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Japanese Phrases for Beginners

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If you’re a beginner, one of the easiest ways to get familiar with Japanese is to learn and practice the most frequently used Japanese phrases for beginners.

According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Japanese is a Category IV language. This means it’s considered one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn—but don’t lose heart! Japanese might just be easier than you think. 

While it could take a very long time to master the Kanji, the listening comprehension and speaking aspects are quite easy to pick up. Here are just a few reasons why Japanese is actually simpler than English or Latin languages: 

  • There are no separate singular/plural forms.
  • There are no articles.
  • There is no verb conjugation for person (I am / she is / they are / etc.).
  • We also have fewer vowel and consonant sounds than English does, making Japanese pronunciation much simpler. 

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the most useful Japanese beginner phrases: greetings and self-introduction phrases, courtesy and social expressions, dining and shopping phrases, and expressions for getting help.

Let’s master Japanese beginner phrases here at JapanesePod101.com!

An Image Depicting the Continual Growth of a Plant

The best way to improve at this stage is to learn the most useful phrases for beginners.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Greetings and Self-introductions
  2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions
  3. Dining & Shopping Phrases
  4. Asking for Help
  5. Conclusion

1. Greetings and Self-introductions

The very first thing you should learn as a beginner is how to use the most common greeting phrases, starting with “hello.” In Japanese, there are two types of expressions: polite (formal) and casual (informal). The polite language is referred to as 敬語 (Keigo), and the type of polite language used for addressing others is called 丁寧語 (Teineigo). We recommend learning these expressions first, as they’re useful for most social situations. Casual language is only used among close friends and family. 

1 – Greetings 

EnglishFormalityKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
Good morning.
[Literally: It’s early.] 
Polite:おはようございますohayō gozaimasu
Casual:おはようohayō
Hello.
[Literally: today is]
Polite / Neutral:こんにちはkon’nichiwa
Good evening.
[Literally: tonight is] 
Polite / Neutral:こんばんはkonbanwa
Goodnight.
[Literally: Rest (well).] 
Polite:おやすみなさいoyasuminasai
Casual:おやすみoyasumi
Hello.
(on the phone)
Polite / Neutral:もしもしmoshi-moshi
Goodbye.Polite:さようならsayōnara
Casual:バイバイbaibai
Bye.Casual:じゃあねjā ne
See you later.
[Literally: again]
Casual:またねmata ne
See you tomorrow.
[Literally: again tomorrow]
Casual:また明日またあしたmata ashita
How are you?
[Literally: (Are you) well?]
Polite:(お)元気ですか(お)げんきですか(o)-genki desu ka*
Casual:元気?げんき?genki?
I’m good.
[Literally: (I’m) well.] 
Polite:元気ですげんきですgenki desu
Casual:元気だよげんきだよgenki da yo
Long time, no see.
[Literally: long (time)]
Polite:(お)久しぶりです(お)ひさしぶりです(o)-hisashiburi desu*
Casual:久しぶりひさしぶりhisashiburi

*It becomes more polite if you add お (o) in front.

Examples:

  • おはよう!よく眠れた?  [casual]
    Ohayō! Yoku nemureta?
    “Good morning! Did you sleep well?”
  • もしもし、鈴木です。高木さんと話したいのですが。[polite / on the phone]
    Moshimoshi, Suzuki desu. Takagi-san to hanashitai no desu ga.
    “Hello, I’m Suzuki. I’d like to speak to Mr. Takagi.”
  • じゃあね、また明日学校で![casual]
    Jā ne, mata ashita gakkō de!
    “Bye, see you tomorrow at school!”

To learn more, please check out our blog articles on how to say hello in Japanese, how to say sorry in Japanese, and Japanese phone phrases.

A Woman Waving Hello to Someone

久しぶり!元気? [informal]
Hisashiburi! Genki?
“Long time, no see! How are you?”

2 – Self-introduction

When meeting someone for the first time, you should introduce yourself using polite language. Here are some essential Japanese phrases you can use when introducing yourself. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
Nice to meet you.初めましてはじめましてhajimemashite
My name is…私の名前は…ですわたしのなまえは…ですwatashi no namae wa…desu
What is your name?(お)名前は何ですか(お)なまえはなんですか(o)-namae wa nan desu ka*
I am…私は…ですわたしは…ですwatashi wa…desu
Where are you from?出身はどこですかしゅっしんはどこですかshusshin wa doko desu ka
I’m from……出身です…しゅっしんです…shusshin desu
I come from……から来ました…からきました…kara kimashita
How old are you?何歳ですかなんさいですかnan-sai desu ka
(お)いくつですか(o)-ikutsu desu ka*
I’m … years old.…歳です…さいです…sai desu

*It becomes more polite if you add お (o) in front.

Examples:

  • 初めまして、私の名前は田中まりです。  
    Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Tanaka Mari desu.
    “Nice to meet you. My name is Mari Tanaka.”
  • 出身はイタリアです。私は東京大学の留学生です。
    Shusshin wa Itaria desu. Watashi wa Tōkyō daigaku no ryūgakusei desu.
    “I’m from Italy. I’m an international student at Tokyo University.”
  • 失礼ですが、おいくつですか。
    Shitsurei desu ga, o-ikutsu desu ka.
    “I’m sorry if I’m rude, but how old are you?”

For more details about self-introduction in Japanese, check out our article How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese + More!

A Japanese Businessman Shaking Hands with a Colleague, while Another Colleague Stands Nearby

初めまして、私は田中です。[formal]
Hajimemashite, watashi wa Tanaka desu.
“Nice to meet you. I am Tanaka.”

2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions

Our next set of beginner phrases in Japanese consists of expressions you can use in different social situations to show respect and be polite. Memorize and practice these phrases to put your best foot forward and impress native Japanese speakers. 

EnglishFormalityKanjiHiraganaReading
Yes.Polite / Neutral:はいhai
Casual:うんun
No.Polite / Neutral:いいえiie
Casual:ううんūn
Thank you.Polite / Neutral:ありがとうございますarigatō gozaimasu
Casual:ありがとうarigatō
You’re welcome.Polite / Neutral:どういたしましてdōitashimashite
I’m sorry.Polite / Neutral:すみませんsumimasen
Polite / Neutral:ごめんなさいgomen nasai
Casual:ごめんgomen
I’m terribly sorry.Polite:申し訳ございませんもうしわけございませんmōshiwake gozaimasen
Excuse me.Polite:すみませんsumimasen
Polite:失礼しますしつれいしますshitsurei shimasu*
Best regards. /Favorably, please.Polite:よろしくお願いしますよろしくおねがいしますyoroshiku onegai shimasu**
Casual:よろしくyoroshiku**
Please take care.Polite:お気をつけておきをつけてo-ki o tsukete
Take care of yourself. / Get well soon. Polite:お大事にどうぞおだいじにどうぞo-daiji ni dōzo
Casual:お大事におだいじにo-daiji ni
Good luck. / Do your best.Polite:頑張ってくださいがんばってくださいganbatte kudasai 
Casual:頑張ってねがんばってねganbatte ne 

* 失礼します(shitsurei shimasu) literally translates as “I do rudeness,” but it means “I’m sorry if I’m rude, but excuse me.” This phrase is normally used when parting ways with someone, leaving an office, or knocking on the door before entering someone’s room/office.

** よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is an untranslatable Japanese word that can mean different things depending on the context. This phrase is most often used when someone is entering a situation or environment that is new to them: meeting new people at work, starting a new job or project, greeting someone who will be taking care of them, etc. 

Examples:

  • 今日からこのチームに加わりました木村です。よろしくお願いします。 
    Kyō kara kono chīmu ni kuwawarimashita Kimura desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    “I’m Kimua, who joined this team today. Best regards / Thank you for your cooperation.”
  • お大事にどうぞ、怪我が早く治りますように。
    O-daiji ni dōzo, kega ga hayaku naorimasu yō ni.
    “Take care of yourself; I hope your injury will heal soon.”
  • 明日の国家試験、頑張ってくださいね! 
    Ashita no kokka shiken, ganbatte kudasai ne!
    “Good luck on the national exam tomorrow!”

Two Japanese Businessmen Greeting Each Other with a Bow

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is one of the most frequently used courtesy phrases in Japanese.

3. Dining & Shopping Phrases

When speaking with waiters/waitresses or shop staff, it’s appropriate to use polite language. Below are some simple Japanese phrases for beginners to learn and start using right away; they’ll help you make the most of your dining and shopping experiences in Japan! 

1 – Restaurants

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
I have a reservation under…予約した…ですよやくした…ですyoyaku shita … desu
We are [number]. / There are [number] of us.[number] 人です[number] にんです[number]-nin desu
May I have the menu, please?メニューをくださいmenyū o kudasai
What do you recommend?お勧めは何ですかおすすめはなんですかosusume wa nan desu ka
I have an allergy to……のアレルギーがあります… no arerugī ga arimasu
Does this contain…?これに…は入っていますかこれに…ははいっていますかkore ni … wa haitte imasu ka
I’ll have this one.これにしますkore ni shimasu
Could you bring me some water?お水をくださいおみずをくださいo-mizu o kudasai
Check, please.お会計をお願いしますおかいけいをおねがいしますo-kaikei o onegai shimasu

Examples:

  • 4人です。テーブル席を希望します。 
    Yo-nin desu. Tēburu seki o kibō shimasu.
    “There are four of us. We would like a table.”
  • 卵のアレルギーがあります。これに卵は入っていますか。
    Tamago no arerugī ga arimasu. Kore ni tamago wa haitte imasu ka.
    “I am allergic to eggs. Does this contain eggs?”
  • お腹いっぱいなので、デザートはいりません。お会計をお願いします。
    Onaka ippai na node, dezāto wa irimasen. O-kaikei o onegai shimasu.
    “I’m full and don’t want dessert. Check, please.”

To learn more relevant vocabulary, please visit our articles on Japanese numbers and the top 100 Japanese nouns.

A Couple Ordering Food at a Restaurant

お勧めは何ですか。
Osusume wa nan desu ka.
“What do you recommend?”

2 – Shopping 

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
How much is this? これはいくらですか kore wa ikura desu ka
I’m looking for… … を探しています… をさがしています… o sagashite imasu
Do you have other colors/sizes?  他の色/サイズはありますかほかのいろ/サイズはありますかhoka no iro/saizu wa arimasu ka
Can I try it on? 試着してもいいですかしちゃくしてもいいですかshichaku shite mo ii desu ka
It’s a little big/small. ちょっと大きい/小さいです ちょっとおおきい/ちいさいですchotto ōkii /chiisai desu
I’ll think about it.ちょっと考えます ちょっとかんがえますchotto kangaemasu
I’ll buy this.これを買いますこれをかいますkore o kaimasu
Can I use a credit card? クレジットカードは使えますかクレジットカードはつかえますかkurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka
I’ll pay in cash / by card.現金/カードで支払います げんきん/カードでしはらいますgenkin/kādo de shiharaimasu
I don’t need a shopping bag.袋はいらないです ふくろはいらないですfukuro wa iranai desu

Examples:

  • 黒いシャツを探しています。Mサイズはありますか。
    Kuroi shatsu o sagashite imasu. Emu saizu wa arimasu ka.
    “I’m looking for a black shirt. Do you have one in medium?”
  • これを買います。VISAのクレジットカードは使えますか。
    Kore o kaimasu. Biza no kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka.
    “I’ll buy this. Can I use a VISA credit card?”
  • 自分のバッグに入れるので、袋はいりません。
    Jibun no baggu ni ireru node, fukuro wa irimasen.
    “I put it in my bag, so I don’t need a shopping bag.”
Someone Handing Over Their Credit Card to Pay for Something

クレジットカードは使えますか。 
Kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka.
“Can I use a credit card?”

4. Asking for Help

If you’re visiting Japan for the first time, it’s quite possible that you’ll get lost at some point or not know how to get somewhere. In addition, you never know when communication issues or actual emergencies will crop up! Get prepared for any situation by learning these easy Japanese beginner phrases for getting help. 

1 – Directions / Communication

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
Where is a toilet / … station? トイレ/… 駅は     どこですかといれ/… えきはどこですかtoire /… eki wa doko desu ka
How can I get to…? … へどうやって行けばいいですか… へどうやっていけばいいですか… e dō yatte ikeba ii desu ka
I don’t know/understand. 分かりませんわかりません wakarimasen
Do you speak English? 英語を話せますか えいごを                 はなせますかEigo o hanasemasu ka
Does anyone speak English? 英語を話せる 人はいますかえいごをはなせる ひとはいますかEigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka
Can you repeat slowly? もう一度ゆっくり言ってください もういちどゆっくりいってくださいmō ichi-do yukkuri   itte kudasai
How do you say … in Japanese? … は日本語で何と言いますか … はにほんごでなんといいますか… wa Nihon-go denan to iimasu ka

Examples:

  • すみません、新宿駅の南口はどこですか。
    Sumimasen, Shinjuku eki no minamiguchi wa doko desu ka.
    “Excuse me, where is the southern exit of Shinjuku Station?”
  • 日本語がわかりません。英語を話せる人いますか?
    Nihongo ga wakarimasen. Eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka?
    “I don’t understand Japanese. Does anyone speak English?”
  • すみません、もう一度ゆっくり言ってください。
    Sumimasen, mō ichi-do yukkuri itte kudasai.
    “I’m sorry, but can you repeat slowly?”

To learn more useful phrases for travel, please read our article on Japanese travel phrases.

A Tourist Asking Someone for Directions while They Look at a Large Map

渋谷駅はどこですか。
Shibuya eki wa doko desu ka.
“Where is Shibuya Station?”

2 – Emergency

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
Please help me. 助けてくださいたすけてくださいtasukete kudasai
I lost… … を失くしました … をなくしました…  o nakushimashita
I feel sick.気分が悪いです きぶんがわるいですkibun ga warui desu
I got injured.怪我をしましたけがをしましたkega o shimashita
Where is the police station?警察署はどこですかけいさつしょはどこですかkeisatsusho wa doko desu ka
Please call the ambulance/police. 救急車/警察を呼んでください きゅうきゅうしゃ/けいさつをよんでくださいkyūkyūsha/keisatsu oyonde kudasai
It’s an emergency. 緊急事態です きんきゅうじたいですkinkyū jitai desu
What is it? 何ですかなんですかnan desu ka
What happened?どうしましたかどうしましたかdō shimashita ka
I’m okay.大丈夫ですだいじょうぶですdaijōbu desu
I’m not okay.大丈夫ではありません だいじょうぶではありませんdaijōbu de wa arimasen

Examples:

  • 財布を失くしました。警察署はどこですか。
    Saifu o nakushimashita. Keisatsusho wa doko desu ka.
    “I lost my wallet. Where is the police station?”
  • 友達が事故で怪我をしました。救急車を呼んでください!
    Tomodachi ga jiko de kega o shimashita. Kyūkyūsha o yonde kudasai!
    “My friend got injured in an accident. Please call the ambulance!”
  • 電車がずっと止まったままです。どうしましたか。
    Densha ga zutto tomatta mama desu. Dō shimashita ka.
    “The train has been stopped for a long time. What happened?”

A Man on an Airplane Throwing Up into a Paper Bag

すみません、気分が悪いです。
Sumimasen, kibun ga warui desu.
“Excuse me, I feel sick.”

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced useful Japanese beginner phrases in a number of categories: 

  • Greetings and self-introductions
  • Courtesy phrases and social expressions
  • Dining and shopping phrases
  • Phrases for getting directions and asking for help

With these Japanese beginner phrases, you’ll be able to survive your travels in Japan and communicate with locals! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills in the fastest, easiest, and most fun way possible. 

If you’re a beginner, you’re sure to find the following articles useful: 

And there’s so much more! Be a faster learner and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there’s any specific topic you’d like to learn words and phrases for! We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you.

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