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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
What does GOZAIMASU mean and why does it make phrases more polite?
When you say “Good morning” in Japanese, you can say “Ohayo” casually or “Ohayo Gozaimasu” to be polite. However, you cannot say ‘Kon’nichiwa gozaimasu’ or ‘Konbanwa gozaimasu’ as more polite phrases of ‘Kon’nichiwa’ or ‘Konbanwa.’
So what’s going on with this?
When you say “Good morning” politely, you say ‘Ohayo gozaimasu.’ It’s just the casual “Good morning,” ‘Ohayo’ with ‘gozaimasu’ at the end.
The word ‘gozaimasu’ is a very polite expression and can roughly be translated as “am,” “is,” or “are” in English.
The phrase “ohayo” comes from an adjective, “hayai” meaning “early” and it literally means “it’s early.” So, “ohayo” can take the polite expression “gozaimasu” after that to say it politely.
However, other greeting phrases, such as ‘Kon’nichiwa’ meaning “Hello,” and ‘Konbanwa’ meaning “Good evening.”‘ cannot take ‘gozaimasu.’ You don’t say ‘Kon’nichiwa gozaimasu’ or ‘Konbanwa gozaimasu.'
It’s because the phrases “kon’nichiwa” and “Konbanwa” have different origins from ‘Ohayo (gozaimasu)’. ‘Kon’nichiwa’ means “today (is)…” and came from the sentence, ‘Kon’nichi wa genki desu ka.’ meaning “How are you today?” Whereas Konbanwa’ means “this evening (is)...” and came from ‘Konban wa genki desu ka.’ meaning “How are you this evening?” So, the latter part, ‘genki desu ka,’ is dropped to make “Kon’nichiwa” and “Konbanwa”. They don’t come from adjectives like how Ohayo comes from “hayai” so these two greetings cannot take ‘gozaimasu’ after them.
Just remember that you can choose either the casual or polite version when you say “Good morning” but you don’t have to worry about the politeness when you say “Hello” and “Good evening” in Japanese.
I hope this makes sense to you, and it was interesting to hear about the origins of these popular Japanese phrases!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!


Please to leave a comment.
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Sorry, please keep your comment under 800 characters. Got a complicated question? Try asking your teacher using My Teacher Messenger.

July 14th, 2015 at 6:30 pm
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

May 30th, 2019 at 5:42 pm
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Hi John,

Thank you for your comment!

That's right.

"Gozaimasu" is humble and very formal form of "desu" or "imasu" and "arimasu."

It can be used instead of them. ( * "De gozaimasu" in case of "desu")

For example,

Watashi wa Ken desu. (polite) > Watashi wa Ken de gozaimasu. (very formal)

Watashi no ie ga arimasu. (polite) > Watashi no ie ga gozaimasu. (very formal)

But we don't say "ohayō desu" instead of "ohayō gozaimasu."

It's not substitutable in this case, as it is a set phrase.

Hope this helps.



Team JapanesePod101.com

May 30th, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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Hi Aeri,

Thank you for posting!

We are really sorry for this late reply...

Yes, you are right! "Kon'nichiwa" means "hello" or "good afternoon."

In this lesson, we just introduced the origin of the phrase and it was "how are you today?"

But nowadays, it's only means "hello" or "good afternoon."

Thank you for studying with us!



Team JapanesePod101.com

March 20th, 2019 at 10:07 pm
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Hello, I have a question about use of the verb 'gozaimasu'. If 'gozaimasu' roughly translates to am/is/are, which is similar to the translation of 'desu', when is it appropriate to use 'gozaimasu' instead of 'desu', besides just formal occasions? For example, I don't think it's common to say 'ohayo desu', so what other occasions might require use of one verb instead of the other?

June 26th, 2018 at 5:42 am
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For the longest time, I thought Kon'nichiwa means Good afternoon.

May I know what is the Japanese for good afternoon?

Thank you

August 3rd, 2017 at 7:47 pm
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Hi Lee,

Thank you for your positive feedback!

Please let us know if you have any questions. ;)


Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team Japanesepod101.com

August 3rd, 2017 at 3:17 pm
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I might not comment on each video, but I appreciate the speaker and all the videos you guys have produced!


May 16th, 2017 at 6:33 pm
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Ishani さん、


Nasai is the command form in general, which sounds softer than ‘shiro.’

On the other hand, ‘gozaimasu’ is one of honorific expressions.


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

May 7th, 2017 at 10:12 pm
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I have a question about this

What does 'nasai' mean exactly?

Is it somewhat similar to 'gozaimasu'?

November 25th, 2016 at 12:55 pm
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From what i could understand, when I say Konnichiwa I'm realy asking something like "how are you". But when i say "good evening" I'm wishing a goood evening to the person who I'm talking to. Is there any expression equivalent in Japanese? one that i can wish somenthing like that? Will it sound strange for te japanese people?


September 30th, 2016 at 7:38 pm
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I see. Thank you for your comment.


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com