How Are You in Japanese

How to say How Are You in Japanese

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. In Japanese however, despite being a polite language, we don’t use this phrase not nearly to the same extent as we do in English. 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 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’re going to explore all of the most appropriate ways on 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) actually 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.

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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 shita no?

どうしたの (dou shita 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 shita no), meaning “What’s up” in Japanese.

  • 私を呼んでいた?どうしたの?
    watashi wo yondeita? dou shita 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 shita 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 shi ta) 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 shiteiru?

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 shiteiru).

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 shite 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 shite 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 (shite 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 shite 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 in 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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 ha 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 (ha) functions as a topic marker that marks 体調 (taichou) 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 ha 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 ha 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.

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 ha 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 ha 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 ha doudatta?
    Welcome home! How was your day?

For all of the possible ways on 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 their 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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *