Do you want to start speaking Japanese right this second?
Are you heading to Japan soon, desperately searching out useful phrases that you can use ASAP?
Maybe you’re on a quest to learn the secret expression that allows you to share all your thoughts and feelings without having to study grammar for hours.
If you’re nodding to yourself while reading this and thinking, “Yes. I am one of those people who needs some actual useful material under my belt,” then welcome to your solution!
Let me introduce you to these incredibly common Japanese phrases, which you’ll be hearing and using on a constant basis, whether you’re chatting with your tutor, exploring new literature, or planning a trip to Kyoto.
130+ Easy Japanese Words and Phrases to Rock Any Situation
The best way to learn the phrases below, aside from practicing them with natives in real life, is to hear them used in real-life situations with FluentU videos.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “Add to” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.
Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or Android!
In our list of words below, we’ve included links to Forvo so you can hear the pronunciation of each phrase wherever possible. Sometimes, individual words are linked, instead. Just click on the links in the list to hear their pronunciation!
Pronouns form the cornerstone of many easy Japanese phrases and are crucial to knowing who or what is being talked about.
Japanese has a wide variety of pronouns from which to use, helping you make your sentences more direct when you’re referring to yourself, your friend or that rude waiter!
私 (わたし) “watashi” — I (all genders)
僕 (ぼく) “boku” — I (usually male)
俺 (おれ) “ore” — I (male)
自分 (じぶん) “jibun” — Myself/yourself/themself
あなた “anata” — You
君 (きみ) “kimi” — You
彼 (かれ) “kare” — He/Him
彼女 (かのじょ) “kanojo” — She/Her
…たち “tachi” — (Pluralizes pronouns)
これ “kore” — This
それ “sore” — That
あれ “are” — That (over there)
私 (わたし) “watashi” — I (All Genders)
私 is the basic first-person pronoun used by everyone throughout Japan, and the first way most people learn to say “I” in Japanese. It’s the go-to in polite situations, where sometimes it’s pronounced わたくし for extra formality. Some female speakers may shorten it to あたし in casual settings.
僕 (ぼく) “boku” — I (Usually Male)
僕 is mostly used by men and boys when they’re among friends. Nowadays, some girls use 僕 as well, which gives off an air of tomboyish-ness.
俺 (おれ) “ore” — I (Male)
While 僕 is sometimes used by girls, 俺 is an exclusively male pronoun. It gives off a bit of a rough image, so it’s only used among close friends in casual situations.
When introducing yourself to your new host family, try to steer clear of 俺 to make sure you’re making a good impression on them!
自分 (じぶん) “jibun” — Myself/Yourself/Themself
自分 is used to refer to a sense of self. It can also take a variety of forms, like 自分の for one’s own (something), and 自分で to give a sense of “by oneself.” It’s also a more polite way of referring to someone else—we’ll get into that below.
あなた “anata” — You
あなた translates to “you,” but it’s not used to the extent as it’s used in English. Most of the time, Japanese omits “you” altogether, favoring a person’s name instead. It can also be used as a term of endearment between couples.
君 (きみ) “kimi” — You
君 is largely used to talk to someone of lower status than yourself, such as a boss talking to their employees. It’s also used to add some pizzazz to writing, such as in the hit movie『君の名は。』(きみのなは。, “Your Name.”)
彼 (かれ) “kare” — He/Him
While the Japanese language does favor using a person’s name over second or third person pronouns, using 彼 is perfectly alright. Plus, 彼 can be used to refer to someone’s boyfriend.
彼女 (かのじょ) “kanojo” — She/Her
Same as 彼, but for women. 彼女 can also be used to refer to a girlfriend!
…たち “tachi” — (Pluralizes Pronouns)
In Japanese, saying “we,” “you all” or “they” is as simple as adding たち to the end of the pronoun.
“We” can be expressed as 私たち, 僕たち and 俺たち. “You all” is あなたたち, 君たち and 自分たち, or you can add たち to the name of a person in the group you’re talking about. 彼女たち means “they” for a group of women.
彼 is an exception, taking the form 彼ら “karera” when “they” refers to a group of men.
Time Phrases in Japanese
When you have to catch that train or are checking the opening and closing times of that store you want to go to, knowing how to express time phrases is vital. These easy Japanese phrases will teach you how to ask for the time and understand the answers people will give you.
今何時ですか (いまなんじですか) “ima nanji desu ka” — What time is it?
いつですか “itsu desu ka” — When is it?
どのぐらいかかりますか “dono gurai kakarimasu ka” — How long does it take?
何時から何時までですか (なんじからなんじまでですか) “nanji kara nanji made desu ka” — From what time until what time…?
…時です (じです) “…ji desu” — It’s … o’clock.
…時間です (じかんです) “… jikan desu” — … hours.
…分です (ふんです) “… hun desu” — … minutes.
今何時ですか (いまなんじですか) “ima nanji desu ka” — What Time Is It?
If you want to make sure you get to your train on time, this phrase is vital. In casual situations, saying 今何時 “ima nanji” will work just fine.
いつですか “itsu desu ka” — When Is It?
This general phrase can be applied to a wide variety of situations, including 映画はいつですか (えいがはいつですか) “eiga wa itsu desu ka” — When’s the movie? and コンサートはいつですか (こんさーとはいつですか)“konsaato wa itsu desu ka” — When’s the concert?
どのぐらいかかりますか “dono gurai kakarimasu ka” — How Long Does It Take?
When wondering how long it takes to get to Shibuya from Shinjuku, どのぐらいかかりますか is there to help you out. When asking casually, you can say どのぐらいかかる “dono gurai kakaru.” Replies will often use かかります in their ending, meaning “it will take (this amount of time.)”
何時から何時までですか (なんじからなんじまでですか) “nanji kara nanji made desu ka” — From What Time Until What Time…?
So you want to know just how late that cool-looking store is open? Ask away with 何時から何時までですか!
You can get specific with あの店は何時から何時まで営業していますか (あのみせはなんじからなんじまでえいぎょうしていますか) “ano mise wa nanji kara nanjimade eigyou shiteimasuka” — What are that store’s operating hours? Or you can cut it short with あの店は何時から何時までですか.
This can also be used to ask how long someone does something for. For instance, 仕事は何時から何時までですか (しごとはなんじからなんじまでですか) “shigoto wa nanji kara nanji made desu ka” — What are your working hours? Now you know how to ask your host family about their schedule so you can spend time together!
Numbers and Quantities in Japanese
How much is that coat? How many pieces of sushi do you want? Knowing your numbers is necessary when navigating the stores and restaurants of Japan! Counters, which signify the type of item being talked about, are also good to know, so we’ve included them in this list.
一 (いち) “ichi” — one
ニ (に) “ni” — two
三 (さん) “san” — three
四 (し) “shi” — four
五 (ご) “go” — five
六 (ろく) “roku” — six
七 (しち) “shichi” — seven
八 (はち) “hachi” — eight
九 (きゅう) “kyuu” — nine
十 (じゅう) “juu” — ten
百 (ひゃく) “hyaku” — hundred
千 (せん) “sen” — thousand
いくつ “ikutsu” — How many…?
何… (なん) “nan” — How many…?
…人 (にん) “nin” — People
…個 (こ) “ko” — Small objects (such as soap, fruit, handbags)
…枚 (まい) “mai” — Flat objects (such as paper, CDs, clothing)
…つ “tsu” — Misc. objects (orders of food, ideas; can also be used as a substitute for other counters)
…本 (ほん) “hon” — long cylindrical objects (such as pencils, sticks or umbrellas)
…冊 (さつ) “satsu” — books
多い (おおい) “ooi” — many
少ない (すくない) “sukunai” — few
たくさん “takusan” — a lot
少し (すこし) “sukoshi” — a little
Every language has its own unique slang, and Japanese people fling around plenty of their own in conversations! When you’re making friends, you’ll hear tons of these terms going back and forth.
Many slang terms are written in katakana, which marks them as being casual words.
So impress your new pals by jumping right in with these common Japanese slang terms!
ウケる (うける) “ukeru” — Funny, hilarious
超 (ちょう) “chou” — Super
ダサい (ださい) “dasai” — Lame
キモイ (ださい) “kimoi” — Gross
マジで (まじで) “majide” — For real
ガチ (がち) “gachi” — Totally, really, seriously
半端ない (はんぱない) “hanpa nai” — Crazy, insane
ウケる (うける) “ukeru” — Funny, Hilarious
Used in situations when something funny happens. Say your friend Kentaro made a great joke— by saying ウケる, you’ll let him know he struck your funny bone.
超 (ちょう) “chou” — Super
This word is used to add emphasis, like the words “super,” “really” or “very.”
キモイ (きもい) “kimoi” — Gross
キモイ is used when you see something disgusting, or that gives you the creeps. Try it out the next time you see a spider in the bathtub!
マジで (まじで) “majide”— For Real
マジで can be used to add emphasis or express surprise, like “really” or “seriously.”
ガチ (がち) “gachi”— Totally, Really, Seriously
Similar to マジで, ガチ implies that something actually took place, or was really as intense as the speaker claims.
半端ない (はんぱない) “hanpa nai”— Crazy, Insane
半端ない means that something is awesome or insane, but in a good way! After getting off an epic roller coaster, 半端ない is perfect for describing that thrill!
Basic Japanese Phrases
These are the phrases you’ll want to memorize when you’re on the plane or waiting for your luggage at Narita Airport. They’ll help you greet your friends in Japanese, express how much you like listening to J-pop and can also act as an icebreaker of sorts!
おはようございます “ohayou gozaimasu” — Good morning
こんにちは “konnichiwa” — Hello/Good afternoon
久しぶり (ひさしぶり) “hisashiburi” — It’s been a while
じゃあ、また！ “jaa, mata!” — See you!
お元気で (おげんきで) “o genki de” — Take care
お名前は何ですか？(おなまえは なんですか？) “o namae wa nan desu ka?” — What’s your name?
…です “…desu” — I’m…
好きです (すきです) “suki desu” — I like it
いいですよ “ii desu yo” — It’s good
ダメです (だめ です) “dame desu” — It’s no good
日本語で話しましょう (にほんごで はなしましょう) “nihongo de hanashimashou” — Let’s talk in Japanese
もう一度言ってください (もういちど いって ください) “mou ichidou itte kudasai” — Please say it again
おはようございます “ohayou gozaimasu” — Good Morning
If you’d like to be more casual, you can just say おはよう “ohayou.” In work places, it’s pretty common to hear おはよう or おはようございます when someone is greeting a colleague for the first time that day—even if the clock reads 7:00 p.m.
じゃあまた “jaa mata” — See You
If you’re not going to be waving your handkerchief in a heartfelt goodbye (where さようなら “sayounara” — farewell would be more appropriate), then じゃあまた is a great way to say “see you!” You can also use ではまた “dewa mata,” which is slightly more polite. じゃあね “jaa ne” — See ya and じゃあまた明日ね (じゃあ また あした ね ) “jaa mata ashita ne” — see you tomorrow are also quick and friendly phrases for parting. If you’re in Osaka, then be sure to try some 大阪弁 (おおさか べん) “oosaka ben” — Osaka dialect and say, ほなね “hona ne”!
お元気で (おげんきで) “o genki de” — Take Care
If “see you” is a little too casual for you, then you can say お元気で instead. This literally means “be healthy” and can be used to say, “Good luck!”
お名前は何ですか？(おなまえは なんですか？) “o namae wa nan desu ka?” — What’s Your Name?
This is a polite way to ask someone for their name. If お名前は何ですか？(おなまえは なんですか？) is a little too lengthy for you, then you can also use お名前は？(おなまえ は？) “o namae wa,” which is a bit more vague and can sound more polite. Take for example: “Who are you?” vs. “Your name…?” Or, “Where are you from?” vs. “Whereabouts are you from…?”
…です “…desu” — I’m…
Get ready! I’m about to introduce the holy grail of Japanese words and phrases: です. Heck, you’re probably already using it. By using です, you can express some of your thoughts and dreams without having to study grammar for hours. です is the verb “to be.” It stays the same no matter the subject (think: it is, they are, I am). To say, “I am Tom” simply state your name and finish with です to get, トムです (とむ です) “tomu desu” — I’m Tom.
Wanna take it to the next level? Follow an adjective with です to express how you’re feeling: 暑いです (あつい です) “atsui desu” — It’s hot/I’m hot. You can omit the subject if it can be implied by the context. So if your friend is late, say 遅いです (おそい です) “osoi desu” — You’re late! If something (or someone) catches your eye, use きれいです “kirei desu” — It’s pretty.
Just to recap, if someone asks you your name, you can answer with “[insert your name] + です.” Voila! Why can’t everything be that easy?
好きです (すき です) “suki desu” — I Like It
Why not tell your host family how much you’re enjoying the traditional Japanese breakfast, or that you’re really into performance art like kabuki? To do this, you can use the phrase 好きです, which means “I like it.” To be more specific, you can say whatever it is you like and add が好きです (がすきです) “ga suki desu.” I have a huge sweet tooth, so I’d say お菓子が好きです (おかしが すき です) “okashi ga suki desu” — I like sweets.
Maybe you’re trying nattou or another exotic dish. Hopefully you’ll discover your new favorite snack, but just in case… you can say, 好きではありません (すきでは ありません) “suki dewa arimasen“ to express, “I don’t like it.” Maybe just not in front of the person who cooked it for you…
いいですよ “ii desu yo” — It’s Good
いいですよ can be used in a ton of different situations. Think of it as a gentle way to say, “It’s all good.” You’ll often hear いいよ “ii yo” (especially from females). You can treat it as saying “It’s fine,” “Go right ahead,” “Don’t worry about it” and “No problem.”
ダメです (だめ です) “dame desu” — It’s No Good
If you’re being somewhat polite and want to say “It’s not good,” you need to say よくありません “yoku arimasen” which is “It’s not good,” in normal-polite form, or よくない, as in, “It’s not good” in casual form.
To say something is “no good,” you can use ダメ (だめ). Although you can add です to this word, to say “It’s no good,” it’s more common to add だ (the casual form of です) instead. So ダメだ (だめ だ) “dame da” can be translated as, “It’s no good,” “It’s useless” or “It’s pointless.”
Please, Thank You and Apologies in Japanese
Being polite and humble is so, so important when you’re learning another language. The following phrases and expressions will help you ease into conversation with anyone and everyone you interact with, or alleviate any tension at school or in the office.
ありがとうございます “arigatou gozaimasu” — Thank you
どういたしまして “douitashimashite” — You’re welcome
問題ないです (もんだい ない です) “mondai nai desu” — No problem
ください “kudasai” — Please (requesting)
どうぞ “douzo” — Please (offering)
お疲れ様です (おつかれさま です) “otsukaresama desu” — Thank you for your efforts
失礼します (しつれい します) “shitsurei shimasu” — Excuse me (for my rudeness
すみません “sumimasen” — Excuse me
ごめんなさい “gomen nasai” — I’m sorry
ありがとうございます “arigatou gozaimasu” — Thank You
We all know the phrase ありがとう “arigatou,” yet it’s always a bit nerve-wracking to use it for the first time. When being polite it’s best to use ありがとうございます as a general way to express your gratitude, while ありがとう is a quick and friendly way to say “thanks!” A friend might just thank you with どうも “doumo” — thanks, and you’ll see あり “ari,” the abbreviated form of ありがとう often enough on Japanese message boards.
ください “kudasai” — Please (Requesting)
There are a few different ways to say “please” in Japanese. The word ください is used when making requests as in, 急いでください (いそいで ください) “isoide kudasai” — Please hurry, or コーヒーをください (こーひーを ください) “koohii o kudasai“ — Can I please have a coffee?
どうぞ “douzo” — Please (Offering)
A common way to offer something is by using the word どうぞ. This is like saying, “Please go ahead.” Whether you’re ushering someone through the door before you, or offering a coworker some delicious snacks, どうぞ will definitely come in handy.
お疲れ様です (おつかれさま です) “o tsukare sama desu” — Thank You for Your Efforts
If you haven’t heard your coworkers use this a thousand times already… then you must not be in Japan yet! The expression お疲れ様です (おつかれさま です) is often said when you, or someone else, finishes their work as a parting sentiment. Although it’s translated as “thanks for all your hard work today” or “thank you for your efforts,” you can think of it as saying, “That’s a wrap for the day.”
失礼します (しつれい します) “shitsurei shimasu” — Excuse Me for My Rudeness
Another office-related expression, 失礼します is used when you’re leaving a room. It’s similar to saying “Sorry to have bothered you” or “Sorry that I interrupted.” Really, it’s just a polite way to excuse yourself from a room. You can also end a formal or polite phone call with 失礼します.
すみません “sumimasen” — Excuse Me, I’m Sorry, Thank You
This is your three-in-one go-to expression! Learn this, memorize it, treat it like it’s your baby. The word すみません is often used to say “Excuse me” (if you need help getting directions or need to squeeze by someone) and “Sorry” (when you accidentally nudge someone on the subway).
It can also be said as a “thank you” when you’ve troubled someone (Think: “Thanks for letting me put you out”). This is used a lot when climbing into a cab: すみません、成田空港までお願いします (すみません、なりた くうこう まで おねがい します) “sumimasen, narita kuukou made onegaishimasu” — Thanks (for stopping), to Narita Airport, please.
ごめんなさい “gomen nasai” — Sorry
Among family members, friends and in casual situations, ごめんなさい replaces すみません when saying sorry. You can use the less formal ごめん “gomen” and ごめんね “gomen ne” among those who are close to you.
Japanese Phrases to Express “I Don’t Understand”
When learning any new language, you’re bound to run into unfamiliar words or phrases. There may be times you can understand a phrase as written, but hearing it out loud is another story. Luckily, there are multiple ways to express “I don’t understand” in Japanese.
分かりません (わかりません) “wakarimasen” — I don’t understand (formal)
分からない (わからない) “wakaranai” — I don’t understand (casual)
もう一度言ってください (もう いちど いって ください) “mou ichido itte kudasai” — Please say that again
すみません、もう一度お願いします (すみません、もう いちど おねがい します) “sumimasen, mou ichido onegai shimasu” — Excuse me, can you repeat that? (formal)
繰り返していただけますか？ (くりかえして いただけますか？) “kurikaeshite itadakemasuka?” — Could you repeat what you just said?
ゆっくりお願いします (ゆっくり おねがい します) “yukkuri onegai shimasu” — Slowly, Please
聞こえませんでした (きこえません でした) “kikoemasen deshita” — I didn’t hear that
分かりません (わかりません) “wakarimasen” — I Don’t Understand
There are two ways to express that you don’t understand something in Japanese. The most formal phrase that works in any situation is 分かりません. If you’re around friends, you can use the casual variant 分からない (わからない) “wakaranai.”
もう一度言ってください (もう いちど いって ください) “mou ichido itte kudasai” — Please Say That Again
If you’ve misheard your friend or colleague, you can ask them to repeat what they said by using the phrases すみません、もう一度お願いします (すみません、もう いちど おねがい します) or 繰り返していただけますか？ (くりかえして いただけますか？) “kurikaeshite itadakemasuka?” — Could you repeat what you just said?
ゆっくりお願いします (ゆっくり おねがい します) “yukkuri onegai shimasu” — Slowly, Please
While learning Japanese, some spoken phrases may be harder to understand than reading them in print. If you’d like someone to repeat what they said at a slower pace, the formal way to ask is ゆっくりお願いします.
If you didn’t hear what your friend or co-worker said, use the phrase 聞こえませんでした (きこえません でした) “kikoemasen deshita” — I didn’t hear that.
Basic Japanese Question Words
Once you’re in Japan, you’ll need to find your away around. While many people you meet will be friendly and helpful, knowing some of the essential Japanese question words will go a long way towards getting your questions across.
何 (なに) “nani” — What
どこ “doko” — Where
誰 (だれ) “dare” — Who
いつ “itsu” — When
どうして “doushite” — Why
いくら “ikura” — How much
どちら “dochira” — Which one
どれ “dore” — Which one
何 (なに) “nani” — What?
When traveling to Japan, you’ll run into things you’re unfamiliar with, like food. To ask what something is, use the question word 何 (なに), which translates to “What?” 何 (なに) can be used alone or in a sentence, if you’re asking about something specific like これは何ですか？(これは なん ですか？) “kore wa nan desu ka?” — What is this?
どこ “doko” — Where?
Need directions? どこ is used when asking for a location. If you’re looking for a restroom, you can ask someone トイレはどこですか？(といれは どこ ですか？) “toire wa doko desu ka?” — Where is the toilet? If you don’t know the word for the the place you’re looking for, another helpful option is pointing to it on a map and asking どこですか？ (どこ ですか？) “doko desu ka?” — Where is it?
誰 (だれ) “dare” — Who?
If you’re seeing someone new for the first time, you may want to know who that person is. 誰 (だれ) “dare” means “Who?” If you’re referring to a specific person, you can add further context like 彼女は誰ですか？ (かのじょは だれ ですか？) “kanojo wa dare desu ka?” — Who is she?
いつ “itsu” — When?
If a friend tells you the sequel of your favorite show is out soon, you may ask いつ？which is the Japanese question word for “when.” いつ can be used alone, depending on the context, or in a sentence.
どうして “doushite” — Why?
どうして is the question word for “Why?” It can be used by itself in a conversation, or as an interjection. If you need to ask politely, add どうしてですか？ “doushite desu ka?” — Why is it? But, if you’re with friends or family, you can use the casual form なんで “nande,” instead.
いくら “ikura” — How Much?
While out and about in Japan, you may spot something that catches your eye. いくら is the question word for “How much?” If the item you want doesn’t have a price tag on it, simply ask the store clerk これはいくらですか？ “Kore wa ikura desu ka?” — How much is this?
どちら “dochira” and どれ “dore” — Which One?
If a friend has asked you to pick up some snacks for a party, you’ll need to know how to pick out the right item. In the Japanese language, there are two words you can use, どちら and どれ, that both mean “which one?” If choosing between two things, use どちら. When choosing from more than three things, use どれ.
Saying Yes and No in Japanese
Some of the most important words you’ll need to learn in Japanese is how to say “Yes” or “No.” There are multiple ways to agree or disagree in Japanese and it will depend on the context of the situation.
Saying Yes in Japanese
The basic word for “Yes” in Japanese is はい “hai,” but there are several ways to express it either verbally or with expressions.
もちろん “mochiron” — Of course
そうです “sou desu” — That’s right
いいですよ “ii desu yo” — Okay
The Japanese use 相槌 (あいづち) “aizuchi,” which are simple words or gestures that all mean “Yes” to indicate you’re listening. These include phrases like そう, うん, ああ or ええ (which is most commonly used by women).
Alternatively to one-word affirmatives, you can say もちろん, そうです “mochiron, sou desu” — That’s right or いいですよ “ii desu yo.”
Another way to say “yes” is with non-verbal cues like nodding your head up and down or giving a thumbs up.
Saying No in Japanese While Saving Face
While there are several terms for saying yes in Japanese, saying “no” is much trickier. The basic word for “no” is いいえ “iie,” but there are more polite ways to express “no” to safeguard the listener’s feelings.
難しいです (むずかしい です) “muzukashii desu” — It’s difficult
考えておきます (かんがえて おきます) “kangaete okimasu” — I’ll think about it
Casual ways to say “No” include いいえ, ううん, いやー and だめ. If using ちょっと, be mindful to trail off at the end of the word.
In business settings, two simple phrases to convey “no” without saying “no” include 難しいです (むずかしい です) “muzukashii desu” — It’s difficult, and 考えておきます (かんがえて おきます) “kangaete okimasu” — I’ll think about it. While not outright saying “no,” they express a refusal to the listener without sounding impolite.
There are several non-verbal ways to express “no.” Rubbing the back of the neck, making an “X” with both arms or even taking in a deep breath all mean “no.”
Common Japanese Words for Casual Conversations
Want to sound like a native when you know minimal Japanese? There are a few common phrases you can use with friends in casual conversations.
よろしくね “yoroshiku ne” — Nice to meet you
どうしたの？ “doushita no?” — What’s wrong?
やばい “yabai” — Awful or Cool
頑張って (がんばって) “ganbatte” — Do your best
おめでとう！ “omedetou!” — Congrats!
マジで？ (まじ で？) “maji de?” — Really?
うそー！ “uso!” — No way!
よろしくね “yoroshiku ne” — Nice to Meet You (Casual)
One of the first introductory phrases you may have learned is よろしくお願いします (よろしく おねがい します) “yoroshiku onegai shimasu” — Nice to meet you. During a casual meeting between new friends, you can further shorten it to よろしくね.
どうしたの？“doushita no?” — What’s Wrong?
If your friend seems troubled, you can casually ask どうしたの？ to find out what’s troubling them.
やばい “yabai” — Awful or Cool
While talking, your friend may mention they have an important test or date. Use やばい and depending on the context, it can mean “Awful” or “Cool.”
頑張って (がんばって) “ganbatte” — Do Your Best
When a friend needs extra support, you can simply say 頑張って. This simple word means either “Good luck” or “Do your best” to encourage them to work harder.
To make this encouraging term more formal for business situations, you can say 頑張ってください (がんばって ください) “ganbatte kudasai.”
おめでとう！ “omedetou!” — Congrats!
Once your friend announces they’ve passed their exam, congratulate them by saying おめでとう or the formal variant おめでとうございます “omedetou gozaimasu.”
If they inform you they passed with the exam with no mistakes, express your surprise with the casual phrases マジで？ (まじ で？) “maji de?” — Really? or うそー！ “uso!” — No way!
Japanese Phrases for Grabbing a Bite
All right, so now you’ve said your “It’s been a while” and “Thank you” when your host family picked you up at the airport. That means it’s time to talk about what’s really important: food!
お腹が空いています (おなかが すいて います) “onaka ga suite imasu” — I’m hungry
まだ食べていません (まだ たべて いません) “mada tabete imasen” — I haven’t eaten yet
メニュー、お願いします (めにゅー、おねがい します) “menyuu, onegai shimasu” — Please bring me a menu
メニュー、お願いできますか？ (めにゅー、おねがい できますか？) “menyuu, onegai dekimasu ka?” — May I have the menu? (More formal)
それは何ですか？ (それは なんですか？) “sore wa nan desu ka?” — What’s that?
これを食べてみたいです (これを たべて みたい です) “kore o tabete mitai desu” — I’d like to try this
…をください “…o kudasai” — I’d like…
…がありますか？“…ga arimasu ka?” — Do you have…?
…付きですか？ (…つき ですか？) “…tsuki desu ka?” — Does it come with…?
…が食べられません (…が たべられません) “…ga taberaremasen” — I can’t eat…
…アレルギーがあります (…あれるぎーが あります) “…arerugii ga arimasu” — I’m allergic to…
おいしいです！ “oishii desu!” — It’s delicious!
まずいです “mazui desu” — It’s terrible
お腹が一杯です (おなかが いっぱい です) “onaka ga ippai desu” — I’m full
お勘定/お会計、お願いします (おかんじょう/おかいけい、おねがい します) “okanjou/okaikei, onegai shimasu” — Check, please
いただきます “itadakimasu” — Let’s dig in
ごちそうさまでした “gochisousama deshita” — Thanks for the meal
お腹が空いています (おなかが すいています) “onaka ga suite imasu” — I’m Hungry
This literally means your stomach has become empty. If you’re with your friends, you can say お腹が空いた (おなかが すいた) “onaka ga suita” which is slightly less formal. You’ll also hear お腹減った (おなか へった) “onaka hetta” and the masculine 腹減った (はら へった) “hara hetta” among peers. Lastly, if you’d like to say something short and cute you should try, お腹がペコペコ (おなかが ぺこぺこ) “onaka ga pekopeko” which is an onomatopoeia that means your stomach is growling.
…をください “…o kudasai” — I’d Like…
Do you remember how to say please when making a request? State whatever you’d like to order, and follow it with をください. For example, コーヒーをください (こーひーを ください) “koohii o kudasai” — I’d like a coffee, please, is my morning catchphrase!
…が食べられません (…が たべられません) “…ga taberaremasen” — I Can’t Eat…
All you vegetarians and vegans out there! Learn this phrase. Love this phrase. You can add any word at the beginning of the phrase. 肉 (にく) “niku” is “meat” so if you’re on a strict veg diet, be sure to say, 肉と魚が食べられません (にくと さかなが たべられません) “niku to sakana ga taberaremasen” — I can’t eat meat and fish.
…アレルギーがあります (…あれるぎーが あります) “…arerujii ga arimasu” — I’m Allergic to…
Allergies can be a bit tricky to talk about. State whatever you’re allergic to and add アレルギーがあります. You can also use the phrase above this one to give examples of what you can’t eat. Lastly, just to be safe rather than sorry, you can ask …が入っていますか？ (…が はいって いますか？) “…ga haitte imasu ka?” which means, “Are/Is there any … in it?”
For example: 卵が入っていますか？ (たまごが はいって いますか？) “tamago ga haitte imasu ka?” — Are there any eggs in it?
おいしいです “oishii desu” — It’s Delicious
If you’re out with the guys, you’ll probably hear the word うまい “umai” being sung as you feast. A casual and manly way to say something is delicious is うまい. For everyone else, おいしい is a wonderful way to say something tastes great. If you’re just eyeballing a slice of cake, then おいしそう “oishisou,” meaning “It looks delicious,” could be useful too!
いただきます “itadakimasu” — Let’s Dig In
This is used before digging into your meal. Although いただきます is often translated as “Let’s dig in” or “Bon appetite,” the meaning is much deeper than that. To thank everything and everyone that’s contributed to the dish in front of you, you thank them with いただきます at the beginning of every meal.
ごちそうさまでした “gochisousama deshita” — Thanks for the Meal
After you’ve finished that scrumptious bowl of squid-ink noodles, you can end your meal with ごちそうさまでした. Like いただきます, ごちそうさまでした is a fixture at every meal.
Japanese Phrases for Social Gatherings
Show your friends and colleagues you know how to have fun with these phrases during social gatherings.
食べましょう (たべましょう) “tabemashou” — Let’s eat
飲みましょう (のみましょう) “nomimashou” — Let’s drink
行きましょう (いきましょう) “ikimashou” — Let’s go
やったー！ “yatta!” — Yay!
乾杯！ (かんぱい！) “Kanpai!” — Cheers!
嬉しいです (うれしい です) “Ureshii desu.” — I’m happy
お代わりをください (おかわりを ください) “okawari o kudasai” — Refill, please
大丈夫です (だいじょうぶ です) “daijoubu desu” — I’m fine
行きましょう (いきましょう) “ikimashou” — Let’s Go
When planning a fun day out with friends, there are a few casual phrases to use when discussing plans. If you decide to have lunch, state 食べましょう (たべましょう) “tabemashou” — Let’s eat, or suggest grabbing a drink by saying 飲みましょう (のみましょう) “nomimashou” — Let’s drink.
Once your plans are decided, it’s time to head out by saying 行きましょう (いきましょう).
乾杯！(かんぱい！) “Kanpai!” — Cheers!
Once the party has begun, it’s essential to clink your glasses together and say 乾杯！ You say this phrase before and not after drinking. Express how happy you feel to be with your friends by saying 嬉しいです (うれしい です) “Ureshii desu” — I’m happy, or cheering on your colleagues with a high-spirited やったー！ “yatta!” — Yay!
お代わりをください (おかわりを ください) “okawari o kudasai” — Refill, Please
Once you’ve started drinking and want a refill, state お代わりをください (おかわりを ください).
If you’re done drinking for the night, it’s fine to use the phrase of many meanings 大丈夫です (だいじょうぶ です) “daijoubu desu” — I’m fine. This is another polite way to respectfully say “no.” If the music is too loud, you can also use a non-verbal cue for “no” by covering your glass if someone wants to give you a refill.
Shopping in Japanese
With the streets brimming with food stalls and vendors, the high-end boutiques lining Ginza, and the ultra-cool and unique souvenir shops, there is no way to avoid shopping while traveling through Japan.
いらっしゃいませ “irasshaimase” — Welcome
これは何ですか？(これは なんですか？) “kore wa nan desu ka?” — What is this?
これは何というものですか？ (これは なんという もの ですか？) “kore wa nan to iu mono desu ka?” — What’s this called?
これはいくらですか？“kore wa ikura desu ka?” — How much is this?
ちょっと高いです (ちょっと たかい です) “chotto takai desu” — It’s a bit expensive
他の色がありますか？ (ほかの いろが ありますか？) “hoka no iro ga arimasu ka?” — Do you have another color?
それを頂きます (それを いただきます) “sore o itadakimasu“— I’ll take it
クレジットカードは使えますか？ (くれじっとかーどは つかえますか？) “kurejitto kaado wa tsukaemasu ka?” — Can I use my credit card?
包んでいただけますか？ (つつんで いただけますか？) “tsutsunde itadakemasu ka?” — Can I have it gift wrapped?
いらっしゃいませ “irasshaimase” — Welcome
You will hear a chorus of いらっしゃいませ when you enter a convenience store, or really, any shop. After a day or two in Japan, you’re guaranteed to be hearing it in your sleep, too.
ちょっと高いです (ちょっと たかい です) “chotto takai desu” — It’s a Bit Expensive
If you haven’t started your adventure towards learning Japanese adjectives, then some essential shopping vocabulary is:
- 安い (やすい) “yasui” — cheap, easy
- 高い (たかい) “takai” — expensive, high
- 高くない (たかくない) “takakunai” — inexpensive
クレジットカードは使えますか？ (くれじっとかーどは つかえますか？) “kurejitto kaado wa tsukaemasu ka?” — Can I Use My Credit Card?
If you’d like to use a traveler’s check, then replace クレジットカード (くれじっとかーど) with トラベラーズチェック (とらべらーず ちぇっく) “toraberaazu chekku.” Your Suica (スイカ/すいか “suika”) card and Pasmo (パスモ/ぱすも “pasumo”) card, which are rechargeable cards you can use on Japanese trains, can also be used to pay for taxis or your groceries at select stores. You can ask スイカは使えますか？ (すいかは つかえますか？) “suika wa tsukaemasu ka?” — Can I use my Suica?
Japanese Goodbyes: Farewell, Friend. Let’s Keep in Touch.
Saying goodbye is never easy, especially if you’re saying it to a loved one or new friend with whom you’ve shared your travel experiences. Let them know how much you care with one of the following farewells:
手紙書くよ (てがみ かくよ) “tegami kaku yo” — I’ll write you letters
着いたら、電話します/メールします (ついたら, でんわ します/めーる します) “tsuitara, denwa shimasu/meeru shimasu” — I’ll call/email you when I arrive
メアドを教えてもらえますか？(めあどを おしえて もらえますか？) “meado o oshiete moraemasu ka?” — Could I have your e-mail address*?
またすぐに来ますよ (また すぐに きますよ) “mata sugu ni kimasu yo” — I’ll be back soon
遊びに来てくださいね (あそびに きて くださいね) “asobi ni kite kudasai ne” — Come visit me
メアドを教えてもらえますか？ (めあどを おしえて もらえますか？) “meado o oshiete moraemasu ka?” — Could I Have Your E-mail Address?
If that’s a little too long to memorize, you can ask メルアドを教えて (めるあど を おしえて) “meruado o oshiete” which is like saying, “Can I get your e-mail address?”
*When someone asks for your 携帯のメアド (けいたいの めあど) “keitai no meado“ or 携帯のメルアド (けいたいの めるあど) “keitai no meruado,“ they’re asking for your “cell phone e-mail address.” In Japan, rather than sending an SMS (text message) to someone’s phone, you send messages using your mobile e-mail address.
So say your phone carrier is SoftBank. Then you’ll have a mobile e-mail address, like firstname.lastname@example.org. This is used to communicate and send messages, rather than your phone number.
遊びに来てくださいね (あそびに きて くださいね) “asobi ni kite kudasai ne” — Come Visit Me
If you sincerely want someone to visit you, you can add 私の家では、いつでもあなたを歓迎しますよ (わたしの いえでは、いつでも あなたを かんげいしますよ “watashi no ie dewa, itsumo anata o kangei shimasu yo” — You’re always welcome in my home). If you’re writing a letter, you can try for a longer phrase like [ここ/私の家では、] あなたはいつでも大歓迎されることを忘れないでください ([ここ/わたしの いえ では、] あなたは いつでも だいかんげいされる ことを わすれないで ください “[koko/watashi no ie dewa] anata wa itsudemo daikangei sareru koto o wasurenaide kudasai” — Please don’t forget that you’re always welcome [here/in my home]).
And there you have it! With these phrases you’ll be able to make small talk with new friends, or show others that you’re sincerely interested in learning Japanese. Just by incorporating a few of these phrases into daily life or conversation, you’ll be sure to hear 日本語が上手ですね！ (にほんごが じょうず ですね！) “nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!” — You’re good at speaking Japanese!
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