After you have learned how to properly introduce yourself, it is time to learn some greetings and other related phrases. When you greet people, it is also important to pay attention to their status and use the appropriate phrase. Let’s look at different greetings and situations in which you can use them.
Common greetings and phrases
Let’s start with some informal versions of Hello. The main rule is: The longer the phrase, the more formal you sound. You can apply this rule to almost every Japanese expression.
Yō, Ooi, Ossu, Dōmo. These greetings are really informal slang versions, which mean Hi or Hey and you can often hear them in anime or j-dramas. Ossu is often used between close male friends.
Ohayō. This is a regular informal greeting that means Good morning. Since it is informal, use it only with your family and friends.
Ohayō gozaimasu. This phrase also means Good morning, but in a more formal way. Use it with people who have a higher status e.g. your superiors, teachers etc.
Konnichiwa means Hello or Good afternoon. You can use this greeting to almost any person i.e. your neighbors, strangers, or friends.
Konbanwa means Good evening and use it when it is already dark outside.
Use Ohayō before noon i.e. before, let’s say, about 11:00 am. After this time, use Konnichiwa, and Konbanwa in the evening.
Gokigen-yō. It is a very polite and respectful form of greeting. It works as a greeting and also as a farewell. It is usually translated as Good day to you. I think it is not very common in everyday life, but you can often hear it in anime. For example, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers.
Oyasumi nasai. Meaning Good night. You can also use the shorter form Oyasumi.
Sayōnara. This means Goodbye and it is used when you are leaving for a longer time.
Ja mata ne / Mata + [time]. This phrase means See you later. It has various variations e.g. Ja mata, Mata ne, Mata ashita (see you tomorrow) etc.
Special greetings and related phrases
Ittekimasu. It is a phrase meaning I’m off, see you later. You say this phrase when you’re leaving home.
Itterasshai. This is freely translated as Have a nice day and it is used as a response to Ittekimasu.
Tadaima. Say this phrase when you arrive home, it means I’m home.
Okaerinasai. This phrase is used as a response to Tadaima and it means Welcome home.
Shitsurei shimasu is not a greeting, but I will mention it here, because it can substitute Konnichiwa in some cases. Let’s say, you are entering a room with someone of higher status, for example, entering a classroom. In these situations, use Shitsurei shimasu instead of a regular greeting. It means “Sorry to disturb you”, or “Sorry for bothering you”.
Moshi moshi. When answering the phone, this phrase is used as Hello. Always.
Workplace and other greetings
Irasshaimase. The phrase means Welcome. It acts as a greeting used when welcoming customers by shop assistants, clerks etc. When the customer is leaving the shop, the employee says Arigatō gozaimashita instead of Sayōnara.
Otsukaresama desu. When arriving to work, you use this phrase as Hello to greet your co-workers. However, this is a very common phrase in the workplace. It is also used after internal company meetings as a “Thank you” and some other situations.
Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. Say this when you are leaving work earlier than your colleagues.
Otsukaresama deshita. Say this to colleagues when leaving work after working hours. It means Thanks for the hard work. You can also use Otsukaresama as a response to Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.
Gokurōsama deshita. Means Thank you for your hard work and usually your boss tells you this phrase. It is also used as a response to Otsukaresama deshita.
So, now when you are familiar with all the expressions, how would you greet me? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook; and for now … Mata raishū (see you next week).