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Archive for the 'Japanese Phrases' Category

Advanced Japanese Phrases to Help You Level Up

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If you’re an advanced learner or starting to move ahead to an upper level, you may soon face a phenomenon known as “diminishing returns.” The learning curve theory indicates that the more you advance, the slower your progress will be. This concept also applies to your Japanese language learning! As such, you’ll need to be patient and make a steady effort in order to achieve the advanced level of Japanese and reach true proficiency.

After learning the grammar and vocabulary of the intermediate level, all you need to do is increase your vocabulary by learning more advanced Japanese phrases. In particular, you’ll want to pick up a variety of idioms, proverbs, expressions, and slang terms. You’ll also benefit from expanding your knowledge of grammatical variations, such as 敬語 (Keigo), or “honorific speech,” as well as the very formal language for particular settings (e.g., only used in official letters or legal texts).

While conquering the advanced Japanese level may feel like an endless journey, remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! You have already achieved so much since Day 1 to arrive at your current level. Now you just need to continue filling the holes in your vocabulary and learning new expressions through books, the news, TV, movies, and other media. 

Boost your journey with our list of the most useful advanced Japanese phrases for various occasions!

Business People Discussing Something at a Meeting Table

You can handle any situation if you’re at an advanced level.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Useful Phrases for Academic Writing
  2. Power Phrases for Your Cover Letter
  3. Smart Proverbs for Business and Meetings
  4. Advanced Japanese Idioms and Sayings for Everyday Usage
  5. Conclusion

1. Useful Phrases for Academic Writing

The use of logical and structured sentences is a key element in good academic writing. Below, we will introduce advanced Japanese phrases that are frequently used to organize, articulate, and connect thoughts in writing. These phrases are useful not only in writing but also in public speaking, where they allow the audience to more easily follow and understand the content. 

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
first of allまず初めにまずはじめにmazu hajime ni

Example:

まず初めに、本研究の趣旨について説明します。

Mazu hajime ni, hon kenkyū no shushi ni tsuite setsumei shimasu.

“First of all, I’d like to explain the purpose of this research.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
firstly
secondly 
thirdly
第一に
第二に
第三に
だいいちに
だいにに
だいさんに
daiichi ni
daini ni
daisan ni

Example:

小論文を書くために重要なことが三点ある。第一に、論理的であること。第二に、分かりやすいこと。第三に、納得できること、である。

Shōronbun o kaku tame ni, jūyō na koto ga san-ten aru.  Daiichi ni, rironteki de aru koto. Daini ni, wakariyasui koto. Daisan ni, nattoku dekiru koto, de aru.

“There are three important points in writing an essay. Firstly, it is logical. Secondly, it’s easy to understand. Thirdly, it is convincing.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
in regard to……に関して …にかんして…ni kanshite  

Example:

地球温暖化のトピックに関して意見を交換しましょう。

Chikyū ondanka no topikku ni kanshite iken o kōkan shimashō.

“Let’s exchange views in regard to global warming.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
according to……によると…ni yoruto

Example:

中小企業白書によると、日本の中小企業数は3,578,176社で全企業数のうち99.7%を占めています。

Chūshō kigyō hakusho ni yoruto, Nihon no chūshō kigyōsū wa 3,578,176 sha de,  zen kigyōsū no uchi  99.7% o shimete imasu.

“According to White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises, the number of small and medium enterprises in Japan is 3,578,176, accounting for 99.7% of the total number of companies.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
in other words言い換えればいいかえればiikaereba

Example:

地球温暖化の問題は、言い換えれば、私たちひとりひとりの問題です。

Chikyū ondanka no mondai wa, iikaereba, watashi-tachi hitori hitori no mondai desu.

“The problem of global warming is, in other words, the problem of each one of us.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
moreover / furthermore / in addition更にさらにsara ni

Example:

パンデミックの発生は、人々の健康に影響を及ぼしました。 更に、国内および世界の経済にも大きな打撃となりました。

Pandemikku no hassei wa, hitobito no kenkō ni eikyō o oyoboshimashita. Sara ni, kokunai oyobi sekaijū no keizai ni mo ōkina dageki to narimashita.

“The outbreak of the pandemic has affected people’s health. In addition, it also had a major impact on the domestic and global economies.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
on the contrary /on the other hand 一方で いっぽうでippō de

Example:

九州地方では大雨警報が出ています。 一方で、北関東地方では干ばつが連日続いています。

Kyūshū chihō de wa ōame keihō ga dete imasu. Ippō de, kita Kantō chihō de wa kanbatsu ga renjitsu tsuzuite imasu. 

“Heavy rain warnings have been issued in the Kyushu region. On the other hand, droughts continue every day in the northern Kanto region.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
therefore / consequently 従ってしたがってshitagatte

Example:

日本は火山が多い。従って、天然の温泉も多い。

Nihon wa kazan ga ōi. Shitagatte, tennen no onsen mo ōi. 

“Japan has a lot of volcanic mountains. Therefore, there are also many natural hot springs.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
to some extent   ある程度あるていどaru teido

Example:

作業過程をある程度自動化してくれるツールがいくつかあります。

Sagyō katei o aru teido jidōka shite kureru tsūru ga ikutsuka arimasu. 

“There are some tools that automate the work process to some extent.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
as long as… / as far as…   …である限り…いる限り…であるかぎり    …いるかぎり…de aru kagiri…iru kagiri

Example:

津波が発生した時は、高台にいる限り身の安全を確保できます。

Tsunami ga hassei shita toki wa, takadai ni iru kagiri mi no anzen o kakuho dekimasu.

“When a tsunami occurs, you can secure your safety as long as you are on a hill.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
by / in contrast対照的にたいしょうてきにtaishōteki ni

Example:

日本列島の南に位置する沖縄の年間平均気温は摂氏23.1度です。対照的に、北に位置する北海道では8.9度です。

Nihon rettō no minami ni ichi suru Okinawa no nenkan heikin kion wa sesshi 23.1-do desu. Taishōteki ni, kita ni ichi suru Hokkaidō wa 8.9-do desu.

“The average annual temperature of Okinawa, located south of the Japanese archipelago, is 23.1 degrees Celsius. By contrast, it is 8.9 degrees in Hokkaido, which is located in the North.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
as a result  結果として けっかとしてkekka to shite

Example:

高速道路での大きな事故によりひどい渋滞に巻き込まれました。結果として、飛行機に乗り遅れました。

Kōsoku dōro de no ōkina jiko ni yori hidoi jūtai ni makikomaremashita. Kekka to shite, hikōki ni noriokuremashita.

“I was caught in a terrible traffic jam due to a big accident on the highway. As a result, I missed the flight.”

A Man Writing in a Library

2. Power Phrases for Your Cover Letter

When it comes to writing an official letter in Japanese, there are some particular rules and style guidelines to follow.

A cover letter (送付状 [sōfujō] or 添え状 [soejō] in Japanese) is a letter of introduction that a job seeker attaches to their resume or CV. In most cases, its function is to greet and to indicate what document(s) you’re sending by clarifying “to whom,” “by whom,” “what,” and “why.” It may also contain a supplementary explanation of what you want to emphasize in the main document.

Most importantly, however, it can be proof that you have business etiquette and common sense. Therefore, it should be a “decent” letter that follows the rules expected of an official document.

Here is a brief list of advanced-level Japanese phrases you should consider including in your cover letter.

Formal Greeting 拝啓、貴社ますますご清栄のこととお慶び申し上げます。 
Haikei, kisha masumasu go-seiei no koto to o-yorokobi mōshiagemasu.
EnglishDear sirs, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for considering my application. (in case you’re applying with a CV)
Literal TranslationHumbly (respectfully) I say, I am glad that your company is prospering more and more. 

Explanation: 

This is a common formal greeting that is used only in official writing. It should be used as the first line of your text, especially when you’re writing to a company. 

When beginning with 拝啓 (haikei), meaning “Dear sirs” (literally: “Humbly I say”) you have to finish the letter with 敬具 (keigu), meaning “Sincerely yours” (literally: “Humbly I said”).

Stating Reason for Writingこの度、貴社の___職の採用情報を拝見し、応募書類をお送りいたします。 
Kono tabi, kisha no ___shoku no saiyō jōhō o haiken shi, ōboshorui o o-okuri itashimasu. 
EnglishI saw your company’s employment information about the ___ position, and I’d like to send you the application documents.
Literal TranslationThis time, I humbly saw your company’s employment information for ___, and I will kindly send you the application documents.  

Discussing Interests貴社の求人で特に、___のグローバルプロジェクトについて関心を持ちました。 
Kisha no kyūjin de toku ni, ___ no gurōbaru purojekuto ni tsuite kanshin o mochimashita. 
EnglishIn your company’s job offer advertisement, I am particularly interested in the global projects of ___.

Talking About Your Experience    ___の分野において幅広い経験を持ち、新規顧客の獲得と売り上げの拡大に努めてまいりました。  
___ no bun’ya ni oite habahiroi keiken o mochi, shinki kokyaku no kakutoku to uriage no kakudai ni tsutomete mairimashita. 
EnglishHaving extensive work experience in (the field of) ___,  I have endeavored to acquire new customers and expand sales.

Explaining the Relevance of Your Experience  私のX年における___の経験をこのポジションで即戦力として活かし、貴社の業績拡大に貢献できると思っております。  
Watashi no X-nen ni okeru ___ no keiken o kono pojishon de sokusenryoku to shite ikashi, kisha no gyōseki kakudai ni kōken dekiru to omotte orimasu. 
EnglishI believe I can apply my X years of experience in ___ to this position from day one, and I will be able to contribute to the expansion of your business.

Asking for a Presentation Opportunity  是非私のプレゼンテーションとポートフォリオをご覧になっていただける機会をいただけたら幸いです。  
Zehi watashi no purezentēshon to pōtoforio o goran ni natte itadakeru kikai o itadaketara saiwai desu.
EnglishI would appreciate it if you could give me a chance to show you my presentation and portfolio.

Asking for an Interview   ご検討の上、是非面接の機会をいただけましたら幸いです。  
Go-kentō no ue, zehi mensetsu no kikai o itadakemashitara saiwai desu. 
EnglishI would appreciate it if you could give me a chance to have an interview.

Formal Closing何卒よろしくお願いいたします。
敬具  
[名前] 
Nanitozo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. 
Keigu 
[Namae]
EnglishThank you very much for your consideration. 
Sincerely yours, 
[Name]
Literal TranslationPlease kindly be favorable.

Explanation: 

よろしくお願いいたします (yoroshiku onegai itashimasu) is an untranslatable Japanese phrase that is often used in business contexts. It’s a useful phrase in that it has many meanings and can be used in various situations to express gratitude, humbleness, and the desire to have a good relationship from that point forward.

And remember: When you use 拝啓 (haikei) at the beginning of your letter, you must finish it with 敬具 (keigu).


Resume, Pen, and Glasses

3. Smart Proverbs for Business and Meetings

In Japanese culture, idiomatic expressions (慣用表現 kan’yō hyōgen) and proverbs (ことわざ kotowaza) are often used in daily conversations in order to enrich statements or to include a moralistic meaning. The following phrases are popular Japanese idioms and proverbs that are frequently used in business contexts. 

Japanese埒があかない  
rachi ga akanai 
Literal Translationthe fence (of a horse riding ground) does not open
Meaningmake no progress / remain unsettled

Example: 

同じ議論を繰り返しても、埒があかない。

Onaji giron o kurikaeshite mo, rachi ga akanai.

“Repeating the same discussion does not make any progress.”

Japanese案ずるより産むが易し  
anzuru yori umu ga yasushi 
Literal TranslationIt’s easier to give birth than to worry about it.
MeaningIt’s easier to do something than to worry about it. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.

Example: 

案ずるより産むが易しと言います。まずはリスクを恐れずに実行することが大切です。

Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi to iimasu. Mazu wa risuku o osorezu ni jikkō suru koto ga taisetsu desu.

“It is said that it’s easier to do something than to worry about it; it’s important to take action without fear of risk.”

Japanese善は急げ  
zen wa isoge 
Literal Translationhurry up goodness
MeaningStrike while the iron is hot. / Good deeds (ideas) should be done quickly.

Example: 

それは良い案ですね!善は急げ、早速それをプロジェクトに取り入れましょう。

Sore wa ii an desu ne! Zen wa isoge, sassoku sore o purojekuto ni toriiremashō.

“That’s a good idea! Strike while the iron is hot; let’s adopt it into the project now.”

Japanese損して得取れ  
son shite toku tore
Literal Translationobtain benefit by losing
MeaningEven if you’re at a temporary loss, keep striving for virtue so that you will get a bigger return later. 

Example: 

損して得取れと言うように、設備投資による費用はかかりますが、長期的に見ると生産コストとCO2排出を大幅に削減できます。

Son shite toku tore to iu yō ni, setsubi tōshi ni yoru hiyō wa kakarimasu ga, chōkiteki ni miru to seisan kosuto to CO2 haishutsu o ōhaba ni sakugen dekimasu.

“As the proverb says, ‘Obtain benefit by losing.’ Although there are costs associated with capital investment, production costs and CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced in the long run.”

Japanese苦肉の策  
kuniku no saku 
Literal Translationidea of (from) suffering body
Meaninglast resort / desperate measure taken under pressure of necessity

Example: 

その企業は事業存続のために苦肉の策として、大手企業との業務提携に踏み切りました。

Sono kigyō wa jigyō sonzoku no tame ni kuniku no saku to shite, ōte kigyō to no gyōmu teikei ni fumikirimashita.

“The company has decided to make a business alliance with a major company as a desperate measure for business survival.”

Japanese乗りかかった船  
norikakatta fune
Literal Translationthe ship that already got on 
Meaninghaving started on something that you can’t quit / having gone too far to turn back

Example: 

一度引き受けた案件は、乗りかかった船です。情勢が変化しても全力でやり遂げましょう。

Ichi-do hikiuketa anken wa, norikakatta fune desu. Jōsei ga henka shite mo zenryoku de yaritogemashō.

“The project that we once undertook is the ship we have already gotten on. Even if the situation changes, let’s do our best to complete it.”

Japanese先んずれば人を制す  
sakinzureba hito o seisu
Literal TranslationIf you go ahead, you will get the better of (other) people.
MeaningTake the initiative, and you will win. / The foremost dog catches the hare.

Example: 

先んずれば人を制す。ライバル社が参入する前に新規事業を軌道にのせましょう。

Sakinzureba hito o seisu. Raibarusha ga sannyū suru mae ni shinki jigyō o kidō ni nosemashō.

“The foremost dog catches the hare. Let’s get the new business on track before our rivals enter the market.”

Japanese白羽の矢が立つ  
shiraha no ya ga tatsu
Literal TranslationAn arrow with a feather stands.
Meaningto be singled out / to be selected from among other people

Example: 

新規プロジェクトのリーダーとして、経験豊富な彼に白羽の矢がたった。

Shinki purojekuto no rīdā to shite, keiken hōfu na kare ni shiraha no ya ga tatta.

“As someone who is well experienced, he was chosen to be the leader of the new project.”

Japanese後の祭り 
ato no matsuri   
Literal Translation later festival
Meaninga day after the fair / a stage when it’s too late

Example: 

彼は間違って非常に重要な書類を破棄してしまった。後悔しても所詮、後の祭りだ。

Kare wa machigatte hijō ni jūyō na shorui o haki shite shimatta. Kōkai shitemo shosen, ato no matsuri da.

“He accidentally discarded the very important document. Even if he regrets it, it’s too late after all.”

Japanese  運を天に任せる    
un o ten ni makaseru     
Literal Translation leave luck to heaven 
Meaning to leave one’s fate to a deity / to leave the rest to heaven

Example: 

イベントの準備に最前を尽くしてきました。成功するかどうかは、あとは運を天に任せましょう。

Ibento no junbi ni saizen o tsukushite kimashita. Seikō suru ka dō ka wa, ato wa un o ten ni makasemashō.

“We have been doing our best to prepare for the event. Let’s leave luck to heaven as to whether we succeed or not.”

People in Suits Are Having a Business Meeting

4. Advanced Japanese Idioms and Sayings for Everyday Usage

Idiomatic expressions are frequently used not only in daily conversations but also in the stories that make our lives so rich and colorful. 

Japanese idioms are very fun to learn! They feature unique and sometimes eccentric combinations of words that would make no sense at all if you were to translate them word for word.

What do you imagine when you hear “bite a parent’s shin” (親のすねをかじる oya no sune o kajiru)? It does not refer to someone actually biting their parent’s shin, but rather to an adult who still lives off of their parents. 

Below are several idiomatic phrases in Japanese for advanced learners.

Japanese  油を売る   
abura o uru    
Literal Translation sell oil
Meaning  to loaf (particularly on the job) / to idle one’s time away

Example: 

彼はよく営業の外回り中に、カフェで油を売っている。

Kare wa yoku eigyō no sotomawarichū ni, kafe de abura o utte iru.

“He often idles his time away at a cafe when he’s meeting clients out of office.”

Japanese  顔に泥を塗る   
kao ni doro o nuru  
Literal Translation smear mud on one’s face
Meaning  disgrace somebody / make somebody lose face

Example: 

彼女は犯罪を犯して、誠実な両親の顔に泥を塗った。

Kanojo wa hanzai o okashite, seijitsu na ryōshin no kao ni doro o nutta.

“She committed a crime and disgraced her sincere parents.”

Japanese  口を酸っぱくする   
kuchi o suppaku suru  
Literal Translation make a mouth sour 
Meaning  to repeatedly admonish / to tell over and over

Example: 

口を酸っぱくして何度も言うように、交通事故には気をつけてください。

Kuchi o suppaku shite nan-do mo iu yō ni, kōtsū jiko ni wa ki o tsukete kudasai.

“As I tell you over and over, please be careful of traffic accidents.”

Japanese  さじを投げる    
saji o nageru   
Literal Translation throw a (small) spoon 
Meaning  give up hopelessly

Example: 

彼女はダイエットしようと決めたが、トレーニングと食事制限が辛くてさじを投げた。

Kanojo wa daietto o shiyō to kimeta ga, torēningu to shokuji seigen ga tsurakute saji o nageta.

“She decided to go on a diet, but she gave up because of the painful training and dietary restrictions.”

Japanese  雀の涙   
suzume no namida 
Literal Translation sparrow’s tears
Meaning  very small quantity

Example: 

世界的な不景気の影響で、今年のボーナスは雀の涙ほどでした。

Sekaiteki na fukeiki no eikyō de, kotoshi no bōnasu wa suzume no namida hodo deshita.

“Due to the global recession, this year’s bonus was very little.”

Japanese  喉から手が出る   
nodo kara te ga deru 
Literal Translation hands come out from a throat
Meaning  to want something desperately

Example: 

喉から手が出るほど、来月発売の新しいスマートフォンがほしい。

Nodo kara te ga deru hodo, raigetsu hatsubai no atarashii sumātofon ga hoshii.

“I desperately want the new smartphone that will be released next month.”

Japanese  根も葉もない   
ne mo ha mo nai  
Literal Translation no roots or leaves 
Meaning  completely untrue / groundless (rumor)

Example: 

根も葉もない噂を信じて人を判断しないでください。

Ne mo ha mo nai uwasa o shinjite hito o handan shinaide kudasai.

“Don’t judge people by believing groundless rumors.”

Japanese  身を粉にする    
mi o ko ni suru
Literal Translation make one’s body into powder 
Meaning  work hard / make the utmost effort

Example: 

彼女は身を粉にして働き、女手一つで3人の子供を育てました。

Kanojo wa mi o ko ni shite hataraki, onnade hitotsu de san-nin no kodomo o sodatemashita.

“She worked very hard and raised three children all by herself.”

Japanese  水に流す   
mizu ni nagasu   
Literal Translation flush in water 
Meaning  let bygones be bygones / forgive and forget

Example: 

過去のことは水に流して、今と将来のことに目を向けよう。

Kako no koto wa mizu ni nagashite, ima to shōrai no koto ni me o mukeyō.

“Let’s forgive and forget about the past, and focus on the present and the future.”

Japanese  胸が騒ぐ   
mune ga sawagu    
Literal Translation chest makes a fuss
Meaning  to feel uneasy / to feel a strange presentiment

Example: 

帰り道で救急車のサイレンを聞いて胸が騒いだので、家族を心配して家まで走って帰った。

Kaerimichi de kyūkyūsha no sairen o kiite mune ga sawaida node, kazoku o shinpai shite ie made hashitte kaetta.

“I felt uneasy when I heard the ambulance siren on my way home, so I ran home because I was worried about my family.”

Two Women Talking

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful advanced Japanese phrases for academic writing, cover letters, and business. We even included a few idioms and sayings for daily usage. Some of these phrases are only used in a particular context, such as the formal greeting for letters, and mastering such advanced Japanese phrases will make you appear more fluent!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up additional Japanese phrases for different situations, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

As you approach the advanced level in your Japanese studies, the following articles will also be very useful for you: 

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

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese

Useful Intermediate Japanese Phrases

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Have you gotten bored of learning the basic Japanese grammar rules, reviewing beginner-level words, and practicing beginner phrases? Then it’s time to level up and start learning intermediate Japanese phrases! 

Once you’re confident in your ability to master the beginner levels (N5 and N4) of the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test), you can aim to achieve the intermediate level (N3 and above). Achieving this level of proficiency will allow you to cope with more complicated everyday situations while in Japan. The intermediate level is surely more difficult, requiring continuous effort and patience; however, it’s also an enjoyable stage of learning as you’ll start being able to understand more complex things and express more subtle feelings.

In this article, we’ll introduce a list of the most useful intermediate Japanese phrases for various situations. Whether you want to talk about past events, change plans, or make recommendations, this useful phrase list here at JapanesePod101.com covers it all!

A Man and a Woman Socializing at a Party with Drinks

Knowing some intermediate-level phrases will make your conversations more enjoyable.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Talking About Past Events
  2. Making and Changing Plans
  3. Explaining and Giving Reasons
  4. Making Recommendations and Complaints
  5. Reaction Phrases for Everyday Conversations
  6. Etiquette Phrases for Social and Business Settings
  7. Conclusion

1. Talking About Past Events

When you first start learning Japanese, you primarily study and use the present tense. However, talking about the past and the future is inevitable in our daily lives; for example, we make plans for the weekend with friends and tell stories about our past experiences. 

When it comes to grammatical tense, Japanese is much simpler than other languages such as English or the Romance languages. This is because Japanese does not have a future tense nor any perfect tenses. Things concerning the future are expressed using the present tense and a time-indicating word, such as “later” or “tomorrow.” It is also relatively easy to use the past tense in Japanese because there is no verb conjugation according to “how far” in the past something took place. 

The only thing you need to pay attention to is the formality level you use (casual vs. formal) and 敬語 (Keigo), the Japanese honorific language. For each of the following intermediate phrases in Japanese, we have included both the casual version and the polite version.  

1.

[Casual] ___はさっき終わったよ。  
              ___ wa sakki owatta yo.

[Polite] ___はさっき終わりました
            ___ wa sakki owarimashita.

[English]  ___ has just finished. 

2.

[Casual]  今日は忙しくてとても疲れ。     
               Kyō wa isogashikute totemo tsukareta.

[Polite]    今日は忙しくてとても疲れました
              Kyō wa isogashikute totemo tsukaremashita.

[English]  Today was busy, and I got really tired. 

3.

[Casual]  今日は幸運/不運な日だった
               Kyō wa kōun/fūn na hi datta.

[Polite]    今日は幸運/不運な日でした
              Kyō wa kōun/fūn na hi deshita.

[English]  Today was a lucky/unlucky day.

4.

[Casual]  昨日のパーティーは楽しかった
               Kinō no pātī wa tanoshikatta yo.

[Polite]    昨日のパーティーは楽しかったです
              Kinō no pātī wa tanoshikatta desu.

[English]  The party yesterday was fun. (I enjoyed the party yesterday.)

5.

[Casual]  去年の夏にハワイへ旅行した
               Kyonen no natsu ni Hawai e ryokō shita.

[Polite]    去年の夏にハワイへ旅行しました
              Kyonen no natsu ni Hawai e ryokō shimashita.

[English]  I traveled to Hawaii last summer.

6.

[Casual]  私はこの会社で5年前から働いてい
               Watashi wa kono kaisha de go-nen mae kara hataraite iru.

[Polite]    私はこの会社で5年前から働いています
              Watashi wa kono kaisha de go-nen mae kara hataraite imasu.

[English]  I have been working for this company for five years.

7.

[Casual]  昔「ポチ」という犬を飼ってい
               Mukashi “Pochi” to iu inu o katte ita.

[Polite]    昔「ポチ」という犬を飼っていました
              Mukashi “Pochi” to iu inu o katte imashita.

[English]  I used to have a dog called Pochi (in the past).

8.

[Casual]  子供の頃は東京に住んでい
               Kodomo no koro wa Tōkyō ni sunde ita.

[Polite]    子供の頃は東京に住んでいました
              Kodomo no koro wa Tōkyō ni sunde imashita.

[English]  I used to live in Tokyo when I was a kid.

Many People Playing and Relaxing on a Beach in Hawaii

去年の夏にハワイへ旅行しました。(Kyonen no natsu ni Hawai e ryokō shimashita.)
“I traveled to Hawaii last summer.”

2. Making and Changing Plans

As mentioned in the section above, we can use the present tense to express the future by using a time-indicating word. This is the structure we use when making or changing plans. 

In order to form a question, you only have to add a question mark to the end of a casual sentence or か (ka) to the end of a formal sentence. In Japanese, the subject is often omitted when it’s obvious who is speaking or whom you are talking to.

Below are a few examples of how to use this type of intermediate Japanese sentence structure to talk about plans. 

1.

[Casual]  来週空いている日ある?
               Raishū aite iru hi aru?

[Polite]    来週空いている日ありますか
              Raishū aite iru hi arimasu ka.  

[English]  Do you have a free day next week?

2.

[Casual]  来月都合の良い日はいつ
               Raigetsu tsugō no yoi hi wa itsu

[Polite]    来月都合の良い日はいつですか
              Raigetsu tsugō no yoi hi wa itsu desu ka.

[English]  When is your convenient day next month? (When is the best day next month for you?)

3.

[Casual]  お寿司食べに行く?
               O-sushi tabe ni iku?

[Polite]    お寿司食べに行きませんか
              O-sushi tabe ni ikimasen ka.

[English]  Would you like to go eat sushi?

4.

[Casual]  彼氏/彼女も連れて来ていい
               Kareshi/ kanojo mo tsurete kite ii ?

[Polite]    彼氏/彼女も連れて来ていいですか。
              Kareshi/ kanojo mo tsurete kite ii desu ka.

[English]  Can I bring my boyfriend/girlfriend?

5.

[Casual]  スケジュールを確認してまた連絡するよ。
               Sukejūru o kakunin shite mata renraku suru yo.

[Polite]    スケジュールを確認してまた連絡しますね。
              Sukejūru o kakunin shite mata renraku shimasu ne.

[English]  I will let you know after checking my schedule.

6.

[Casual]  来週にスケジュールを変更できる?
               Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekiru?

[Polite]    来週にスケジュールを変更できますか。
              Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekimasu ka.

[English]  Is it possible to reschedule for next week?

7.

[Casual]  今週の金曜日にオンライン会議で詳細を話そう
               Konshū no kin-yōbi ni onrain kaigi de shōsai o hanasō.

[Polite]    今週の金曜日にオンライン会議で詳細を話しましょう。 
              Konshū no kin-yōbi ni onrain kaigi de shōsai o hanashimashō.

[English]  Let’s discuss the details during the online meeting this Friday.

Someone Flipping through Pages on Their Monthly Calendar

来週にスケジュールを変更できますか。(Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekimasu ka.)
“Is it possible to reschedule for next week?”

3. Explaining and Giving Reasons

If you’re a native speaker of English or a Romance language, you may feel that giving reasons in Japanese is a bit awkward due to the Japanese word order and sentence structure. Contrary to English and many other languages, we usually mention the reason before the action or event.

For example:

[English]         I drank a glass of water because it was hot.
                (a person’s action) (the reason why)

[Japanese]     暑かったので、  グラス1杯の水を飲みました。
                Atsukatta nodegurasu ippai no mizu o nomimashita.
                 (the reason why) (a person’s action)

1.

[Polite]    アレルギーがあるので卵を食べられません。 
                 Arerugī ga aru node tamago o taberaremasen.

[English]  I can’t eat eggs because I have an allergy.

2.

[Polite]    雨が降っているので、今日の花火大会は中止になりました。
              Ame ga futte iru node, kyō no hanabi taikai wa chūshi ni narimashita.

[English]  Today’s fireworks festival has been canceled because it is raining.

3.

[Polite]    風邪をひいて頭痛がひどいです。そのため、今日は早く帰ります。
              Kaze o hiite zutsū ga hidoi desu. Sono tame, kyō wa hayaku kaerimasu.

[English]  I caught a cold, and I have a severe headache. For that reason, I will go home early today.

4.

[Polite]    午後に会議が予定されています。このため、会議室は使用できません。
              Gogo ni kaigi ga yotei sarete imasu. Kono tame, kaigishitsu wa shiyō dekimasen.

[English]  A meeting is scheduled in the afternoon. Therefore, the meeting room is not available.

5.

[Polite]    最近少し太ったのでダイエットをしています。 
              Saikin sukoshi futotta node daietto o shite imasu.

[English]  I’m on a diet because I’ve gained a little weight recently.

6.        

[Polite]    終電を逃してしまったため、歩いて家に帰りました。
              Shūden o nogashite shimatta tame, aruite ie ni kaerimashita.

[English]  I missed the last train, so I walked back home.

7.

[Polite]    私がこの車を選んだのには三つ理由があります。
              一つ目はデザイン、二つ目は機能性、そして最後は価格が理由です。

              Watashi ga kono kuruma o eranda no ni wa mittsu riyū ga arimasu.
              Hitotsu-me wa dezain, futatsu-me wa kinōsei, soshite saigo wa kakaku ga riyū desu.

[English]  There are three reasons why I chose this car. 
               Firstly, because of its design; secondly, its functionality; and lastly, its price.

An Empty Meeting Room

午後に会議が予定されています。このため、会議室は使用できません。
(Gogo ni kaigi ga yotei sarete imasu. Kono tame, kaigishitsu wa shiyō dekimasen.)
“A meeting is scheduled in the afternoon. Therefore, the meeting room is not available.”

4. Making Recommendations and Complaints

Giving your opinion by recommending or complaining about something is a good way to share and exchange ideas in a conversation. 口コミ情報, or word-of-mouth information, is somewhat reliable as it comes from one’s firsthand experience. Sharing experiences and insights is not only useful when deciding what to buy or try, but it also creates rapport between speakers.

The following are frequently used words and phrases for making recommendations and complaints.

  • おすすめ (osusume) = recommendation [noun]
  • おすすめする (osusume suru) = to recommend [verb]
  • おすすめしない (osusume shinai) = not to recommend [verb]

1.

[Casual]  この映画は今年見た中で一番面白いよ。
               Kono eiga wa kotoshi mita naka de ichi-ban omoshiroi yo.

[Polite]    この映画は今年見た中で一番面白いです。
              Kono eiga wa kotoshi mita naka de ichi-ban omoshiroi desu.

[English]  This movie is the most interesting I’ve seen this year.

2.

[Casual]  広島に旅行するなら、厳島神社に行くことをおすすめするよ。
               Hiroshima ni ryokō suru nara, Itsukushima Jinja ni iku koto o osusume suru yo.

[Polite]    広島に旅行するなら、厳島神社に行くことをおすすめします
              Hiroshima ni ryokō suru nara, Itsukushima Jinja ni iku koto o osusume shimasu.

[English]  If you’re traveling to Hiroshima, I recommend you go to Itsukushima Shrine.

3.

[Casual]  本当においしいお寿司を食べたいなら、銀座の次郎が有名だよ。
               Hontō ni oishii o-sushi o tabetai nara, Ginza no Jirō ga yūmei da yo.

[Polite]    本当においしいお寿司を食べたいなら、銀座の次郎が有名です。
              Hontō ni oishii o-sushi o tabetai nara, Ginza no Jirō ga yūmei desu.

[English]  If you want to eat really delicious sushi, Jiro in Ginza is famous.

4.

[Casual]  この携帯電話の充電器はメーカーの純正を使った方が良いよ。
               Kono keitai denwa no jūdenki wa mēkā no junsei o tsukatta hō ga ii yo.

[Polite]    この携帯電話の充電器はメーカーの純正を使った方が良いですよ。
              Kono keitai denwa no jūdenki wa mēkā no junsei o tsukatta hō ga ii desu yo.

[English]  It’s better to use the manufacturer’s genuine charger for this mobile phone.

5.

[Casual]  あのホテルはカスタマーサービスが最悪だよ。
               Ano hoteru wa kasutamā sābisu ga saiaku da yo.

[Polite]    あのホテルはカスタマーサービスが最悪です
              Ano hoteru wa kasutamā sābisu ga saiaku desu.

[English]  That hotel has the worst customer service.

6.

[Casual]   あそこは値段が高い割においしくないので、おすすめしないよ。
                Asoko wa nedan ga takai wari ni oishikunai node, osusume shinai yo.

[Polite]     あそこは値段が高い割においしくないので、おすすめしません。
              Asoko wa nedan ga takai wari ni oishikunai node, osusume shimasen.

[English]  I don’t recommend that place because it’s not delicious for the expensive price.

7.

[Casual]  商品が1回使ってすぐ壊れた。このショップからは二度と購入しない。 
               Shōhin ga ikkai tsukatte sugu kowareta. Kono shoppu kara wa ni-do to kōnyū shinai.

[Polite]    商品が1回使ってすぐ壊れました。このショップからは二度と購入しません。
              Shōhin ga ikkai tsukatte sugu kowaremashita. Kono shoppu kara wa ni-do to kōnyū shimasen.

[English]  The product broke immediately after I used it once. I will never buy anything from this shop.

Itsukushima Shrine in Japan

広島に旅行するなら、厳島神社に行くことをおすすめします。 
(Hiroshima ni ryokō suru nara, Itsukushima Jinja ni iku koto o osusume shimasu.)
“If you’re traveling to Hiroshima, I recommend you go to Itsukushima Shrine.

5. Reaction Phrases for Everyday Conversations

You’ll also need some intermediate Japanese phrases for reacting to others’ statements. Knowing various ways to reply to someone will help make your conversations more colorful and enjoyable. Below, we have included a few short conversation samples using common reaction phrases. 

1.

A:
昨日のパーティーは楽しかったね。 
Kinō no pātī wa tanoshikatta ne.
The party last night was fun.

B: 
うん、みんなに会って話せて良かったよ!
Un, minna ni atte hanasete yokatta yo!
Yeah, I was glad to meet and talk to everyone!

2.

A: 
来週空いている日ある ? 
Raishū aite iru hi aru?
Do you have a free day next week?

B: 
土曜日なら一日中空いてるよ。
Do-yōbi nara ichi-nichijū aite ru yo.
I’m free all day next Saturday.

3.

A: 
この映画は今年見た中で一番面白いよ。
Kono eiga wa kotoshi mita naka de ichi-ban omoshiroi yo. 
This movie is the most interesting I’ve seen this year.

B: 
そうなんだ。Netflixで配信されたら見てみるよ。
Sō nan da. Nettofurikkusu de haishin saretara mite miru yo.
Oh yeah? I’ll watch it when it’s released on Netflix.

4.

A: 
来週にスケジュールを変更できますか。
Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekimasu ka.
Is it possible to reschedule for next week?

B: 
はい、大丈夫です。来週の月曜日から金曜日の午後なら調整できます。
Hai, daijōbu desu. Raishū no getsu-yōbi kara kin-yōbi no gogo nara chōsei dekimasu.
Yes, it’s okay. I can make adjustments in the afternoon from next Monday to Friday.

5.

A: 
アレルギーがあるので卵を食べられません。
Arerugī ga aru node tamago o taberaremasen.
I can’t eat eggs because I have an allergy.

B: 
卵を使用していないメニューはこちらです。
Tamago o shiyō shite inai menyū wa kochira desu.
Here is the menu that does not contain eggs.

6.

A: 
あのホテルはカスタマーサービスが最悪です。
Ano hoteru wa kasutamā sābisu ga saiaku desu.
That hotel has the worst customer service.

B: 
本当ですか?有名なホテルなのに残念ですね。
Hontō desu ka? Yūmei na hoteru na noni zannen desu ne.
Really? It’s a shame, though; it’s a famous hotel.

A Couple Looking through a Menu Together while a Waitress Stands Nearby

小麦粉を使用していないメニューはこちらです。
(Komugiko o shiyō shite inai menyū wa kochira desu.)
“Here is the menu that does not contain wheat.”

6. Etiquette Phrases for Social and Business Settings

Japanese has some very unique and polite expressions that are frequently used in social and business settings. It’s good to know such phrases even if you’re a traveler to Japan, as you’ll hear them often in restaurants, shops, and hotels.

1.

[Polite]    いらっしゃいませ。
              Irasshaimase.

[English]  Welcome. (Staff members of shops and restaurants will say this to customers.)

2.

[Very Polite]    少々お待ち下さいませ。 
                       Shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.

[English]  Please wait for a moment.

3.

[Very Polite]    大変お待たせしました。 
                      Taihen o-matase shimashita.

[English]  Thank you very much for your patience. (Literally: I made you waiting for long time.)

4.

[Very Polite]    ごゆっくりお過ごしください。
                      Go-yukkuri o-sugoshi kudasai.

[English]  Please have a relaxed time. 

5.

[Very Polite]    何かご質問がありましたらお知らせください。 
                      Nani ka go-shitsumon ga arimashitara o-shirase kudasai.

[English]  Please let us know if you have any questions.

6.        

[Very Polite]    お忙しい中お時間をいただき、どうもありがとうございます。
                      O-isogashii naka o-jikan o itadaki, dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.

[English]  Thank you very much for your time while you are busy.

7.

[Very Polite]    お返事お待ちしております。
                      O-henji o-machi shite orimasu.

[English]  I look forward to hearing from you.

8.

[Very Polite]    お気をつけていってらっしゃいませ。
                      O-ki o tsukete itterasshai mase.

[English]  Please take care and have a safe trip.

A Woman Waiting at a Hotel’s Front Desk

少々お待ち下さいませ。
(Shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.)
“Please wait for a moment.”

7. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful intermediate Japanese phrases for various situations, including:

  • Talking about past events
  • Making and changing plans
  • Explaining and listing reasons
  • Making recommendations and complaints
  • Reacting to others during a conversation
  • Being polite in social and business settings

With these intermediate phrases, you’ll be able to have more complex conversations and explain what you want to say in more detail.

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. This is the best place to learn Japanese online, providing a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese-language skills. 

If you’re at the intermediate level in your Japanese studies, the following articles are a great place to start: 

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 are any specific topics or situations you’d like to learn Japanese phrases for. We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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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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Level Up with These Advanced Japanese Words

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If you’re looking at this page, it means that you’ve achieved the intermediate level and are interested in moving ahead to advanced-level Japanese. That’s great—you’re in the right place!

Levels N1 and N2 of the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) are equivalent to the advanced level, and aiming to pass these levels would be a good source of motivation at this point in your studies. It surely takes tremendous effort and dedication to reach this stage, especially when it comes to learning the more difficult Kanji that are mostly used for special occasions or in official settings. 

Apart from conventional studying, however, there are more enjoyable ways to learn advanced Japanese words. For example, you could start reading books in Japanese and watching Japanese movies or TV shows in more serious genres; history shows, biographies, thrillers, and action films are great examples. Once you learn enough advanced Japanese words, you can utilize such tools to reinforce your knowledge and memory.

In this article, we will introduce a list of frequently used advanced Japanese words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as well as other sophisticated words you can use to substitute basic everyday words. Let’s start climbing to the summit here at JapanesePod101.com!

The News Displayed on a Tablet, a Cell Phone, and Newspapers

You will be able to more easily read Japanese newspapers with advanced Japanese words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)
  2. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)
  3. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)
  4. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)
  5. Alternative Words for Greater Sophistication
  6. Conclusion

1. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)

The Kanji for advanced Japanese nouns is often complicated and difficult. However, the good news is that you’ll never have to worry about which article to use or how to change a word from singular to plural. 

Advanced Japanese nouns are usually just as simple as beginner nouns in terms of reading and pronunciation, but learning the high-level Kanji will take a lot of time and effort. 

1 – Advanced Academic Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
concept概念 がいねんgainen
precision精密 せいみつseimitsu
expansion / extension拡張 かくちょうkakuchō
pressure圧力 あつりょくatsuryoku
efficiency効率 こうりつkōritsu
specimen / sample標本ひょうほんhyōhon
evidence証拠 しょうこshōko
verification / inspection検証けんしょうkenshō
atom原子 げんしgenshi
molecule分子 ぶんしbunshi
radioactivity放射能  ほうしゃのうhōshanō
concentration / density​濃度 のうどnōdo
coagulation / solidification​凝固  ぎょうこgyōko
fusion / melting / liquefaction融解 ゆうかいyūkai 

Examples:

  • この実験は新しい説の分析と検証です。
    Kono jikken wa atarashii setsu no bunseki to kenshō desu.
    “This experiment is an analysis and verification of a new theory.”
  • この地域は放射能の濃度が高く危険です。
    Kono chiiki wa hōshanō no nōdo ga takaku kiken desu.
    “This area is dangerous because of its high concentration of radioactivity.”
  • その物質は温度の変化により凝固と融解を繰り返した。
    Sono busshitsu wa ondo no henka ni yori gyōko to yūkai o kurikaeshita.
    “The substance repeatedly solidified and melted by changes in temperature.”

Two Researchers Experimenting with Liquids in a Laboratory

物質の濃度を測る (busshitsu no nōdo o hakaru)
“measure the concentration of the substance”

2 – Advanced Business Words

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
negotiation交渉 こうしょうkōshō
strategy 戦略 せんりゃくsenryaku
capital / fund資本 しほんshihon
stockholder /  shareholder株主 かぶぬしkabunushi
revenue歳入 さいにゅうsainyū
investment投資 とうしtōshi
securities  / stock証券 しょうけんshōken
loan / financing融資 ゆうしyūshi
repayment /  payment / settlement返済へんさいhensai
debt債務 さいむsaimu
mortgage /  guarantee担保 たんぽtanpo
credit債権 さいけんsaiken
assets資産 しさんshisan 
bankruptcy倒産 とうさんtōsan 
trademark商標 しょうひょうshōhyō
patent特許 とっきょtokkyo  
employment雇用  こようkoyō
dismissal /  termination of employment​解雇  かいこkaiko
company director  / board member取締役 とりしまりやくtorishimariyaku
board of  directors理事会りじかいrijikai 
permanent  employee正社員  せいしゃいんseishain
contract-based  employee契約社員 けいやくしゃいんkeiyaku shain 
outsourced  temporary employee派遣社員  はけんしゃいんhaken shain 

Examples:

  • その証券会社は巨額の債務を抱え倒産しました。
    Sono shōkengaisha wa kyogaku no saimu o kakae tōsan shimashita.
    “The securities company went bankrupt with huge debt.”
  • 新しい事業のため銀行から融資を受けたいです。
    Atarashii jigyō no tame ginkō kara yūshi o uketai desu.
    “I’d like to get a loan from a bank for a new business.”
  • 革新的な技術の特許を取得した後、その企業の株価が上がりました。
    Kakushinteki na gijutsu no tokkyo o shutoku shita ato, sono kigyō no kabuka ga agarimashita.
    “After acquiring the patent of an innovative technology, the company’s stock price went up.”

Several Colleagues Sitting Around a Table and Discussing Ideas

交渉を有利に行う戦略 (kōshō o yūri ni okonau senryaku)
“a strategy to negotiate favorably”

3 – Advanced Medical Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
medical care医療 いりょうiryō
  gene遺伝子いでんしidenshi
immunity免疫 めんえきmen’eki
artery動脈 どうみゃくdōmyaku 
vein静脈じょうみゃくjōmyaku 
blood  transfusion輸血 ゆけつyuketsu
spinal cord脊髄せきずいsekizui 
radioactive ray放射線 ほうしゃせんhōshasen
medical treatment / therapy治療 ちりょうchiryō
department of surgery外科 げかgeka 
  internal medicine内科ないかnaika
symptom症状 しょうじょうshōjō
infection感染かんせんkansen
inflammation炎症 えんしょうenshō
fit / spasm / seizure発作 ほっさhossa
paralysis / palsy麻痺まひmahi 
coma昏睡 こんすいkonsui 
tumor腫瘍しゅようshuyō
bruiseあざaza 
vomiting嘔吐おうとōto
diarrhea下痢 げりgeri
pneumonia肺炎はいえんhaien
cancerがんgan

Examples:

  • 日本の医療システムは国民健康保険で成り立っています。
    Nihon no iryō shisutemu wa kokumin kenkō hoken de naritatte imasu.
    “The Japanese medical system works with National Health Insurance.”
  • 昨日から嘔吐と下痢の症状があります。
    Kinō kara ōto to geri no shōjō ga arimasu.
    “I have had the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea since yesterday.”
  • その男性は発作を起こして昏睡状態になりました。
    Sono dansei wa hossa o okoshite konsui jōtai ni narimashita.
    “The man had a seizure and went into a coma.”

A Doctor Looking at an Image of a Human Body on a Screen

放射線治療で癌を治す (hōshasen chiryō de gan o naosu)
“cure cancer with radiation therapy”

4 – Advanced Legal Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
arrest逮捕たいほtaiho
detention / custody拘留こうりゅうkōryū
prosecution / indictment起訴きそkiso
probation / suspension of sentence執行猶予しっこうゆうよshikkō yūyo
arbitration / mediation調停 ちょうていchōtei
trial裁判 さいばんsaiban
court裁判所さいばんしょsaibansho
judge裁判官 さいばんかんsaibankan
plaintiff / accuser原告げんこくgenkoku 
defendant / accused被告 ひこくhikoku
public prosecutor検察官けんさつかんkensatsukan
imprisonment / penal servitude懲役ちょうえきchōeki
appeal控訴こうそkōso 
detention center / jail拘置所 こうちしょkōchisho
prison刑務所 けいむしょkeimusho
death penalty / capital punishment死刑 しけいshikei 
fraud詐欺さぎsagi
bribery賄賂 わいろwairo
tax evasion脱税 だつぜいdatsuzei
forgery / falsification / counterfeiting偽造 ぎぞうgizō
threatening / intimidation脅迫 きょうはくkyōhaku
theft / stealing窃盗 せっとうsettō
assault / act of violence暴行 ぼうこうbōkō
murder / homicide殺人 さつじんsatsujin 

Examples:

  • 彼は懲役5年執行猶予3年の判決を受けました。
    Kare wa chōeki go-nen shikkō yūyo san-nen no hanketsu o ukemashita.
    “He was sentenced to five years in prison suspended for three years.”
  • あの会社の元社長は脱税罪で刑務所にいます。
    Ano kaisha no moto shachō wa datsuzeizai de keimusho ni imasu.
    “The former president of that company is in prison for tax evasion.”
  •  日本には死刑制度があります。
    Nihon ni wa shikei seido ga arimasu.
    “Japan has the death penalty system.”

A Gavel on Top of a Book

裁判官の判決 (saibankan no hanketsu)
“judgment by a judge”

To review the basic Japanese nouns, please check out our blog post titled Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns.

2. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)

Below, we have divided the most important advanced Japanese verbs into two groups: general verbs and those that are formed using the word する(suru) – “do.”

1 – General Verbs

EnglishKanjiHiragana  Reading
force / compel強いる しいるshiiru
range / lie in a line / stretch out 連なるつらなるtsuranaru 
go through / pierce貫く つらぬくtsuranuku 
rub / chafe擦れるすれるsureru 
judge裁く さばくsabaku 
dedicate / commit / give捧げる ささげるsasageru 
prosper栄える さかえるsakaeru
prohibit / ban禁じるきんじるkinjiru
endure / bear / tolerate / withstand耐えるたえるtaeru 
deal / treat / handle取り扱うとりあつかうtoriatsukau
accompany / entail伴うともなうtomonau 
nod頷く うなずくunazuku
influence / affect / exert / cause及ぼす およぼすoyobosu 
become weak / become old衰える おとろえるotoroeru
control / regulate /  manage 取り締まるとりしまるtorishimaru
investigate / examine取り調べる   とりしらべるtorishiraberu 
remove取り除くとりのぞくtorinozoku
be made up of / consist of / be composed of成り立つなりたつnaritatsu
install / attach備え付ける そなえつけるsonaetsukeru 

Examples:

  • その地位は重大な責任を伴う。
    Sono chii wa jūdai na sekinin o tomonau.
    “The position entails grave responsibility.”
  • この古い建物は大きな地震に耐えてきた。
    Kono furui tatemono wa ōkina jishin ni taete kita.
    “This old building has withstood big earthquakes.”
  • 警察は彼を賄賂の疑いで取り調べた。
    Keisatsu wa kare o wairo no utagai de torishirabeta.
    “Police investigated him on suspicion of bribery.”

A Man Installing a Satellite Antenna for a Home

アンテナを備え付ける (antena o sonaetsukeru)
“install an antenna”

2 – Verbs Formed Using [ Noun + する (suru) ] 

This type of Japanese verb is formed with the following pattern: 

  • [ Noun ] + [ する (suru) – “do” ]

For example:

  •  運動する(undō suru) – “to exercise” 
    • 運動 (undō) – “exercise” + する (suru) “do”

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
fermentate発酵する はっこうするhakkō suru
make use of / have a command駆使するくしするkushi suru
vibrate振動する しんどうするshindō suru 
bear (a cost, a responsibility, etc.)負担するふたんするfutan suru 
deploy / lay out  配置する はいちするhaichi suru 
shut down / lock out閉鎖するへいさするheisa suru 
evacuate避難するひなんするhinan suru
criticize / blame / condemn非難するひなんするhinan suru 
intervene / interfere干渉する かんしょうするkanshō suru
collapse / break down崩壊するほうかいするhōkai suru

Examples:

  • ブドウを発酵させてワインを作ります。
    Budō o hakkō sasete wain o tsukurimasu.
    “Ferment the grapes to make wine.”
  • その建物は人々が避難した後に崩壊した。
    Sono tatemono wa hitobito ga hinan shita ato ni hōkai shita.
    “The building collapsed after people evacuated.”
  • 私が車の修理費を負担します。
    Watashi ga kuruma no shūrihi o futan shimasu.
    “I will bear the car repair cost.”

To review the basics regarding Japanese verbs, please check out our articles The 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs and Japanese Verb Conjugations.

A Car Engine

エンジンが振動する (enjin ga shindō suru)
“engine vibrates”

3. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)

As you approach an advanced level in Japanese, you should start strengthening your vocabulary with more nuanced descriptive words. Below is a list of Japanese adjectives to get you started. 

1 – I Adjectives

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
suitable / appropriate / compatible相応しい ふさわしいfusawashii
delusive / misleading / confusing紛らわしい まぎらわしいmagirawashii
grateful有難い ありがたいarigatai 
brave/ courageous勇ましい いさましいisamashii
shameful / pitiful情けない なさけないnasakenai
equal等しい ひとしいhitoshii
regrettable惜しい おしいoshii
great偉い えらいerai 
dangerous / critical危うい あやういayaui
hurried / busy / frantic慌しい あわただしいawatadashii
impudent / shameless図々しいずうずうしいzūzūshii
quick素早いすばやいsubayai
incredible / enormous / dreadful物凄い ものすごいmonosugoi 
odious / hateful憎らしい にくらしいnikurashii
chilly肌寒いはだざむいhadazamui
careful / cautious / vigilant用心深い ようじんぶかいyōjinbukai 
extreme / terrible甚だしい はなはだしいhanahadashii

Examples:

  • これはあなたに相応しい車です。
    Kore wa anata ni fusawashii kuruma desu.
    “This is a suitable car for you.”
  • 今日は慌ただしい一日でした。
    Kyō wa awatadashii ichinichi deshita.
    “Today was a very frantic day.”
  • 彼はとても用心深い男で、人を簡単に信用しない。
    Kare wa totemo yōjinbukai otoko de, hito o kantan ni shin’yō shinai.
    “He is a very cautious man, and he does not trust people easily.”

2 – NA Adjectives

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
immature未熟みじゅくmijuku
thoughtless / careless軽率けいそつkeisotsu 
generous寛容かんようkan’yō 
essential / main point肝心 かんじんkanjin 
depressed / melancholic / gloomy憂鬱ゆううつyūtsu 
sensitive敏感 びんかんbinkan 
quick / rapid / prompt迅速 じんそくjinsoku 
loyal忠実ちゅうじつchūjitsu
cruel残酷ざんこくzankoku
detailed詳細しょうさいshōsai

Examples:

  • 私はいつも肝心なところで失敗する。
    Watashi wa itsumo kanjin na tokoro de shippai suru.
    “I always fail where it matters.”
  • この化粧品は敏感な肌に適しています。
    Kono keshōhin wa binkan na hada ni tekishite imasu.
    “This cosmetic is suitable for sensitive skin.”
  • 自然破壊が進む残酷な現実に目を向けなければならない。
    Shizen hakai ga susumu zankoku na genjitsu ni me o mukenakereba naranai.
    “We must face the cruel reality of the destruction of nature.”

A Businessman Feeling Gloomy and Depressed After a Bad Day at Work

仕事で失敗した憂鬱な日 (shigoto de shippai shita yūtsu na hi)
“a gloomy day that failed at work”

To review the basics of Japanese adjectives, please check out Learn the Top 100 Essential Japanese Adjectives and -I vs. -NA Adjectives in Japanese on our blog.

4. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)

Another set of words you’ll need to add to your advanced Japanese vocabulary is adverbs. You likely know a few of these already, but below is a list of more refined adverbs you can start practicing right away. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
at once / right away / promptly / suddenly咄嗟にとっさにtossa ni 
just as one thought / as usual 案の定 あんのじょうannojō
by far / far off 遥かにはるかにharuka ni 
indeed / truly / certainly如何にもいかにも ikanimo 
taking the trouble to do / intentionallyわざわざ wazawaza 
dare to do / not necessarily to do 敢えて あえてaete
above all何よりなによりnaniyori
quite / reasonably / fairly結構けっこうkekkō
once / before / never beforeかつて katsute 
in spite of / regardless of​かかわらず kakawarazu 
as it is / as you areありのままarinomama  
naturally当たり前に あたりまえにatarimae ni
vaguely / ambiguouslyあやふやに ayafuya ni 
easily / lightlyあっさり assari 
properly / neatlyきちんと kichinto 
thoughtlessly / recklesslyむやみに muyami ni 
quite / very (emphasizing a size, frequency, etc.)ごくgoku

Examples:

  • 問い詰められて私は咄嗟に嘘をついた。
    Toitsumerarete watashi wa tossa ni uso o tsuita.
    “Being pressed for an answer, I lied promptly.”
  • 敢えてそうする訳を教えてください。
    Aete sō suru wake o oshiete kudasai.
    “Please tell me why you dare to do so.”
  • ごくわずかな違いで結果が大きく変わります。
    Goku wazuka na chigai de kekka ga ōkiku kawarimasu.
    “A very subtle difference greatly changes the result.”

Two People Bowing

きちんとお辞儀する (kichinto ojigi suru)
“bow properly”

5. Alternative Words for Greater Sophistication

Whether you aim to get higher scores on writing exams or you want to write proper sentences for official documents, using high-level vocabulary and the appropriate expressions will refine your writing. 

In Japanese, many basic words have more nuanced or formal synonyms. A great example of these advanced counterparts are 熟語 Jukugo (Kanji compounds), which are combinations of different Kanji that create words at different levels of difficulty and specify a meaning.

In addition, having a good command of 敬語 Keigo (“honorific language”) in Japanese is a sign of being at an advanced level, which is essential for official occasions and business settings.  

In this section, you’ll learn the more sophisticated counterparts of simple Japanese words, including frequently used Keigo.  

1 – Alternative Verbs

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
生むうむ (umu)to give birth / to generate / to produceto be born出生するしゅっしょうするshusshō suru
to be born誕生するたんじょうするtanjō suru 
to derive / to generate from something派生するはせいするhasei suru
to produce / to yield産出するさんしゅつするsanshutsu suru 
to generate生成するせいせいするseisei suru

始めるはじめる (hajimeru)to start / to beginto begin / to commence開始するかいしするkaishi suru
to start / to initiate始動するしどうするshidō suru
to start / to undertake着手するちゃくしゅするchakushu suru
to start / to get down to / to set about  取りかかるとりかかるtorikakaru
to start / to set up / to be established発足するほっそくするhossoku suru

言ういう (iu)to sayto say / to state述べるのべるnoberu
to speak発言するはつげんするhatsugen suru
to mention / to refer to言及するげんきゅうするgenkyū suru

見るみる (miru)to see / to look / to watchto view / to browse 閲覧するえつらんするetsuran suru
to stare / to gaze凝視するぎょうしするgyōshi suru
to watch / to look carefully注視するちゅうしするchūshi suru
to see / to visit (a temple, a shrine, etc.)拝観するはいかんするhaikan suru

食べるたべる (taberu)to eatto eat食すしょくすshokusu
to eat / to take in 摂取するせっしゅするsesshu suru

書くかく (kaku)to writeto write (a thesis, a book, etc.)執筆するしっぴつするshippitsu suru
to write / to transcribe / to take notes筆記するひっきするhikki suru

読むよむ (yomu)to readto read (books)読書するどくしょするdokusho suru
to read well or thoroughly 熟読するじゅくどくするjukudoku suru
to read carefully精読するせいどくするseidoku suru

描くえがく (egaku)to draw / to paint / to depictto depict / to portray描写するびょうしゃするbyōsha suru
to imitate and draw模写するもしゃするmosha suru

比べるくらべる (kuraberu)to compareto compare比較するひかくするhikaku suru
to compare and check each other照らし合わせるてらしあわせるterashiawaseru

調べるしらべる (shiraberu)to search / to look up / to examineto examine / to investigate調査するちょうさするchōsa suru
to examine / to inspect検査するけんさするkensa suru
to check / to inspect点検するてんけんするtenken suru

Examples:

  • 彼は新しい本を書き始めた。          →   彼は新しい本の執筆に着手した
    Kare wa atarashii hon o kakihajimeta.    Kare wa atarashii hon no shippitsu ni chakushu shita.
    “He started writing a new book.”
  • 実験結果の違いを比べます。     →      実験結果の違いを比較します
    Jikken kekka no chigai o kurabemasu.      Jikken kekka no chigai o hikaku shimasu.
    “Compare the differences in the experimental results.”
  • 車の調子が悪いので、エンジンを調べてください。        →  車の調子が悪いので、エンジンを点検してください。
    Kuruma no chōshi ga warui node, enjin o shirabete kudasai.     Kuruma no chōshi ga warui node, enjin o tenken shite kudasai.
    “The car has a problem, so please check the engine.”

2 – Alternative Adjectives & Adverbs

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading  
今いま (ima)nownow / present現在げんざいgenzai
今日きょう (kyō)todaytoday本日ほんじつhonjitsu
前にまえに (mae ni)beforebefore / earlier / back in the past以前いぜんizen
後であとで (ato de)laterlater on /  afterwards後ほどのちほどnochihodo
この先このさき (kono saki)from this time onfrom now on / in the future / hereafter今後こんごkongo
簡単にかんたんに (kantan ni)easilyeasily容易によういにyōi ni
もっと(motto)morewhat is more / furthermore / moreover更にさらにsara ni
even more / all the moreより一層よりいっそうyori issō
本当にほんとうに (hontō ni)reallyreally / truly正にまさにmasani
それぞれ(sorezore)eacheach各々おのおのono’ono
まだ(mada)yet / stillas yet / still依然としていぜんとしてizen toshite
少しすこし (sukoshi)a little / a fewa little / a small quantity少々しょうしょうshōshō

Examples:

  • 後で資料を送ります。            →   後ほど資料を送信します。
    Ato de shiryō o okurimasu.                Nochihodo shiryō o sōshin shimasu.
    “I will send the document later.”
  • 原因はまだはっきりしない。    →      原因は依然としてはっきりしない。
    Gen’in wa mada hakkiri shinai.                 Gen’in wa izen toshite hakkiri shinai.   
    “The cause is still unclear.”
  • 少し待ってください。          →   少々お待ちください。
    Sukoshi matte kudasai.        Shōshō o-machi kudasai.
    “Please wait for a moment.”

3 – 敬語 (Keigo) [Japanese Honorific Language]

Meaning KeigoKanjiHiraganaReading  
見るみる (miru)look / watch / seeRespectfulご覧になるごらんになるgoran ni naru
Humble拝見するはいけんするhaiken suru
食べるたべる (taberu)eatRespectful召し上がるめしあがるmeshiagaru
Humble頂くいただくitadaku
言ういう (iu)sayRespectfulおっしゃるossharu
Humble申す申し上げるもうすもうしあげるmōsumōshiageru
いる(iru)be there / exist Respectfulいらっしゃるirassharu
Humbleおるoru
する(suru)doRespectfulなさるnasaru
Humbleいたすitasu
行くいく (iku)goRespectfulいらっしゃるirassharu
Humble参るまいるmairu
くれる (kureru)give me/usRespectfulくださるkudasaru
Humble
あげる (ageru)give someone somethingRespectful
Humble差し上げるさしあげるsashiageru
知るしる (shiru)know Respectfulご存じごぞんじgozonji
Humble存じ上げるぞんじあげるzonjiageru
聞くきく (kiku)ask / listenRespectfulお聞きになるおききになるo-kiki ni naru
Humble伺ううかがうukagau

Examples:

  • [Normal Polite] 彼は流れ星を見ました。  Kare wa nagareboshi o mimashita.    
           (“He saw a shooting star.”)

    [Respectful]  こちらのデータをご覧ください。Kochira no dēta o goran kudasai.
           (“Please look at this data.”)

    [Humble]  求人広告を拝見し、応募いたしました。Kyūjin kōkoku o haiken shi, ōbo itashimashita.
         (“I saw the job advertisement and applied.”)

  • [Normal Polite] 彼女は会議で意見を言いました。  Kanojo wa kaigi de iken o iimashita.    
           (“She gave her opinion in the meeting.”)

    [Respectful]  社長は会議でご意見をおっしゃいましたShachō wa kaigi de go-iken o osshaimashita.
           (“The president gave her/his opinion in the meeting.”)

    [Humble]  私は会議で意見を申し上げました。   Watashi wa kaigi de iken o mōshiagemashita.
         (“I gave my opinion in the meeting.”)

  • [Normal Polite]  この新しい技術を知っていますか。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o shitte imasu ka.
            (“Do you know this new technology?”)

    [Respectful]  この新しい技術をご存じですか。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o gozonji desu ka.
           (“Do you know this new technology?”)

    [Humble]  この新しい技術を存じ上げております。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o zonjiagete orimasu.
         (“I know this new technology.”)

6. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most frequently used advanced Japanese words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and sophisticated alternative words. Although the Kanji is difficult at this level, once you conquer it, you’ll be able to successfully work in Japan and watch any Japanese movie without stress!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up other useful Japanese phrases for different situations, you’ll find more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese-language skills. 

If you want to review and check your knowledge of the intermediate level, the following articles will be very useful: Intermediate Japanese Words, Essential Business Japanese, and Japanese Phone Phrases. On the other hand, if you’re ready to press onward, then we recommend visiting our advanced Japanese course

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are Japanese words related to any specific topic you want to know! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you! 

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The Most Useful Japanese Phone Phrases

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Speaking on the phone can be stressful enough in your own language, let alone in a foreign language! 

Even after you’re able to have face-to-face conversations with native speakers, you’ll find that communicating over the phone is rather difficult. Phone calls are different from in-person conversations in that you can’t rely on body gestures or facial expressions to help get your point across or to understand what the other person is trying to say. 

Talking on the phone in Japanese may be especially difficult. You’ll need to memorize a specific set of Japanese phone phrases, as we use Honorific language, or 敬語 (Keigo), for most of our phone conversations. The exception is when we’re just having a casual chat with friends or family.

But don’t worry! There are only a few patterns to learn and you’ll see them all in this article from JapanesePod101.com.

Someone Dialing a Phone Number from Their Office

Let’s learn some useful Japanese phone call phrases!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Picking up the Phone
  2. Introducing Yourself
  3. Stating the Reason for Your Call
  4. Asking to Speak to Someone
  5. Responding to the Caller / Asking Someone to Wait
  6. Leaving a Message
  7. Asking for Clarification
  8. Ending the Phone Call
  9. Sample Phone Conversations
  10. Conclusion

1. Picking up the Phone

First impressions are critical! Let’s start by looking at some Japanese phone call phrases you could use to answer the phone. 

1. もしもし。 

Romanization: Moshimoshi.
English: “Hello.”

This is the most common way to answer a phone call in Japanese.

もし もし (moshimoshi) comes from the word 申す もうす (mōsu), which is “to say” in a humble manner. You can also add the word はい (hai), meaning “yes,” in front:

  • はい、もしもし。 (Hai, moshimoshi.) – “Yes, hello.”

Moshimoshi is typically used by the receiver to answer the phone, but the caller may also say moshimoshi before continuing in order to make sure the other person can hear.

2. はい、___です。 

Romanization: Hai, ___ desu.
English: “Yes, this is ___.” [Polite]

When you pick up the phone, you say はい (hai), meaning “yes,” and then state who is speaking. 

To give your name, make sure to place the general and polite predicate -です (-desu) at the end. Keep in mind that you should normally give your family name (as opposed to only your first name) when answering the phone in Japanese. 

3. はい、___でございます。

Romanization: Hai, ___ de gozaimasu.
English: “Yes, this is ___.” [Very polite]

This phrase is very polite and often used in business contexts, such as when answering a company phone. 

4. どちら様でしょうか。 

Romanization: Dochira-sama deshō ka.
English: “Who is this?” [Very polite]

This phrase can be used later on when you want to know who’s calling, but some people ask this when they first receive a call. You can make the phrase even more polite by placing this in front:

  • 失礼ですが… (Shitsurei desu ga…) – “Excuse me, but…” 

Examples

  • はい、もしもし、田中です。 
    Hai, moshimoshi, Tanaka desu.
    “Yes, hello, Tanaka is speaking.”
  • はい、ABC株式会社でございます。
    Hai, ABC kabushikigaisha de gozaimasu.
    “Yes, this is ABC company.”
  • もしもし、鈴木です。どちら様でしょうか。
    Moshimoshi, Suzuki desu. Dochira-sama deshō ka.
    “Hello, this is Suzuki. Who’s calling?”

A Businesswoman Dialing a Phone Number

もしもし (moshimoshi) – “hello” on the phone

2. Introducing Yourself

When you make a phone call in Japanese, it’s expected that you introduce yourself by stating your name and/or the company you’re representing. 

1. いつもお世話になっております。 

Romanization: Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu.
English: “Thank you for always being favorable.” / “It has always been a pleasure to work with you.”
Literally: “You always take care of me.”

This is a common Japanese phrase that does not translate well into other languages. It’s most often used in business communications, and it can be said by either the caller or the receiver. 


2. 私は___です。

Romanization: Watashi wa ___ desu. 
English: “This is ___.” [Polite]

This phrase literally means, “I am ___.” It’s a general and polite way to introduce yourself over the phone. 

If you’re calling a close friend or family member, you can say:

  •  ___ だよ。 (___ da yo.) – “It’s ___.”

In this case, you can omit the subject (私 watashi).

3. 私は___と申します。

Romanization: Watashi wa ___ to mōshimasu.
English: “This is ___.” [Very polite]

This is a formal expression that denotes humbleness and respect. It’s often used in business situations and other official contexts. 

4. 私は___の___です/と申します。

Romanization: Watashi wa ___ no ___ desu / to mōshimasu.
English: “I am ___ from ___.”

This is the phrase you would use if you were calling as a business person or staff member of a company/organization. In Japanese culture, the group is often considered more important than the individual (collectivism) and a business person or staff member is seen as a representative of their company. Thus, telling where you belong is important.

Examples

  • いつもお世話になっております。本田です。 
    Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu. Honda desu.
    “Thank you for your continued support. This is Honda.”
  • もしもし、私だよ。
    Moshimoshi, watashi da yo.
    “Hello, it’s me.” [Very casual]
  • 私はXYZ株式会社の山本と申します。
    Watashi wa XYZ kabushikigaisha no Yamamoto to mōshimasu.
    “This is Yamamoto from XYZ company.”

3. Stating the Reason for Your Call

Once the greetings and introductions are over, it’s time to let the other person know why you’re calling. Below are some phone phrases in Japanese for making reservations, asking for information, and more! 

1. ___ の予約をしたくて電話しました。

Romanization: ___ no yoyaku o shitakute denwa shimashita. 
English: “I’m calling because I’d like to make a reservation for ___.”

This Japanese phone call phrase is useful for booking a table at a restaurant, hair salon, etc. 

Vocabulary:

  • 予約をする (yoyaku o suru) – “to book” / “to make a reservation”
  • 電話する (denwa suru) – “to call”

2. ___について確認したくて電話しました。

Romanization: ___ni tsuite kakunin shitakute denwa shimashita.
English: “I’m calling because I’d like to confirm about ___.”

You can use this phrase when you want to check something. For example, you might say this while calling customer service to see if you can return an item or while calling a restaurant to see if you can change your reservation. 

Vocabulary

  • 確認する (kakunin suru) – “to check” / “to confirm”

3. ___のサポートが必要なので電話しました。

Romanization: ___ no sapōto ga hitsuyō na node denwa shimashita.
English: “I’m calling because I need support for ___.”

This phrase is useful for situations where you need some support. You might say this when calling a help center for software services or talking with a customer service representative for info on setting up a gadget.

4. 着信があったので折り返し電話しました。

Romanization: Chakushin ga atta node orikaeshi denwa shimashita. 
English: “I received an incoming call, so I called back.”

When you call someone back, just give your name and use this phrase.

Vocabulary

  • 着信 (chakushin) – “incoming call”
  • 折り返し電話する (orikaeshi denwa suru) – “call back”

Examples

  • もしもし、マッサージの予約をしたくて電話しました。
    Moshimoshi, massāji no yoyaku o shitakute denwa shimashita.
    “Hello, I’m calling because I’d like to make a booking for a massage.”
  • 自然災害によるキャンセル料について確認したくて電話しました。
    Shizen saigai ni yoru kyanseruryō ni tsuite kakunin shitakute denwa shimashita.
    “I’m calling because I’d like to check about a cancelation fee due to a natural disaster.”
  • 着信があったので折り返し電話したよ。何だった?
    Chakushin ga atta node orikaeshi denwa shita yo. Nan datta?
    “I received an incoming call and I’m calling you back. What was it?” [Very casual]

A Man in an Office Taking Notes while Talking on the Phone

着信があったので折り返し電話しました。(Chakushin ga atta node orikaeshi denwa shimashita.)
“I received an incoming call, so I called back.”

4. Asking to Speak to Someone

What if the person who answers the phone is not who you intended to call? You can use the following phrases to ask if you can be transferred to the right person. 

1. ___ さんをお願いします。 

Romanization: ___-san o onegai shimasu. 
English: “Mr./Ms. ___, please.”

This is a useful phrase that’s simple yet still polite. By stating the name of the person you want to speak to, it implies to the receiver that you’d like to be connected to him/her. 

さん (san) is a general and polite Japanese honorific (敬称 keishō) that is placed after one’s name. It’s normally used after a family name (苗字 myōji / sei) in formal settings, but it can also be used after a given name (名 mei). 

If we’re calling someone of a higher rank than us or just want to show more respect, we use 様 (sama). For example, we might use this when calling customers, clients, or guests. 

2. ___ さんはいますか。 

Romanization: ___-san wa imasu ka.
English: “Is Mr./Ms. ___ there?” [Polite]

This is a very simple and casually polite phrase.  

3. ___ さんはいらっしゃいますか。

Romanization: ___-san wa irasshaimasu ka.
English: “Is Mr./Ms. ___ there?” [Very polite]

This phrase is even more polite and respectful, which makes it ideal for use in formal situations. Use this phrase if you’re calling someone who is superior to you or deserving of great respect.

4. ___ さんにつないでいただけますか。 

Romanization: ___-san ni tsunaide itadakemasu ka.
English: “Could you connect with Mr./Ms. ___?”

This is another polite way you can ask to speak to someone.

Examples

  • 吉田と申します。原田様はいらっしゃいますか。
    Yoshida to mōshimasu. Harada-sama wa irasshaimasu ka.
    “I am Yoshida. Is Mr. Harada there?” [Very polite and respectful]
  • もしもし、お父さん?お母さんいる?
    Moshimoshi, o-tō-san? O-kā-san iru?
    “Hello, Dad? Is Mom there?” [Very casual]
  •  人事部の中田さんにつないでいただけますか。
    Jinjibu no Nakata-san ni tsunaide itadakemasu ka.
    “Could you please connect me with Mr. Nakata of the Human Resources Department?”

5. Responding to the Caller / Asking Someone to Wait 

If you’re the receiver and have been asked to connect someone, you may need to put the caller on hold for a moment and inform them if the person they’re inquiring after is not available. Here are some phrases you can use to do so politely: 

1. 申し訳ございません、___はただ今外出中です。

Romanization: Mōshiwake gozaimasen, ___ wa tadaima gaishutsuchū desu.
English: “I’m sorry, ___ is out of office now.”

This phrase is often used in business situations. It is proper Japanese phone call etiquette to apologize to the caller when the person they’re asking for is not in office.

In Japanese business settings, you don’t use honorifics (such as さん san) when saying a colleague’s name.

2. ___は本日お休みをいただいております。

Romanization: ___ wa honjitsu o-yasumi o itadaite orimasu. 
English: “___ is off today.” [Very polite]

This is a humbly respectful and very polite expression to use when the person they want is absent.

3. 確認いたします、少々お待ちください。

Romanization: Kakunin itashimasu, shōshō o-machi kudasai.
English: “I will check, please hold for a moment.”

When you need to check something and want the caller to wait for a moment, you can use this polite phrase. 

4. ___へおつなぎいたしますので、少々お待ちくださいませ。

Romanization: ___ e o-tsunagi itashimasu node,  shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.
English: “I will put you through to ___, please hold for a moment.”

You would use this phrase before transferring the caller to someone. 

Examples

  • 申し訳ございません、山田は本日お休みをいただいております。
    Mōshiwake gozaimasen, Yamada wa honjitsu o-yasumi o itadaite orimasu.
    “I’m sorry, Yamada is off today.”
  • 確認するね、ちょっと待って。
    Kakunin suru ne, chotto matte.
    “I’ll check, one moment.” [Very casual]
  • 上田へおつなぎいたしますので、少々お待ちくださいませ。
    Ueda e o-tsunagi itashimasu node, shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.
    “I will transfer you to Ueda, please hold for a moment.”

People in a Call Center

少々お待ちください。  (Shōshō o-machi kudasai) – “Please wait a moment.”

6. Leaving a Message

Especially during a business phone call, you might need to leave a message if the person you’re trying to reach is unavailable. Below are a few different ways you could do this. 

1. 伝言をお願いできますか。

Romanization: Dengon o onegai dekimasu ka.
English: “Can I leave a message?”

Use this simple phrase when you want to leave a message.

Vocabulary

  • 伝言 (dengon) – “a message”

2. ___さんに、私から電話があったと伝えていただけますか。

Romanization: ___-san ni, watashi kara denwa ga atta to tsutaete itadakemasu ka.
English: “Could you please tell Mr./Ms. ___ that I called?”

When you just want to let the person know that you have called, this phrase is useful and polite.

3. ___さんに、私へ折り返し電話するようお伝えいただけますか。

Romanization: ___-san ni, watashi e orikaeshi denwa suru yō o-tsutae itadakemasu ka.
English: “Could you please tell Mr./Ms. ___ to call me back?”

This is a polite way to ask for a call back.

Examples

  • 山口さんへ伝言をお願いできますか。
    Yamaguchi-san e dengon o onegai dekimasu ka.
    “Could you give a message to Mr. Yamaguchi?”
  • まゆみに、私から電話があったと伝えておいてね。
    Mayumi ni, watashi kara denwa ga atta to tsutaete oite ne.
    “Can you tell Mayumi that I called?” [Very casual]
  • 中村さんに、明日私へ折り返し電話するようお伝えいただけますか。
    Nakamura-san ni, ashita watashi e orikaeshi denwa suru yō o-tsutae itadakemasu ka.
    “Could you please tell Mr. Nakamura to call me back tomorrow?”

7. Asking for Clarification

As a non-native speaker, you might need to ask for clarification at some point during your Japanese phone call conversation. There are a few polite phrases you can use. 

1. すみません、もう一度言ってください。

Romanization: Sumimasen, mō ichi-do itte kudasai.
English: “I’m sorry, could you repeat again?”

If you can’t hear what the other person is saying, you can use this phrase to ask them to repeat.

Vocabulary

  • すみません (sumimasen) – “sorry” / “excuse me”
  • もう一度 (mō ichi-do) – “once again”

2. すみません、聞こえにくいです。

Romanization: Sumimasen, kikoenikui desu.
English: “I’m sorry, but it’s hard to hear you.”

You can use this phrase to tell the other person that you’re not hearing them well.

3. 電波が悪いようです。

Romanization: Denpa ga warui yō desu.
English: “It seems there is a bad signal.”

If you’re experiencing a bad connection, you can use this phrase to inform the other person. 

Vocabulary

  • 電波 (denpa) – “electric wave,” but it usually refers to a cell phone signal

4. もう一度ゆっくりおっしゃってくださいますか。 

Romanization: Mō ichi-do yukkuri osshatte kudasaimasu ka.
English: “Could you please say it again slowly?”

This is a very polite phrase you can use if you need them to repeat what they said more slowly. 

Vocabulary

  • おっしゃる (ossharu) – the respectful version of 言う (iu), meaning “say”

5. 確認のため繰り返しますと、… 

Romanization: Kakunin no tame kurikaeshimasu to, …
English: “Let me repeat it to double check…”

Use this phrase when you want to double check something, or to make sure you or the receiver understand things correctly.

Vocabulary

  • 確認 (kakunin) – “check” / “conform”
  • 繰り返す (kurikaesu) – “repeat”

Examples

  • すみません、聞こえにくいです。もう一度言ってください。
    Sumimasen, kikoenikui desu. Mō ichi-do itte kudasai.
    “I’m sorry, but it’s hard to hear you. Could you say that again?”
  • ごめん、聞こえなかった。もう一度ゆっくり言ってくれる?
    Gomen, kikoenakatta. Mō ichi-do yukkuri itte kureru?
    “Sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Can you say that again slowly?” [Very casual]
  • 確認のため繰り返しますと、私の電話番号は012334567です。
    Kakunin no tame kurikaeshimasu to, watashi no denwa bangō wa 012334567 desu.
    “Let me repeat it to double check…my phone number is 012334567.”

A Woman Inputting Her Credit Card Number into a Cell Phone

もう一度言ってください。  (Mō ichi-do itte kudasai.) – “Please repeat again.”

8. Ending the Phone Call

Finally, let’s go over a few different ways of ending a phone call in Japanese. 

1. はい、わかりました。 

Romanization: Hai, wakarimashita. 
English: “Yes, I understood.”

This phrase can be used during the conversation, but saying it at the end shows that you understood the conversation as a whole. In casual conversations, you can replace はい (hai) with: 

  • うん (un) – “yeah”

2. かしこまりました。

Romanization: Kashikomarimashita.
English: “Understood.” / “Certainly.”

This phrase is a humble and very polite version of わかりました (wakarimashita). It’s often used in business situations as well as in communications toward customers and guests.

3. よろしくお願いいたします。 

Romanization: Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.

This is one of the most frequently used untranslatable Japanese phrases. We often use it in business settings, especially when closing a conversation or ending an email. 

It literally translates as “Suitable favor please,” but it can have various meanings depending on the situation. For example: 

  • “Nice to meet you” 
  • “Best regards” 
  • “Favorably please” 
  • “Please take care of me”

In phone conversations, it’s used as a final greeting.

4. 失礼します。

Romanization: Shitsurei shimasu. 

This is another common untranslatable Japanese phrase used in formal situations. 

The literal translation is: “I do rude/impolite.” But when ending a phone call or leaving an office/meeting room, it means: “May I be excused.”

失礼いたします(shitsurei itashimasu) is even more polite.

Examples

  • かしこまりました。では、失礼いたします。
    Kashikomarimashita. Dewa, shitsurei itashimasu.
    “Certainly. Please excuse me now.”
  • うん、わかったよ。じゃあね。
    Un, wakatta yo. Jā ne.
    “Yeah, understood. Bye then.” [Very casual]
  • 明日の会議の件かしこまりました。よろしくお願いいたします。
    Ashita no kaigi no ken kashikomarimashita. Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.
    “I understood about the meeting tomorrow. Favorably please.”

9. Sample Phone Conversations

Now that we’ve introduced you to several useful phone call phrases, it’s time to see them in action. Below, you’ll find two sample phone conversations: one casual and one formal. 

1 – Casual Conversation (Two Friends)

A: 
もしもし、まりこ?
Moshimoshi, Mariko?
“Hello, Mariko?”

B:
もしもし、かなちゃん! どうしたの?
Moshimoshi, Kana-chan! Dō shita no?
“Hello, Kana! What’s up?”

A: 
今週の土曜日空いてる?
Konshū no do-yōbi aite ru?
“Are you free on Saturday this weekend?”

B: 
うん、午後からなら暇だよ。
Un, gogo kara nara hima da yo.
“Yeah, I’m free from the afternoon.”

A: 
___の映画の無料券もらったから、一緒に行きたいと思って。どうかな?
___ no eiga no muryōken moratta kara, issho ni ikitai to omotte. Dō ka na?
“I got the free movie tickets for ___ and I’d like to go with you. What do you think?”

B: 
ありがとう。いいね、見に行こう!
Arigatō. Ii ne, mi ni ikō!
“Thank you. That’s nice, let’s go watch!”

A: 
じゃあ、2時に新宿駅東口で待ち合わせしよう。
Jā, ni-ji ni Shinjuku Eki higashiguchi de machiawase shiyō.
“Well, then let’s meet at the east exit of Shinjuku Station at two o’clock.”

B: 
うん、わかった。土曜日の2時に新宿駅ね。
Un, wakatta. Do-yōbi no ni-ji ni Shinjuku Eki ne.
“Okay, noted. At Shinjuku Station at two o’clock on Saturday.”

A: 
じゃあ土曜日にね。バイバイ。
Jā do-yōbi ni ne. Baibai.
“See you on Saturday, then. Bye.”

B: 
うん、よろしくね。バイバイ。
Un, yoroshiku ne. Baibai.
“Yeah, thank you. Bye.”

2 – Formal Conversation (Calling a Client’s Office)

A:
はい、XYZ株式会社でございます。
Hai, XYZ kabushikigaisha de gozaimasu.
“Hello, this is XYZ company.”

B: 
もしもし、いつもお世話になっております。私はABC株式会社の田中と申します。
Moshimoshi, itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu. Watashi wa ABC kabushikigaisha no Tanaka to mōshimasu.
“Hello, it’s always a pleasure to work with you. I am Tanaka from ABC company.”

A: 
いつもお世話になっております。ご用件は何でしょうか。
Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu. Go-yōken wa nan deshō ka.
“Thank you for your continued support, too. How can I help you?”

B: 
国際部の上野さんにつないでいただけますか。
Kokusaibu no Ueno-san ni tsunaide itadakemasu ka.
“Could you connect me with Mr. Ueno of the International Department?”

A: 
確認いたします、少々お待ちくださいませ。
Kakunin itashimasu, shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.
“I will check, please hold for a moment.”

— a minute later —

A: 
申し訳ございません、上野はただ今外出中です。ご伝言を承りましょうか。
Mōshiwake gozaimasen, Ueno wa tadaima gaishutsuchū desu. Go-dengon o uketamawarimashō ka.
“I’m sorry, Ueno is out of office now. Would you like to leave a message?”

B:
はい、お願いします。送り状の件について確認したくて電話しました。上野さんに、明日私へ折り返し電話するようお伝えいただけますか。
Hai, onegai shimasu. Okurijō no ken ni tsuite kakunin shitakute denwa shimashita. Ueno-san ni, ashita watashi e orikaeshi denwa suru yō o-tsutae itadakemasu ka.
“Yes, please. I called because I’d like to check about the invoice. Could you please tell Mr. Ueno to call me back tomorrow?”

A: 
かしこまりました。上野へ田中様からのご伝言をお伝えいたします。
Kashikomarimashita. Ueno e Tanaka-sama kara no go-dengon o o-tsutae itashimasu.
“Certainly. I will send the message from Mr. Tanaka to Ueno.”

B: 
ありがごうございます。よろしくお願いいたします。では、失礼いたします。
Arigatō gozaimasu. Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. Dewa, shitsurei itashimasu.
“Thank you. Please do so. May I be excused now?”

A:
お電話ありがとうございました。失礼いたします。
O-denwa arigatō gozaimashita. Shitsurei itashimasu.
“Thank you for calling. Goodbye.”

10. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful and frequently used Japanese phone call phrases. Once you master this list of polite expressions, you can make or receive your next call in Japanese with confidence—whether you’re chatting with a friend or getting info from a customer service rep.

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up additional Japanese phrases for different situations, you’ll find a lot of helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help improve your Japanese language skills. 

Not sure where to start? Check out these articles: 

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover in a future article. What words, phrases, or cultural topics would you like to learn more about? We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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The Top 10 Japanese Filler Words

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When learning a foreign language, one studies the phrases and grammar rules laid out in their textbook or taught in the classroom. But once a language student begins to practice what they’ve learned in the real world, it’s not long until they encounter a number of unfamiliar expressions in the spoken language.

Filler words are a great example of this. 

Japanese filler words are small words or sounds often used to fill pauses in conversation, emphasize a point, soften a statement, and so on. 

Once you master Japanese filler words and start using them in conversations, you’ll begin to sound more and more like a native speaker. But while filler words can help your speech sound more natural, overusing them can be annoying or leave an undesirable impression of you on others. The key is to use them naturally and effectively. 

In this article, we’ll introduce the top 10 Japanese filler words, explain the characteristics and functions of each, and discuss the pros and cons of using them.


A Woman in a Yellow Sweater Standing with Folded Arms and Thinking

ええと・・・ (eeto…) – “umm…” You can use this Japanese filler when you’re thinking.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words?
  2. Top 10 Japanese Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Conclusion

1. What are filler words? 

Filler words are short words or sounds used to fill pauses in conversations, usually to let the other party know you’re not done speaking yet. In English, commonly used filler words and sounds include: 

  • “Uh…”
  • “Um…” 
  • “Er…”
  • “Well…”
  • “So…”
  • “You know…”
  • “I mean…”
  • “Like…” 

Although filler words and sounds add no particular meaning to the speaker’s statement, they do have a function in speech. As mentioned, filler words are most often used to let the other party know that you’re thinking about what to say next and that you’re not finished speaking. This signals to the other party that they should keep listening rather than take their turn to speak. 

Fillers can also be used for a variety of other purposes, depending on the context. For example, they can be used to… 

  • …speak more indirectly in order to be polite.
  • …approach a delicate topic gently.
  • …emphasize an idea.
  • …provide clues about the speaker’s emotions or behaviors.
  • …communicate uncertainty.

A Young Asian Woman in Deep Thought

Filler words are used to fill the little pauses in conversations.

How are they used in Japanese?

Filler words in Japanese are used in almost the same way as those in English.

Most Japanese filler words are casual. That said, some of them—such as あの (ano) and その (sono)—can also be used in formal/official situations. Others are only used by young people or thoughtless adults and are referred to as 若者言葉 (wakamono kotoba) or “young people’s words.” Fillers that fall into this category include てゆーか (te yū ka) and てかさー (teka sā).

In the following section, we’ll go into more detail about the usage of each commonly used Japanese filler word.

A Man Standing in Front of a Blackboard That Has a Thought Bubble Drawn on It

The most frequently used Japanese filler words are あのー (anō), meaning “um…” / “er…,” and ええと (eeto…), meaning “well…”

2. Top 10 Japanese Filler Words

#1 ええと (eeto) / えっと (etto) / えー (ē) 

English Equivalents: “er” / “err” / “uh” / “um”

This is one of the most common Japanese filler words. You can use it to indicate that you’re pausing to think or to precede something that you’re hesitant to say. 

While ええと (eeto) and えー (ē) can be used both casually and in formal situations—such as in an official speech or a business presentation—えっと (etto) should only be used casually. These filler words may be used multiple times in one sentence.

Examples

  • ええと、何を言おうとしていたんだっけ・・
    Eeto, nani o iō to shite ita n dakke…
    “Err, what I was trying to say…”
  • えっと、今から授業が始まるから、後でね。
    Etto, ima kara jugyō ga hajimaru kara, ato de ne.
    “Um, maybe later because the class is starting now.”
  • えー、先ほども述べた通り、えー、今期の営業利益はマイナスです。
    Ē, sakihodo mo nobeta tōri, ē, konki no eigyō rieki wa mainasu desu.
    “Uh, as I mentioned before, um, the operating profit of this period is negative.”

#2 あの (ano) / あのー (anō)

English Equivalents: “well” / “uh” / “um”

This is another frequently used Japanese filler word that can be used in both casual and formal situations. It’s very similar to ええと(eeto) and えー (ē), but this one can also be used to get the listener’s attention.

Examples

  • あの、ちょっといいですか、あの、言いたいことがあります。
    Ano, chotto ii desu ka, ano, iitai koto ga arimasu.
    “Err, can I have a minute, um, I have something to say.”
  • ええと、ここに問題があります。あのー、ようするに流通の問題です。
    Eeto, koko ni mondai ga arimasu. Anō, yōsuruni, ryūtsū no mondai desu.
    “Um, the problem lies here. Well, in a word, the distribution problem.”

Two Asian Coworkers Chatting Together After Work

田中さん、あの、ランチ一緒に行きませんか。
Tanaka-san, ano, ranchi issho ni ikimasen ka.
“Ms. Tanaka, um, would you like to have lunch together?”

#3 その (sono) / そのー (sonō)

English Equivalents: “well” / “uh” / “um” 

These are similar to あの (ano) and あのー (anō). They’re used to pause a little so you can think of what to say next, or before talking about a delicate subject.

Examples

  • 私は、その、これが良い案とは思いません。
    Watashi wa, sono, kore ga ii an to wa omoimasen.
    “I, uh, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
  • そのー、いわゆる、それはザイアンス効果によるものです。
    Sonō, iwayuru, sore wa Zaiansu kōka ni yoru mono desu.
    “Well, so to speak, it is due to the mere-exposure effect.”

#4 うーん (ūn) / うーんと (ūnto

English Equivalent: “umm”

This is the Japanese version of “umm.” It’s an example of 擬態語 (Gitaigo), or “onomatopoeia,” used to describe a state of “thinking.” You can use this filler to let the other person know you’re gathering your thoughts, or to precede something that you’re hesitant to say. 

Examples

  • うーん、どっちにしようかな。 うーん、この二つから決めるのは難しい。
    Ūn, dotchi ni shiyō ka na. Ūn, kono futatsu kara kimeru no wa muzukashii.
    “Umm, which one should I choose? Ummm, it’s hard to decide between these two.”
  • うーんと、今週の土曜日なら大丈夫です。
    Ūnto, konshū no do-yōbi nara daijōbu desu.
    “Umm, it’s okay on this Saturday.”

A Japanese Businessman Expressing Distaste for Something He’s Reading in a Folder

うーん、それはちょっと難しいです。
Ūn, sore wa chotto muzukashii desu.
“Umm, that’s a bit difficult.”

#5 なんか (nanka)

English Equivalents: “like” / “you know”

As a casual filler word, なんか (nanka) is similar to the English word “like,” but it has a nuance that’s more like saying “hey” or “wait” after noticing or discovering something that you want to share with another party. 

Examples

  • なんか、私にとってはどっちでもいいって感じ。
    Nanka, watashi ni totte wa dotchi demo ii tte kanji.
    “Like, I don’t care whichever.”
  • なんか、今日はいつもより道が混んでるよ。
    Nanka, kyō wa itsumo yori michi ga konde ru yo.
    “Hey, it seems there is more traffic today than usual.”

#6 ていうか (te iu ka

English Equivalents: “I mean” / “you know”

This Japanese filler word is very casual and it’s often used to express disagreement with something in a softer way.

There are a few variations of this filler, including:

  • なんていうか (nante iu ka) – “what do I say…” / “let me see..” 
    • This variation can also be used in formal situations.
  • てゆーか (te yū ka) – “I mean” / “you know” 
    • This one is very casual, and used primarily among young people.
  • てかさ (teka sa) – “I mean” / “you know”  
    • This one is very casual, and used primarily among young people. 

Examples

  • ていうか、むしろ彼に感謝したほうがいいよ。
    Te iu ka, mushiro, kare ni kansha shita hō ga ii yo.
    “I mean, you should rather thank him.”
  • ええと、なんていうか、この計画は見直しが必要だと思います。
    Eeto, nante iu ka, kono keikaku wa minaoshi ga hitsuyō da to omoimasu.
    “Er, I mean, I think this plan needs to be reviewed.”
  • てかさ、前にも言ったけど、勝手に私の部屋に入らないで。
    Teka sa, mae ni mo itta kedo, katte ni watashi no heya ni hairanaide.
    “You know, as I said before, don’t enter my room without asking me.”

#7 まぁ・・()

English Equivalent: “well”

This filler word is used to express hesitance or to mildly approach a delicate topic.

For reference, the sound ま (ma) has different nuances depending on how it’s said. For example:

  • まぁ!(mā!) – “Wow!” / “Oh!”
    • In this variation, there is an accent over the a in ma. It’s often expressed with a small Hiragana “あ.”
  • まぁ まぁ (mā mā) – “so-so” 
    • When the long mā is repeated, it means “so-so.”

Examples

  • まぁ、別に私はいいけど、他の人にも意見を聞いた方がいいと思う。
    Mā, betsu ni watashi wa ii kedo, hoka no hito ni mo iken o kiita hō ga ii to omou.

“Well, I don’t mind, but I think it’s better to ask other people their opinions.”

  • まぁ、仕方ないです。誰も天気をコントロールできないですから。

Mā, shikatanai desu. Dare mo tenki o contorōru dekinai desu kara.

“Well, it can’t be helped, because nobody can control the weather.”

#8 それで (sorede

English Equivalents: “so” / “and then”

This Japanese filler is typically used at the beginning of a sentence to start a new topic in the conversation or to ask for additional information. It can also be used to explain something involving a series of events. 

The short version of それで  (sorede) is just で (de), which is used very casually.

Examples

  • それで、週末に釣りに行く計画はどうなったんですか。

Sorede, shūmatsu ni tsuri ni iku keikaku wa dō natta n desu ka.

“So, what happened to the plan to go fishing on the weekend?”

  • で、何が言いたいの?

De, nani ga iitai no?

“So, what do you want to say?”

A Group of Four Japanese Students Chatting After School

それで、第2話はどんな展開になったの?

Sorede, dai-ni-wa wa donna tenkai ni natta no?

“So, what happened in the second episode?”

#9 そうか (sōka

English Equivalents: “is that so” / “I see” / “oh”

You could use this filler word to indicate that you’ve finally realized or understood something. 

.

There are two other variations you could use: 

1. そっか (sokka) – the very casual version 

2. そうですか (sō desu ka) – the most polite version using 敬語 (Keigo), or honorifics 

Examples

  • そうか、その形には重要な意味があったのか。

Sōka, sono katachi ni wa jūyō na imi ga atta no ka.

“I see, there is an important meaning for that shape.”

  • そっか、わかった!やっと謎が解けたよ。

Sokka, wakatta! Yatto nazo ga toketa yo.

“Oh, I understand it. Finally the mystery is solved.”

#10 そうそう (sō sō)

English Equivalent: “yes, yes” / “that’s right”

This filler word is used to affirm something or agree with someone.

Examples

  • そうそう! まさにこれが欲しかったんです!ありがとう。

Sō sō! Masani kore ga hoshikatta n desu! Arigatō.

“Yes, yes! This is exactly what I wanted! Thank you.”

  • そうそう、そういうこと!

Sō sō, sō iu koto!

“Yes, yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

Japanese people use a variety of filler words in their daily conversations. As these words are short and often found at the beginning of a sentence, you may easily pick them up while watching Japanese anime or TV shows, for example. 

But even though they’re simple to pick up, there are some tips to keep in mind regarding how to use Japanese filler words effectively and wisely!

1 – Pro: Using filler words makes you sound like a local.

Every language learner would appreciate the obvious benefit of using filler words: it instantly makes you sound more natural and “like-native” in everyday conversations. 

For beginners and intermediate learners, filler words can serve two key functions: 

1) Helping you avoid the awkward sentence examples sometimes found in textbooks

2) Giving you a simple way to gain time in a conversation to conjure up vocab words and construct sentences

If you have an advanced level of fluency, learning the differences in nuance and usage of similar Japanese conversation fillers can help you sound like a native speaker. Using them in the right contexts will impress locals and give the impression that you’re truly fluent.

A Group of Four Girls Sitting on Steps Outside and Talking

Using filler words in conversations makes it sound natural.

2 – Con: Overusing them can leave a bad impression.

Here’s the tricky part of using filler words. 

Overuse can create the impression that you’re indecisive and lack confidence. In addition, there are variations of Japanese filler words for different levels of formality; if you use overly casual ones all the time, people might think you’re childish or even stupid.

Especially in formal settings—such as when you’re giving a public speech, a business presentation, or an interview—it’s wise to avoid using filler words. This is because they will distract your listener(s) from the point you’re trying to make. It’s often pointed out that poor speakers frequently use えー (ē), あのー (anō), and そのー (sonō) in their speech.

In order to avoid overusing filler words in your important speech, and to give the impression that you’re a confident and smart professional, please consider the following tips. 

(1) Use short sentences.

You probably use filler words unconsciously, especially when saying a long sentence or when you have a lot to say. To avoid this, make the important points clear and state them in short sentences. This will keep you from needing to pause often or connect your ideas with filler words. Stating things clearly also makes a confident and crisp impression.

(2) Don’t be afraid to pause. 

Some people hate awkward silences in conversations. However, when giving a public speech or business presentation, you are the sole speaker. As such, you shouldn’t be afraid of long pauses or moments of silence. 

While many people feel that they must continue speaking and rush to find their next words, a short pause is actually an effective way to draw the audience’s attention. In addition, it gives the listeners more time to follow along with and understand the content of the speech. 

For these reasons, it’s better to pause every once in a while rather than filling that pause with unnecessary words.

A Man Scratching His Head

The repetition of filler words like あのー (anō…) and ええと (eeto…) in a presentation does not give a good impression.

4. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the top 10 Japanese filler words. We also outlined the pros and cons of using them in your speech and gave you tips on how to limit their use. How many of these Japanese filler words did you already know, and did you find any new useful ones?   

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and other useful Japanese phrases, you’ll find lots of helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

To learn more everyday Japanese, make sure to see our article The 10 Most Useful Japanese Questions and Answers. Or, if you’re curious how to pick up the language even faster, you’ll enjoy reading The Top 10 Japanese YouTube Channels to Improve Your Japanese.

And there’s so much more! Learn the language faster and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any not-in-the-textbooks spoken Japanese phrases you still want to know! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Say “I Love You” in Japanese with These Love Phrases

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Love phrases are often very romantic…

“My sweet love.”
“Your eyes are very beautiful.”
“You’re my dream girl.”

But keep in mind that Japanese love phrases are usually mild in comparison to those above. People could view you as a player or sleazy flirt if you use such artificial romantic words in Japan!

There are some things to consider before expressing your love in Japanese.

Japanese people are usually shy compared to Western people when it comes to expressing love. For example, while hugs and kisses are a common greeting between couples or good friends in Western culture, this is not common in Japan—even between couples. In Japan, thoughtfulness (気遣い [kizukai]) and caring behavior (思いやりのある行動 [omoiyari no aru kōdō]) are much preferred over very amorous words in romantic relationships. 

With such characteristics in mind, we’ll introduce natural and practical Japanese love phrases you can use at each stage of your romantic endeavors: first contact, your first date, taking your relationship to the next level, and even proposing marriage! At the end of this article, we’ll also show you some inspirational Japanese love quotes.

Learn Japanese love phrases here at JapanesePod101.com and win the heart of someone special!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. First Contact / Show Your Interest: Pick-Up Lines
  2. Get Closer: Phrases to Use While Dating
  3. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More
  4. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More
  5. Japanese Love Quotes
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

A Book with Two Pages Folded Down to Look Like a Heart

Learn some romantic Japanese love phrases that touch his/her heart.

1. First Contact / Show Your Interest: Pick-Up Lines 

When someone catches your interest at a bar, during an event, or even on the street, the following phrases are useful. For your first contact with this person, using the formal form (polite honorific) would be nice; it will give them the impression that you’re a polite and decent person. Unless you’re a teenager, talking to someone for the first time in the informal/casual form may sound like flirting. Nonetheless, we’ve included the casual form for each phrase as well. 

1 – 今ちょっといいですか。

Reading: Ima chotto ii desu ka.
Meaning: Is it okay to talk for a second? / Can I talk to you now?
Informal / Casual Form: 今ちょっといい? (Ima chotto ii?)

Example:

A:
すみません、今ちょっといいですか。
Sumimasen, ima chotto ii desu ka.
“Excuse me, can I talk to you?”

B:
はい、なんですか。
Hai, nan desu ka.
“Yes, what is it?”

2 – ここによく来るんですか。

Reading: Koko ni yoku kuru n desu ka.
Meaning: Do you come here often?
Informal / Casual Form: ここによく来るの? (Koko ni yoku kuru no?)

Example:

A:
このバー、今年オープンしたんですよね。ここによく来るんですか。
Kono bā, kotoshi ōpun shita n desu yo ne. Koko ni yoku kuru n desu ka.
“This bar seems to have opened this year. Do you come here often?”

B:
いいえ、初めて来ました。
Iie, hajimete kimashita.
“No, I came here for the first time.”

3 – 名前はなんて言うんですか。

Reading: Namae wa nan te iu n desu ka.
Meaning: What is your name?
Informal / Casual Form: 名前はなんて言うの? (Namae wa nan te iu no?)

Example:

A:
名前はなんて言うんですか。聞いてもいいですか。
Namae wa nan te iu n desu ka. Kiite mo ii desu ka.
“What is your name? Can I ask?”

B:
ええと、、さとみです。
Ēto…Satomi desu.
“Well…I’m Satomi.”

4 – 友達 / 彼氏 / 彼女と来たんですか。

Reading: Tomodachi / kareshi / kanojo to kita n desu ka.
Meaning: Did you come with your friend(s) / boyfriend / girlfriend?
Informal / Casual Form: 友達 / 彼氏 / 彼女と来たの? (Tomodachi / kareshi / kanojo to kita no?)

Example:

A:
今日はここに友達と来たんですか。
Kyō wa koko ni tomodachi to kita n desu ka.
“Did you come here with your friend(s) today?”

B:
はい、友達と来ました。あそこにいるのが私の友達です。
Hai, tomodachi to kimashita. Asoko ni iru no ga watashi no tomodachi desu.
“Yes, I came with my friend. My friend is over there.”

5 – 連絡先を聞いてもいいですか。

Reading: Renrakusaki o kiite mo ii desu ka.
Meaning: Can I ask for your contact information?
Informal / Casual Form: 連絡先を聞いてもいい? (Renrakusaki o kiite mo ii?)

Example:

A:
連絡先を聞いてもいいですか。ライン使ってますか。
Renrakusaki o kiite mo ii desu ka. Rain tsukatte masu ka.
“Can I ask for your contact information? Do you use LINE?”

B:
はい、いいですよ。私のラインIDは____です。
Hai, ii desu yo. Watashi no rain ID wa ____ desu.
“Yes, it’s okay. My LINE ID is ____.”

6 – また会いたいです。

Reading: Mata aitai desu.
Meaning: I’d like to see you again.
Informal / Casual Form: また会いたいな。(Mata aitai na.)

Example:

A:
もっとゆっくり話したいので、また会いたいです。
Motto yukkuri hanashitai node, mata aitai desu.
“I’d like to see you again because I want to talk more when we have more time.”

B:
そうですね。ここは少しうるさいので、今度はどこか静かなところで話しましょう。
Sō desu ne. Koko wa sukoshi urusai node, kondo wa dokoka shizuka na tokoro de hanashimashō.
“I agree, it’s a bit noisy here, so let’s talk somewhere quiet next time.”

7 – 今度一緒に食事でもどうですか。

Reading: Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō desu ka. 
Meaning: How about dining out together next time?
Informal / Casual Form: 今度一緒に食事でもどう? (Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō?)

Example:

A:
今度一緒に食事でもどうですか。
Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō desu ka.
“How about dining out together next time?”

B:
いいですね。平日は忙しいですが、週末なら大丈夫です。
Ii desu ne. Heijitsu wa isogashii desu ga, shūmatsu nara daijōbu desu.
“Sounds good. I’m busy on weekdays but weekends are okay.”

A Man and Woman Chatting and Laughing at a Party with Drinks

今度一緒に食事でもどうですか。 (Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō desu ka.) – “How about dining out together next time?”

2. Get Closer: Phrases to Use While Dating

After the first meeting and maybe a few message exchanges, you may think you’re getting to know the person better and feel closer to them. At this point, it’s okay to use the informal/casual form if you’re in the same age group as her/him and if you feel comfortable enough to talk casually. If the other person is much older than you, or if you still feel like you don’t know her/him very much, then talking in the formal register would be better.

8 – また会えて嬉しいです。 

Reading: Mata aete ureshii desu. 
Meaning: I’m happy to see you again.
Informal / Casual Form: また会えて嬉しいよ。 (Mata aete ureshii yo.)

Example:

A:
来てくれてありがとう、また会えて嬉しいよ!
Kite kurete arigatō, mata aete ureshii yo!
“Thank you for coming, I’m happy to see you again!”

B:
こちらこそ、誘ってくれてありがとう。
Kochira koso, sasotte kurete arigatō.
“Likewise, thank you for asking me out.”

9 – 手をつないでもいいですか。

Reading: Te o tsunaide mo ii desu ka.
Meaning: Can I hold your hand?
Informal / Casual Form: 手をつないでもいい? (Te o tsunaide mo ii?)

Example:

A:
手をつないでもいい?
Te o tsunaide mo ii?
“Can I hold your hand?”

B:
うん、いいよ。
Un, ii yo.
“Yeah, it’s okay.”

10 – ___ は 優しい / かわいい / かっこいい / 面白い ですね。 

Reading: ___ wa yasashii / kawaii / kakkoii / omoshiroi  desu ne. 
Meaning: ___ (insert their name*) is thoughtful / cute / handsome / fun. **
Informal / Casual Form: ___ は 優しい ね。 (___ wa yasashii ne.)

*Add さん (san) after their name when using the formal form. This gives a polite impression.
**In Japanese, calling someone by their name is more common than saying “you are…” (あなたは [anata wa]).

Example:

A:
仕事で表彰されたんですか、けんじさんはかっこいいですね!
Shigoto de hyōshō sareta n desu ka, Kenji-san wa kakkoii desu ne!
“You got awarded at work? Kenaji-san, you are cool!”

B:
ありがとう、褒めてくれて嬉しいよ。
Arigatō, homete kurete ureshii yo.
“Thank you, I’m happy you gave me a compliment.”

11 – 今日はとても楽しかったです。

Reading: Kyō wa totemo tanoshikatta desu.
Meaning: Today was really fun. / I enjoyed today very much.
Informal / Casual Form: 今日はとても楽しかったよ。 (Kyō wa totemo tanoshikatta yo.)

Example:

A:
一緒に過ごせて、今日はとても楽しかったです。
Issho ni sugosete, kyō wa totemo tanoshikatta desu.
“It was really fun today to spend time together with you.”

B:
私も楽しかったです。
Watashi mo tanoshikatta desu.
“I enjoyed it, too.”

12 – 彼氏 / 彼女 になってほしいです。

Reading: Kareshi / kanojo ni natte hoshii desu.
Meaning: I want you to be my boyfriend / girlfriend.
Informal / Casual Form: 彼氏 / 彼女になってほしいな。 (Kareshi / kanojo ni natte hoshii na.)

Example:

A:
僕の彼女になってほしいな。
Boku no kanojo ni natte hoshii na.
“I want you to be my girlfriend.”

B:
嬉しい、私も同じこと考えていたよ!
Ureshii, watashi mo onaji koto kangaete ita yo!
“I’m happy to hear that, I was thinking the same!”

13 – 私 / 僕 と付き合ってください。

Reading: Watashi / boku to tsukiatte kudasai.*
Meaning: Please go out / go steady with me.
Informal / Casual Form:  私 / 僕 と付き合って。(Watashi / boku to tsukiatte.)

*私 (watashi), which is “I” in neutral, is normally used by females; 僕 (boku), which is “I” in mild masculine, is used by males.

In Japan, 告白 (kokuhaku), which is a “confession” of one’s romantic feelings, is very common before becoming boyfriend-girlfriend in order to make it clear.

Example:

A:
はるかちゃん、僕と付き合ってください。
Haruka-chan, boku to tsukiatte kudasai.
“Haruka-chan, please go steady with me.”

B:
嬉しいけど、もっとお互いを知るために友達から始めよう。
Ureshii kedo, motto otagai o shiru tame ni tomodachi kara hajimeyō.
“I’m glad, but let’s start from friends to know each other more.”

A Japanese Couple Looking at Something Funny on a Cell Phone

君と一緒にいると楽しいよ。 (Kimo to issho ni iru to tanoshii yo.) – “It’s fun to be with you.”

3. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More

Once you’ve been seeing each other for a while, you might want to start expressing your deeper feelings for the other person. Here are a few romantic Japanese phrases commonly used among couples—feel free to try them out yourself, keeping in mind that they’re typically used in the informal/casual form. 

14 – 好きだよ。 

Reading: Suki da yo. 
Meaning: I like you.

This is the most common way to express your affection in Japan. When used toward someone special, the Japanese word 好き (suki), meaning “like,” conveys a more affectionate nuance than the English word “like.”

Example:

A:
好きだよ、早く会いたい。
Suki da yo, hayaku aitai.
“I like you, I want to see you soon.”

B:
私も、週末が待ち遠しい!
Watashi mo, shūmatsu ga machidōshii!
“Me too, I can’t wait for the weekend!”

15 – 大好きだよ。 

Reading: Daisuki da yo. 
Meaning: I like you very much.

This phrase is similar in nuance to “I love you,” in English. This is the most common phrase to express love toward a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Example:

A:
はるき、大好きだよ!
Haruki, daisuki da yo!
“Haruki, I like you very much!”

B:
何、いきなり。僕もだよ。
Nani, ikinari. Boku mo da yo.
“What is it suddenly? Me, too.”

16 – 愛してる(よ)。 

Reading: Aishite ru (yo).
Meaning: I love you.

This phrase is used when you really want to express that you love someone. It conveys a profound nuance, so it might sound cheesy if you were to use it too often.

Example:

A:
亡くなった妻の最後の言葉は「愛してるよ」でした。
Nakunatta tsuma no saigo no kotoba wa “aishite ru yo” deshita.
“The last word of my wife who passed away was, ‘I love you’. ”

B:
彼女はとても愛していたんですね。
Kanojo wa totemo aishite ita n desu ne.
“She must have loved very much.”

17 – XXXがいないと寂しいよ。

Reading: ___ ga inai to samishii yo.
Meaning: I feel lonely without ___ (insert their name). / I miss you.

Example:

A:
たかしがいないと寂しいよ。いつ出張から帰ってくるの?
Takashi ga inai to samishii yo. Itsu shucchō kara kaette kuru no?
“I feel lonely without you, Takashi. When do you come back from your business trip?”

B:
来週の金曜日だよ。
Raishū no kin-yōbi da yo.
“Friday next week.”

18 – 次はいつ会える?

Reading: Tsugi wa itsu aeru?
Meaning: When can we see/meet next?

Example:

A:
寂しいな。次はいつ会える?
Samishii na. Tsugi wa itsu aeru?
“I miss you. When can we meet next?”

B:
土曜日はどう?
Do-yōbi wa dō?
“How about Saturday?”

19 – 泊まりに行ってもいい?

Reading: Tomari ni itte mo ii?
Meaning: Can I come to stay over (at your place)?

Example:

A:
今すぐ会いたい!今日泊まりに行ってもいい?
Ima sugu aitai! Kyō tomari ni itte mo ii?
“I want to see you right away! Can I come to stay over tonight?”

B:
ごめん、明日は朝早く起きるから無理。
Gomen, ashita wa asa hayaku okiru kara muri.
“Sorry, you can’t because I have to get up early tomorrow morning.”

A Japanese Couple in Winter Clothes

大好きだよ。(Daisuki da yo.) – “I like you very much.”

Someone Holding a Bouquet of Roses behind Their Back

愛してるよ。(Aishite ru yo.) – “I love you.”

4. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More

Are you ready to commit? Do you look forward to spending the rest of your life with this person? Below are several love phrases in Japanese you can use to let your boyfriend or girlfriend know that you want to take your relationship to the next level. 

20 – 一緒に住もう。 

Reading: Issho ni sumō. 
Meaning: Let’s live together.

Example:

A:
一緒に住もう!どうかな? 
Issho ni sumō! Dō ka na?
“Let’s live together! What do you think?”

21 – ずっと一緒にいたい。

Reading: Zutto issho ni itai.
Meaning: I want to be with you forever.

Example:

A:
これから先、ずっと一緒にいたい!
Kore kara saki, zutto issho ni itai!
“From now on, I want to be with you forever.”

B:
うん、一生一緒だよ。
Un, ishhō issho da yo.
“Yeah, we will be together for the rest of our lives.”

22 – ___ がいない人生は考えられないよ。 

Reading: ___ ga inai jinsei wa kangaerarenai yo.
Meaning: I can’t think of my life without you / ___ (insert their name).

Example:

A:
ゆかがいない人生は考えられないよ。
Yuka ga inai jinsei wa kangaerarenai yo.
“I can’t think of my life without you, Yuka.”

B:
私もだよ。
Watashi mo da yo.
“Me, too.”

23 – 一生 幸せ / 大事 にするよ。

Reading: Isshō shiawase / daiji  ni suru yo. 
Meaning: I will make you happy for the rest of my life.

Example:

A:
愛してる。一生幸せにするよ。
Aishite ru. Isshō shiawase ni suru yo.
“I love you. I will make you happy for the rest of my life.”

B:
嬉しい!私も愛してる。
Ureshii! Watashi mo aishite ru.
“I’m happy to hear that! I love you, too.”

24 – 私 / 僕 の両親に紹介したい。

Reading: Watashi / boku no ryōshin ni shōkai shitai.
Meaning: I want to introduce you to my parents.

Example:

A:
私の両親に紹介したいんだけど、いつがいい?
Watashi no ryōshin ni shōkai shitai n da kedo, itsu ga ii?
“I want to introduce you to my parents, when is good for you?”

B:
僕はいつでもいいよ。
Boku wa itsu demo ii yo.
“Anytime is okay for me.”

25 – 結婚しよう。

Reading: Kekkon shiyō.
Meaning: Let’s get married.

Example:

A:
大好きだよ、結婚しよう!
Daisuki da yo, kekkon shiyō!
“I like you very much (I love you), let’s get married!”

B:
え?これはプロポーズってこと?
E? Kore wa puropōzu tte koto?
E? Kore wa puropōzu tte koto?

26 – 私 / 僕 と結婚してください。

Reading: Watashi / boku to kekkon shite kudasai. 
Meaning: Will you marry me? [In a polite/official way.]

Example:

A:
僕と結婚してください!
Boku to kekkon shite kudasai!
“Will you marry me?”

B:
はい、喜んで。
Hai, yorokonde.
“Yes, I’d love to.”

27 – 一緒に幸せな家庭を作ろう。

Reading: Issho ni shiawase na katei o tsukurō.
Meaning: Let’s make a happy family together.

Example:

A:
結婚しよう、一緒に幸せな家庭を作ろう!
Kekkon shiyō, issho ni shiawase na katei o tsukurō!
“Let’s get married and let’s make a happy family together!”

B:
嬉しくて泣きそう。
Ureshikute nakisō.
“I’m about to cry with joy.”

A Man Proposing to a Woman on a Bridge

一生幸せにするよ。(Isshō shiawase ni suru yo.) – “I will make you happy for the rest of my life.”

5. Japanese Love Quotes

A quote is a concise and comprehensible statement of a general principle that often expresses the truth of things. Here are some words of wisdom about love by well-known Japanese people.

自分に誠実でないものは、決して他人に誠実であり得ない。

[ by Japanese novelist 夏目漱石 (Sōseki Natsume) ]

Reading: Jibun ni seijitsu de nai mono wa, kesshite tanin ni seijitsu de arienai.
Meaning: Anyone who is not honest with oneself can never be honest with others.

Sōseki Natsume is a famous novelist and literary person, whose portrait is printed on the Japanese 1000 yen note

This quote is a famous line from one of his novels. It’s an enlightening phrase that tells us we need to be honest with ourselves before dealing with others.

恋愛は、チャンスではないと思う。私はそれを意志だと思う。

[ by Japanese novelist 太宰修 (Osamu Dazai) ]

Reading: Ren’ai wa, chansu de wa nai to omou. Watashi wa sore o ishi da to omou.
Meaning: Love is not a chance. I think it is a will.

Osamu Dazai was a talented but distressed famous author who left behind many well-known novels. Though he completed many written works, he also had many romantic relationships throughout his agonized life; he eventually decided his own fate (and that of his lover at the time) by committing a double suicide. 

His words are compelling, telling us that loving someone does not always occur by chance; we can also make the choice to love someone. 

本当の愛は見返りを求めない無償の愛。

 [ by Japanese singer, actor, director, composer, and author 美輪明宏 (Akihiro Miwa) ]

Reading: Hontō no ai wa mikaeri o motomenai mushō no ai.
Meaning: True love is love that asks nothing in return.

Akihiro Miwa is a famous entertainer who survived the atomic bombings of Nagasaki when he was young and has led a life full of ups and downs. Being viewed as a unique and unusual character back in the day, he went through a lot of difficult times. Considering his life experiences, his message is persuasive and resonates with many people’s hearts. 

そのときの出会いが人生を根底から変えることがあるよき出会いを。

[ by Japanese poet 相田みつを (Mitsuo Aida) ]

Reading: Sono toki no deai ga jinsei o kontei kara kaeru koto ga aru yoki deai o.
Meaning: Have a good encounter that can change your life from the ground up.

Mitsuo Aida was a famous Japanese calligrapher and poet who had studied Buddhism and zen when he was young. His poetry conveys messages about humanity and life, written in his unique style of calligraphy. 

This message tells us that an encounter with someone may completely change our lives thereafter, so it’s important to have good encounters.


Two Hearts Drawn in the Sand on a Beach

愛の格言 (Ai no kakugen) – “love quotes”

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced Japanese love phrases you can use at various stages of your romantic relationship. We also covered a few famous Japanese quotes about love to inspire and encourage you to act on your crush! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find even more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. To get you started, here are some more Japanese love vocabulary lists and inspiring Japanese quotes for language learners: 

And we have so much more to offer you!

For instance, you’ll gain access to our personal 1-on-1 coaching service, MyTeacher, when you sign up for a Premium PLUS membership. Your private teacher will help you practice your pronunciation and offer you personalized feedback and advice to ensure effective learning. 

Learn Japanese in the fastest and easiest way possible with JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments which of these Japanese love phrases is your favorite, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Japanese Negation: How to Make Negative Japanese Sentences

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When learning a language, negation is an essential part of grammar that should be mastered as early on as possible. This skill allows us to answer “no” to questions and form negative sentences, which in turn improves our communication with others. 

Japanese negation is not very complicated, but there are some points to note. 

As is often said, a language reflects the culture surrounding it. In Japanese culture, where people are expected to be polite and respect others, saying “no” directly is often considered to be rough and rude as it may offend others’ feelings. In order to avoid conflict and maintain 和 (wa), or “harmony,” Japanese people have particular ways of saying “no.”

In this article, we’ll introduce the Japanese negative forms and show you how to answer “no.” You’ll learn frequently used phrases that make polite impressions, in addition to other Japanese negating words and double negative expressions.

Ready to master Japanese negation with JapanesePod101.com?

A Hand Checking a No Box with a Marker Pen

Negation is an essential topic to master when learning a new language.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Negate a Statement
  2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question
  3. Other Japanese Negating Words and Phrases
  4. Double Negatives
  5. Conclusion

1. Negate a Statement

In order to make a sentence or phrase negative, you must negate the verb. There are two types of expressions used for Japanese verb negation: Informal (Plain / Casual) and Formal (Polite). In the following sections, we’ll show you how to conjugate verbs to the negative form for both informal and formal expressions, as well as in both present tense and past tense.

Before learning verb conjugations in the negative form, however, you first need to know the classification of Japanese verbs. All Japanese verbs are categorized into three classes: 

  • Ru-verbs
  • U-verbs
  • Irregular verbs 

Note that there are only two irregular verbs in the positive form (する [suru] – “do” // くる [kuru] – “come”) and three for the negative form (the previous two, with the addition of ある [aru] – “be” for the existence of non-living things). 

While Ru-verbs end in る (ru), U-verbs can end in various Hiragana with u-vowel sounds. These include る (ru), う (u), く (ku), す (su), つ (tsu), む (mu), る (ru), (bu), etc. 

Please check the Japanese Alphabet page on our website as well as our Japanese Verb Conjugation article for more details.

1. Informal Negative Form (Present Tense)

For the informal/plain negative form in the present tense, verbs in different classes conjugate in the following ways. 

  • Ru-verbs

Add ない (nai) instead of る (ru) after the verb stem. Let’s look at the Japanese verb for “to eat” as an example:

食べ (taberu) → 食べない  (tabenai)

Here, 食べ/ たべ (tabe) is the verb stem. 

EnglishVerb(Informal/Plain)HiraganaReadingNegative Form(Informal/Plain)Reading
see / look / watch見る みるmiru見ないmi-nai
eat    食べる たべるtaberu食べないtabe-nai
sleep寝る ねるneru寝ないne-nai
change変えるかえるkaeru変えないkae-nai
think考える かんがえるkangaeru考えないkangae-nai

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べない。
Watashi wa asagohan o tabenai.
“I don’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見ない。
Kanako wa yoru terebi o minai.
“Kanako does not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えない。
Kare wa yoku kangaenai.
“He does not think well.”

  • U-verbs

To conjugate U-verbs in the informal negative form, conjugate the Hiragana after the verb stem into あ段 (a-dan), which is the line in the Hiragana chart with vowel sound “a,” and add ない (nai).

Let’s look at an example using the Japanese verb for “talk” or “speak.”

(hanasu) → 話さない (hanasa nai)

As you can see, はな (hana) is the verb stem, and we changed the す(su) into さ (sa). 

EnglishVerb(Informal/Plain)HiraganaReadingNegative Form(Informal/Plain)Reading
talk / speak話すはなすhanasu話さないhana-sanai
go行くいくiku行かないi-kanai
wait待つまつmatsu待たないma-tanai
buykauないka-wanai
listen / hear聞くきくkiku聞かないki-kanai

*For U-verbs that end in う (u), replace う (u) with わ (wa).

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行かない。
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikanai.
“Children don’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞かない。
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikanai.
“He does not listen to what his parents say.”

彼女は安い服を買わない。
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kawanai.
“She does not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs

There are only three exceptions to the conjugation rules above, as shown in this table: 

EnglishVerb(Informal/Plain)HiraganaReadingNegative Form(Informal/Plain)Reading
doするするsuruしないshi-nai
come来るくるkuru来ないko-nai
be(existence of non-living thing)あるあるaruないnai

Examples:

私は休日に何もしない。
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shinai.
“I don’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来ない。
Basu ga jikandōri ni konai.
“The bus does not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がない。
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga nai.
“There is no money in the bank account.”

2. Formal Negative Form (Present Tense)

  • Ru-verbs

For Ru-verbs, change ない (nai) to ません (masen).

So, for the verb “to eat,” this would look like:

食べない (tabe-nai)  → 食べません (tabe-masen)

Negative Form    (Formal / Polite)Reading
見ませんmi-masen
食べませんtabe-masen
寝ませんne-masen
変えませんkae-masen
考えませんkangae-masen 

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べません。
Watashi wa asagohan o tabemasen.
“I don’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見ません。
Kanako wa yoru terebi o mimasen.
“Kanako does not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えません。
Kare wa yoku kangaemasen.
“He does not think well.”

  • U-verbs

Conjugate the Hiragana after the verb stem into い段 (i-dan), which is the line in the Hiragana chart with vowel sound “i,” and add ません (masen):

話さない (hanasa nai) →  話しません (hana shi masen)

As you can see, we changed さ (sa) into し (shi). 

  Negative Form    (Formal / Polite)Reading
話しませんhana-shimasen
行きませんi-kimasen
待ちませんma-chimasen
買いませんka-imasen
聞きませんki-kimasen

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行きません。
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikimasen.
“Children don’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞きません。
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikimasen.
“He does not listen to what his parents say.”

彼女は安い服を買いません。
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kaimasen.
“She does not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs

In the formal negative form, irregular verbs change as follows:

Negative Form    (Formal / Polite)Reading
しませんshi-masen
来ませんki-masen
ありませんari-masen

Examples:

私は休日に何もしません。
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shimasen.
“I don’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来ません。
Basu ga jikandōri ni kimasen.
“The bus does not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がありません。
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga arimasen.
“There is no money in the bank account.”

3. Informal Negative Form (Past Tense)

In the past tense of the informal/plain negative form, change the ない (nai) of the present tense informal/plain form to なかった (nakatta). This is done for all Ru-verbs, U-verbs, and irregular verbs.

  • Ru-Verbs
Negative Form    (Informal / Past)Reading
見なかったmi-nakatta
食べなかったtabe-nakatta
寝なかったne-nakatta
変えなかったkae-nakatta
考えなかったkangae-nakatta 

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べなかった。
Watashi wa asagohan o tabenakatta.
“I didn’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見なかった。
Kanako wa yoru terebi o minakatta.
“Kanako did not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えなかった。
Kare wa yoku kangaenakatta.
“He did not think well.”

  • U-Verbs
Negative Form              (Informal / Past)Reading
話さなかったhana-sa-nakatta
行かなかったi-ka-nakatta
待たなかったma-ta-nakatta
買わなかったka-wa-nakatta
聞かなかったki-ka-nakatta 

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行かなかった。
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikanakatta.
“Children didn’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞かなかった。
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikanakatta.
“He did not listen to what his parents said.”

彼女は安い服を買わなかった。
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kawanakatta.
“She did not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs
  Negative Form    (Informal / Past)Reading
しなかったshi-nakatta
来なかったko-nakatta
なかったnakatta 

Examples:

私は休日に何もしなかった。
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shinakatta.
“I didn’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来なかった。
Basu ga jikandōri ni konakatta.
“The bus did not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がなかった。
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga nakatta.
“There was no money in the bank account.”

4. Formal Negative Form (Past Tense)

In the past tense of the formal/polite negative form, add the expression でした (deshita) after the present tense formal/polite form for all Ru-verbs, U-verbs, and irregular verbs.

  • Ru-Verbs
Negative Form    (Formal / Past)Reading
見ませんでしたmi-masen deshita
食べませんでしたtabe-masen deshita
寝ませんでしたne-masen deshita
変えませんでしたkae-masen deshita
考えませんでしたkangae-masen deshita

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べませんでした
Watashi wa asagohan o tabemasen deshita.
“I didn’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見ませんでした
Kanako wa yoru terebi o mimasen deshita.
“Kanako did not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えませんでした
Kare wa yoku kangaemasen deshita.
“He did not think well.”

  • U-Verbs
  Negative Form    (Formal / Past)Reading
話しませんでしたhana-shi-masen deshita
行きませんでしたi-ki-masen deshita
待ちませんでしたma-chi-masen deshita
買いませんでしたka-i-masen deshita
聞きませんでしたki-ki-masen deshita

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行きませんでした
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikimasen deshita.
“Children didn’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞きませんでした
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikimasen deshita.
“He did not listen to what his parents said.”

彼女は安い服を買いませんでした
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kaimasen deshita.
“She did not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs
Negative Form    (Formal / Past)Reading
しませんでしたshi-masen deshita
来ませんでしたki-masen deshita
ありませんでしたari-masen deshita

Examples:

私は休日に何もしませんでした
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shimasen deshita.
“I didn’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来ませんでした
Basu ga jikandōri ni kimasen deshita.
“The bus did not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がありませんでした
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga arimasen deshita.
“There was no money in the bank account.”

A Man Wearing a Tie Eating a Salmon Filet with Vegetables

彼は肉を食べません。でも、魚は食べます。
Kare wa niku o tabemasen. Demo, sakana wa tabemasu.
“He does not eat meat. However, he eats fish.”

2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question

There are a few different Japanese negative forms and set phrases used to answer questions in the negative. Remember that saying “no” directly is often considered impolite, so this is reflected in how Japanese speakers give negative responses as well.

1. How to Say “No” to a Question

When you’re asked a yes-or-no question and want to reply “no,” typical answers are as follows:

With verb:

    いいえ (iie) – “no” 、+  — Negative Form 

Without verb:

    いいえ (iie) – “no”、 +  —では ない              — de wa nai  [Informal]

    いいえ (iie) – “no”、 +  —では ありません   —de wa arimasen  [Formal]

では (de wa) can be substituted with じゃ (ja), which is typically used in spoken conversations.

Examples:

[With verb]

Q: お肉を食べますか。(O-niku o tabemasu ka.) – “Do you eat meat?”
A: いいえ食べません。(Iie, tabemasen.) – “No, I don’t eat it.”

Q: 普段運動をしますか。(Fudan undō o shimasu ka.) “Do you usually do exercise?”
A: いいえ、日常的な運動はしません。(Iie, nichijōteki na undō wa Iie.) – “No, I don’t do daily exercise.”

[Without verb]

Q: この本はあなたのですか。(Kono hon wa anata no desu ka.) – “Is this book yours?”
A: いいえ、それは私の本ではありせん。(Iie, sore wa watashi no hon de wa arimasen.) – “No, it’s not my book.”

Q: 映画館の入り口はここですか。(Eigakan no iriguchi wa koko desu ka.) – “Is the entrance to the cinema here?”
A: いいえ、入り口はここではありません。(Iie, iriguchi wa koko de wa arimasen.) – “No, the entrance is not here.”


A Woman Holding a Plate and Refusing a Sausage

いいえ、お肉は食べません。
Iie, o-niku wa tabemasen.
“No, I don’t eat meat.”

2. Polite Expressions for Saying No in Japanese

Japanese people are expected to be polite and respectful to others, and they tend to avoid saying “no” directly because it sounds rough and rude. In order to say “no” without sounding rude, we often use クッション言葉 (kusshon kotoba), literally “cushion words,” or words to soften awkward topics, when rejecting an unwanted offer or invitation.

Following is a list of frequently used kusshon kotoba for saying “no” politely.

3. 残念ですが ___。(Zannen desu ga ___.)  – “I’m afraid but ___.”

Example:

A:
ビールをどうぞ。
Bīru o dōzo.
“Please have a beer.”

B:
残念ですが、私はお酒を飲めません。
Zannen desu ga, watashi wa o-sake o nomemasen.
“I’m afraid but I cannot drink alcohol.”

4. せっかくですが ___。 (Sekkaku desu ga ___.) – “Unfortunately ___.”

Example:

A:
無料券があるので、明日一緒に映画を見に行きませんか。
Muryōken ga aru node, ashita issho ni eiga o mi ni ikimasen ka.
“I have a free ticket, would you like to go see a movie together tomorrow?”

B:
せっかくですが、明日は予定があるのでご一緒できません。
Sekkaku desu ga, ashita wa yotei ga aru node go-issho dekimasen.
“Unfortunately I have a plan tomorrow and we can’t go together.”

5. 申し訳ないのですが ___。(Mōshiwake nai no desu ga ___.) – “I’m so sorry but ___.”

Example:

A:
来週末にホームパーティをやるので来ませんか。
Raishūmatsu ni hōmu pātī o yaru node kimasen ka.
“I will have a home party next weekend and would you like to come?”

B:
申し訳ないのですが、来週末は兄の結婚式があるので行けません。
Mōshiwake nai no desu ga, raishūmatsu wa ani no kekkonshiki ga aru node ikemasen.
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t go because there’s my brother’s wedding on that weekend.”

6. お気持ちは嬉しいのですが ___。(O-kimochi wa ureshii no desu ga ___.) – “I’m glad for your thoughtfulness but ___.”

Example:

A:
クッキーをたくさん焼いたので食べませんか。
Kukkī o takusan yaita node tabemasen ka.
“I baked a lot of cookies, would you like to have some?”

B:
お気持ちは嬉しいのですが、小麦アレルギーなので食べられません。
O-kimochi wa ureshii no desu ga, komugi arerugī na node taberaremasen.
“I’m glad for your kindness, but I’m allergic to wheat and I can’t eat them.”

A Japanese Man with an Uncertain Look on His Face while Reading Something in a Yellow Folder

Saying “no” directly sounds a bit too strong, or even rude, in Japanese.

3. Other Japanese Negating Words and Phrases

The basic Japanese negation forms are ない (nai) [Informal / Plain] and ません (masen) [Formal / Polite]. However, there are other negation expressions, such as those for partial negation, emphatic negation, and the imperative form.

Negation in Japanese can take the following forms:

 Partial Negation
  決して (kesshite)  
ほとんど (hotondo)  
これ以上 (kore ijō)
[Verb] (ない [nai] / ません [masen])
[Noun] + ではない (de wa nai)
[な na-adjective] + ではない (de wa nai)
[い i-adjective] + くない (kunai)

1. 決して ___ない (kesshite ___nai) – “never ___”

Examples:

同じ日は決して来ない。 
Onaji hi wa kesshite konai.
“The same day will never come.”

彼は決して嘘をつきません。 
Kare wa kesshite uso o tsukimasen.
“He never lies.”

その部屋へ防護服なしに決して入ってはいけません。
Sono heya e bōgofuku nashi ni kesshite haitte wa ikemasen.
“Never enter that room without protective suits.”

2. ほとんど ___ない (hotondo ___nai) – “barely/hardly ___”

Examples:

この公園にはほとんど人がいない。 
Kono kōen ni wa hotondo hito ga inai
“There are barely even a few people in this park.”

Mサイズはほとんど残っていません。 
Emu saizu wa hotondo nokotte imasen.
“There is hardly/almost no M size left.”

商店街のお店はほとんど開いていません。
Shōtengai no o-mise wa hotondo hiraite imasen.
“Most of the shops in the shopping district are not open.”

3. これ以上 ___ない (kore ijō ___nai) “no more/no longer/anymore ___”

Examples:

その子は怖くて、これ以上目を開けていられない。
Sono ko wa kowakute, kore ijō me o akete irarenai.
“The kid is scared and can’t open his eyes anymore.”

これ以上の幸せはありません。 
Kore ijō no shiawase wa arimasen.
“There is no more happiness than this.”

今日はこれ以上勉強したくない。
Kyō wa kore ijō benkyō shitakunai.
“I don’t want to study anymore today.”

4. 誰もいない (dare mo inai) – “nobody”

Examples:

ここには誰もいない。 
Koko ni wa dare mo inai.
“There is nobody here.”

この映画を見たい人は誰もいません。 
Kono eiga o mitai hito wa dare mo imasen.
“There is no one who wants to watch this movie.”

その試験に合格した人は誰もいませんでした。
Sono shiken ni gōkaku shita hito wa dare mo imasen deshita.
“There is no one who passed the exam.”

5. どこにもない (doko ni mo nai) – “nowhere”

Examples:

完全に自由になれる場所はどこにもない。 
Kanzen ni jiyū ni nareru basho wa doko ni mo nai.
“There is nowhere you can be completely free.”

靴下の片方がどこにも見つからない。 
Kutsushita no katahō ga doko ni mo mitsukaranai.
“I can’t find one of my socks anywhere.”

金のなる木はどこにもありません。
Kane no naru ki wa doko ni mo arimasen.
“There is no tree that money grows on anywhere.”

6. どちらも ___ない (dochira mo ___nai) – “neither ___ nor ___”

Examples:

りんごもみかんも、どちらも食べたくない。 
Ringo mo mikan mo, dochira mo tabetakunai.
“I don’t want to eat either apples or oranges.”

桜もひまわりも、どちらも咲いていません。 
Sakura mo himawari mo, dochira mo saite imasen.
“Neither cherry blossoms nor sunflowers are in bloom.”

どちらも大したことはありません。
Dochira mo taishita koto wa arimasen.
“Neither of them is a big deal.”

7. [Imperative Form] (“Do not ___.”)

 [casual/strong] ___(する)な              ___(suru) na 
 [polite/mild]   ___ないでください   ___naide kudasai 

Examples:

壁に落書きするな。 
Kabe ni rakugaki suru na.
“Don’t scribble / do graffiti on the wall.”

ここで子供を遊ばせないでください。 
Koko de kodomo o asobasenaide kudasai.
“Please don’t let children play here.”

この危険区域に立ち入らないでください。
Kono kiken kuiki ni tachiiranaide kudasai.
“Please do not enter this dangerous area.”

A Woman Holding Both Palms Out in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

私は決してお酒を飲みません。
Watashi wa kesshite o-sake o nomimasen.
“I never drink Sake/alcohol.”

4. Double Negatives

When negative forms are used twice in the same sentence, it’s called a double negative. While some double negative expressions intensify the negation, most double negatives cancel each other out and produce a positive. 

Keep in mind that when a double negative constructs a positive meaning, the nuance is not the same as that of a normal positive sentence. Rather, its meaning is closer to that of a negative sentence. Such expressions often lose their nuance when translated into English.

There are various double negative expressions in Japanese, but it’s recommended not to use them often (especially in business contexts), because using double negatives is not straight to the point and is a bit difficult to understand.

1. ___ないはずがない (___nai hazu ga nai) – “can’t be ___”

Examples:

彼がお酒を飲まないはずがない。 
Kare ga o-sake o nomanai hazu ga nai.
“It can’t be true that he doesn’t drink.”
[He definitely drinks.]

ここに置いた財布がないはずがない。 
Koko ni oita saifu ga nai hazu ga nai.
“The wallet I put here can’t be gone.”
[The wallet I put here should be here.]

天気予報によると、明日は晴れないはずがない。 
Tenki yohō ni yoru to, ashita wa harenai hazu ga nai.
“According to the weather, it can’t be not sunny tomorrow.”
[It must be sunny tomorrow.]

2. ___ないとも限らない (___nai to mo kagiranai) – “may possibly ___” / “perhaps it might be ___”

Examples:

いつも上手くいくからといって、次は失敗しないとも限らない。 
Itsumo umaku iku kara to itte, tsugi wa shippai shinai to mo kagiranai.
“Just because it always works well doesn’t mean it won’t fail next time.”
[It may possibly fail.]

その件について親が反対しないとも限らない。 
Sono ken ni tsuite oya ga hantai shinai to mo kagiranai.
“It is not always the case that parents do not object to the matter.”
[Parents may possibly object.]

努力すれば必ず夢が叶うわけではないが、叶わないとも限らない。 
Doryoku sureba kanarazu yume ga kanau wake de wa nai ga, kanawanai to mo kagiranai.
“Although making efforts does not mean a dream will definitely come true, it may not be the case that the dream won’t come true.”
[The dream may possibly come true.]

3. ___ ないことはない (___ nai koto wa nai) – “There is nothing ___ not do.”

Examples:

期限内に完了できないことはない。 
Kigennai ni kanryō dekinai koto wa nai.
“There is nothing I cannot complete within the deadline.”
[I am probably able to complete everything within the deadline.”

彼が知らないことは何もない。 
Kare ga shiranai koto wa nani mo nai.
“There is nothing at all that he doesn’t know.”
[He knows everything.]

強い意志と努力があれば、あなたは難関試験に合格できないことはない。
Tsuyoi ishi to doryoku ga areba, anata wa nankan shiken ni gōkaku dekinai koto wa nai.
“With a strong will and effort, there is no way you cannot pass the difficult exam.”
[You may be able to pass the difficult exam.]

4 ___なしには ___ない (___nashi ni wa ___nai) – “There is no / can’t ___ without ___.”

Examples:

この話は、涙なしには語れない。 
Kono hanashi wa namida nashi ni wa katarenai.
“(I) can’t tell this story without tears.”

ここは許可なしには通れません。 
Koko wa kyoka nashi ni wa tōremasen.
“You cannot pass here without permission.”

バナナケーキはバターなしには美味しく作れません。 
Banana kēki wa batā nashi ni wa oishiku tsukuremasen.
“Banana cakes cannot be made delicious without butter.”

Storm Clouds Forming

今日は雨が降らないとも限らない。
Kyō wa ame ga furanai to mo kagiranai.
(“It might rain today.” / “It wouldn’t be that it won’t rain today.”)

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced Japanese negation and discussed a number of relevant topics: 

  • negative expressions for answering “no” to questions 
  • being polite when rejecting an invitation
  • using partial negation
  • double negatives

Although Japanese has informal and formal forms to remember, Japanese negation is easy to handle once you learn the patterns! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and other useful Japanese phrases for any situation, you’ll find more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

To learn more about Japanese grammar and syntax, check out the following blog posts: 

And there’s so much more! Learn Japanese faster and truly enjoy studying the language at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any Japanese grammatical rules you still want to know! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese?

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If you’re like most aspiring learners, you may be wondering: How long does it take to learn Japanese? Some people think that learning Japanese is too hard, that it takes forever and requires tremendous painstaking effort. But is that really true?

The answer to this question varies depending on multiple factors, such as your…

  • …mother tongue.
  • …educational background.
  • …previous language learning experience.
  • …level of interest and enthusiasm.
  • …learning goals.
  • …study methods.

In this article, we’ll give you some insight on how long it takes to learn Japanese for the different proficiency levels, keeping these influencing factors in mind. We’ll also provide tips to help you make the most of your study time. 

Are you ready? Set your goals and join JapanesePod101.com on the first step of your language learning journey!

A Woman Holding a Map While Traveling

How long does it take to learn Japanese and how can you reach your goals faster?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japanese Learning Overview
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

1. Japanese Learning Overview 

Before we get into the details, let’s go over how the proficiency levels are defined. This will give you a good idea of what to expect at each stage of your learning journey and give you the knowledge you need to prepare accordingly. 

Language Difficulty Rankings

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) projects how difficult it will be and how long it will take for an English speaker to achieve a “Professional Working Proficiency” level in a given language. The difficulty levels are grouped into five categories, from the easiest languages (Category I) to the most difficult (Category IV). Category I languages are the most similar to English, and Category IV languages are the least similar.

Although the length of time needed to achieve proficiency can vary depending on many factors, FSI estimates the average approximate time for Category I languages to be 24-30 weeks (600-750 class hours). On the other hand, Category IV languages like Japanese take about 88 weeks (2200 class hours) to learn. Japanese is considered an “exceptionally difficult” language for native English speakers to master.

This assessment includes proficiency in reading, one of the most difficult parts of le/arning Japanese. The Japanese writing system is very different from the English alphabet, so many English speakers struggle to adapt. 

That said, you can expect the learning process to be less difficult if your goal has more to do with speaking and listening (such as being able to make conversation and watch Japanese movies without subtitles). There are also some areas where Japanese is simpler than English, which can make learning the language a bit easier. For example, Japanese has fewer vowel and consonant sounds, simple rules for using tense, no plural form or articles, and no verb conjugations according to person.

    → Please see our article Is Japanese Hard to Learn? in order to discover the easiest and most difficult aspects of the language.

JLPT: Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

The JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) is an official standardized criterion-referenced test that evaluates and certifies the Japanese-language proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers. It assesses language knowledge (grammar and vocabulary), reading ability, and listening ability.

The JLPT has five levels: N1 (the most difficult), N2, N3, N4, and N5 (the easiest).

N1AdvancedThe ability to understand all of the Japanese used in different everyday contexts. 
N2Pre-AdvancedThe ability to understand the majority of Japanese phrases used in different everyday contexts. 
N3Intermediate The ability to understand some of the Japanese phrases used in everyday situations.
N4ElementaryThe ability to understand basic Japanese.
N5BeginnerThe ability to understand some basic Japanese.

The Japanese Language Education Center shows the study-hour data for JLPT by level, as well as the comparison between students with and without prior Kanji knowledge. The information indicates that students without prior Kanji knowledge will need more study time to reach each level.

[JLPT Study-Hour Comparison Data 2010-2015]

 Students with Kanji Knowledge (e.g. speakers of Chinese or Korean)Students without Kanji Knowledge
N11700~2600 hours3000~4800 hours
N21150~1800 hours1600~2800 hours
N3700~1100 hours950~1700 hours
N4400~700 hours575~1000 hours
N5250~450 hours325~600 hours
Businessman Climbing Ladders and Charting Their Success

Make progress step by step to increase your language proficiency level.

Influencing Factors

That being said, there are numerous factors that influence how long it takes to learn Japanese.

Your Mother Tongue / Language Learning Experience

If your native language is similar to your target language, the learning process will be much faster and easier than if you tried learning a very different language. Likewise, if you have some language learning experience and are somewhat familiar with your target language already, this will definitely help you learn faster and more effectively.  

In this regard, English speakers and learners unfortunately have little privilege when it comes to learning Japanese. 

The classification of the Japonic languages (Japanese and its dialects) is still unclear, but many linguists see the Japonic languages as an independent family. Thus, Japanese doesn’t really have a family of close and similar languages, such as the Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, and French). 

However, Japanese Kanji characters were originally brought from Ancient China and incorporated into Japanese. Although Chinese people cannot read or pronounce Japanese Kanji, they can often guess their meanings. While Chinese grammar and phonetics are very different from those of Japanese, the Korean language has some grammatical and phonetic similarities. Therefore, Chinese and Korean speakers (as well as learners of these languages) have a slight advantage when it comes to learning Japanese.

    → For more about the Japanese language, please see Japanese Language Overview: All the Facts You Need to Know.

Your Learning Goal / Motivation 

What is your definition of ‘learning Japanese’ and what is your learning goal? 

If your goal is to learn basic survival Japanese for traveling, then it won’t take very long to achieve. You would only have to learn some essential greetings and other useful phrases. 

However, it would take a lot of time and effort to reach a level where you could watch Japanese movies and anime without subtitles, or speak fluently with Japanese natives. This requires good speaking and listening skills.

Learning to read and write high-level Kanji would also require a lot of time and effort. You would need to attain solid grammatical knowledge and gain a good command of Kanji. This would allow you to read Japanese newspapers and write official documents. 

Whatever your learning goal may be, your motivation and enthusiasm play an important role as well. Whether you’re a big fan of Japanese culture and anime or you wish to live and work in Japan, your motivation impacts your level of commitment and your attitude toward learning Japanese. Your level of motivation determines how much time and effort you’re willing to dedicate to learning.

Study Method / Time You Dedicate to Learning 

As the proverb says, “There is no royal road to learning.” The more time you spend, the more knowledge you get. The accumulation of small but continuous effort is important.

Even for the same hour spent on language learning, the results you’d get will differ depending on how you’re learning and how that time was used. For example, were you watching Japanese anime, reading a textbook, or talking with a Japanese teacher in class?

If you want to focus on daily conversations, then reading a textbook about grammar may not be the best learning method. You would probably fare better talking with a Japanese tutor online and watching Japanese movies with subtitles, as this would improve your speaking and listening skills faster.

Once you set your goal, try to find the best learning methods for your purposes. There are multiple options you can work on from your home, even if you’re outside of Japan. These include online lessons and online tutoring for more effective learning, and using YouTube and Netflix for a more laid-back and fun approach to studying.

A Laptop, Phone, and Tablets

Thanks to the internet, there are numerous ways we can learn from anywhere.

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner Level?

Those who are thinking of starting to learn Japanese often wonder where to start, what to aim for as a beginner, and how long it will take to reach the beginner level. In this section, we’ll answer these questions and provide you with tips for how to learn Japanese effectively at this stage. 

JLPT: N5 & N4 Levels

Even if you don’t take an actual exam, JLPT can be a good guideline to help you know what needs to be done to achieve a certain level. If you want to reach the N5 & N4 levels, you’ll need to build a foundation by learning the basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary.

N5 Level: Beginner

Reading

You should be able to… 

  • …understand typical daily expressions and sentences written in Hiragana, Katakana, and very basic Kanji. 

[Example Exercise]

A: 
あの 人 は だれ です か。
Ano hito wa dare desu ka.
Who is that person?

B: 
かれ は 田中さん です。
Kare wa Tanaka-san desu.
He is Mr. Tanaka.

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …listen to and comprehend conversations about topics regularly encountered in daily life and classroom situations. 
  • …pick up necessary information from short conversations spoken slowly. 

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to a question and a conversation and choose the best answer.



男の人と女の人が話しています。男の人は何時に寝ましたか。
Otoko no hito to onna no hito ga hanashite imasu. Otoko no hito wa nan-ji ni nemashita ka.
The man and the woman are talking. What time did the man go to bed?



(女/woman) 
眠そうな顔してるね。 
Nemusō na kao shiteru ne. 
You look sleepy.

(男/man)      
昨夜は遅くまで勉強していて。
Sakuya wa osoku made benkyō shite ite. 
I was studying until late last night.

(女/woman) 
何時ごろ寝たの? 
Nan-ji goro neta no?
Around what time did you go to bed?

(男/man)      
3時半ごろ。
San-ji han goro.
Around three thirty.

N4 Level: Elementary

Reading

You should be able to…

  • …read and understand passages on familiar everyday topics written in basic vocabulary and Kanji. 

[Example Exercise]

パスポート ばんごう を おしえて ください。 
Pasupōto bangō o oshiete kudasai. 
Please tell me the passport number.

ここ に あなた の うちの じゅうしょ を かいて ください。
Koko ni anata no uchi no jūsho o kaite kudasai
Please write your home address here.

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …listen to and comprehend conversations encountered in daily life and generally follow their contents (provided that they’re spoken slowly).

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to the question and answer options, and choose the best answer.



仕事が終わって帰ります。何と言いますか。
Shigoto ga owatte kaerimasu. Nan to iimasu ka.
(You) finished work and are going home. What do you say?

おじゃまします。(Ojama shimasu.)
お大事に。(Odaiji ni.)
お先に失礼します。(Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.)

Native English speakers, or those who do not have previous Kanji knowledge, need approximately 325-600 hours of studying for N5 and 575-1000 hours for N4 level.

JLPT assesses mainly reading and listening skills, so you may need to put in some extra effort to write and speak at such levels. 

How to Get to Elementary Level Faster

The most important thing for beginners to do is familiarize themselves with the Japanese language. You can get used to Japanese sentence structure, pronunciation, and basic vocabulary by doing simple exercises and repeating them until you feel comfortable with the content or concepts. With apps and online lessons, you can study anytime and anywhere.

Apps: 

Imiwa? and Japanese by Renzo Inc. are dictionary apps that allow you to look up any Japanese word you want to know. You can also use them to check the reading of Kanji, learn how to write Kanji, and see some usage examples.

The NHK Easy Japanese News app is a news app provided by Japan’s national broadcaster. It provides news articles written in simple sentences with 振り仮名 (furigana), or reading aid, for Kanji. 

Online Lessons: 

JapanesePod101.com offers informative yet fun audio and video lessons for absolute beginners. Together with grammar essentials, you’ll learn real and practical spoken Japanese. Our short and easy-to-understand lessons will keep you hooked from Level 1.

A Woman Reading a Book on a Bus

To learn a language, the output of knowledge is just as important as the input.

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Intermediate Level?

Depending on your goals, the next logical step is probably to learn even more and reach an intermediate level of fluency. So how long will it take you to learn Japanese to such an extent, and how can you get there? 

JLPT: N3 Level

Reading

You should be able to…

  • …read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics.
  • …grasp summarized information such as newspaper headlines. 
  • …read the kind of writing encountered in everyday situations that may be a bit more difficult, understanding the main points (as long as alternative phrases are available to you if needed). 

[Example] 

山本さんはクラスの代表に選ばれた。 
Yamamoto-san wa kurasu no daihyō ni erabareta.
Mr./Ms. Yamamoto was selected as a representative of the class.

その会社は海外から輸入したバッグを日本で売っている。
Sono kaisha wa kaigai kara yunyū shita baggu o Nihon de utte iru
The company sells bags in Japan which they imported from abroad.

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …listen to and comprehend coherent everyday conversations spoken at near-natural speed, while following most of the spoken content and determining the relationships of the people speaking. 

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to the question and answer options, and choose the best answer.



試験に合格したので先生に伝えたいです。何と言いますか。
Shiken ni gōkaku shita node sensei ni tsutaetai desu. Nan to iimasu ka.
(You) passed the exam and you want to tell this to the teacher. What do you say?

1 – 今回はおめでとうございます。(Konkai wa omedetō gozaimasu.) – Congratulations this time.
2 – 今度、合格なさいました。(Kondo, gōkaku nasaimashita.) – This time (he) passed. [in respectful form for others]
3 – おかげさまで、試験に受かりました。(Okage-sama de, shiken ni ukarimashita.) – Thanks to you, I passed the exam.

For native English speakers, it’s estimated that around 950-1700 hours of studying is needed to achieve the N3 level. 

How to Get to Intermediate Level Faster

To reach the intermediate level, you need to increase your knowledge of more complex grammar concepts and memorize a variety of everyday vocabulary words and phrases. In addition, it’s time to get used to the natural and native speaking speed. In order to achieve that, the amount of output is just as important as the amount of input—in other words, you need to practice active listening as well as speaking. Textbooks and lessons can only teach you so much! 

Paper Materials: 

Master intermediate-level grammar from your textbooks, and consider reading light novels and magazines to increase your daily input of Japanese.

Apps: 

Wondering how to learn more Japanese vocabulary? Anki is an intelligent flashcard app that helps you memorize words more easily and increase your vocabulary. 

Once you know the basics of how to compose Japanese sentences and have a solid vocabulary base, it’s time to start practicing. Hello Talk is a language exchange app that you can download on iOS or Android devices. With this app, you can find Japanese online friends to talk to.

Audio/Video Materials: 

There’s a variety of audio/video sources for learning Japanese out there. YouTube and Netflix are easy options. Immerse yourself in Japanese-speaking environments every day—right from the comfort of your couch! 

Need some recommendations? Then check out the following blog posts on JapanesePod101.com: 

Online Lessons and Online Tutoring:  
In addition to online lessons, useful vocab lists, and insightful articles on various topics, JapanesePod101.com provides a one-on-one tutoring service called MyTeacher. This service allows you to interact with your own personal teacher, who can help you personalize your learning program based on your progress and provide you with valuable feedback.

Four Girls Sitting on the Stairs and Talking

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Advanced Level?

Are you looking to become completely fluent in Japanese? Then be prepared to dedicate a lot of your time and effort to the task. This is a long journey, and you might begin to feel like you’re not progressing anymore no matter how much time you spend studying. Your progress may be slower than it was reaching the previous two levels, but every small effort counts. You’ll surely advance if you keep at it and don’t give up! 

1. JLPT: N2 & N1 Level 

N2 Level: Pre-Advanced

Reading

You should be able to…

  • …read and comprehend clearly written content on various topics, including articles and commentaries in newspapers and magazines, as well as simple critiques. 
  • …read written materials on various topics, follow their narratives, and understand the writers’ intent. 

[Example Exercise]

(1) 

_____の言葉を漢字で書くとき、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。 
_____ no kotoba o kanji de kaku toki, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate one when the word _____ is written in Kanji.



今日は、ゴミのしゅうしゅう日ですか。 
Kyō wa, gomi no shūshūbi desu ka.
Is it garbage collection today?

1. 拾集、2. 収拾、3. 修集、4. 取集

(2) 

(  )に入るのに、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。
(  ) ni hairu no ni, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate one for (    ).



日本人の平均(  )は、男性が79歳、女性が86歳である。
Nihon-jin no heikin(  ) wa, dansei ga 79-sai, josei ga 86-sai de aru
The Japanese average(  )is male 79 years old and female 86 years old.

1. 生命、2. 寿命、3. 人生、4. 一生
seimei        jumyō   jinsei       isshō

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …understand orally presented materials (coherent conversations, news reports, etc.) on a variety of topics and in different settings, spoken at nearly natural speed. 
  • …follow the main ideas and content of such materials. 
  • …understand the relationships of the people involved. 

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to the sentence and choose the best reply.



あの、今、お時間よろしいでしょうか。
Ano, ima, o-jikan yoroshii deshō ka.
Excuse me, do you have time now? [Can I talk to you?]

1 – えっと、4時5分ですよ。(Etto, yo-ji go-fun desu yo.) – Well, it’s 4:05.
2 – あいにく私も時計がなくて。(Ainiku watashi mo tokei ga nakute.) – Unfortunately, I don’t have a watch either.
3 – 10分くらいなら。(Juppun kurai nara.) – [Yes, I have] about ten minutes.

N1 Level: Advanced

Reading 

You should be able to…

  • …read texts featuring complex logic or abstract ideas on a variety of topics (newspaper editorials, critiques, etc.) and comprehend their structure and content. 
  • …read texts featuring profound content on various topics, follow their narratives, and understand the writers’ intent. 

[Example Exercise] 

(1) 

_____の言葉の読み方として、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。 
_____ no kotoba o yomikata to shite, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate reading for the word_____.



彼は今、新薬の研究開発に挑んでいる。 
Kare wa ima, shin’yaku no kenkyū kaihatsu ni _____iru.
He is now challenging the research and development of new drugs.

1. はげんで、2. のぞんで、3. からんで、4. いどんで

(2) 

(  )に入るのに、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。
(  ) ni hairu no ni, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate one for (    ).



私の主張は単なる(  )ではなく、確たる証拠に基づいている。
Watashi no shuchō wa tan naru(  )de wa naku, kakutaru shōko ni motozuite iru. 
My claim is based on solid evidence, not just (       ).

1. 模索、2. 思索、3. 推測、4. 推移
mosaku     shisaku     suisoku     suii 

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …comprehend spoken content in the form of conversations, news reports, and lectures in various contexts, when spoken at natural speed.
  • …follow the ideas and understand the implicit meaning of such spoken content. 
  • …understand important details of such spoken content, including the relationships of those involved, logical structures, and essential points. 

[Example Exercise]

Listen to the sentence and choose the best reply.



今日は、お客さんからの苦情が多くて仕事にならなかったよ。
Kyō wa, o-kyaku-san kara no kujō ga ōkute shigoto ni naranakatta yo.
I couldn’t work much today because there were many complaints from customers.

1 – いい仕事、できて良かったね。(Ii shigoto, dekite yokatta ne.) – That’s good you have done a great job.
2 – 仕事、なくて大変だったね。(Shigoto, nakute taihen datta ne.) – It must have been tough without work.
3 – お疲れ様、ゆっくり休んで。(Otsukare-sama, yukkuri yasunde.) – You must be tired (well done), rest well.

It’s estimated that it takes about 1600-2800 hours to achieve N2 and 3000-4800 hours to achieve N1. However, if you also want to master the Japanese Kanji of these levels, you’ll probably need to put in even more hours. 

How to Get to Advanced Level Faster

At this point, you probably don’t have any issues with daily Japanese conversations. You just need to focus on expanding your high-level vocabulary, getting a good working knowledge of official and formal language (including different honorifics), and picking up some spoken colloquial language that’s not often found in ordinary textbooks or written documents. Below are a few ways you can speed up your learning process.

Paper Materials: 

You can gain exposure to a wider range of vocabulary (including official words and technical terms) by reading more advanced paper materials. These include Japanese newspapers, magazines, and books on topics that interest you (business, biographies, IT, health, etc.). 

Apps: 

If you can, utilize all of the dictionary apps we mentioned earlier; this will surely take you to the next level. Kanji Senpai is another useful app that you can use to brush up on your Kanji skills by practicing and writing characters. Using news apps for daily reading is another effective way to learn official language. 

Audio/Video Materials: 

When using audio/video materials, try to focus on quality. Watching Japanese anime is fun and interesting, but it won’t take you to an advanced level. If you get bored of watching serious news channels and want something fun, you can choose to watch Japanese movies/TV shows in more complex genres (mystery, science fiction, crime thriller, techno thriller, etc.).

Online Lessons / Online Tutoring:

JapanesePod101.com offers plenty of more advanced online lessons in the form of written, audio, and video content. Our materials are designed to help you learn practical and natural Japanese in a fun and effective way. As an intermediate or advanced learner, you’ll greatly benefit from our one-on-one tutoring service MyTeacher; you’ll need the guidance and corrections of a native speaker in order to advance more quickly.

A Japanese Man Reading a Newspaper by a Large Window

Reading newspapers will help you expand your vocabulary and reach an advanced level of Japanese.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about how long it takes to learn Japanese by level and discussed a number of influencing factors. As you can see, the amount of time it takes you to learn the language has a lot to do with what your goals are: becoming a fluent speaker and listener will be much easier than mastering the Japanese reading and writing system. 

If you would like to explore the Japanese language further, stay with JapanesePod101.com for the fastest and easiest way to fluency. With our variety of rich, free lessons and tools, your Japanese language skills will improve immensely. 

Don’t forget that you’re not alone. When you use our MyTeacher service, your own teacher can always help you practice through personalized activities and assignments. You can also reach out to native speakers and your fellow Japanese learners through the JapanesePod101 forum

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Japanese Proverbs – Gain Japanese Wisdom and Insight

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Based on experience and timeless common sense, proverbs tell a perceived truth, often metaphorically, in a short sentence. Proverbs offer us wisdom and advice, and they’re extremely popular. You can find them quoted in articles, used in daily conversations, and even showcased on people’s wall decor. 

Proverbs often reflect the cultures from which they originate, and Japanese proverbs—called 諺 / ことわざ (Kotowaza)—are no exception. Some Japanese proverbs are very unique and funny, and there are some that are only valued and understood in Japan due to the ideas and values they reference. By learning Japanese proverbs, you’ll not only strengthen your language learning muscles, but also deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and values.

In this article, we’ll introduce thirty popular Japanese proverbs that you’ll be glad to know. Learn Japanese and get inspired here at JapanesePod101.com!

    → By the way, you may also be interested in learning about the Essential Idioms That Will Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker and Japanese Slang Nouns for Conversation.

      The Jizō Statues in Japan

      Japanese proverbs are unique expressions that give timeless wisdom and insight.

      Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
      1. Life and Society
      2. Relationships
      3. Studying / Learning / Gaining Wisdom
      4. Behaviors / Feelings
      5. A Few More Proverbs For You…
      6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

      1. Life and Society

      These Japanese proverbs about life teach us lessons and truths to keep in mind as we go about our daily lives. 

      Note: You may notice that animals often appear in Japanese proverbs.

      1. 猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru)

      • Literal Translation: Even monkeys fall from trees.

      • Meaning: Nobody is perfect and anyone can make a mistake, even in what they’re good at.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Even Homer sometimes nods.

      • Example: 

        [when someone made a mistake]

        「猿も木から落ちる」と言うし、気にすることないよ!
        “Saru mo ki kara ochiru” to iu shi, ki ni suru koto nai yo!
        The proverb says “Even monkeys fall from trees,” so don’t worry about it!

      2. 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず (Ni-to o ō mono wa itto o mo ezu)

      • Literal Translation: Those who chase after two rabbits will not even catch one.

      • Meaning: If you’re greedy and try to get/do two things at once, you will fail at both.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.

      • Example: 

        「二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず」だよ。一つずつ着実にやり遂げよう!
        “Ni-to o ō mono wa itto o mo ezu” da yo. Hitotsu zutsu chakujitsu ni yaritogeyō!
        It says, “Those who chase after two rabbits will not even catch one.” Let’s steadily accomplish one thing at a time!

      3. 人のふり見てわがふり直せ (Hito no furi mite waga furi naose)

      • Literal Translation: Watch others’ behavior and correct your own behavior. 

      • Meaning: If you see good or bad behavior in others, you can improve your own behavior based on what you observe. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: One man’s fault is another’s lesson.

      • Example: 

        友達の言動を批判する暇があったら、「人のふり見てわがふり直せ」だよ。
        Tomodachi no gendō o hihan suru hima ga attara, “hito no furi mite waga furi naose” da yo.
        If you have time to criticize the behavior of your friend, watch his behavior and correct your own behavior.

      4. 悪銭身につかず (Akusen mi ni tsukazu)

      • Literal Translation: Dirty money doesn’t stay with a person for long.

      • Meaning: Money gained through wrongful means such as stealing or gambling will be wasted and quickly disappear.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Easy come, easy go.

      • Example: 

        「悪銭身につかず」というように、賭け事で大金を当ててもお金持ちにはなれないよ。
        “Akusen mi ni tsukazu” to iu yō ni, kakegoto de taikin o atete mo o-kanemochi ni wa narenai yo.
        As it says, “Dirty money doesn’t stay with a person for long.” You won’t become rich even if you win a jackpot in gambling.

      5. 出る杭は打たれる (Deru kui wa utareru)

      • Literal Translation: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.

      • Meaning: Being different or exceptional will subject you to criticism; the outstanding get ousted.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Envy is the companion of honor.

      • Example: 

        「出る杭は打たれる」と言うけど、出過ぎた杭は打たれない。批判を気にしないでね!
        “Deru kui wa utareru” to iu kedo, desugita kui wa utarenai. Hihan o ki ni shinaide ne!
        It says, “The stake that sticks out gets hammered down,” but the one sticking too far out doesn’t. Never mind criticisms!

      Someone Hammering a Nail into Wood

      出る杭は打たれる (Deru kui wa utareru) – “The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.”


      6. 苦あれば楽あり (Ku areba raku ari)

      • Literal Translation: There are hardships and also there are pleasures.

      • Meaning: After the hard times in life, we can look forward to the fun things. Also, hard work is always rewarded and you’ll feel at ease afterward.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: No pain, no gain. / No cross, no crown. / No rain, no rainbow.

      • Example: 

        人生、「苦あれば楽あり」! 若いうちは苦労をたくさんした方がいい。
        Jinsei, “ku areba raku ari”! Wakai uchi wa kurō o takusan shita hō ga ii.
        Life is “no pain, no gain”! You should work hard a lot when you are young.

      7. 口は災いの元 (Kuchi wa wazawai no moto)

      • Literal Translation: Mouth is a source of disaster.

      • Meaning: Your careless remarks will invite troubles for yourself, so watch your mouth.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Out of the mouth comes evil. / The tongue is the root of calamities.

      • Example:

        人の悪口を言うと良いことないよ。「口は災いの元」だよ!
        Hito no waruguchi o iu to ii koto nai yo. “Kuchi wa wazawai no moto” da yo.
        There’s nothing good about talking ill of someone. It says, “Out of the mouth comes evil!”

      A Man Whispering a Rumor to a Woman

      口は災いの元 (Kuchi wa wazawai no moto) – “Out of the mouth comes evil.”

      2. Relationships

      Wherever you are in the world, relationships are an essential aspect of everyday life. The following Japanese proverbs about relationships lend us some practical wisdom on the topic! 

      8. 一期一会 (Ichigo ichie)

      • Literal Translation: One lifetime, one meeting.

      • Meaning: This proverb refers to a once-in-a-lifetime meeting/opportunity. You should cherish each moment and do your best, as though it were the only chance you would have to do so in your lifetime. This word originates from the traditional Japanese tea ceremony called 茶道 (Sadō), or “the Way of Tea.” It expresses the spirit of Sadō, according to which all participants should be sincere and do their best, as though each tea ceremony were a once-in-a-lifetime event. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Live every day as though it were your last.

      • Example: 

        旅先での素敵な出会いは、まさに「一期一会」だ。
        Tabisaki de no suteki na deai wa, masa ni “ichigo ichie” da.
        A wonderful encounter on a trip is truly a “once-in-a-lifetime meeting.”

      9. 犬猿の仲 (Ken’en no naka)

      • Literal Translation: A relationship of dogs and monkeys.

      • Meaning: This phrase refers to a relationship of mutual hatred, or two people who absolutely despise and hate each other.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Fight like cats and dogs.

      • Example: 

        ミカとさゆりは「犬猿の仲」です。
        Mika to Sayuri wa “ken’en no naka” desu.
        Mika and Sayuri have a relationship of mutual hatred.

      10. 蛙の子は蛙 (Kaeru no ko wa kaeru)

      • Literal Translation: The child of a frog is a frog.

      • Meaning: The nature and ability of a child resembles that of his or her parents. The child of an ordinary person is nothing but an ordinary person. A frog is a tadpole when it’s a child, and thus doesn’t look like its parents, but it becomes a frog like its parents in the end.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Like father, like son. / Nits will be lice.

      • Example: 

        「蛙の子は蛙」と言うように、私の息子も数学が苦手です。
        “Kaeru no ko wa kaeru” to iu yō ni, watashi no musuko mo sūgaku ga nigate desu.
        “Kaeru no ko wa kaeru” to iu yō ni, watashi no musuko mo sūgaku ga nigate desu.

      11. 同じ釜の飯を食う(Onaji kama no meshi o kū)

      • Literal Translation: Eat rice/food out of the same pot.

      • Meaning: This saying refers to a very close friendship/relationship, especially those who spend a lot of time together each day.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Two peas in a pod.

      • Example: 

        たかしとケンタは「同じ釜の飯を食った」仲だ。
        Takashi to Kenta wa “onaji kama no meshi o kutta” naka da.
        Takashi and Kenta have a very close friendship.

      12. 金の切れ目が縁の切れ目 (Kane no kireme ga en no kireme)

      • Literal Translation: The end of money is the end of relationship.

      • Meaning: When the money runs out, the relationship also ends. In other words, relationships dependent upon wealth will end when the money does.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: The end of money is the end of love. / When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out the window.

      • Example: 

        「金の切れ目が縁の切れ目」と言うし、友達にお金を貸さない方がいいですよ。
        “Kane no kireme ga en no kireme” to iu shi, tomodachi ni o-kane o kasanai hō ga ii desu yo.
        It says, “the end of money is the end of relationship,” so you shouldn’t lend money to your friends.

      Someone Serving Up Rice with a Wooden Spoon

      同じ釜の飯を食う (Onaji kama no meshi o kū) – “to eat out of the same pot”

      3. Studying / Learning / Gaining Wisdom

      Continuing to accumulate wisdom is key to long-term success and happiness. Here are a few Japanese proverbs on success and the necessity of learning. 

      13. 初心忘るべからず (Shoshin wasuru bekarazu)

      • Literal Translation: Should not forget our original intention.

      • Meaning: We should never forget the beginner’s spirit of when we first started learning or doing something. Don’t be arrogant or underestimate things, even if you’ve mastered it. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Don’t forget where you came from. / Don’t let success get to your head. 

      • Example: 

        一度成功しても、「初心忘るべからず」で、気を抜かないように。
        Ichi-do seikō shite mo, “shoshin wasuru bekarazu” de, ki o nukanai yō ni.
        As it says “don’t forget beginner’s spirit,” don’t lose focus even if you once succeeded.

      14. 千里の道も一歩から (Sen-ri no michi mo ippo kara)

      • Literal Translation: A thousand Ri begins with a single step on the road.

      • Meaning: You achieve big things by taking them one step at a time, slow and steady. 千里 (sen-ri) literally means “thousand 里 (Ri),” which is the old Japanese measurement unit for distance (1 Ri is about 4 km). It’s also used to indicate a far distance. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

      • Example: 

        語学の習得は簡単ではないけれど、「千里の道も一歩から」。小さな積み重ねが大切です。
        Gogaku no shūtoku wa kantan de wa nai keredo, “sen-ri no michi mo ippo kara”. Chiisana tsumikasane ga taisetsu desu.
        Mastering a language is not easy, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The accumulation of small steps is important.

      15. 雨降って地固まる (Ame futte ji katamaru)

      • Literal Translation: After the rain, the earth hardens.

      • Meaning: Just as ground that gets rained on hardens later, so will our troubles result in good situations over time. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: After a storm comes the calm. / Good comes out of evil. / Adversity strengthens the foundations.

      • Example: 

        「雨降って地固まる」と言うように、二人は大喧嘩をした後、かえって仲良しになった。
        “Ame futte ji katamaru” to iu yō ni, futari wa ōgenka o shita ato, kaette nakayoshi ni natta.
        As it says “after the rain, the earth hardens,” after they had a big argument, they became closer friends than before.

      16. チリも積もれば山となる (Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru)

      • Literal Translation: When dust accumulates, it becomes a mountain.

      • Meaning: Even something as small as dust particles can grow to be as large as a mountain when piled up. This proverb means that we shouldn’t neglect the little things, as they will make a big difference later.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Many a little makes a mickle. / A penny saved is a penny earned. / Little strokes fell great oaks. 

      • Example: 

        地道な基礎練習が大切です。「チリも積もれば山となる」ですよ。
        Jimichi na kiso renshū ga taisetsu desu. “Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” desu yo.
        Steady and basic practice is important. It says, “Many a little makes a mickle.”

      17. 三人寄れば文殊の知恵 (San-nin yoreba monju no chie)

      • Literal Translation: When three people gather, get the wisdom of Manjushri.

      • Meaning: Even ordinary people can come up with good ideas when brainstorming with others. It’s better to have multiple brains working on something than only one. Manjushri, or 文殊 もんじゅ (monju), is one of the Bodhisattva that’s on the path toward Buddhahood.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Two heads are better than one.

      • Example: 

        「三人寄れば文殊の知恵」!一人で悩むより周りの人に相談したほうがいいよ。
        Sannin yoreba monju no chie! Hitori de nayamu yori mawari no hito ni soudan shita hōga iiyo.
        Two heads are better than one! Rather than worrying alone, you should talk to people around you and ask for advice.

      18. 長所は短所 (Chōsho wa tansho)

      • Literal Translation: Strength is weakness.

      • Meaning: One’s strength can also be his own weakness, depending on the context and on one’s point of view. If you rely too much on your strength, it may become a cause of failure, so be careful.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: One’s strength is his weakness. / Every medal has two sides.

      • Example: 

        自信があるのは良いことですが、人の意見を聞くことも大事ですよ。「長所は短所」です。
        Jishin ga aru no wa yoi koto desu ga, hito no iken o kiku koto mo daiji desu yo. “Chōsho wa tansho” desu.
        It’s good to have confidence in yourself, but listening to others is also important. It says, “One’s strength is his weakness.”

      A Road with Arrows Pointing Forward

      千里の道も一歩から (Sen-ri no michi mo ippo kara) – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

      4. Behaviors / Feelings

      It should come as no surprise that there are plenty of Japanese sayings on behaviors and feelings, since they play a large role in a person’s identity—and in how we view them. Here are some of the most common ones. 

      19. 耳にたこができる (Mimi ni tako ga dekiru)

      • Literal Translation: Grow calluses on ear.

      • Meaning: This saying refers to someone who’s fed up with hearing the same thing over and over again. They’re so annoyed that they form “calluses” on their ears to stop hearing—just like how calluses grow as a response to repeated friction and pressure. 

      • Additional Note: たこ (Tako) is pronounced the same way as 蛸 (Tako), meaning “octopus” in Japanese, but it is a homonym in this case. To avoid confusion, one can use the Kanji characters 胼胝 (Tako), meaning “callus,” but the Kanji version is difficult and not commonly used. Instead, the word is usually written in either Hiragana or Katakana.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Talk one’s ear off.

      • Example: 

        その話もう100回は聞いたよ。「耳にたこができる」!
        Sono hanashi mō hyakkai wa kiita yo. “Mimi ni tako ga dekiru”!
        I’ve heard that story 100 times already. Calluses are growing in my ear!

      20. 馬の耳に念仏 (Uma no mimi ni nenbutsu)

      • Literal Translation: Buddhist invocation into horse’s ears.

      • Meaning: If you were to tell a horse a Buddhist invocation, it would not understand or appreciate it. Likewise, you could give someone the best advice or opinion about something, but it’s in vain if the other person doesn’t want to hear it. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Preaching to the deaf.

      • Example: 

        いくらあなたが親身になって助言しても、彼には「馬の耳に念仏」だよ!
        Ikura anata ga shinmi ni natte jogen shite mo, kare ni wa “uma no mimi ni nenbutsu” da yo!
        No matter how much thoughtful advice you give, it’s like preaching to the deaf!

      21. 灯台下暗し (Tōdai moto kurashi)

      • Literal Translation: It is dark under the candle stand.

      • Meaning: We tend not to notice things that are familiar to us, and we often overlook things that lie near at hand.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: It is darkest under the lamp post. / It’s hard to see what is under your nose.

      • Example: 

        ペンを探していたけど、胸のポケットに入っていた!「灯台下暗し」だね。
        Pen o sagashite ita kedo, mune no poketto ni haitte ita! “Tōdai moto kurashi” da ne.
        I was looking for a pen, but it was in my chest pocket! It’s hard to see what is under your nose.

      22. 豚に真珠 (Buta ni shinju)

      • Literal Translation: Pearls to pigs.

      • Meaning: It’s meaningless and useless to give something worthwhile to someone who doesn’t know its value.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Cast pearls before swine.

      • Example: 

        赤ちゃんに$500のブランドの洋服を着せるのは、私は「豚に真珠」だと思う。
        Akachan ni $500 no burando no yōfuku o kiseru no wa, watashi wa “buta ni shinju” da to omō.
        I think it’s like casting pearls before swine to dress a baby in $500 luxury brand clothes.

      23. 因果応報 (Inga ōhō)

      • Literal Translation: Cause brings result.

      • Meaning: Bad actions bring bad results (and vice-versa). This proverb originally comes from the Buddhist concept that those who do good deeds receive good rewards in return, and those who do bad deeds will have retributive justice.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: What goes around comes around.

      • Example: 

        彼は昔ひどいイジメっ子だったので、今は困った時に助けてくれる本当の友達がいない。「因果応報」だね。
        Kare wa mukashi hidoi ijimekko datta node, ima wa komatta toki ni tasukete kureru hontō no tomodachi ga inai. “Inga ōhō” da ne.
        He does not have real friends now to help when he’s in trouble, because he was a terrible bully in the past. It is “what goes around comes around.”

      24. 開いた口が塞がらない (Aita kuchi ga fusagaranai)

      • Literal Translation: Open mouth does not close.

      • Meaning: You might use this phrase when someone’s words or behavior are appalling and beyond understanding, and you’re lost for words. 

      • Equivalent English Saying: To be at a loss for words

      • Example: 

        またギャンブルのためにお金借りたいの?「開いた口が塞がらない」よ!
        Mata gyanburu no tame ni o-kane karitai no? “Aita kuchi ga fusagaranai” yo!
        You want to borrow money for gambling again? I’m appalled and lost for words!

      A Candle Glowing in the Darkness

      灯台下暗し (Tōdai moto kurashi) – “It is dark under the lamp post.” / “It’s hard to see what is under your nose.”

      5. A Few More Proverbs For You…

      To conclude our Japanese proverbs list, here are just a few more proverbs you may enjoy. 

      25. どんぐりの背比べ (Donguri no sei kurabe)

      • Literal Translation: Height comparison among acorns.

      • Meaning: This phrase is used in situations where everything or everyone seems about the same, and there’s no one who has outstanding strength, ability, or skill.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Neither barrel the better herring. / Much of a muchness.

      • Example: 

        今回の美人コンテストの応募者は全員普通で、勝者を選べません。「どんぐりの背比べ」です。
        Konkai no bijin kontesuto no ōbosha wa zen’in futsū de, shōsha o erabemasen. “Donguri no sei kurabe” desu.
        All the applicants for this beauty contest are ordinary and we cannot choose the winner. They are all much of a muchness.

      26. 蛇足 (Dasoku)

      • Literal Translation: Legs of a snake.

      • Meaning: Something that is unnecessary, redundant, and superfluous.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Put a fifth wheel to the coach/Gilding the lily.
      • Example: 

        お祝いの席であんなコメントは「蛇足」でした。
        O-iwai no seki de anna komento wa “dasoku” deshita.
        Such a comment was unnecessary on the occasion of celebration.

      27. 雲泥の差 (Undei no sa)

      • Literal Translation: Difference between clouds and mud.

      • Meaning: This refers to a wide difference. Because clouds represent heaven and mud is the ground, this phrase alludes to a big gap like that between heaven and earth.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: As different as night and day. 

      • Example: 

        都市部と田舎では生活費に「雲泥の差」があります。
        Toshibu to inaka de wa seikatsuhi ni “undei no sa” ga arimasu.
        There is a huge difference in living costs between urban and rural areas.

      28. 青天の霹靂 (Seiten no hekireki)

      • Literal Translation: Sudden thunder in the blue sky.

      • Meaning: The sudden occurrence of unexpected events or changes.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: A bolt out of the blue.

      • Example: 

        あの有名俳優が突然逮捕されたのは、青天の霹靂だ。
        Ano yūmei haiyū ga totsuzen taiho sareta no wa, “seiten no hekireki” da.
        It’s a bolt out of the blue that that famous actor got suddenly arrested.

      A Thunderstorm Appearing Over a Green Field

      青天の霹靂 (Seiten no hekireki) “a bolt out of the blue”

      29. 後の祭り (Ato no matsuri)

      • Literal Translation: After the festival.

      • Meaning: This phrase means that someone has missed their chance or an event has occurred too late. After the festival is over, it’s meaningless to go to see the festival. 

      • Additional Note: A traditional Japanese 祭り (matsuri), or “festival,” usually has main events such as 神輿担ぎ (Mikoshi katsugi), which is “carrying a portable Shinto shrine,” 山車 (dashi), or “floats” parade, and group dances. There’s also a variety of food stalls and entertainment booths around the area.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: A day after the fair. / After death, the doctor.

      • Example: 

        テストが終わった後に勉強を始めても、「後の祭り」です。
        Tesuto ga owatta ato ni benkyō o hajimete mo, “ato no matsuri” desu.
        It’s too late to start studying after the test is over.

      30. 縁の下の力持ち (En no shita no chikaramochi)

      • Literal Translation: Powerful man under the edge.

      • Meaning: A person who does a thankless task and makes an effort to support others in ways that are not visible to others.

      • Additional Notes: The 縁 えん (en) is the long wooden porch in traditional Japanese-style houses. Though unseen, there are many foundation pillars under the en that hold up the porch.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Unsung hero.

      • Example: 

        この社会はたくさんの縁の下の力持ちがいるおかげで成り立っています。
        Kono shakai wa takusan no en no shita no chikaramochi ga iru okagede naritatte imasu.
        This society is made possible by the existence of many unsung heroes.

      A Woman Is Standing on the 縁 (en) or 縁側 (engawa), Meaning

      To learn more about Japanese proverbs and quotes, please also check out our article Japanese Quotes That Enrich Your Life.

      6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

      In this article, we introduced thirty popular Japanese proverbs and idioms in various categories. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic, gained some useful insight from these Japanese words of wisdom, and deepened your understanding of Japanese culture! 

      Which of these Japanese proverbs is your favorite, and why? And what are some common proverbs in your language? We look forward to hearing from you! 

      If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find even more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. To start, why not study these inspiring Japanese quotes and motivational phrases for language learning?

      And there’s so much more! 

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