want to completely outright say “no way” or “no chance” to something. For example, if you’re no good with spicy foods and your friend suggests you try some wasabi, it might go like this:

  • わさびを食べてみる?
    wasabi wo tabetemiru?
    Fancy trying some wasabi?

Your reply:

  • 絶対にむり!
    zettaini muri!
    Absolutely no way!

When you use this expression to refuse a suggestion like this, you’re telling the other person that their request is impossible. You can also use this expression as you would in English to directly say that something is impossible.

  • 8時まで間に合える?
    hachi ji made maniaeru?
    Do you think you can make it by 8?

If it seems you can’t, you reply:

  • 絶対にむり、ごめん。
    zettaini muri, gomen.
    I’m sorry, I don’t think that’ll be possible.

Bonus! Another way you can use this expression is when you want to tell someone not to overdo something, to be careful and take it easy.

  • むりしないで。
    muri shinaide.
    Take it easy. (Don’t push yourself too hard).

Practice using “no way” in Japanese

How did you find this article? Are you interested in practising using all the ways you can say “no way” in Japanese yourself? Check out our free Japanese Reading Practice page for all language levels.

We have produced original tailor-made reading comprehension, grammar explanations, examples, vocabulary lists & exams for you. Our next edition to the page will help you become even more familiar with all the ways you can say “no way” in Japanese.


We’re done already? うそ!I hope you found this article interesting and enjoyable. Until next time! むりしないで!

More Ultimate Guides:

Good Luck in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

What’s up in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say What's up in Japanese

How to say What’s Up in Japanese

みんな! 元気? is how I would greet you all with a “hey everyone, what’s up?” in Japanese!

In English, we say “What’s up” to everyone all the time. I even say it to my dog when I come home after work. We might use it as a greeting, or when we are asking someone how they are.

Over the years we have shortened the phrase to “wassup,” or simply, “sup”. The phrase “What’s up” and its super casual variants aren’t just limited to the English language alone though! There are many ways you can say “What’s up” in Japanese and in this article we’re going to explore them.

Just as a heads up before we begin… In English, we often open with questions (sometimes rhetorical ones) to initiate conversations. In Japanese though, it’s much more common to open with a simple greeting such as “Hello,” or “Hey.” That’s not to say you’ll sound weird asking someone “What’s up” in Japanese though. The occasions when you might ask someone how they are could be when you see a friend whom you haven’t seen for a while for instance.

With that said, let’s jump straight into detailed explanations of all the ways to say what’s up in Japanese!

The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “What’s up” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

What’s up in Japanese

What's up in Japanese demonstration

  • What’s up?/How are you?
    元気?
    genki

One of the most common situations where we say “What’s up” in English is when we want to greet someone.

One of the best ways to do this in Japanese would be to use 元気 (genki). You can use 元気 (genki) for when you want to say “What’s up” or “How are you” in Japanese. If you’re looking for detailed information on asking someone how they are, check out our comprehensive ultimate guide on how to say “How are you?” in Japanese.

If you’re looking to ask someone simply “What’s up” as a casual greeting in Japanese, you can use 元気 (genki) by itself.

元気 (genki) is a very common phrase that we use all the time in Japanese. One slight nuance with it though is that you might tend to use this phrase only if it’s been a while since you’ve seen the person with whom you’re speaking to. How much time needs to have passed is really up to you to decide.

As a pointer, the use is similar to when you might ask someone how they’ve been in English.

Let’s take a look at an example. Imagine you’re a student and you’ve gone home for the Easter break. The break is for two weeks. Classes begin again and you see your friends. At this point you might say something like:

  • 久しぶり!元気?
    hisashiburi! genki
    Long time no see! What’s up?

The best thing about 元気 (genki) is that you can use it when you’re replying to someone too!

  • 元気!
    genki!
    Not much, I’m good!

When you use 元気 (genki) as a standalone reply, you’re telling the person you’re well. This is because the meaning of 元気 (genki) is “energetic; full of energy”

What are You up to?

What are you up to in Japanese

  • What are you up to?
    何をしてる?
    nani wo shteru?

When you’re wondering what someone is doing, you can ask them 何をしてる? (nani wo shteru?). This essentially translates to “What are you up to” in Japanese. Before we go over some examples, let’s break this phrase down.

The first part of the phrase(nani) means “what” in  Japanese.

The second part を (wo) is a Japanese grammar particle that marks the object of the verb in a sentence. If you’re interested in more on the readings of Japanese characters, have a peek at our ultimate guide on How to Read Japanese.

Lastly, we have してる (shteru). してる (shteru) is the present progressive state of する (suru) in Japanese. する (suru) is the Japanese for the verb “do. Knowing this, we can deduce that してる (shteru) means “doing” in Japanese.

A literal translation of 何をしてる would be “What are you doing?” We can also attach an optional の (no) to the expression to make it sound even more friendly!

  • 今何をしてるの?
    ima nani wo shiteru no?
    What are you to right now?

You might be wondering where the “you” is coming from. In Japanese, we rarely actually say “you”. Instead, we’ll use the person’s actual name! A good way to remember everyone right? It can be a struggle if you’re not too great at remembering the names of people though…

As an example, you could message a friend (preferably one who understands Japanese) 何をしてる (nani wo shiteru) when you’re wondering what they’re doing.

If you were to say this phrase somewhat aggressively… It would sound like you’re shouting at someone “What the hell are you doing?”

The phrase 何をしてる (nani wo shiteru) is very casual. To make it more formal, we can use 何をしていますか (nani wo shiteimasu ka).

What’s up/What’s Wrong in Japanese

What's wrong in Japanese

  • What’s up/ What’s wrong?
    どうしたの?
    dou shta no

When you want to ask someone “what’s up” in the sense of “what’s wrong,” the expression you’ll need is どうしたの (dou shta no).

This expression is made up of three parts. Let’s break them down and then look at an example of how to use the expression as a whole.

Firstly we have どう (dou) which essentially means “how” or can sometimes (as in the case here) mean “what.”

Secondly, した (shita) is the past tense of the verb する (suru) which means “do.”

Thirdly, by attaching の (no) to the end of the expression you give your words more feeling and emotion. It tells the person whom you’re speaking with that you care that little bit extra. You can omit this part, but sometimes you might appear somewhat cold if you’re not careful.

As a full expression, you’re best off usingどうしたの (dou shta no) when you’re concerned about someone. When you use this expression, you’re essentially asking that person “what’s up? What’s wrong? Tell me about it” in Japanese. Perhaps a friend is sad and you want to show you’re concern, you could ask どうしたの? (dou shta no).

  • 元気じゃないの? どうしたの?
    genki janai no? doushita no?
    Are you not very happy? What’s wrong?

Do note that this expression is best suited for casual situations, such as conversations between friends and family. The Japanese language has many different levels of politeness depending on whom you’re talking with. So it’s best to avoid using this when asking your boss “What’s up?” when they look stressed due to work.

Is Something the Matter? in Formal Japanese

  • Is something the matter?
    どうかなさいましたか
    dou kanasaimashita ka

The Japanese language has many honorifics, called Keigo, that are used in a plethora of social situations. When you find yourself in a formal setting and wanting to ask someone “what’s up, what’s the matter” in Japanese, you can use どうかなさいましたか (dou kanasaimashita ka).

どうしたの (dou shita no), above, is a casual expression that you can use to ask someone what’s wrong in Japanese. どうかなさいましたか (dou kanasaimashita ka), however, is one of the most formal ways you can say “what’s up” as in “what’s the matter” in Japanese. It is a part of Japanese Keigo, the highest form of politeness.

So when can you use it?

When you’re speaking with someone who is your manager, a stranger to you, or even a teacher, you should speak with a higher level of respect in your language. In situations where you want to ask someone “what’s the matter,” and that someone you’re asking fits into one of the three categories listed above, you’ll want to use どうかなさいましたか (dou kanasaimashita ka).

You might be wondering why this phrase is so long, and the reason for it is mostly down to its high level of politeness. Let’s break down the parts of this phrase.

どうかなさいました

どうか is a very formal way of saying “please” in Japanese. It is often used in Keigo to make requests or to add emphasis.

なさいました (nasaimashita) is the past tense of なさいます (nasaimasu). なさいます (nasaimasu) is なさる (naseru) in its polite form. Finally, なさる(naseru) is する (suru) in its honorific (keigo) form. As discussed above, する (suru) means “do” in Japanese.

Attaching(ka) to the end of a sentence identifies that sentence as a question.

What’s up, are you Okay? in Japanese

  • Are you okay?
    大丈夫?
    daijoubu

In English, we use “What’s up?” and “Are you okay?” interchangeably. When we notice that something might be wrong with someone, we ask them if they are alright. This is how you can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu) to ask someone “What’s up?” or “Are you okay”  in Japanese.

One of the best things about this expression is that similarly to 元気 (genki), (explained above), you can use it as a reply to tell someone you’re okay.

For instance, imagine you’ve gone to class and just gotten your exam results back after a super hard study session. You’re disappointed with the results and you feel a little down. Your friend might notice you’re feeling not your usual self and ask 大丈夫? (daijoubu), as in, “What’s up, are you okay?”

To which, you could reply with 大丈夫 (daijoubu), meaning “I’m okay.” Of course, if you’re completely and utterly devastated you could reply with 大丈夫じゃない (daijoubu janai). The addition of じゃない (janai) is a way of saying “no” or “not” in Japanese.

Poltiteness: You should use 大丈夫 (daijoubu) in casual settings, like those when you’re talking with friends or family. In other situations though, you need to attach something more to the phrase to raise politeness. Japanese is a polite language, so you need to adjust your speech accordingly.

When speaking with someone such as a manager, teacher, or stranger, you should use 大丈夫ですか (daijoubu desuka). Of course, you can then answer with 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) meaning “I’m okay,” or 大丈夫じゃないです (daijoubu janai desu) for “I’m not okay” in polite Japanese.

What Happened? What’s up?

  • What happened?
    何があったの?
    nani ga atta no?

At times when a friend or family member looks troubled or concerned about something, you might ask them 何があったの?(nani ga atta no).

Imagine your partner arrives back home after going shopping and looks at you with the most shocked face ever. You immediately rush over and you ask 何があったの? (nani ga atta no), meaning, “What’s up, what happened?” in Japanese. Turns out they got a steal on those ridiculously expensive cookies you enjoy. Lucky!

You can also use this phrase interchangeably with どうしたの (explained above) to ask someone what’s wrong. At times when you are wondering what happened with someone, you can use this phrase.

This phrase has four parts.

  1. – (nani) as discussed earlier, 何 (nani) means “what” in Japanese.
  2. – (ga) is a Japanese grammar particle that marks the subject of a verb. In this case, the subject is 何 (nani) and the verb is あった (atta.)
  3. あった – (atta) is  the past tense of ある (aru) a verb that means “have,” or “to exist.” In 何があったの, あった can be interpreted as “happened.”
  4. – (no), also discussed previously, is used to envoke more emotion in the phrase. It amplifies your words, giving them a sympathetic feel.

Combining them we have 何があったの (nani ga atta no), which quite literally translates to “what has happened.”

How is it going?

  • How is it going?
    元気にしてる?
    genki ni shteru?

Going back to asking someone “What’s up” in the sense of “How are you” we’ll be taking another look at 元気 (genki). As mentioned in entry #1 of this post, 元気 (genki), on its own can be used to ask how someone is in Japanese. So what is the にしてる (ni shteru) attached to this phrase?

First, let’s take a look at してる (shteru). It is the present progressive form of the Japanese verb する (suru) which means to do. Progressive form refers to something ongoing. In English, this is essentially the same as “ing” words, such as

  • love – loving
  • go – going

Thus, “do” is “doing.”

So in summary, する = “do” and してる = “doing.”

The (ni) in the middle of 元気してる (genki ni shiteru) is another Japanese grammar particle. Put as simply as possible, the role of に (ni) is to express the object of the verb that has motion. If you’re interested in learning more about the rules of, and how to identify Japanese grammar particles, I recommend this extremely well-done guide here.

By attaching にしてる (ni shiteru) to 元気 (genki), you specifically transform this phrase into a gerund, or a phrase ending with an “ing” word. It’s the same as changing the question “How are you?” to “How are you doing” in English.

Similar to 元気 (genki) 元気にしてる (genki ni shiteru) is a way of saying a kind of “What’s up” to someone whom you specifically haven’t seen for a while. You wouldn’t say this phrase to someone who you saw yesterday for instance.

Formality: This is a casual phrase you should use with friends and family. To make this phrase polite, use 元気にしていますか (genki ni shiteimasu ka).

What’s up In Japanese Slang

What's up in Japanese slang

  • Hey, sup
    おーす
    o-su

In English, we often use slang variants of “What’s up” when speaking with friends. Although not used anywhere near as much as we do in English, there are some ways you can say “sup” in Japanese.

First up we have おーす (o-su). In modern Japanese casual speech, some Japanese males use this when greeting each other. Like in English when we say “sup,” おーす (o-su) isn’t so much an abbreviation for “How are you” as it is a general greeting.

Actually, according to Gogen おーす (o-su) is the shortened version of おはようございます (ohayou gozaimasu), a polite way to say “good morning” in Japanese. It was originally used in pre-war times by students of a martial arts class in Kyoto, Japan.

Being Japanese slang, おーす (o-su) is a very casual way to say “sup” in Japanese. Different from the West, Japanese people haven’t adopted super casual greetings like “sup” into their culture.

Therefore the frequency in which you will hear this expression being used won’t be that high. Instead, it is more common to greet people by saying their name + Good morning, or by skipping greetings completely by jumping straight into a conversation. These are expressions you’ll probably hear more in Japanese anime.

That’s not to say you’ll never hear this expression at all though. Some Japanese males use おーす (o-su) in the same way as we say “wassup” or “sup” in English. Of course, avoid using this phrase in settings outside of that with your friends and family at all costs!

More ways to say What’s up In Japanese Slang

sup in Japanese

  • Hey, sup
    ヤーホ
    ya-ho

With おーす (o-su), explained above, being the masculine way to say “sup” in Japanese, ヤーホ (ya-ho) in this entry is the feminine version. Depending on the words you decide to use in your Japanese speech, you can sound more masculine or feminine.

ヤーホ (ya-ho) is Japanese slang for “sup” and is predominately used by younger girls. Just like how in English, when we say “sup” we don’t always intend to convey a “how are you,” but rather a “hello,” ヤーホ (ya-ho) is the same.

You can use this expression to initiate a conversation with someone casually. As previously mentioned, despite being a polite language, Japanese is limited in the ways in which you can ask someone how they are, or “what’s up” at the beginning of a conversation. Instead, greetings will most likely be limited to a simple こんにちは (konnichi wa), meaning “hello” in Japanese.

If you’re looking specifically for ways to say “What’s up” in Japanese slang though, these two phrases will do you well, without sounding weird. Just remember the feminity differences that are attached to both おーす (o-su) and ヤーホ (ya-ho) in Japanese.

Of course, don’t forget that both of these phrases are extremely casual, and using them with managers, teachers or strangers might not go too well.

What Is Up? Literally. in Japanese

That concludes this guide on “What’s up” in Japanese. Unless you did want a literal translation of course! 上には何がある? (ue niha nani ga aru) is “what is up” quite literally in Japanese.

I struggled with knowing how to initiate a conversation in Japanese during my year abroad. I hope this guide proved useful for you all and gave you some ideas.

More Ultimate Guides:

How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese

How to say Good Luck in Japanese

Free Exercises:

Japanese Reading Practice

How Are You in Japanese

How to say How Are You in Japanese

Despite being a polite language with many honorific styles of speech, asking someone “how are you?” in Japanese is not very common.

Whereas, asking someone “How are you?” is a simple greeting that we commonly use in English. We use it frequently as a conversation opener when we want to be polite.

However, in Japanese, it’s more common to greet the person with a simple “hello,” or “good morning” and jump straight into a conversation.

You’d think that being a language with various forms of language honorifics, not asking someone how they are would be considered rude. Instead, it’s more the level of politeness you use in your greetings that matters the most in Japanese.

In Japanese, it could be considered a little too direct and unnatural if you were to ask everyone how they are all of the time.

For instance, in English, we might ask the store cashier “how are you” while we’re being served. This kind of small talk is mostly absent in Japanese culture, at least, the asking of how someone is doing is.

So what if you genuinely want to ask someone how they are, or how they’ve been in Japanese?

There are plenty of phrases and expressions that you can use to convey a “How are you” in Japanese. There are a few of them actually.

Although you won’t be using this phrase anywhere near as much as you do in English, there are situations when you’ll definitely want to ask someone how they are.

In this post, we explore all of the most appropriate ways how to say “How are you” in Japanese, and the situations when you can use them.

Author’s Note:  The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “How Are You” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

How Are You in Japanese

  • How are you?
    元気?
    genki

The best Japanese expression you can use to convey a meaning similar to the English “How are you” is 元気 (genki).

Although a simple greeting would be sufficient enough in Japanese culture, sometimes you’ll want to ask someone how they are, before jumping into a conversation.

When you do, 元気 (genki) is the phrase you’re going to want to use. In Japanese, we use 元気 (genki) frequently, especially when we haven’t seen someone in a while.

For instance, We would say to a friend whom we haven’t seen for a while 元気? (genki?) to ask them how they are, or how they’ve been. On the other hand, we probably wouldn’t use it if we had just seen the friend yesterday.

元気 (genki) means: lively; full of spirit; energetic; well.

So technically, when you use this phrase you are asking someone “Are you well?” You can use 元気 (genki) as a reply too. If someone asks you “元気?” You can simply reply with “元気だよ” (genki dayo), which means “I am well” in Japanese.

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

How Are You Formality

Despite a high frequency of asking “how are you” being absent in Japanese culture, Japanese is still a polite language. Depending on who you’re speaking to, you might need to speak politely.

If you were speaking to a manager, an acquaintance, or to someone who is not a close friend or family member, you should avoid simply saying 元気 (genki). Instead, you can select from two polite versions.

  1. 元気ですか (genki desuka)
  2. お元気ですか (ogenki desuka)

Attachingですか (desuka), turns this phase into a polite question. Attaching お (o) makes the phrase even politer. By including the お (o) you essentially beautify the following word, increasing your politeness even more. Which one you use is up to you, and how polite you want to be.

More Ways to say How Are You

  • How are you?
    調子はどう?
    choushi wa dou?

There are three components of this next expression. Let’s break them down a little.

調子 (choushi) – This is a noun, meaning “condition” or “state of health” in Japanese.

は (ha) – This is a subject marker particle that places emphasis on the preceding word as the main topic of the sentence.

どう (dou) is an adverb that we use to ask questions such as “how” or “how about” in Japanese.

If we combine the three components we can see that the literal meaning of this expression would mean “how is the condition?” or “How is the state of health?”

In Japanese, we often omit pronouns, and in this case too. Here, “You” is already understood by the listener that you’re already talking to them. Efficient right?

Similar to 元気 (genki), (explained above), you might use this expression after you see a friend for the first time in a while. When you see them, at the beginning of the encounter you might say, 調子はどう? (choushi wa dou). In this case, you can interpret it similarly to “What’s up,” or “How are you.”

We don’t really walk up to each other and ask 調子はどう? (choushi wa dou) as it’s not in the Japanese culture to start a conversation with “How are you?”.

You can, however, use this expression when you want to ask someone how they are when you’re with them at the office, before a presentation, or at a theme park having fun with friends. This interpretation would be more like “How are you feeling/doing” in Japanese.

Formality: In business situations, don’t forget to attach ですか to the expression! This makes it 調子はどうですか? (choushi ha dou desuka). 

How Are Things (Recently)

How is everything recently? in Japanese

  • How are things? (recently)
    最近はどう
    saikin wa dou?

This next expression also uses three components.

最近 (saikin) – This word means “recently” in Japanese.

The next two components are the same as the ones found in 調子はどう (choushi wa dou), above.

Next up, は (ha) marks the word preceding it as the subject of the sentence.

どう (dou) – An adverb that means “how” in Japanese.

In Japanese, we often omit many parts of the sentence. The omission of pronouns is particularly common. We omit it here too as it is already understood by the listener that they are being spoken to.

With that said, if we combine the three components we construct a sentence that would literally translate to “Recently, how is?” or “How is recently?” in English.

The great thing about 最近はどう (saikin ha dou) is that it’s more obvious in regards to when you should use it. You can use this expression in the exact same way as when you ask someone “how are things recently?” in English.

The biggest difference with this expression is that unlike 元気 (genki) and 調子はどう (choushi wa dou) you are not asking someone specifically how they are in regards to their “condition”. This gives us more flexibility with situations when we can use this expression. Therefore, you could use it when you want to ask someone how their workdays have been recently, or ask just in general how they are.

Formality: Of course, just like the previous entries, you’re going to need to attach ですか (desu ka) to expression during business/formal conversations. This would make it 最近はどうですか? (saikin wa dou desuka) when you want to speak politely.

What’s Up? in Japanese

In English, sometimes we use “What’s up” as a more casual variant of “How are you”. You can use “What’s up” as a greeting, or as an expression of concern for someone similar to “What happened?”. We also have an ultimate guide on how to say “What’s up” in Japanese.

  • What’s up in Japanese
    どうしたの?
    dou shta no?

どうしたの (dou shta no), is an expression that is not used as a greeting. Instead, we mostly use it when it is implied that something has happened to the person who is calling you.

For instance, say you’re upstairs in your room, and suddenly you hear your flatmate calling your name from the kitchen. You head downstairs to see what’s up, and at this moment, you could say どうしたの? (dou shta no), meaning “What’s up” in Japanese.

  • 私を呼んでいた? どうしたの?
    watashi wo yondeita? dou shta no?
    Were you calling me? What’s up?

You could interpret this expression as something with similar nuances to “What’s the matter” in English. 

Formality: Firstly, let’s look at the ending of どうしたの? (dou shta no). The の (no) adds more emotion to the expression. It tells the listener that you care that little bit extra.

You could say どうした? (dou shta) without the の (no), however, depending on the situation, it could come across as somewhat cold. Note, that this expression is a casual one.

If you’re speaking to a colleague, manager, or stranger, for instance, you’ll need to be polite. You can do this by changing the expression to どうしましたか (dou shi mashita ka).

How Are You Doing/How Is It Going?

How are you doing

  • How is it going?
    元気にしてる?
    genki ni shi te iru?

In a situation when you haven’t seen a friend in a while you might want to ask them how they’ve been. Say for instance you’ve just bumped into a friend you haven’t seen for a few weeks. As an initial greeting, you might call their name, and then immediately ask, 元気にしている (genki ni shi te iru).

In this situation, we can translate it as something similar to “hey, how’s it going?” in English. If you want to sound even more natural, you could throw in a 久しぶり (hisashiburi) after you say their name. 久しぶり (hisashiburi) means “Long time no see” in Japanese. The whole phrase would sound something like this:

  • {name}! 久しぶり! 元気にしている?
    {name}! hisashiburi! genki ni shi te iru?
    {name}! Long time no see! How is it going?

You can use this phrase as a very friendly informal greeting in Japanese.

If you’re interested, take a quick glance at this video for a deeper explanation!

 

Jumping back to 元気にしている (genki ni shi te iru), let’s break it down a little so we can better understand it. The phrase has three components.

  1. 元気 (genki) – a noun that means “lively, full of spirit, well” You can check a full explanation on this page at the top. 元気 is the first entry.
  2. に (ni) – is a Japanese grammar particle that has many variations. I recommend this ultimate guide for full explanations on the uses of に should you need it. In this case, に connects the noun to the verb.
  3. している (shi te iru) – is the present progressive form of the verb する (suru), which means “to do.”

Combing these components together we have a phrase that can literally be translated as “doing well?”  in Japanese. As pronouns are often omitted, 元気にしている (genki ni shi te iru) translates as “Are you doing well?” in Japanese.

Polite How Are You Doing in Japanese

  • How are you doing?
    いかがですか
    ika ga desu ka?

いかがですか (ika ga desuka) is a very formal expression that we use in Japanese when we need to be polite. It is perfect to use when speaking with managers, teachers, someone who is of a higher status, or with people who you don’t know too well.

With other expressions such as 元気 (genki), people will instantly understand that you are asking them about their condition/how they are feeling. Whereas いかがですか (ika ga desu ka) points towards something different. A literal translation of this expression would be “How is (X) going?” or “How is (something)?”

When you ask someone いかがですか (ika ga desu ka), you can state the topic which you are asking them about. When you do,  people will understand what it is exactly you’re asking them about.

For instance, you could ask someone “How is work going?” in Japanese. Firstly the word for “work” in Japanese is 仕事 (shigoto). After you have introduced the topic, (in this case, work), before you say いかがですか (ika ga desu ka), you always have to insert the topic marker particle.

The topic marker particle tells the listener that the preceding word is the topic of the sentence. The topic marker particle in Japanese is は (ha). So the complete phrase is:

  • 仕事はいかがですか
    shigoto wa ika ga desuka?
    How is work going? (Formal)

You can simply swap the noun of the sentence for any other of your choice. To ask how one’s baby was doing in Japanese for instance, you  swap the word for “work,” for “baby.” The Japanese word for baby is 赤ちゃん (aka chan).

  • 赤ちゃんはいかがですか
    aka chan wa ika ga desu ka
    How is the baby doing? (Formal)

How Are You Feeling

How Are You Feeling?

  • How are you feeling?
    体調はどう?
    taichou wa dou?

If someone looks like they aren’t feeling too well, you might want to ask them how they are feeling. In Japanese, we say 体調はどう? (taichou wa dou).

The first component of this expression is 体調 (taichou) which means “physical condition” (of one’s body) or “state of health.”

The second component is は (ha). In Japanese grammar, は (wa) functions as a topic marker that marks 体調 (taichou) as the subject of the sentence.

Lastly, どう (dou) means “how” in Japanese. Combining these components together we have a sentence that literally means “How is the state of health” in Japanese. So, how and when can you use it?

If someone looks unwell, you can ask them 体調はどう? (taichou wa dou). Subsequently, the next day you see them you could also repeat the question and ask them again.

  • おはよう。今日体調はどう?
    ohayou. kyou taichou wa dou?
    Good morning. How are you feeling today?

For the most part, you can use this expression the exact same way as you would use “How are you feeling?” in English. One exception to this might be if you’re asking someone how they are feeling before an important test or job interview for instance. In these cases, you will sound much more natural if you were to ask “Are you Okay?” instead.

Formality: This is an informal expression, so you will need to use its formal counterpart in business situations or when speaking with people who are of a higher status than yourself. To say “How are you feeling” in Japanese politely, you can use 体調はどうですか (taichou ha dou desuka).

Are You Okay? in Japanese

Are You Okay? in Japanese

  • Are you okay?
    大丈夫?
    daijoubu

If someone looks unwell, nervous, unsure, or just not content with a situation, you’ll probably want to ask them if they are okay.

大丈夫 (daijoubu) is the most common way to say “Are you okay?” in Japanese.  This expression is super easy to use as it has the same nuances as in English.

For example, say a friend is shaking nervously before their super important test, you could ask them 大丈夫? (daijoubu). Likewise, if you go skiing with your friend and you fall face-first into the snow, they might shout to you 大丈夫? (daijoubu).

  • 痛そう! 大丈夫?
    itasou! daijobu?
    That looks painful! Are you okay?

Formality: When speaking with people you aren’t friends with, such as strangers, you’re going to need to use 大丈夫ですか (daijoubu desuka). The ですか (desuka) transforms the expression into a polite one.

For instance, if you’re on an aeroplane to Japan and a passenger sitting next to you looks a little unsteady, you might ask them 大丈夫ですか?(daijoubu desuka). This means “Are you okay?” or “Are you alright?” in Japanese.

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

Responding to Are You Okay? in Japanese

What is great about 大丈夫 (daijoubu) is that you can use it as a response too. As previously mentioned, when we speak Japanese, we frequently omit pronouns as it is generally understood who is being referred to.

For example, after someone asks you 大丈夫? (daijoubu), you could respond with those very words: 大丈夫! (daijoubu). Responding to “Are you okay?” in Japanese with 大丈夫 (daijoubu) is the same as saying “I am okay” in English.

  • 大丈夫!
    daijoubu!
    I’m okay!

However, if you are not okay though, you can say 大丈夫じゃない (daijobu janai). This means “I am not okay” in Japanese.

I Hope You Feel Better Soon

 

Get well soon in Japanese

  • I hope you feel better soon
    お大事に
    odaiji ni

After you’ve asked someone how they feel, you might want to tell them “I hope you feel better soon” in Japanese. When someone is feeling unwell, in Japanese we say お大事に (odaiji ni). For more information on how to say Hope in Japanese, have a glance at this ultimate guide!

It is the closest Japanese expression that means the same as “get well soon” in English.

After someone sneezes, for instance, you might say お大事に (odaiji ni) which means “bless you” in Japanese. Of course, in English, we don’t say “I hope you feel better soon” after someone sneezes, but saying お大事に (odaiji ni) is a kind way of telling someone to take care of themselves.

If someone is ill, or if they tell you they feel unwell, you can also say お大事に (odaiji ni). This tells the person that you are hoping for them to get well soon. The beautiful thing about this expression is that you can use it in both formal and informal circumstances. 

How Was Your Day?

  • How was your day?
    今日はどうだった?
    kyou wa dou datta?

Sometimes, when we ask someone “How are you?” we’re asking how their day was as a whole.

You can say “How was your day” in Japanese by saying 今日はどうだった? (kyou wa dou datta). It has the exact same functions as the way you ask someone how their day was in English.

You might ask someone how their day was after a day at work for instance, or after a day of classes. Alternatively, you might want to say “Have a good day” to someone before their day begins. There are plenty of ways of wishing someone a good day in Japanese.

  • お帰り! 今日はどうだった?
    okaeri! kyou wa doudatta?
    Welcome home! How was your day?

For all of the possible ways how to wish someone having a good day in Japanese, have a look at this ultimate guide on “How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese”.

The first component of this phrase is 今日 (kyou) which means “day” in Japanese. どうだった (doudatta) is a past tense component which translates as “how was” in English. As discussed earlier, we know that Japanese pronouns are often omitted. Hence why there is no “you” in this phrase.

Combining them together, we have a phrase that literally means “How was your day?” in Japanese.

How Was Your Day Politely in Japanese

Remember the いかがですか (ika ga desu ka) we covered earlier? By itself, いかがですか (ika ga desu ka) is a very formal way of saying “How was (something)” Japanese.

Following the same format we discussed earlier (topic+いかがですか), we can take the word for “day” in Japanese: 今日 (kyou) and attach it to the beginning of いかがですか (ika ga desu ka). This makes the phrase:

  • 今日はいかがですか?
    kyou ha ika ga desu ka?
    How was your day? (Formal)

You can use the above phrase to ask someone “How was your day” politely in Japanese.

How Did It Go

  • How did it go?
    どうだった?
    dou datta?

Imagine you’re accompanying a family member to the doctor for an appointment. You patiently wait outside as they see the doctor. Waiting in anticipation you wonder if they are okay. When they do finally finish, you see them, and you’ll probably ask something along the lines of “How did it go?”.

For situations similar to these, you can use どうだった (dou datta) to ask someone “How did it go?” in Japanese. Another example might be after a friend finishes taking an examination, and you could ask them どうだった (dou datta).

To be more specific in what it is you’re specifically referring to, you can say the: noun+は+どうだった. For instance, the word for examination in Japanese is 試験 (shiken). You would say:

  • 試験はどうだった??
    shiken ha dou datta?
    How was the exam?

This means “How was the examination?” or “How did the examination go” in Japanese.

Formality: To ask “How did it go” politely in Japanese, you change だった (datta) to でしたか (deshita ka).

This makes the phrase どうでしたか? (dou deshita ka) which is a formal way of saying “How did it go” in Japanese.


There you have it! There is a bunch of ways that you can say “How are you” in Japanese. I hope I was able to help you find a suitable expression for any situation when you want to ask someone how they are. Should you have any specific questions regarding the Japanese language or culture, please contact me here or leave a comment below!

See you next time!

Further Ultimate Guides:

How to say No Problem in Japanese

How to say Good Luck in Japanese

Resources:
Free Japanese Reading Exercises

Have a Good Day in Japanese

How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese

Despite being a very polite language, the Japanese language lacks a way to directly communicate “have a good day”.

In English, we say things like: “have a good day at work today,” or “have a nice weekend” quite frequently. Whereas, in Japan, the custom of expressing these kinds of wishes to people isn’t really a thing.

Japanese is a language with many honorifics, many of which are mandatory in many social situations to show respect. So it’s certainly a little strange that there isn’t a way to say exactly: “Have a good day” in Japanese.

That is not to say that there isn’t a way to even slightly convey these wishes to someone in Japanese at all, however.

Depending on the situation, whom you’re speaking to, and even when you’re speaking to them, there are plenty of phrases that you can use to express something similar to that of: “have a good day” in Japanese.

In this post, I am going to break down this phrase and explore all of the possible ways, and expressions that you can use when you want to tell someone “Have a good day” in Japanese.

Author’s Note: The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “Have a good day” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

Have a Good Day in Japanese

We quite frequently say “have a Good Day” in English. It might be something you say to the shop assistant after they help you with your shopping, to a friend when you part, or to a family member as they are about to go out the door for work.

In English, telling someone to “have a good day” is as simple as saying those very words. In Japanese however, you’re going to need to say something different depending on the situation. Let’s jump in!

  • Have a Good Day.
    いってらっしゃい。
    itterasshai.

The closest you’ll get to a natural translation of “have a good day,” in Japanese is いってらっしゃい (itterasshai). Japanese people say いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) to say “have a good day” to someone they’re living with when they depart the household.

Put simply, いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) is best used when you want to tell someone to “have a good day” as they’re about to go to work, leave for school, or go to a place that is away from you.

Have a Good Day in Japanese Examples

For instance, It would be common for a mother to say, いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) to their son or daughter as a parting phrase when they’re about to depart for school in the mornings.

You can also say いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) when someone tells you that they’re heading off somewhere. If you’re living with a partner or spouse, you might shout out to them いってらっしゃい! when they leave for work. This literally tells them “have a good day at work!” in Japanese.

  • 今行ってくるね!
    ima itte kuru ne!
    I’ll be off now!

And you could reply:

  • もう行くの?いってらっしゃい !
    mou iku no? itterasshai!
    You’re off already? Have a good day!

You’d want to avoid using this phrase if you’re searching for an expression to use to tell someone to “have a good day”  for other occasions though.

For example, if you’re at a supermarket doing some shopping, you wouldn’t say いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) to the cashier to wish them a good day after they’ve finished serving you.

In these situations, you’re best sticking to a simple polite thank you instead.

Good Luck Today in Japanese

When we wish someone a good day, sometimes we mean “Good luck today” instead.

  • Good Luck Today.
    今日頑張ってね。
    kyou gannbatte ne.

I have composed a guide with detailed explanations of all of the possible ways how to say “Good Luck” in Japanese. Check it out for more examples and expressions!

When you want to wish someone good luck with their day you can say 今日頑張ってね (kyou gannbatte ne).

The first section of the phrase, 今日 (kyou) translates to “today.”

The second part, 頑張って (gannbatte) means to “do your best,” or “good luck.”

Put together, you have a phrase that literally translates to “Today, Good Luck.”

Use 今日頑張ってね (kyou gannbatte ne) when you want to send words of encouragement to someone and to wish them good luck. You could say 今日頑張ってね (kyou gannbatte ne) to someone on the day of their job interview for instance, or on a day of a similar big event that is important to them.

  • 今日は仕事の面接の日でしょう。頑張って!
    kyou wa shigoto no mensetsu no hi deshou. ganbatte!
    Today is the day of your interview, isn’t it? Good luck!

You may have noticed the ね (ne), attached to the end of this phrase. By attaching ね (ne), you communicate with a higher level of kindness compared to when it’s absent. Moreover, the addition of this extra character transforms the phrase into a casual expression.

Good Luck Today Formally in Japanese

Formality: As Japanese is a polite language, it has different levels of formality that you should use when speaking to someone who is your manager, teacher, or a stranger to you.

In this case, to change the phrase from its casual variant to a more formal one, we change the ending. 今日頑張って becomes 今日頑張ってください. ください (kudasai) is a polite way to say please in Japanese.

  • この日がやっと来ましたね。今日頑張ってください!
    kono hi ga yatto kimashita ne. kyou ganbatte kudasai!
    This day has finally come, hasn’t it? Good luck today! (Formal).

Even though saying “Good luck today please” may certainly sound strange in English, in Japanese, it’s the correct way to say to someone “good luck today,” in Japanese politely.

Have a Good Time in Japanese

Have a Good Time

  • Have a good time.
    楽しんでね。
    tanoshinde ne.

Say a friend is off to a party… Perhaps they’re starting their first day at a new workplace… Or going to an event of some kind. During these kinds of situations, you may want to tell them “have a good time.”

To wish someone to have a good time in Japanese, you can use the expression 楽しんでね (tanoshinde ne).

You can use 楽しんでね (tanoshinde ne) in situations where you to wish someone to have a good time in whatever they’re doing/going to do.

  • 明日は台湾に行くんだ!楽しんでね!
    ashita ha taiwan ni ikunda! tanoshinde ne!
    You’re going to Taiwan tomorrow right? Have a good time!

Similar to “Good luck today,” detailed above, the addition of ね (ne) adds a sense of warmth and kindness to the expression when you communicate it.

You can omit the ね (ne) and simply say 楽しんで (tanoshinde) if you wish to. It comes down to your personal preference depending on the situation, and whom you’re speaking to.

Say Have a Good Time Formally in Japanese 

Formality: This expression is in its casual form, meaning that it’s best used between friends and family.

If you’re wanting to increase the politeness in the expression, (which you should do if you’re using this when speaking to a manager, teacher, stranger, or even a spouse/partner’s parents!) you can do so.

Just like when you’re politely telling someone “Good luck today,” (above) Remove the ね (ne), and attach ください (kudasai) to the expression.

You might hear the formal variant on TV when broadcasters tell you to enjoy something.

  • 今からゼルダの伝説の新しいトレーラーを皆さんに発表したいと思います!楽しんでください!
    ima kara zeruda no densetsu no atarashii tore-ra- wo mina san ni happyou shitai to omoimasu! tanoshinde kudasai!
    We’re now going to present to all of you, the new Legend of Zelda trailer! Please enjoy it!

ください (kudasai) is a polite way to say please in Japanese. As mentioned earlier, although it may feel strange to say “have a good time please,” in English, in Japanese, it’s how you show respect to the person you are speaking with.

Enjoy Your Day in Japanese

Enjoy your Day in Japanese

  • Enjoy your day.
    今日楽しんで。
    kyou tanoshinde.

今日楽しんで (kyou tanoshinde) the best way to say “look forward to your day,” or  “enjoy your day” in Japanese. You can use it exactly how you would when you say the same thing in English.

If someone is really looking forward to their day ahead, you can use 今日楽しんで (kyou tanoshinde) to wish them to have fun on that day. You can imagine that the uses are very similar to the “have a good time” expression above.

  • 友達と一緒に遊園地に行くの?いいな。今日楽しんで。
    tomodachi to isshoni yuuenchi ni iku no? ii na. kyou tanoshinde
    So you’re going to a theme park with a friend today? Sounds great. Enjoy your day.

The first part of this phrase 今日 (kyou), pronounced as [ky-ou] means “today.”

The second part is 楽しんで (tanoshinde). This is is the te-form of the verb 楽しむ (tanoshimu), meaning to “enjoy ” in Japanese. The te-form has many functions. One of them is to turn phrases into friendly requests.

In essence, when you use 楽しんで (tanoshinde), it’s kind of like you’re requesting that the person has a good day.

Formality: Noticed a trend with these phrases yet? Just like the phrases above, 今日楽しんで (kyou tanoshinde) is also a casual expression. To increase the level of politeness, attach ください to the end. ください (kudasai), literally means “please” and when attached to this phrase, the politeness level elevates.

Have a Good Weekend in Japanese

  • Have a good weekend.
    週末はゆっくりしてね。
    shuumatsu wa yukkuri shi te ne.

When someone you know has had a little bit of a rough or busy week you can use 週末はゆっくりしてね (shuumatsu ha yukuri shi te ne) to tell them “Have a good weekend.”

Be careful though, as, in Japanese, this phrase doesn’t have the exact same nuances as it does in English.

For example, In English, we can say to anyone, during any situation “have a good weekend.” We say it as a friendly gesture, an act of kindness towards someone. In English, we might wish the cashier at the shop on a Friday evening a good weekend for instance.

In Japanese however, when we say 週末はゆっくりしてね (shuumatsu ha yukuri shi te ne), the nuances are slightly different.

A more accurate way to use this phrase would be when you want to tell someone “have a relaxing weekend,” or to “take it easy on the weekend.” This is the closest we’ll get to “have a good weekend” in Japanese.

  • 今週は大変だったね。週末はゆっくりしてね。
    konnshuu ha taihen datta ne. shuumatsu ha yukkuri shi te ne.
    This week was rough for you, wasn’t it. Have a relaxing weekend.

 週末 (shuumatsu) means “weekend” in Japanese.

The next part, は (wa) is a subject marker in Japanese. It’s used to tell the listener that the preceding word is the subject of the sentence.

Thirdly we have ゆっくりして (yukkuri shi te) which is the part that changes the nuances of this phrase, giving the entire phrase a slightly different meaning to that of its English equivalent.

ゆっくりして (yukkuri shi te) means to “go slowly” or “take it easy” in Japanese.

Good Work Today in Japanese

Good Work

  • Good Work Today/ Thank You For Today.
    お疲れ様。
    otsukaresama.

Let’s say you’re finishing up at work and it’s almost time to go home. During this time, you might say to your colleagues お疲れ様(です)(otsukaresama).

When you say お疲れ様 (otsukaresama), you’re telling the person that you acknowledge their hard work today, and that you’re thankful for it.

In English, it’s quite common to say to your colleagues: “Have a good night” when you’re done for the day. The Japanese, however, usually don’t directly say “good night” to their colleagues at the end of a shift.

Instead, in Japanese, it’s much more common to say お疲れ様です (otsukaresama desu) to thank your colleagues for all of their efforts.

  • 今日お疲れ様です。
    kyou otsukaresama desu.
    Good work today.

How to say Thank You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Hope You Had a Great Day #2

There is another way you can use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) to convey a meaning similar to “Hope you had a good day” in Japanese. For all the ways you can say “hope” in Japanese, check out this ultimate guide!

Imagine you’re at home, and your partner whom you’re living with has just arrived home from work/an event of some kind that required their effort.

First, you might say お帰り!(okaeri) to tell them “Welcome Home”.  This is also a very common phrase used in Japanese and Japan.

Next, you might say お疲れ様 (otsukaresama). If you use the phrase this way, you communicate “Hope you had a good day, time to rest up!” in Japanese to the person with whom you’re speaking to.

  • お帰り!お疲れ様。
    okaeri! otsukaresama.
    Welcome home! Hope you had a great day.

Of course, there is still the heavy implication of the acknowledgement of their hard work. In this case, it’s not a direct “I hope you had a good day” specifically, instead, you’re more communicating a “well-done today, rest up.” kind of thing to the listener.

Recap on Formality

When you use the phrase to tell one of your colleagues “Good Work today” ensure that you attach です (desu) making it お疲れ様です (otsukaresama desu). This is the polite version.

If you want to tell a partner or one of your friends, “I hope you had a great day” in Japanese, you can use the standalone: お疲れ様 (otsukaresama).

I Hope You Had a Good Time in Japanese

I Hope you Enjoyed your day

  • Did you have a good time?
    楽しかった?
    tanoshikatta? 

For a more frequently used expression to say anything along the lines of “I hope you had a good time,” or “I hope you had a great day today” in Japanese, use 楽しかった? (tanoshikatta).

This expression is in the past tense. Therefore, you should use it when you want to express your wishes that the person’s day, which is now over, has gone well in Japanese.

Personally, I use this expression all the time. It’s very easy to use as it doesn’t have any special exemptions or irregular uses.

To be more time-specific, attach the word 今日 (kyou), meaning “today” to the beginning of the expression. By doing so, you ask the listener specifically if their day went well.

  • 今日楽しかった?。
    kyou tanoshikatta?
    Did you have a good time today?

Keep in mind that when you want to say to someone “I hope you had a good time today” in Japanese, you have to phrase it like a question.

This is because the direct translation of 楽しかった (tanoshikatta)  in Japanese is “Did you have fun?” rather than “I hope you had fun.”

Even so, when you ask someone 楽しかった? (tanoshikatta), it still has the connotation of “I hope you had a good time.” The person you’re speaking to will understand that you’re interested in what happened and that you hope they enjoyed themselves.

I Hope You Had a Good Time Today (Formal)

When you’re speaking to people whom you don’t know too well, such as a manager or teacher, you need to speak politely. To do this, attach ですか (desuka), to the end of the expression.

This makes the expression much more formal.

  • 海は楽しかったですか?
    umi ha tanoshikatta desuka?
    Did you have a good time at the beach?

With the added か (ka) the expression retains its status as a question too.

How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese Casually as a Parting

Have a Good Day Casually

  • See you/ See you later.
    またね・またあとで。
    mata ne/ mata atode.

As mentioned earlier, In Japanese, there isn’t a way to directly tell someone to “have a good day.” Most of the time though, we wish someone to have a good day when we part with them.

In Japanese, instead of saying “have a good day” to mean “goodbye”, people will simply say またね (mata ne).

You can use またね (mata ne) when you want to say “Sse you” in Japanese as a farewell, or parting phrase.

In English, we may say to our friends and family “take care, and have a good day” as a parting phrase. In Japanese though, you should use またね (matane) in these circumstances when you’re saying “bye” to someone.

Alternatively, you could still say 今日楽しんでね (kyou tanoshinde ne), which means “enjoy your day in Japanese” (phrase explanation detailed above).

Which one you prefer will be dependent on you. You’ll hear またね (mata ne) frequently in Japan when people want to say “goodbye” or “Have a good day” to each other.

To say “See you later” in Japanese, simply remove ね, and attach あとで (atode).

  • 今日ありがとう!またあとで!
    kyou arigatou! mata atode!
    Thanks for today! See you later!

 あとで (atode) by itself means “later,” or “after.” By making it またあとで, the phrase can be understood as a way to say “See you later” in Japanese.

Note that you should only use this phrase between people who are close to you personally like friends and family.

Have a Good Day in Japanese Politely

Before we jump into the next phrases, I want to highlight some misconceptions about them.

Although these upcoming phrases are a direct way of saying “Have a good day” in Japanese, you do not hear them used in everyday conversation.

The next two phrases are both grammatically correct and a native speaker will understand what you mean. However, they are very unnatural and would sound off to Japanese people. Think of it as if someone were to use the word “Godspeed” to you suddenly.

You’re parting, and you say “Catch you later,” and they respond “Godspeed.” It would probably catch you off guard a little right? That’s the same kind of feeling someone would feel if they were to hear you use these phrases in speech.

With that said, let’s take a look!

  • Have a Good Day
    ごきげんよう
    gokigenyou

You can use this phrase (if you desire to, (read above!)) as a farewell or greeting. As both a greeting and a farewell, it is analogous to “Good Day” in English. It is an elegant phrase that you should only use when you want to politely say “Good Day” in Japanese. ごきげんよう (gokigenyou).

– The first part of the phrase is an honorific prefix. This honorific prefix tells the listener you’re being polite/respectful.

きげん – The second part means “mood” or “spirits.”

よう – The final part is an old fashioned way of saying よい (yoi), meaning “good” in Japanese.

Practical meaning: “Be in a good mood.”

Remember the comparison to “Godspeed” I made earlier? Similarly, this phrase is also quite old-fashioned. Therefore you may hear characters in movies or anime using this phrase. Characters who do use ごきげんよう (gokigenyou) portray an old-fashioned upper-class image.

Literal ways to say Have a Good Day in Japanese

This phrase is similar to ごきげんよう (gokigenyou) (above). Although it is the most direct phrase of “Have a good day” in Japanese, it is not a combination of words that the Japanese frequently use together in conversation.

  • Have a good day.
    良一日を (過ごしてください)。
    yoi ichinichi wo (sugoshi te kudasai).

If you were to Google Translate “Have a good day” into Japanese, this is what you would get. Let’s break it down. Firstly, 良い (yoi) means “good.” Secondly, 一日 (ichi nichi) means “a day.”

The final part in brackets 過ごしてください (sugoshi te kudasai) is a polite way of saying “please spend.”

Combining the parts together and you have a complete phrase that means exactly “Have a good day” in Japanese.

The only problem… is that it’s not a commonly used phrase.

The only time you might encounter this phrase is if someone is being extremely formal with you, or perhaps in a story, book, letter or email. Otherwise, a quick Google of “How to say have a good day in Japanese” will get this phrase appearing everywhere.

If you’re wondering why Google Translate doesn’t do too great with Japanese, check out this entertaining video by Abroad in Japan.

Chris does a fantastic job of exploring how Google Translate processes Japanese.

That’s it from me today. I hope this article has given you some coverage on how you can say “have a good day” in Japanese.

I hope you can find some expressions and phrases you can use that convey something similar. Let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment, or by visiting our Contact page.

Have a Good Day Studying Japanese!

This would be:

  • Have a Good Day Studying Japanese!
    日本語の勉強を頑張って!
    nihongo wo benkyou wo ganbatte!

If you want to have a real good day studying Japanese, check out our dedicated page of free Japanese reading practice for all levels! All entries are composed by me and include Kanji/Furigana texts, vocabulary lists, grammar explanations, and tests!

Alternatively, if you’re interested in further Ultimate Guides:

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

How to Say Go Away in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Or, if you like The Legend of Zelda, come and quest together with me!

Have a nice day! またね!

Good luck in Japanese

How to say Good Luck in Japanese

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to wish someone Good Luck.

In English, we have a singular phrase that allows us to express those very words to someone.

In Japanese, however, fundamentally there isn’t a phrase that wishes “luck” to the recipient of the encouragement at all. There are, however, a variety of similar phrases you can use to urge someone on or express votes of confidence or encouragement.

When we say Good Luck in English, we often use it to encourage others; to cheer them on. Of course, you might use it to actually wish them “Good Luck,” or something like “I hope it turns out well for you.” But when trying to do this in Japanese, it can become a little tricky.

That’s not to say there aren’t any workarounds, however! Japanese is a complex and vibrant language that has its own unique way that you can utilise to wish someone “Good Luck.”

Luckily though, there are many ways you can express wishes such as “Good Luck to You” in Japanese, or “Best of Luck” in Japanese.

Whether you’re seeking ways to send someone encouragement and cheer them on,  or if you genuinely just want to wish someone “Good Luck…” You can achieve this in Japanese, and I’ll show you how!

 The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “Good Luck” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

Good Luck in Japanese

Let’s jump straight into the most common, and direct way you can wish someone Good Luck in Japanese.

  • Good Luck (casual).
    頑張って。
    ganbatte.

This is a powerful phrase that has many uses and variations. As we mentioned earlier, the Japanese language does not have a frequently used phrase to explicitly wish someone Good Luck.

With that said, you can use use 頑張って (ganbatte) to express Good Luck in the form of encouragement to the recipient.

For instance, before taking a test, in English, someone might say to you “Good Luck, you can do it!” That is exactly what this phrase does in Japanese, it tells a person, you’re rooting for them. The phrase 頑張って (ganbatte) is the best phrase you can use to tell someone “best of luck” in Japanese.

  • 今日のテストを頑張って!
    kyou no tesuto wo ganbatte!
    Good Luck on the test today!

When you use 頑張って (ganbatte), you’re essentially telling someone to “do their best” on a task.

Imagine that you’ve come to cheer your friend on during their sporting tournament. Before the tournament begins, you tell them 頑張って (ganbatte), meaning “good luck.”

Then, during halftime, you meet up with them again. This time, you tell them once again: 頑張って (ganbatte). This second application would convey an expression more like “do your best, hang in there!”

If you use this phrase while someone is in the midst of something, it tells them “You can do it, almost there.”

Adding Formality when saying Goodluck

  • Good Luck (Formal).
    頑張ってください
    ganbatte kudasai.

As you may already know, the Japanese language has many different levels of formality.

The language, words you use, and the way you use them can change quite drastically depending on who you are speaking to.

If you’re speaking with someone in a professional environment, such as a colleague, or even a stranger, you’ll want to be using formal Japanese.

Luckily for us, when you want to say Good Luck formally in Japanese, it’s really quite simple. Take the casual phrase for Good Luck in Japanese 頑張って (ganbatte) and attach ください (kudasai).

By adding ください (kudasai) to the phrase, you make it formal. That’s all there is to it!

You might be wondering why ください (kudasai). By itself, ください (kudasai) is a formal way of saying “please” in Japanese.

So a literal translation would be “Good Luck Please,” or rather, “Please do your best.” Regardless of whichever meaning you intend to convey, to say Good Luck formally in Japanese, you need to attach ください (kudasai) to 頑張って (ganbatte).

Well Done in Japanese

You can use a variant of 頑張って (ganbatte) to tell someone “well done” or to stress to them that you know that they did their best at doing something.

well done in Japanese

  • You did your best/ You really tried hard, didn’t you?
    頑張ったね。
    ganbatta ne.

For example, imagine that your friend has just finished their tournament and you go to see them. You can say 頑張ったね (ganbatta ne), essentially telling your friend “Well done, you did well.”

The reason it becomes 頑張った (ganbatta), and not 頑張って (ganbatte), is because by changing the て (te) to a た (ta) you change the verb into the past tense.

This is because when you tell someone “well done” in English, you are specifically referring to an event that happened in the past. It’s the same in Japanese.

The ね (ne) at the end of the sentence doesn’t have a direct translation into English. However, by adding ね (ne), which is optional by the way, you convey a “didn’t you” kind of nuance.

For instance, if you said 頑張った (ganbatta) by itself, you would be stating “You really tried hard/ You did your best.

Adding the ね (ne) at the end would make it equivalent to “you really tried hard, didn’t you” in Japanese.

Ultimately it’s up to you if you wish to include the ね (ne) or not, but it does add a touch of warmth to your words.

Saying Good Luck to Cheer Someone On in Japanese

The phrase below is another variant of 頑張って (ganbatte) (explained above). When you want to cheer someone on in Japanese, in the midst of all the action, this is how you can do it!

go for it in Japanese

  • Hang in there!/Go for it!/Keep at it!
    頑張れ!
    ganbare!

Let’s take the same example we used earlier; you’ve come to cheer on your friend at a tournament.

We’ve discussed earlier how what you want to convey can depend on if you tell someone 頑張って (ganbatte) before their tournament begins, or during half-time.

But what about during their tournament? You can use 頑張れ (ganbare) to encourage your friend to keep going, effectively telling them to “hang in there!” or “go for it!”

You can use this phrase the same way you would use it in English to cheer someone on.

 

  • Fight!
    ファイト
    faito

There’s a good chance that you’ve heard ファイト (faito) used in various Japanese media, TV, movies, or anime. It is a very casual phrase that you can use when you want to cheer on your friend during an important event in Japanese.

You’ll most likely want to avoid using this phrase when speaking to managers, or teachers, though however. The meaning of ファイト (faito) is quite self-explanatory, it is an easy way that you tell someone “keep going, keep pressing on, you can do it” in Japanese.

It is very similar to the above 頑張れ (ganbare) and can be used interchangeably.

Good Luck, You Can Do It in Japanese

Just like English, Japanese has some fantastic phrases that you can use to encourage someone. Let’s dive in!

You can do it in Japanese

  • You can do it.
    君ならできる。
    kimi nara dekiru.

君ならできる (kimi nara dekiru) is a powerful phrase that you can use to bolster someone’s confidence.

Bear in mind though, that this isn’t something you would shout out to cheer on a friend in the midst of their tournament or important event. There are other ways in which you can use for those situations (see Cheering Someone On in Japanese above).

A direct translation of this phrase in English would be “if it’s you, you can do it.”

Let’s break down the phrase a little more.

Firstly: 君 (kimi), means “you” in Japanese. To add more weight to this phrase’s meaning, you can substitute out the 君 (Kimi) for the persons’ actual name. It completely ups the emotion felt when the person hears you say this so definitely use their name if you can!

Let’s look at the next part of this phrase. なら (nara) means “if” in Japanese.

Finally, the last part, できる (dekiru), translates to “can do.” Essentially meaning:

  • きみならできる
  • kimi nara dekiru
  • You if, can do it

Japanese sentence structure is often the reverse to that of English, making the meaning “You can do it.” This is a fantastic phrase to say to someone to encourage them before an event that’s important to them!

I Believe In You in Japanese

  • I believe in you.
    あなたに信じる。
    anata ni shinjiru.

Next up, is a phrase that has the exact same nuances, meaning, and uses as it does in English. When you want to tell someone “Good Luck” and that “you believe in them,” あなたに信じる (anata ni shinjiru) is the perfect way to do it.

あなた (anata) is one of the many ways that you can say You in Japanese.

In Japanese, the word “you” isn’t used anywhere near as much as we do in English. Instead, when you can, you want to avoid saying あなた (anata) and always try and use the person’s name.

Japanese is fantastic in pretty much forcing you to remember people’s names. Unless you want to try and have a conversation without using the word “You” at all. (Which is very difficult, trust me!)

You might be wondering, why you should avoid あなた (anata) for this phrase? あなた (anata) is often used to refer to your spouse in Japanese, so you’re best off using the persons’ actual name unless you are speaking to your spouse of course!

The next part, に (ni), is a Japanese particle, which in this case, can be translated to “in”.

信じる (shinjiru), is the verb for “believe” in Japanese.  Unlike English, Japanese verbs come at the end of the sentence. As “Believe” is a verb, in Japanese it is said last.

What about how to say “I” in Japanese? Like “you,” there are also many different ways of saying “I.” However, these pronouns are often omitted in speech.

You could attach 私は (watashi ha), to the beginning of the phrase, which would make it a complete direct translation. However, the Japanese language often omits the “I” pronoun, so you shouldn’t worry at all about not using it!

I Wish You Good Luck in Japanese

Praying for Good Luck in Japanese

  • I wish you Good Luck.
    幸運を祈ります。
    kouun wo inorimasu.

This is a very formal expression that you can use to wish someone Good Luck in Japanese.

幸運を祈ります (kouun wo inorimasu) is not really used in conversation. Although it makes sense and a native Japanese speaker will understand you, it sounds somewhat unnatural. Instead, you might find this phrase used in an email or letter of some sort.

It is a direct translation of “I wish you Good Luck.” Let’s break this phrase down a little.

幸運 (kouun) in Japanese literally ” Good Fortune.”

を (wo) is a Japanese grammar particle and marks the object of the verb in the sentence.

いのります (inori masu) is the polite version of the verb いのる (inoru), meaning “to pray” or “to wish” in Japanese.

As 幸運 (kouun) in Japanese means “Good Fortune,” you can attach を祈ります (wo inorimasu), which means”to pray for.” With that said, by putting it together, you have a phrase with a literal translation of “I’m praying for your good fortune” in Japanese!

Good Luck And Take Care in Japanese

  • Good Luck and Be Careful.
    気を付けて。
    kiwotsukete.

Sometimes you may want to say to someone “I wish you Good Luck” in the sense of “be careful.” In those situations, this is the phrase you’ll want to use. You can use 気を付けて (kiwotsukete) to tell someone to be careful in Japanese.

For instance, in English, we might want to tell our friends Good Luck just before they go on a long solo-cycling trip.

  • 旅行を気を付けて!
    ryokou wo kiwotsukete!
    Good luck and be careful on your travels!

In this variation of “Good Luck,” you are also telling them to “be careful” as well right? That’s exactly the meaning that this phrase conveys, and you can use it the exact same way as you do in English!

In situations where you will need to use polite speech, you can say 気を付けてください (kiwotsukete kudasai).

All the Best in Japanese

  • All the Best/Best of Luck.
    お元気で。
    ogenki de.

You can use お元気で (ogenki de) to tell someone “Best of Luck,” or “All the best” in Japanese.

It’s a fantastic phrase to use to express your hope to the receiver in that they will remain healthy. It’s quite a casual expression that is primarily used as a parting phrase.

Say you’ve spent the day with a friend and it’s time to say goodbye.

In English, we often say things like “all the best” during these situations. To convey that same thing in Japanese, we can simply say お元気でね (o genki de ne), with the addition of ね (ne) for emphasis.

If you are writing a letter or an email and wish to conclude it with a simple “all the best”, “best of luck” or “kind regards”, use 敬具 (keigu).

Reserved for written formal situations such as email writing, 敬具 (keigu) expresses a polite “best of luck” in Japanese. Note that 敬具 (keigu) should only be used in written Japanese.

In conversations where you should show respect, simply saying では (deha) as a parting phrase is the best way to say “best of luck” or “all the best” in Japanese.

I have Good Luck in Japanese

You can say things such as I am Lucky in Japanese, or I/You have good Luck. Let’s take a look!

  • I have Good Luck.
    運がいい。
    un ga ii.

Those days where you feel like you’ve been particularly lucky… perhaps you caught that pancake mid-flip that you were sure was going to fall to the floor, received some generous tips at work, or somehow managed to flook that exam you were struggling… Whichever the case, sometimes you feel like you’re lucky, or maybe you’re just generally a lucky person.

During these experiences, you’re going to want to say “I’m Lucky” in Japanese.

運がいい (un ga ii), as a literal translation, means “luck is good.” The best thing about this phrase is that you can use it to say that you yourself have good luck or use it to say to someone else that they have good luck in Japanese.

You can use 運がいい (un ga ii) as a general phrase, or you can use it immediately after an event has happened.

For instance, just as you would say “Wow, I’m lucky,” in English after winning the lottery,  you can use this phrase to communicate the same thing in Japanese.

When you’re wanting to tell someone else “You have Good Luck” in Japanese, you can attach ね (ne), to the end of the sentence.

This makes it 運がいいね (un ga ii ne) which changes the phrase to consistently convey the meaning of “You have good luck”.

Formality: If you want to say “I have good luck” politely in Japanese, you can attach です (desu) to the end of the phrase, making it 運がいいです (un ga ii desu).

I Am Unlucky in Japanese

Maybe, you’ve had one of those days, or maybe you’re just an unlucky person… Whichever the case, you’re going to need to know how to say “I am unlucky” in Japanese.

unlucky in Japanese

  • I am unlucky.
    運が悪い。
    un ga warui.

So things aren’t going well, and you’ve been a bit unlucky.

During those times, you can say 運が悪い (un ga warui) which means “I am unlucky,” or as a literal translation: “My luck is bad”.

Perhaps you’ve just clocked in 20 seconds late to work, or maybe your phone died just as you were about to send an email.

During all of these unfortunate circumstances, in English, we would say that it was unlucky. You can use 運が悪い (un ga warui) to say “I am unlucky” in Japanese during all of those unfortunate situations.

Similarly to how you can say 運がいいね(un ga ii ne) to tell someone that they’re lucky (as explained above), you can attach ね (ne) to the end of this phrase, to tell someone else, somewhat kindly that they’ve been unlucky. Although, I’m sure they already know they have been after what might have happened.

That Was Lucky in Japanese

 

Lucky in Japanese

  • Lucky.
    ラッキー。
    rakki.

You can use ラッキー (rakki) which is an expression that has the same meaning and nuances as the word “Lucky” in English.

In Japan, this is a very casual phrase that Japanese people will often use as a standalone to convey the meaning of “I am lucky.” What I mean by this, is that instead of saying the entire “I am Lucky” phrase, Japanese people will just use ラッキー! (rakki!) which conveys the same meaning.

For instance, if manage to get yourself a high score on a Japanese reading test, you could simply say ラッキー (rakki), which would mean the same thing as “I’m lucky” or “that was lucky” in English.

That Was Unlucky in Japanese

  • That was unlucky/ that was unfortunate.
    残念。
    zannen.

When you’re referring to a specific thing or event as being unlucky, or unfortunate in Japanese, this is the phrase you can use! 残念 (zannen), literally means the same as the word “unfortunate”.

In Japanese, where the context is understood by both the speaker and listener pronouns, words, and subjects are omitted.

For instance, if you’re playing a game of monopoly with your family (always goes well), and you just don’t quite have enough to pay the bills, in English, you might say “that was unfortunate,” or “that was unlucky.”

In Japanese, you can simply say 残念 (zannen), which means the exact same thing!

Formality: You can up the politeness on this phrase if you’re speaking with someone such as a manager, or stranger. Simply add です (desu) to the end of the phrase to make it formal.

Symbols of Good Luck in Japan

There are actually many symbols of Good Luck in Japan, despite there only being a few literal ways to say “Good Luck” in its language.

Lucky Cat – Beckoning Cat (Maneki-Neko)

Japanese Good Luck Cat Ornament

One of the most popular, and well-known symbols would be the Maneki-Neko, or beckoning cat in English. It is a Japanese figurine that is commonly placed in doorways, on top shelves, etc, to bring its owner good luck. You can find these ornaments all over Japan. The cats are very symbolic of Japanese culture, and some temples in Japan are absolutely covered in them.

Here is a picture I took during my cycle across Japan.

Lucky Cat Temple Japan

Another amazing thing about these cats is that each colour attribute represents something different. For instance, a pink cat would represent love and romance, whereas a white cat would represent positivity and purity.

You can check out more information on these cats here.

Bringing Good Luck to the weather

Japan has many other unique elements to its culture that represent Good Luck. A teru teru bozu, literally “shine shine monk” is a Japanese doll made from white paper or cloth that you can hang outside your window. It is said that this hand-made doll has magical powers, and by it outside your window, it can halt rainy days and bring good luck to the weather.

You could even make your own!

The Legendary Japanese Four-leaf Clover Taxi

Four Leaf Clover Taxi Japan

 

In Kyoto, Japan, there is a Taxi company called Yasaka, which uses clovers as its logo. These clovers are located all over the taxis themselves, including on the top. There are 1400 of these taxies in Kyoto, of which, a mere four of them have a four-leaf clover logo imprinted on their top, as opposed to the standard three-leaf-clover logo the remaining 1396 of them have.

It is said that those who see these mysterious taxis, or better yet, have the privilege of riding in one, will be brought eternal happiness.

Be on the lookout for these when you next visit Kyoto! According to rumours, If you’re lucky enough to ride one, you will be blessed with happiness in your life.

If you’re looking for some Japanese Reading practice, check out our regularly updated page with culture-infused exercises for all Japanese levels. Good luck with your Japanese!

Further How-To Ultimate Guides:

 No Problem in Japanese

Have a Good Day in Japanese

How to Read Japanese

How to say No in Japanese

You’d think that saying No in Japanese would be as simple as remembering a single phrase. But as Japanese has a bunch of formalities, it makes it a little more complicated.

How you say No in Japanese can change depending on who you’re speaking to. On top of that, the Japanese are very polite people, which means that they don’t often say No directly as often as you might think!

This means that there are a bunch of ways you can say No in Japanese, No politely in Japanese, or no thank you.

It’s in the Japanese culture to be polite when declining an invitation or saying no to something.

When Japanese people want to say No to something, being indirect in their response can be quite common.

For instance, if someone invites you to a party and you’re not too keen on going, in English you might say something like “No thank you, I don’t feel like going today.” And that would be that.

In Japanese however, you would say something like “Hmmm, I’m not too sure, I think that maybe… Today is no good for me. I’m sorry to be a nuisance.”

In Japanese culture, there is a great emphasis placed on considering the face of others when saying no to them.

There are plenty of ways that you can say No in Japanese. Let’s take a look so you’ll have a suitable response for when you want to say no in Japanese.

While this article is a comprehensive resource for learning all of the different ways to say “no” in Japanese, LingoDeer is a fantastic language learning app for beginner and intermediate learners to master sentence structures and expressions.

LingoDeer boasts diverse lesson styles, professional audio quality voiced by native speakers (the best I’ve encountered on any language app so far), and an engaging story component that tests your reading AND listening skills.

No in Japanese

Let’s get started with the most literal way to say No in Japanese.

  • No.
    いいえ。
    iie.

If you’re looking for a direct, and literal translation of how to say No in Japanese, いいえ (iie) would do the job.

This phrase will show up as the No in Yes/No options on a confirmation screen of some kind.

For example, if you’re playing a video game and it asks you: “Are you sure you want to save?” You would then select いいえ if you didn’t intend to save the game.

In terms of using this phrase, you should be careful it can give off the wrong impression if you just use this phrase on its own.

If you’re looking for a way to say no to decline an invitation or refuse something, for instance, this would be the wrong phrase to use. Instead, you should use it to correct an assumption or statement.

If someone asks you if you can speak Spanish (assuming you can’t), you would say something like “No I can’t speak Spanish” in English right? It’s the same in Japanese, you would use the word いいえ, followed by a phrase such as スペイン語が喋れないです, which would translate to “No I can’t speak Spanish.”

Formality: The level of formality that you may need to use in Japanese, depends on who you’re speaking to. Sometimes, words/phrases should be completely avoided if you’re speaking to someone politely, such as a manager, teacher, or stranger.

In this case, いいえ is a polite way of saying No in Japanese, so you can use this phrase for purposes where formality is necessary.

Saying No Casually

So, how can you say No in Japanese when you’re speaking to your friends or family? There are a few phrases you can use to do this, they mirror the uses of いいえ (see above). Let’s jump in!

  • No.
    ううん。
    uun.

Casual variants of Yes and No in Japanese are particularly interesting, as they are almost not like actual words at all. Think of how we say “Uh” in English when we’re thinking.

If you take that sound and add the soft N sound to the end of it, you get something like this: uh-n. This is how you can say Yes in Japanese casually: うん (un).

Noticed the similarities yet? That’s right: No in Japanese casually is the same as Yes, but the “uh” sound is extended for a slightly longer duration.

Note that you don’t make the “uh” sound twice, but rather you just extend the duration you’re saying it a little.

When Japanese people say ううん in Japanese, they dip in tone when they reach the middle part of the words’ pronunciation, then rise again towards the end. Have a listen to the comparisons here for clarity.

Yes and No Pronunciation Difference

ううん (no) Pronunciation:

うん (Yes) Pronunciation:

The difference in tone makes it much easier to learn and distinguish between the two phrases. Just imagine what it would be like without the tones! Intonation and pitch accent is important in Japanese, but the number of existing tones doesn’t quite match that of the Chinese language at least!

Just like its formal counterpart いいえ (above), this phrase should be avoided when refusing things from other people.

Instead, you can use it to correct things people have said.

For example, if someone asks you if you’re a Japanese person (assuming you’re not actually one), in English you’d reply with something like “no I’m not.” In Japanese, it’s the same. You’d reply first with ううん, followed by a phrase such as 日本人じゃない, which means: “I’m not a Japanese person”.

  • ううん、日本人じゃない。
    uun, nihonjin janai.
    No, I’m not a Japanese person.

Formality: As this is a casual way of saying No in Japanese, you should avoid using it with managers and teachers. you’ll find that when speaking with friends, this phrase is used a lot.

Nope in Japanese

Nope in Japanese

  • Nope.
    いや。
    iya.

いや (iya) is a very casual way of saying “Nope” in Japanese.

When speaking this word, you pronounce it somewhat quickly. Its use is similar to how Nope is used in English.

Imagine if someone asks you if you had eaten the last bit of birthday cake they’d been saving, and they say something like: “Hey, was it you who ate my cake last night?” Your response in English might be something like “Nope, it wasn’t me.”

Japanese uses a similar pattern to this, and a reply might be something like いや、食べてないよ, which translates to “Nope, I didn’t eat it.”

  • いや、食べてないよ
    iya, tabetemai yo.
    Nope, I didn’t eat your cake.

You can also use the word いやだ which is a very casual way of saying “Nope, I don’t want to.”  Imagine a reluctant child being told to go to bed by their parents.

  • いやだ。寝たくない。
    iyada. netakunai.
    No! I don’t wanna sleep.

Formality: As this is a very casual phrase, it’s best used with close family members or friends. If you were to use this phrase with your manager, you’d probably get fired quite quickly as it’s very informal.

How to say No Politely in Japanese

Chotto - saying no to an invitation in Japanese

  • It’s a little bit…
    ちょっと。
    chotto.

ちょっと (chotto) is used very often in the Japanese language. It’s a super common phrase that you can use to turn down requests, or refuse something.

ちょっと (chotto) is a very indirect phrase, so it’s perfect for saying No politely in Japanese.

As mentioned earlier, it’s in the Japanese culture to be polite when turning down requests, offers or invitations, etc. Because of this, no matter the reason, Japanese people use this phrase to tell people “No,” indirectly.

In English, imagine if everyone’s response in declining your invitation to attend an event was “Ah, Uhmmm, Hmmm, today is kind of…Maybe… Yeah… I’m not too sure, if…”. Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little bit there, but by simply just saying ちょっと (chotto) you convey all of those hesitations at once.

Essentially, when you say ちょっと (chotto) to say no in Japanese, you convey an “I’m not too sure if I can make it” kind of meaning to the requester. It’s used in Japanese to help preserve face.

Formality: This phrase can actually be used in both formal and casual settings. When you want to speak politely, just be sure to add the です (desu), to the end of the sentence if it’s a noun, or use the ます ending for a verb.

Using this phrase on its own, however, will typically convey the message of No to the requester.

I Wonder in Japanese

  • I wonder…
    かな。
    kana.

Continuing from the phrase ちょっと (chotto), as explained above, you can often combine it with かな (kana). The literal translation of かな is “I wonder…” and when used in the same sentence as ちょっと, you exaggerate the sense of indirectness, and convey an “I’m not sure…” meaning.

かな is used after a verb, whereas ちょっと will come before it. Let’s take a look at an example sentence.

ちょっと行かないかな

Remember the declining an invitation example with ちょっと earlier?  The sentence above shows an example of how you could use it. If you know that 行かない means “won’t go”, the meaning of the sentence becomes clear!

Umm… I’m not sure if I will go.

By using かな (kana) at the end of the sentence and ちょっと (chott0) at the beginning, you really emphasise the fact you don’t really want to go. Use かな (kana) when you want to say No indirectly in Japanese without hurting the other persons’ feelings.

Saying No Directly

So, what if you’re thinking that you just want to tell someone straight-up No in Japanese. Well, there are ways you can achieve this, and I’ll show you how!

  • No, impossible!
    むり。
    muri.

You can use むり (muri) when you want to up-right refuse someone. A direct translation to English would be “impossible,” and you can use it in Japanese the same way you do in English.

For instance, if someone asks you: “Hey, wanna come to my party tonight?” Muri. “Want to go out on a date with me?” Muri. “Fancy watching a movie with me later?” Muri. It’s a fantastic way you can say “no” to someone directly. Or perhaps you want to be even more direct, and tell someone “no” and to “go away” in Japanese.

Formality: I mean, you can up the formality by adding です (desu) to the end of the phrase, making it むりです (muri desu). But I’d still advise using it in formal situations, and here is why.

Imagine your manager asks you to do them a favour, and you respond with: “No, that’s impossible.” I’d expect that it probably wouldn’t go down well with most managers… So this phrase is best of being reserved for casual situations only.

No Good in Japanese

No Good - dame in Japanese

  • No good.
    だめ。
    dame.

Similarly to the above むり (muri), you can use だめ (dame) to refuse invitations.

Let’s say that you’ve ordered a pizza, and you’re really hungry and really looking forward to it. You pick up the pizza and taste the first bite, and you think: “Um, this flavour is kind of disappointing…” A very unfortunate situation indeed, a situation where one might describe the pizza as だめ (dame), meaning “no good”.

If you’re busy on a day when someone has invited you out, you could also reply with:

  • 今日はだめ。
    kyou ha dame.
    Today is no good.

You may have also seen in movies or anime, where characters might scream the phrase だめ (dame). In this scenario, だめ translates to “No, stop!” or “No, that’s not allowed.”

Formality: This phrase is also a noun, so you can add です(desu) to the end of the word making it だめです (dame desu) to make it more formal.

No That’s Not It in Japanese

  • No, that’s not it!/ It’s different.
    違う。
    chigau.

違う (chigau) is used very often to say No in Japanese. You should use it in the same way as you would use いいえ (iie) and ううん (uun).

This means that you’re best off using the phrase when you’re wanting to correct someone in regards to if something is true or not. For instance, if one of your flatmates accuses you of eating their cake, you could respond with 違う!(chigau), meaning “No, that’s not it!”

  • 違う、私じゃないもん
    chigau, watashi janai mon.
    No, it wasn’t me.

You could also use this as a response to questions such as: Are you’re a native Japanese speaker?

  • 違います、日本人のネイティブではありません
    chigaimasu. nihonjin no neiteibu deha arimasen.
    That’s not right, I’m not a native Japanese speaker.

Formality: This phrase can be used in both casual, and formal situations. To make this phrase formal, you can change it to its ます form. It would become 違います (chigaimasu).

I Don’t Think So in Japanese

  • No, I don’t think so.
    そう思わない
    sou omowanai.

This phrase directly translates to “I don’t think so” in English. You can also use it the same way as you would in English to state your opinion about a matter.

For example, if someone is gossiping about someone else, and they say to you “Hey, that girl, she’s super rude, don’t you think?” in Japanese, you could reply with a simple そう思わない (souomowanai) which would the same as saying “No, I don’t think that.”

  • そう思わない。優しいと思う。
    sou omowanai. yasashii to omou.
    I don’t think so. I think she’s friendly.

Formality: This phrase is a verb, so it will need to be changed into ます (masu) form. In ます (masu) form, it becomes そう思いません (souomoimasen) which is perfect for those situations that require formality.

I Don’t Have

  • No, I don’t.
    ない。
    nai.

When someone asks you if you have something in Japanese, you’re going to need to use a specific phrase to tell them you don’t have the item. This phrase is a verb, and you can use it to tell someone that you don’t have possession of said item.

For instance, your friend asks you if you have a pen that they can borrow.  So, being the amazing friend you are, you dive into your pencil case to find a pen, only to realise that you don’t have a spare. In this case, you could respond with ない (nai). It’s the same as telling your friend “I don’t have one” in English.

  • ペンがない。ごめんね。
    pen ga nai. gomen ne.
    I don’t have a pen. Sorry.

Formality; This phrase is currently in its casual form, but to up the level of politeness, you can add です (desu) to the end of the phrase.

No Thank You in Japanese Politely

Let’s take a look at some ways that you can say No Thank You in Japanese politely.

No thank you in Japanese

  • No Thank You
    結構です。
    kekkou desu..

This phrase is a very formal phrase in which you should use with your managers and teachers, or with strangers.

結構です (kekkou desu) is an expression that you can use to say no thank you formally. Perhaps when you go into the store, and the merchant asks if you would like to purchase any additional items, you can reply with 結構です (kekkou desu) to politely decline.

Formality: This phrase is a formal expression that you can use to politely decline something in Japanese.

No Thanks

  • No Thanks.
    大丈夫。
    daijoubu.

You can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu) to convey something very similar to 結構です (above) but much softer. For instance, when someone asks you if you’d like/need something and you want to decline them, you can say 大丈夫 (daijoubu) which conveys a kind of no thanks.

I personally often use this expression as it comes across much warmer when refusing someone.

It is very similar to “no thanks” in English and can be used the same way. Perhaps someone asks if you want to eat some of their cake, and (assuming you don’t want any cake) you could reply 大丈夫!meaning, “no that’s alright, thanks anyway”.

This is truly a fantastic phrase to use, and I catch myself using it all the time.

Formality: Just like the previous phrases, to increase its formality you can add です (desu) to the end, making it 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu).

No Thank you in Japanese Casually

  • Nah thanks.
    いらない。
    iranai.

When you’re speaking to friends, there are other phrases you can say apart from 大丈夫 (above) to say No Thanks. いらない (iranai) is a super casual phrase that you can use to say “Nah” in Japanese. When someone asks if you’d like something and you want to tell them kindly that you don’t, you can say いらない (iranai).

What’s interesting about いらない (iranai) though, is that it is actually the negative form of いる (iru), meaning “need”. This means that when you say いらない (iranai) you’re literally saying “I don’t need it”. Imagine saying you don’t need cake in English!

  • ケーキを食べる?。
    ke-ki wo taberu?.
    Want some cake?

As a reply:

  • ケーキをいらない。
    ke-ki wo iranai.
    Nah thanks.

Now for some dialect for you! In Kansai, they say いらん (iran) as opposed to いらない. Super casual!

  • 酒いらん。
    sake iran.
    I’ll pass on the alcohol.

Formality: This is a very casual phrase that should be avoided when speaking to managers, teachers, or strangers.

No Problem in Japanese

We have our own detailed article on how to say no problem in Japanese here!

Oh No in Japanese

There are a few ways you can Oh No in Japanese, some being a little more informal than others. In this section, let’s take a look at some of the phrases!

shimatta - Oh no in Japanese

  • Oh no/Oh crap.
    しまった。
    shimatta.

This phrase is something you can blurt out when you make a mistake, very similar to “Oh no” or “Oh Crap” in English. For instance, if you miss your train, you could say しまった (shimatta). It’s the same as English!

  • Oh Shoot.
    やばい・やばー。
    yabai/yaba-.

やばい (yabai) has many, many uses. You can use it to describe something as either crazy, sick, delicious, terrible, and many more. This phrase is incredibly informal, so it should be avoided during formal situations. It is has a very similar use to “Oh Shoot” or “Oh S**t” in English. Some Japanese people will say やばー which means the same thing, just a little more informal.

  • Oops!
    うわっ!
    uw-a!

You can use うわっー (uw-a) during situations where you make a mistake and are surprised. For instance, if you’re holding a glass, and you suddenly drop it, you might say うわっ! (uw-a) in Japanese, or “Oops” in English.

That’s it from us today! As there are many ways to say No in Japanese, it can be difficult to select the right phrase to decline or refuse something. I hope you enjoyed your read and found some useful phrases and expressions here!


No! I want more Japanese Content!

Check out our page for more Ultimate How To Japanese guides.

Recommended:

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

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

Japanese Reading Practice:

We also publish free Japanese reading practices for all levels. All practices contain texts with furigana/kanji only versions, vocabulary lists, grammar explanations and tests!

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No Problem in Japanese

How to say No Problem in Japanese

This post lists and explains all the possible ways you can say no problem in Japanese. It also teaches you when you should, and should not use each one!

We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ve all done favours for each other too.

Whether you’re searching for a way to reply to an apology, for a perfect response for when someone thanks you, or to say you’re welcome, there will surely be plenty of time where you’re going to want to say: no problem.

This singular phrase actually has quite a few variants in Japanese, and a lot of it depends on the situation and circumstances.

Let’s have a look at the phrases, and I’ll help you become familiar with how and when to use each one.

All of the phrases and expressions are explained in detail with examples and native audio pronunciation samples attached for your reference.

No Problem in Japanese

Let’s jump straight to the most literal way to say no problem in Japanese. But first, you might want to learn about all the ways to say “no” in Japanese with our ultimate guide.

  • No problem
    問題ない
    mondai nai

Being the most direct, and literal expression of no problem in Japanese, you can use 問題ない(mondai nai) when you simply want to say to someone: no problem.

The first part of the expression 問題 (mondai) means “problem”.

The second part ない (nai) means: “to not exist”. So essentially this expression directly translates to “problem does not exist.”

You can use this expression during occasions when someone asks you for a favour or if it’s okay for them to do something. For instance,

  • 今日のパーティー、8時に行っていい?
    kyou no pa-tei-, 8ji ni itte ii?
    Can I go to today’s party at 8?

To which, you can respond:

  • 問題ないよ
    mondai nai yo
    No problem

In this example, the addition of よ (yo) makes the expression more friendly. You’re essentially saying “sure, it’s no problem.” It is very casual and should only be used when speaking with friends or family.

Formality: Note that as Japanese changes depending on the level of formality, this expression is in its casual form, therefore is best used when communicating with friends and relatives.

If you were speaking to a manager or someone who is of higher status, however, you can add the Japanese です (desu) to the end of the expression making it: 問題ないです (mondai nai desu).

If you’d like to learn more about how to read Japanese, you can visit our detailed page which explains how to read Japanese from the ground up.

Of Course, No Problem in Japanese

  • Of course
    もちろん
    mochiron

When someone thanks you for your help, or asks “Could you do this for me?” you might want to say もちろん (of course).

You can use this expression exactly as you would use it in English. Let’s say you stayed up all night helping a friend build their computer despite having to go to work the next morning. Your friend might say:

  • 昨日ありがとう!
    kinou arigatou!
    Thanks for yesterday!

Your response:

  • もちろん
    mochiron
    of course

You could also combine it with the above expression 問題ない (mondai nai) and say: もちろん問題ない (mochiron mondai nai) meaning: “Of course, it’s no problem!” This one is nice, as it’s fairly easy to understand, as its uses and nuances are the same as in English.

You can also use this expression when you want to say yes to someone’s request.

  • 明日パソコンのことだけど、手伝ってもらっていい?
    ashita pasokon no koto dakedo , tetsudatte moratteii?
    About the computer tomorrow, would you mind helping me?

If you are all up for it, you can of course say:

  • もちろん手伝うよ.
    mochiron tetsudau yo.
    Of course, I’ll help.

If you use it like this, you sound very willing to help and that it’s no problem at all.

Formality: When you’re speaking with people to who you should show a higher level of respect, managers, teachers, and strangers, you can just add です (desu), to the end. This makes it もちろんです (mochiron desu).

I Don’t Mind in Japanese

  • I don’t mind/it doesn’t matter
    構わない
    kamawanai

You can use this expression in two ways to say no problem in Japanese. Firstly, you can use it as an answer to a request. If your friend were to ask if you could wait for them for instance, you could say 構わない (kamawanai) which would mean “sure, I don’t mind.”

  • 図書館で待ってくれる?
    toshokan de matte kureru?
    Will you wait for me at the library?

You could reply:

  • 構わない.
    kamawa nai.
    I don’t mind waiting.

During these situations, you can also say “no worries,” which is explained in the next entry.

Secondly, you can use 構わない (kamawanai) to say: “it doesn’t matter.” This can be in the context of meaning: “it’s no problem whichever or whatever the case.” For example, if your friend asks if you’d rather meet at the supermarket as opposed to the library you could also reply with  構わない (kamawanai), meaning: “it’s no problem whatever the case.”

Formality: In terms of formality, this expression is in its casual form. To add formality to it, you would say 構いません (kamaimasen).

No Worries in Japanese

Friendly No Problem

Sometimes, “no worries” and “no problem” can be interchangeable, but the purpose of this section is to demonstrate how to say “No Problem” in Japanese with a warmer/friendly touch.

  • No worries/it’s no problem at all
    全然いい(よ)
    zenzen ii yo

This expression is powerful in conveying a friendly no problem in Japanese.

You can use it in a wide variety of circumstances. For example, you can use it in response to someone when they ask you for a favour, or even when someone apologies to you.

Furthermore, it has a very friendly connotation attached to it, making it a brilliant expression to use when someone thanks you.

いい (ii) has many meanings: “good, okay, no problem”.

In fact, you can just use いいよ (iiyo) by itself as it conveys the meaning of “no problem” in a friendly matter.

The よ (yo) makes this expression sound particularly friendly, as opposed to just いい (ii). You could say いい (ii) by itself, however, but it comes across as somewhat cold.

So, いいよ is a friendly and warm way of saying: “no problem” in Japanese. But what about 全然 (zenzen)?

Grammatically, 全然 (zenzen) is used at the start of a sentence with a negative ending to convey the meaning of “not at all”.

However, recently Japanese people have begun using 全然 (zenzen) to add emphasis to affirmative phrases. Although grammatically incorrect, it is widely understood and accepted by the Japanese that 全然 can be used like this.

Here, 全然 is used to express: “not at all,” and with いいよ coming after it, completes the expression 全然いいよ, literally – “no worries at all”.

Formality: When speaking to non-friends and relatives, be sure to add that extra layer of formality by adding です, making it 全然いいですよ. (zenzen ii desuyo).

It’s Okay in Japanese

how to say no problem in Japanese

  • It’s okay (no problem)
    全然大丈夫
    zenzen  daijoubu

You can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu), to express “No problem” in Japanese. This is a very flexible phrase that you can use in plenty of situations. It would be best translated as: “that’s okay, no problem” in English. Similarly to the 全然いいよ phrase explained above, 大丈夫 (daijoubu) can also be paired with 全然 (zenzen). Also, in this case, 全然 (zenzen) exaggerates and amplifies the meaning of 大丈夫 (daijoubu).

See as adding 全然 (zenzen) to the phrase as a way of saying: “It’s absolutely fine” or “It’s absolutely okay, no problem” in Japanese.

As a response to a request:

  • 本当にパソコンを使っていい?
    hontouni pasokon wo tsukatte ii?
    Is it really okay to use your computer?

Your reply:

  • ぜんぜん大丈夫
    zenzen daijoubu
    No problem at all.

As response to an apology:

  • パソコンが壊れた!ごめんね!
    pasokon ga kowareta! gomen ne!
    The computer broke! I’m sorry!

Your reply:

  • ぜんぜん大丈夫
    zenzen daijoubu
    No problem at all.

As a Thank you:

  • 新しいパソコンを買ってくれてありがとう!
    atarashii pasokon wo katte kurete arigatou!
    Thank you for buying me a new computer!

Your reply:

  • ぜんぜん大丈夫
    zenzen daijoubu
    No problem at all.

You can also use 大丈夫 on its own, and you will sound perfectly natural. When you do, you’re simply saying “It’s no problem.”

Formality: Just like the phrases before this one, adding です (desu) to the end of the phrase ups the level of formality. This makes it 全然大丈夫です (zenzen daijoubu desu). Don’t forget to do this when speaking with a stranger,  your manager, or your teacher!

How to say OK, Okay and It’s Okay in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].

Nevermind in Japanese

Don't worry in Japanese

When we want to say “no problem” to someone,  sometimes we want to say: “No problem, don’t worry about it.” In this section, I’m going to break down the phrases that convey just that meaning!

  • Don’t worry about it (nevermind)
    気にしないで
    kinishinaide

When you use 気にしないで (kinishinaide) you’re essentially saying “Don’t worry about it, it’s no problem, nevermind.” You can use this phrase in situations where you want to tell someone not to worry.

For those of you who have studied Japanese before you might notice that this word has the grammar しないで (shinaide) attached to it. This grammar means “not do.” The affirmative conjugation of this phrase is 気にする (kinisuru) which means “to mind.” With しないで (shinaide) attached to the word, we can see how the translation for this phrase is “nevermind.”

You can also use it as a response to an apology. Perhaps someone can’t hold back their cravings anymore and eats the chocolate that you’d been saving for a special occasion. If you’re willing to forgive the person you would say: 気にしないで, conveying the meaning of “nevermind, don’t worry about it.”

Formality: You can add ください (kudasai) to the end of the phrase to increase the formality. ください (kudasai) is a formal way of saying “please” and is often paired with this word when an increase of formality is needed.

Don’t Worry About It in Japanese

  • Don’t worry about it 
    心配しないで
    shinpaishinaide

This expression is the literal translation of “don’t worry about it.” 心配 (shinpai) means “to worry,” and ないで (naide) means: “without doing,” making the complete expression literally, “don’t worry.”

This phrase is very easy to use, as it has the same functions and uses as it does in English! It conveys the meaning of “it’s no problem, don’t worry about it.” You can use this phrase when you want to reassure someone that they don’t need to worry or overthink something and that everything is okay. When you combine it with 大丈夫 (daijoubu), above, you can say “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

  • ケーキの全部をたべちゃった、ごめんなさい。
    ke-ki no zenbu wo tabechatta, gomen na sai.
    I accidentally ate all of the cake, I’m sorry.

Being the nice person you are, you say:

  • 大丈夫!心配しないで。
    daijoubu! shinpaishinaide.
    No worries, don’t worry about it.

You can also use this expression to really try to calm someone down.

By saying:

  • そんなに心配しなくていいよ。
    sonna ni shinpai shinakute ii yo.
    Don’t worry too much.

You’re telling that person that they needn’t worry too much in Japanese. 

Formality: Similarly to the phrase above, add ください (kudasai) to the end of the phrase. By adding ください (kudasai) which means “please,” you add an additional layer of formality to the phrase.

You’re Welcome in Japanese

When we want to say “No Problem” in Japanese, sometimes, a “You’re welcome” will do the job perfectly. Let’s take a look at how you can say “you’re welcome” in Japanese.

  • You’re Welcome
    どういたしまして
    douitashimashite

The most simple way to say “You’re welcome” in Japanese is to use the phrase: どういたしまして (douitashimashite). This phrase is very flexible because you can use it with anyone, regardless of formality. It is the closest phrase to “You’re Welcome” in Japanese and can be used when you want to respond to a “thank you.

Formality: You don’t need to make any additional changes to this phrase as it is already formal.  You can use this phrase to say “You’re welcome” to anyone without the worry of formality.

Modest ways to say You’re Welcome in Japanese

The Japanese language has multiple layers of formality, and it’s in the culture to be modest when saying “You’re Welcome” in Japanese. Let’s take a look at the phrases and ex[ressopms in more detail!

  • No, no, it’s nothing! (no problem)
    いえいえ
    ieie

When you say a single いえ (ie) in Japanese, you’re saying “no.” This expression is いえ (ie) x2, so quite literally this expression can be translated as “No no.”

When you go to Japan and speak Japanese to someone, there’s no doubt you’ll be complimented on your (amazing) Japanese. Japanese people are very polite, and will often say things like 日本語上手ですね!This translates to: “Wow! You’re Japanese is amazing!” People will often say this to you immediately after you’ve told them: “Hello.”

The best (and sometimes expected) way to reply to this is to be modest.

In Japanese culture, after being complimented it can be polite to say things like “No no, that’s not true at all!” And the same goes for after someone thanks you.

When someone thanks you in Japanese, it is polite to tell them: “no, no, it was no problem at all!” Which is the exact meaning that いえいえ (ieie) conveys.

Formality: いえいえ (ie ie) is perfectly fine in all situations as it’s already an expression you’ll use when you want to be modest.

Check out this video on “Wow” You’re Japanese is amazing.” It’s become a sort of meme in the Japanese language learning community.


Thank You Too In Japanese

  • Thank you too!
    こちらこそ
    kochirakoso

When you want to say “Thank you too” in Japanese, こちらこそ (kochira koso) is the expression you’ll need.

This expression is quite on the modest side, and its literal translation would be more something like: “It is I who should be thanking you.”

You’ll want to use this expression after someone has thanked you to show that you’re also (perhaps even more so) appreciative of that person. It is a very polite expression that is used frequently among Japanese people.

  • 今日はとても楽しかったです。ありがとうございます。
    kyou ha totemo tanoshikatta desu. arigatou gozaimasu.
    Today was really fun. Thank you.

Your response can be:

  • こちらこそ
    kochirakoso
    Thank you too.

Formality: As this is a modest expression, you don’t need to change it in any way.

An alternative response that you can use is 私も (watashi mo), which essentially means “me too” in Japanese. Unlike こちらこそ (kochira koso) this is a very casual expression and should only be used with friends and family.

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

No problem using Japanese loan words

The Japanese language consists of borrowed words called katakana. There are ways to say “No Problem” in Japanese, using English (or English-sounding) phrases and expressions. Let’s take a look!

  • Okay
    オーケー
    O-ke

This expression means the same as “OK” in English, and can be used the same way. Convenient, right!

Formality: You can use オーケー (o-ke) as a standalone expression, but adding です (desu) to the end secures that formality if in doubt.


  • I don’t mind
    ドンマイ
    donmai

This phrase is borrowed from the English language phrase “I don’t mind.” Just as you’d expect, it means exactly that! You can ドンマイ (donmai) in Japanese the same way as you would use “I don’t mind” in English. You’re probably best off using this one with your friends, as opposed to with your manager or teacher.

Formality: You should use this casual phrase with your friends.

It’s no problem, no big deal In Japanese

  • It’s no problem, no big deal
    大したことはない
    taishita koto wa nai

At times when someone is bigging up the fact you’ve done them a huge favour, you can use 大したことはない (taishita koto wa nai). When you use this expression you’re telling the person that “it was nothing, no biggie.” For instance:

  • 家まで荷物を持ってくれてありがとう。
    ie made nimotsu wo mottekurete arigatou.
    Thanks for carrying my things all the way home for me.

As a reply, you can say:

  • 大したことはない
    taishita koto ha nai
    no problem, no big deal.

You can also use this expression to say “it’s nothing special.” Maybe you’ve received many compliments for being really good at something. People talk about you to others and say things like “thanks to them we won the baseball championship!”

By replying with 大したことはない (taishita koto ha nai) you’re telling them “it’s no big deal, nothing special.” Be careful not to sound too cocky of course!

That covers pretty much all of the ways you can say No Problem in Japanese! I hope you found this useful, thanks for reading!

More Resources for learning Japanese? No Problem!

Check out our dedicated page for all of our Ultimate How-To Japanese guides.

More Recommended Ultimate Guides:

How to say What’s up in Japanese

How to say How Are You in Japanese

Free Resources:

Japanese Learning PDF

Free Japanese Reading Practice eLearning PDFs!

How to read Japanese Main

How to Read Japanese: Ultimate Guide

“How do you read those Japanese symbols? How do you understand what they mean?”

These are questions that people have asked me a lot.

Before I studied Japanese, I had that same thought. “Can I really learn to read Japanese?”

I thought to myself: Where and how do I even begin to understand the language? It looks like a jumbled mess.

For those of you who have minimal experience in the Japanese language, what do you see when you see this?

Example of reading Japanese

Does it just look like squiggles and random symbols? I know it did for me when I first began my studies!

The Japanese language is certainly unique, and famously complex too. But don’t fret! That’s how it looks to most of us when we first start out! Despite seeming really complex, the Japanese writing system is actually very logical, making it super easy to learn.

In this guide, I will break down the steps on how to read Japanese so that you too, no longer see a squiggly mess, but rather; the enchanting beauty that lies within the foundation of the Japanese language!

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.

How to read the Japanese Alphabet

The Japanese language consists of three alphabets or scripts.

You might be thinking, “three!?” But don’t worry! Actually only one of them requires a significant amount of time (compared to the others) to learn.

Here are the three scripts:

Hiragana

Katakana

Kanji

If you want to be able to read Japanese, I highly recommend making learning hiragana a top priority.

Reading Japanese Romaji

Before we jump into hiragana, I wanted to explain briefly about romaji. Romaji literally means Roman Characters, the very same characters we use for the English alphabet. Although Japanese does contain romaji, you will only really see romaji in important circumstances to help those who can’t understand Japanese text. You can often find city names displayed in romaji on signs.

reading signs in japan

This is a picture I took during my 700-mile cycle across Japan. I aimed for Shirakawago (from Nagoya) in one day.

Despite the endless struggle up multiple mountains, somehow I actually made it. You can see the Japanese text on the sign.

Below the Japanese text, you can see the corresponding romaji (the English name). Other than a few minor exceptions, the Japanese language does not use romaji very often at all, and if you want to be able to read Japanese, you should definitely start with hiragana! Let’s begin!:)

What is Hiragana?

Hiragana is the core of the Japanese language.

It is a phonetic script, consisting of 46 characters.

Each character of the hiragana script represents a syllable sound.

You will be able to pronounce any word in the Japanese language once you’ve learned each one.

All of these syllables represent every sound within the Japanese language. This means that once you have learned all 46 of the Hiragana characters, you’ll be able to read and say anything in Japanese.

How to read Japanese Hiragana

Let me show you an example. Two of the 46 characters are す and き.

す is pronounced: su   (as in the su in super).

き is pronounced: ki    (as in the word: key).

By putting them together and you get: すき, (pronounced su key) or in romaji: suki

すき (suki) means: like.

Just like in English, Japanese also has vowels.

All of the hiragana characters will have a vowel in them. Except for the vowels themselves and a few exceptions, you can pronounce all of the characters in Japanese the same way as you would pronounce two Latin letters.

The second letter is always a vowel and the first one is always a consonant.

For example, just now we looked at す (su).

The romaji and pronunciation for the hiragana す is a consonant [s] followed by a vowel, [u].

Just as you might have guessed, you could change the [u] for an [a], and you get [sa] (pronounced the same as [sa] in sat).

The Japanese alphabet doesn’t cover all of the consonants we have in English though. There is no [lu] for instance. We’ll talk about this a little more later.

That’s all there is to it, every sound in the Japanese language is like this, and once you’ve remembered each one, it’s just a matter of remembering the vocabulary! Hiragana is also used in the majority of Japanese grammar too.

A full sentence in Japanese would consist of multiple hiragana characters together. Something like this: にほんがすき. (which means  “I like Japan”) In Japanese, there are no spaces between words!

How to learn Japanese Hiragana

So, that’s great, but how can you learn them?

Firstly, take a look at these.

The hiragana す (su) from the Japanese alphabet.

This is our Japanese Core Hiragana Core card for the character す (su). We have created a study resource called: Hiragana Core to help you learn hiragana. All of the resources that I make for our site are resources that I wish that I had when I first began learning Japanese. So I hope you’ll find them useful!

The best way for you to learn the hiragana, rather than just remember them is through mnemonics.

By using mnemonics you can build a visual connection to each individual hiragana character.

For the す (su) character, we created a connection by linking it to the [su] in superman as the pronunciation is the same. These techniques will allow your brain to recall the hiragana much more effectively and efficiently, burning them into your long-term memory.

Next, let’s take a look at the card for き (ki).

The hiragana character き ki in the Japanese alphabet.

On this Japanese Core card, we have the character き (ki).

As I mentioned earlier, the hiragana き (ki) is pronounced the same as the English word for [key]. It even looks the same as one!

“How can I learn how to read Japanese quickly?” is a question I often see. My biggest advice would be to incorporate this study technique. By using this method you can enjoy studying the hiragana characters, as well as retaining the reading of each one, very quickly.

We have a full resource on the Japanese Core Hiragana Quest in development, be sure to check this page here.

By referring to our hiragana chart you can see all 46 characters and how to pronounce them.

how to read japanese hiragana - alphabet

More Hiragana Reading and Study techniques

Practice reading hiragana through tests and games!

Until it is completed, I recommend using this site to test your ability to recall the characters.

I used this Japanese hiragana test to test myself over and over again when I was learning hiragana. See how fast you can eventually crack 100 score without getting a single one wrong!

You could also try Dr Lingua’s Drag and Drop Kana Bento.

It adds a little more flavour to your hiragana learning with graphics of a Japanese lunch box (bento).

You simply drag each hiragana to it’s corresponding English (romaji) counterpart. This one also has an integrated timer making it easier to record your timings.

It also comes with a feature allowing you to test your hiragana recall ability vs your katakana recall ability. We’ll be talking about katakana later on in this guide. Definitely give it shot!

Learning how to read Hiragana through videos

I also recommend giving this video a watch to boost your hiragana studies. This video was produced by the guys at Japanesepod101, and they use a similar technique to the ones we use here. I love the creativeness in the visual associations they’ve made to help you learn the hiragana.

You can also try Japanese Ammo with Misa’s video. She adds a lot more vocabulary to her teachings of the hiragana characters. This makes it useful if you’re looking to pick up some vocab on the way too!

Japanese Language Resources

One of the best ways to learn a language in my opinion is without a doubt by taking online classes. But not just any online class, you have to find one that’s right for you. It’s so important to find a tutor who can support you, recognise your weaknesses, strengths and deliver you a fulfilling language learning experience.

Preply    Italki

That is why I recommend Preply or Italki. I have written a full review on Preply here, so if you’re interested in affordable 1-on-1 online classes you can take from the comfort of your own home, take a look! I cover the entire platform, the good and not-so-good, as well as provide my honest opinion on using Preply.

The Difference between Hiragana and Katakana

Katakana is the next of the three scripts in Japanese.

Katakana, like hiragana, is a phonetic script that consists of 46 characters.

In fact, the katakana characters have the exact same pronunciation as their hiragana counterparts. This means you don’t need to learn any new sounds. Rather, katakana is just another symbol that represents the same sounds of each hiragana.

For example, the hiragana す(su), which we learned earlier, actually has a second way to write it.

In katakana, it becomes ス (su). These two characters have the exact same pronunciation.

They just look slightly different. In general, hiragana characters will be more rounded and smooth, cursive almost. Whereas the katakana counterpart of each hiragana will be much sharper around the edges.

Now I bet you’re wondering the same thing as I did when I first learned about katakana’s existence.

Why on earth do they have two alphabets if they’re the exact same bar writing style?

What is Katakana?

The Japanese language has borrowed words. These borrowed words are words that have been taken from other languages, such as English, German, and even Russian.

These borrowed words are katakana. We actually have them in English too, words such as karaoke are examples of words that have been borrowed from Japanese.

There are actually a fair amount of words that the Japanese language has borrowed. Being an English speaker is definitely an advantage to help you learn them.

As spoken Japanese does not mirror the exact same sounds we have in English, some words can’t be said the same.

For example, there are no single letter phonetic characters in the Japanese alphabet that aren’t vowels, bar ん(n).

Take the word [gym] for instance, in Japanese it becomes ジム, (jimu) pronounced jim moo.

Because most of the characters in Japanese are pronounced as two Latin letters, borrowed (katakana) words will often have an additional sound to be pronounced, one that doesn’t exist in the original Latin word.

For example, in English when we say the word [gym], we finish on the [m] sound, because the single letter [m] is a letter in our alphabet.

In Japanese, they don’t have these single letter characters, so naturally, the ending will be pronounced differently. in this case, [gym] becomes [jimu] ending on the [u] sound.

How to read Japanese L and R

Also, there are no distinct L or R sounds in Japanese.

The word [table], is an example of a borrowed word in the Japanese language. [Table] becomes, teburu. pronounced tay, (as in taylor), bu, (as in Boo!), and ru (But because there is no L or R in Japanese, it becomes a mix between the loo, in loose, and the roo, in room).

This is the case for the entire R+vowel line in Japanese. Have a quick listen!

 

 

Just as there is no sound quite like this in English, there is no R sound in Japanese. So words with R’s in them are quite difficult for Japanese people to pronounce without practice. Take the word [rainbow] for instance, it would become [lainbow].

These borrowed words are written in katakana, rather than hiragana, which lets you know that these aren’t original Japanese words. It’s actually quite good fun trying to decipher the meaning of katakana.

Sometimes you can get the meaning straight away, and other times, it might take you a minute. I remember in class spending quite a while trying to work out what Fueisubukku was. (フェイスブック)

Have a look for yourself, and see if you can recognise any words!

Why learn to read Japanese katakana

This is why it’s so important to not skip learning katakana. By learning katakana, you will be able to understand the correct pronunciation of words in Japanese.

This makes you sound way more natural in your speech, and it also means that Japanese people will be able to understand you.

It’s also very useful to learn katakana, as you will find when you go to Japan, a lot of menu items will be written in katakana. You will be able to read them and decipher from the sounds of the katakana what the English word might be.

Say you wanted to order a big mac burger at McDonalds. You could go into the restaurant, and as you can read katakana, you could skip the pointing at the images charade and tell the waiter you’d like a ビッグマックバーガー(biggumakku ba-ga-). The word “burger” is in katakana on the menu too.

That’s all you need to do to be able to read a basic menu in Japan!

So, we’ve established that katakana are borrowed words, and hiragana make up the core of the Japanese alphabet and language.

Grammar, and all other words that aren’t borrowed words, is constructed in hiragana. Hiragana can also be combined with other hiragana to make Kanji, but we’ll get onto that section a little later.

How to read Japanese Katakana

Once you’ve got hiragana down, and are fairly confident in it, I recommend making your next step learning katakana.

Another one of the main reasons I recommend learning hiragana first, then katakana is because many of the hiragana and katakana characters’ appearance is relatively similar.

Already being able to recognise hiragana helps a lot when you’re learning katakana as you can make visual connections with them.

Take a look at these.

ki in katakana

Earlier, we saw the hiragana character き (ki). Its katakana counterpart is actually very similar. Here is it! キ (ki) The strokes are much more straight, and firm. I think that katakana is actually much simpler than hiragana, and if you already have hiragana under your belt, you’ll be able to understand katakana and be able to read Japanese in no time!

Let’s take a look at another.

ka in katakana

These two characters, か, and カ are pronounced as ka (as in the [ca] in cat). Can you guess which one is the hiragana and which one is the katakana character?

Going with what we learned previously, we know that katakana is less cursive, and are more straight in their strokes. With this knowledge in hand, this makes we can deduce that か is the hiragana and カ is the katakana!

As you can see, they are quite similar, making them super easy to learn!

More Katakana reading and study techniques

Reading Japanese practice: Katakana tests and Games

Like the test we introduced to you to help you learn hiragana, there is actually a katakana version too. Give it a shot, and see if you can also crack a 100 to 0 score on it.

For the ultimate hiragana to katakana test, I recommend Dr Lingua’s Drag and Drop Kana Bento.

Here you can set the game mode where you have to match each hiragana and its corresponding katakana counterpart together. This is a fantastic way to challenge yourself on both your hiragana and katakana ability.

If you are considering studying Japanese at university, I highly suggest you master hiragana and katakana before your classes begin.

It helps out a ton when you can jump right into the content, and you can start making notes in Japanese immediately from the get-go. (as opposed to romaji).

If you’ve already got hiragana and katakana down, you’re ready to start reading actual Japanese texts with no Latin at all.

The Difference Between the Katakana so (ソ), n (ン), tsu (ツ), shi (シ)

A quick shout to the [so] and [n] katakana for looking so alike, and giving me the best embarrassing memories. I’d say they are almost as bad as シ (shi) and ツ (tsu). But these ones have a special place in my heart.

I’m sure if you’ve already begun your katakana studies, or if not, you’re about to find out, about the beautiful nightmare these four characters can be. I mean, maybe they look not so bad when they’re next to each other like this: シソツン. Maybe they do actually, I take that back.

But when you see one on its own like this: ツ. it tries to trick you for a second, making you stop and just double-check you’ve remembered this character correctly. (This has happened to me multiple times during Japanese university tests, or even in normal Japanese texts).

I want to break down the difference between these characters, to help you be able to recognise the difference in them a little more clearly. After all, you’re going to need to be able to tell the difference straight away in order to be able to read Japanese swiftly.

Let me enlarge them for you a bit.

enlargement of the Japanese katakana tsu, shi, n, so

Let’s start by breaking them down and analysing them as pairs, rather than as a group of four.

So we have ツシ and ンソ

Each katakana in the first group has an additional stroke, making them somewhat easily differentiable from the second group. We’ll take the first group and look at them some more.

What is the difference between the Katakana ツ[tsu] and シ [shi]?

ツシ are [tsu] and [shi] respectively. They both have three strokes, and three letters in their romaji spelling. That’s how you can remember them, three strokes=three letters.

The way I like to look at these katakana is to imagine that a gust of wind is blowing them downwards, or to the side.

difference between katakana tsu and shi

A method you can use to try and help you remember the characters is to think about the direction the wind is blowing the characters.

In the case of シ [shi], the wind is being blown from the west. And the word in Japanese for west happens to be 西 [nishi], which has [shi] in it!

Also, you can see the wind blowing the character eastward. You guessed it! The word for the east in Japanese also contains [shi].

That word is 東 [higashi]. It’s almost like they’ve done this on purpose! From these findings, we can deduce that the second one is ツ [tsu], making it super easy to remember!

What is the difference between the Katakana ソ[so] and ン[n]?

Next up we have ソ [so] and ン [n]. I mentioned earlier that it’s thanks to these characters that I have some embarrassing memories I’ll never forget.

At an exchange party between Japanese students and English students at my university, we all wore name badges.

We wrote our English name, and our katakana name on our name badges ourselves. In Japanese Latin names are written in katakana by the way. Despite not being confident in katakana yet, I gave it my best shot in writing my name.

Now, my name happens to end in an [n], which I ended up writing in katakana as: アーロソ, which in English would be Aaroso.

I didn’t realise the whole time that I had completely butchered my name. I have also made the mistake of writing ソ instead of ン on job application forms, and of course, I had to rewrite the entire thing.

Since then, I no longer make these mistakes with the ソ[so] and ン[n] characters.

So,

To help you, I’ve come up with a knack to remember them.

difference between katakana so and n

We can use English to help us remember these characters this time! In the case of ソ [so] we draw a line from the small stroke, to the closest end of the long troke.

You will find that when you do this, the closest end will always be southward, and as the word [south] begins with[so] we can deduce that this one is ソ [so]!

Similarly, if we do the same with ン [n] and draw a line from the small stroke to the closest end of the long-stroke, you will find that the closest end will always be northward. And as coincidence has it, the word [north], begins with [n]!

I hope that helps you better understand the difference between ツ、シ、ソ、ン.

What is Japanese Kanji

what is kanji?

Now we’re onto the big one; kanji.

Put simply, kanji are Chinese characters. They were brought to Japan from China, many years ago. Some of them are very slightly different from the actual Chinese characters, but they are mostly similar.

 this is a kanji. It means [love].

Kanji are the things that you’ve probably read about being the most difficult part of learning Japanese.

I mean, at first glance, they do look complex, they’re a mess of squiggles. There are thousands among thousands of these things, and their numbers just keep increasing totalling up to 50000. But don’t worry! I’m going to show you how you can come to 愛 kanji.

The Japanese government has done us a huge favour and has given us a list of the top 2136 most used kanji in Japanese. These kanji are called the joyo kanji.

So, if you want to be able to read most Japanese texts,  you’re going to have to know the 2136 joyo kanji.

  Of course, children’s books won’t use as many kanji as something like a newspaper. But it’s kind of understood by everyone who is studying Japanese, that to read a newspaper, you need to know the kanji.

The difference between Japanese Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana

Unlike hiragana and katakana, each kanji has its own (multiple) meaning(s). Some kanji may have more meanings than others.

Let me teach you three now.  一、二、三 are the kanji for one, two, and three respectively. Unfortunately the kanji for four changes from just increasing the numbers of lines, to 四 instead. But hey, now you only have 2133 more to go!

This doesn’t mean that every word will have its individual kanji though, some words will be made up of multiple kanji.

After you know the meaning of each kanji, it becomes quite easy to make educational guesses on the meanings of words even though you don’t know how to read them.

The kanji for [person] is 人, and the kanji for [two] is 二. Put them together and you have 二人, literally meaning [two people].

That’s all there is to it in regards to getting the meaning of words down. It’s the reading and writing that make it more tricky, but it’s worth doing.

How to read Japanese Kanji?

 

Remember the hiragana earlier? Kanji are made of one or more hiragana that constitute the reading of a kanji.

Let’s take the kanji 愛 for example. The reading for this kanji is あい [ai] (pronounced [I]). This is why it is important to learn the hiragana first, so you read kanji later.

You could just write Japanese all in hiragana, but there are two reasons why Japan doesn’t do this. Take a look at these two sentences.

げんごわたしにとってすばらしいけいけんだらけのだいぼうけんです!

言語にとって素晴らしい経験だらけの大冒険です!

The first sentence uses all hiragana, and the second uses kanji for the hiragana.

I have highlighted the hiragana reading for the kanji in both sentences. As the Japanese language doesn’t use spaces between words, the first sentence is much more difficult to read.

The second reason is homonyms. A sequence of hiragana together can actually have two completely different meanings, which is why kanji is used to allow for clear differentiation.

Let’s take a look at the kanji for [kanji] for example.

漢字, in its hiragana form, would be かんじ [kanji]

The kanji for [feeling] in Japanese is:

感じ, and in its hiragana form かんじ [kanji]

The two have different kanji but the same hiragana. This is why having kanji can be very useful in helping readers work out the meaning is of a word.

Kunyomi vs Onyomi

Kanji often have two different types of readings too. These are the Kun-reading, and the on-reading, or the kunyomi. and the onyomi.

When learning kanji, and how to read Japanese, you’re going to have to remember the two readings of every kanji. Which one you have to use, depends on the word, and the context. It comes naturally to you as you learn the Japanese language, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much!

How to read Japanese Onyomi

 

As we mentioned earlier, Chinese characters were brought over to Japan a long time ago.

When they were introduced to Japan, the Japanese began to adopt the characters into their language. Originally they tried to keep the pronunciation the same, but there are plenty of differences in pronunciation between the Japanese and Chinese languages, so that didn’t quite work.

So, Japan adopted Chinese characters and altered their pronunciation. These characters are Onyomi.

This is not to say that all of the Chinese characters that were brought over into the Japanese language had their pronunciation changed though.

Some actually remain the same. For example, let’s take the Japanese kanji for the number three.

As I mentioned earlier, it consists of three horizontal lines. 三, pronounced さん (san). All of the Japanese kanji for numbers are the same as Chinese kanji for numbers, and out of all of them, only 三 remains the same in terms of pronunciation.

A lot of the time, Onyomi will be used in more complex words, where multiple kanji are attached together to form a single word, and often have an increased formality associated with them. Lots of them are used in writing, or when speaking formally.

Reading Japanese: Onyomi Examples

This isn’t always the case though. For instance,  kanji for the days of the week use onyomi.

Did you know that the Japanese days of the week in English are associated with elements? For example, Sunday is actually the day of the sun, and Monday is the day of the moon. Well, the Japanese language actually has this too with its days of the week.

days of week in Japanese

Credit goes to Percivalias for this image. 

Thursday is the day of the tree, and the word for tree in Japanese is 木, in its hiragana form き. (ki, pronounced [key]).

However, because it is read in its onyomi when it is read as a day of the week, it becomes, もく, (moku, pronounced mo as in [mono] and ku as in the coo in [cucoo].

As you can see, all of the days of the week have multiple kanji together that form each word for each day of the week.

This is why when you search a Japanese word up in the dictionary, (we recommend Jisho for your online Japanese dictionary) it will show a katakana reading and a hiragana reading.

As we discussed earlier, katakana are borrowed words from other languages.

The same goes for the readings. All of the onyomi for every kanji will are often in katakana because they are borrowed readings from China!

It’s important to note though, that this is only the case for dictionaries. If you want to write an onyomi word without writing it in kanji, you’d write it in hiragana.

How to read Japanese Kunyomi

This leaves us with Kunyomi, the original Japanese pronunciation for words.

Some kanji will have multiple kunyomi too. Although it can seem overwhelming, you’ll find that a lot of words use similar patterns.

For example, the Japanese kanji for a person is 人. When this kanji is by itself it’s pronounced as ひと [hito], pronounced as (he toe). But when you put it together with other kanji, its reading changes.

For example, if you want to say [Japanese person], you would put the kanji for [Japan] which is 「日本」 before the kanji for [person]「人」, making it [日本人]. This also changes the reading from kunyomi to onyomi, making it pronounced as じん [jin].

Many Japanese adjectives and verbs are kunyomi. Sometimes additional hiragana accompany kanji and complete a word. Whereas, onyomi will not have any accompanying hiragana necessary to complete word. These hiragana are okurigana.

Maybe you noticed earlier during the initial kanji explanation, the kanji for the word [feeling] (which happens to be pronounced and read the same way as the kanji for [kanji], despite having different kanji) had an accompanying hiragana.

The word for [feeling] in Japanese is 感じ (kanji). The じ (ji) hiragana is pronounced as the letter [G].

The word for hot is another example of an accompanying hiragana. 暑い、(pronounced atsui).

These accompanying hiragana are okurigana.

How to learn to read Japanese Kanji

Luckily, there is a system in place to help us learn to read kanji. They are Radicals.

Radicals are small parts that make up a kanji. By learning the radicals, you can break down even the most complicated-looking kanji, and eventually, kanji stop looking like squiggles and like a bunch of radicals squished together instead.

There are 214 of them, and some of them are actually standalone kanji. Although all radicals aren’t kanji, I highly suggest learning them straight away if you want to be able to read Japanese. If you know the radicals, learning the kanji becomes significantly easier, as you can begin to understand the construction of each kanji.  You can find them, here.

How to read Japanese by learning the Radicals

Kanji and radicals are actually very clever. They work together extremely well. Let me show you. The kanji (and radical) for a tree is 木. Can you see it? It kind of looks like a tree doesn’t it?

 

reading kanji

The magic with radicals is that they can make sense, and help you to learn kanji if you let them. Let me show you another example. You have this tree radical, but what would happen if you put two together like this. 林.

reading kanji 2

Well, two trees make it a grove. But, we can actually go one step further and make it three trees: 森. Any idea what three trees together might mean?

Reading kanji 3

You guessed it! It’s a forest! So we have, 木、林、森, meaning tree, grove, and forest respectively.

This is why taking the time to learn radicals are so important if you chuck in a little bit of creativity in the learning process if you can pick up multiple kanji just from knowing one radical, makes learning the radicals super attractive!

Let’s take another look at the kanji for love 愛 あい [ai] (pronounced [I]).

We can also break this one down using radicals too. Take a look!

 

understanding kanji

We have the radical for heart 心, and the radical for accept 受. The act of accepting someone’s heart is the same as accepting their love, so naturally, by putting them together, we can make [love]! (no pun intended)

Have a look at some radicals, learn a few, and you’ll notice this will definitely help you with your kanji studies. You’ll be reading Japanese in no time!

So, how do you read Japanese?

Well, sometimes Japanese is written vertically, so you read it from top to bottom.  On top of that, authentic Japanese books follow are read right to left, as opposed to the left to right system we’re used to here in the west.

Sometimes you read Japanese both vertically and horizontally at the same time. An excellent example of this is a newspaper.

reading Japanese newspaper

It allows more information to fit onto the page, making use of as much white space as possible.

Websites and mobile phones display the text horizontally, however, reading from left to right. That’s it for the different layouts.

The number of different layouts might feel a little discouraging, but I promise you, it’s not that bad!

Other than that, reading Japanese is a matter of learning the hiragana, katakana, and kanji respectively. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be reading Japanese no problem!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide! If you need any help, feel free to message me or write us a comment below!

Japanese Reading Practice

Now that you know how to read Japanese, how about learning how to say some expressions and phrases right off the bat?

Ready to start reading some Japanese? I have developed a Japanese Reading Practice eLearning Interactive PDF resource free for you. My goodness, that certainly was a mouthful! You can read all about it, and get free lifetime access here!

There is no better way to learn Japanese than to converse with native speakers. Have a look at my full honest review of Preply here!