Japanese Phrases – Helpful Sentences & Expressions for Everyday Life

Through Japanese phrases, we’ll introduce you to the basics of Japanese conversational dialogue in this lesson.

A boy and a girl sitting down while raising their arms

So, even if you’re very new to Japanese language learning, you can start practicing and getting a grip on how to say important things in Japanese. It helps expand your Japanese vocabulary and understand Japanese culture in depth.

Japanese Phrases

Japanese words and phrases consist of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, all three types of Japanese alphabets. Therefore, if you’re very new to learning Japanese, start from the foremost step.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basic Japanese phrases that you’ll mostly use in conversations.

Words related to Japanese Phrases

Before we get to them, let’s learn some words related to basic phrases in Japanese. The following words will be your Japanese learning journey guide and are essential to start speaking, reading, and writing Japanese.

a word 単語たんご Tango
phrase, idiom, Kanji compound 熟語じゅくご  Jukugo
a phrase Ku
phrase, wording 言い回しいいまわし Iimawashi
phrase 表現ひょうげん Hyougen
vocabulary 語彙ごい Goi
phrase, idiom 慣用句かんようく Kanyouku
proverbことわざ Kotowaza

Basic Japanese Phrases

There are many usual handy Japanese phrases at the beginner learner’s level. Basic Japanese phrases are usually made up of greetings. These greetings are also useful conversation starters.

Most Japanese greetings are written with Hiragana (ひらがな | 平仮名) and not with Kanji (かんじ | 漢字), so even a newbie can get some idea about conversational Japanese and start speaking Japanese.

Japanese Phrases used when meeting someone

It takes time to learn Japanese from scratch, but to remember basic phrases and start communicating necessary things with people is not so formidable. In this chapter, we introduce you to some practical Japanese.

Learning to say Hello is a crucial step in language learning. Do you know how many ways you can say “Hello” in Japanese? There are many ways to address Hello! and How are you? in English, but Japanese doesn’t have a wide variety in this aspect. However, the Japanese language has various greetings and expressions that English doesn’t have. Let’s find out more!

Basic Day Greeting Phrases

There are four Japanese phrases you can use to greet someone at a particular time of the day. Below is the list of the basic Japanese phrases to greet someone:

Hi, Hello, Good afternoon 今日はこんにちは Konnichiwa
Good morning お早うおはよう Ohayou
Good morning お早う御座いますおはようございます Ohayou gozaimasu
Good evening 今晩はこんばんは Konbanwa

By learning a Japanese word or a phrase from its sound, you probably don’t notice, but when you see how it’s written in Japanese, you might get confused. It’s because the word is pronounced as Konnichiwa but written with こんにちは and not こんにちわ.

It’s exactly the same for Konbanwa. The origin of this word is How are you doing today? or How are you doing tonight? and it becomes 今日は or 今晩は using Kanji. If you start getting confused, remember the Kanji and how it’s written once again!

Japanese Phrases in Farewell

Saying goodbye in Japanese can be expressed in a number of ways. Here are some of the Japanese phrases you can use to say farewell or goodbye to someone.

Good bye 左様ならさようなら Sayounara
See youまた Mata
Good night お休みおやすみ Oyasumi
Good night お休みなさいおやすみなさい  Oyasumi nasai
See you later また後でまたあとで Mata ato de
See you next time また今度またこんど Mata kondo
See youじゃあ Jaa
See you thenそれじゃあ Sore jaa

Japanese Phrases with Gratitude

If you want to show gratitude or say thank you, here are Japanese phrases you can use:

Thanks 有難うありがとう Arigatou
Thank you 有難う御座いますありがとうございます  Arigatou gozaimasu
Thank you very much どうも有難う御座いますどうもありがとうございます Doumo arigatou gozaimasu
You’re welcome, My pleasure 如何致しましてどういたしまして Dou itashimashite
No problem 大丈夫 だいじょうぶ Daijoubu
Don’t worry 心配ありませんしんぱいありません Shinpai arimasen

You might encounter a moment when someone bows to you and says only Doumo (どうも), just remember it’s short for Doumo Arigatou Gozaimasu. Similarly, some Japanese might reply to your Thank you by saying Iie (いいえ) or other phrases like Tondemo Nai Desu (とんでもないです), but the fundamental meaning is pretty much the same as You’re welcome.

Japanese Phrases with Apology

Without any doubt, I’m sorry is translated into Gomen Nasai (ごめんなさい) in Japanese. However, many people colloquially use Sumimasen (すみません) to show their apologies, requests, and rarely gratitude. So, it might be hard to distinguish individual intentions at first, but you can eventually learn the difference by heart.

I’m Sorry 御免ごめん Gomen
I’m sorry 御免なさいごめんなさい Gomen nasai
I’m very sorry 申し訳ありませんもうしわけありません  Moushiwake arimasen
Excuse me, Sorry 済みませんすみません Sumimasen
Excuse me, Sorry for the intrusion 失礼しますしつれいします Shitsurei shimasu

In addition to that, some Japanese write and pronounce Suimasen (すいません) instead of Sumimasen (すみません) for I’m sorry. But the former word is simply incorrect, and it’s one of the typical misspellings in younger generations.

Japanese Phrases at Home

Some Japanese phrases used at home don’t have the concept in English and many other languages.

For example, mealtime phrases Itadakimasu (いただきます) and Gochisousama Deshita (ごちそうさまでした) literally mean to eat and receive, but it’s the word full of consideration towards food, people, time, and everything. These phrases don’t reflect religion in modern Japan, but it might seem like a Christian’s grace before meals.

In Japan, the following home phrases are considered a part of good manners and courtesy. There are many pair phrases in this category, so let’s take a look.

At the Table

When you’re eating a meal with family, friends or with colleagues, there are basic phrases you can use or will often hear from Japanese people.

Here’s a list of basic phrases in Japanese you can use when eating meal with others.

Let’s eat, Thank you for the food and everything頂きます Itadakimasu
Please help yourself, Enjoy your meal どうぞ召し上がれどうぞめしあがれ Douzo meshiagare
Thank you for the meal ご馳走様ごちそうさま Gochisou sama
Thank you for the meal ご馳走様でしたごちそうさまでした Gochisou sama deshita
You’re welcome お粗末様でしたおそまつさまでした Osomatsu sama deshita

On the Phone

The Japanese phrase used for greeting someone hello in person is different from saying “hello” to someone over the phone.

You’ll use the Japanese phrase below for saying hello on the phone.

  • もしもし (Moshi moshi ) – Hello

At the Entrance

See you later, Come back safelyいってしゃっしゃい | 行ってらっしゃい Itterasshai
See you later, I’m leavingいってきます | 行ってきます Ittekimasu
I’m homeただいま | 只今 Tadaima
Welcome homeおかえり | お帰りOkaeri
Welcome home お帰りなさいおかえりさなさい Okaerinasai
Excuse me, May I come in? 御免下さいごめんください Gomen kudasai
Welcomeいらっしゃい Irasshai
Thank you for inviting me, I’m coming in お邪魔しますおじゃまします Ojama shimasu
Thank you for having me, Good bye お邪魔しましたおじゃましました Ojama shimashita

In the Bedroom

Good night お休みおやすみ Oyasumi
Good night お休みなさいおやすみなさい Oyasumi nasai

Celebration Phrases

Like many other countries, people celebrate their birthdays, life events, and cultural events in Japan. The word congratulation is Omedetou (おめでとう), and the celebration is Iwaigoto (いわいごと | 祝い事) or Oiwai (おいわい | お祝い).

Usually, a congratulatory greeting consists of two pieces, the event’s name and the congratulatory word. When you want to make it more formal, add O (お) or Go (ご) on the top of the event’s name and finish the sentence with Gozaimasu.

Congratulations お目出度うおめでとうOmedetou
Happy Birthday 誕生日お目出度うたんじょうびおめでとうTanjoubi omedetou
Happy Birthday お誕生日お目出度う御座いますおたんじょうびおめでとうございます Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
Happy Wedding 結婚お目出度うけっこんおめでとう Kekkon omedetou
Happy Wedding ご結婚お目出度う御座いますごけっこんおめでとうございます Gokekkon omedetou gozaimasu
Happy Graduation 卒業お目出度うそつぎょうおめでとうSotsugyou omdetou
Happy Graduation ご卒業お目出度う御座いますごそつぎょうおめでとうございます Gosotsugyou omdetou gozaimasu

Holiday Celebration Phrases

In many Asian countries, the New Year’s holiday season is more influential than any other holiday season. Therefore, there are many phrases and expressions only used during this period.

If you’re around New Year’s time in Japan, don’t forget to enjoy the series of New Year’s cultural and culinary events. There is a lot to explore. People visit temples and shrines, decorate their homes, and eat seasonal foods only available at this time of year.

Merry Christmasメリークリスマス Merii Kurisumasu
Have a good new year 良いお年を よいおとしを Yoi otoshi wo
Have a good new year 良いお年をお過ごし下さいよいおとしをおすごしください Yoi otoshi wo osugoshi kudasai
Happy New Year 明けましてお目出度うあけましておめでとう Akemashite omedetou
Happy New Year 明けましてお目出度う御座いますあけましておめでとうございます Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu
Best regards this year 今年も宜しくことしもよろしく Kotoshi mo yoroshiku
Best regards this year 今年も宜しくお願いしますことしもよろしくおねがいします Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu
  • メリークリスマス (Merii Kurisumasu) – Merry Christmas
  • よいおとしを (Yoi otoshi wo| 良いお年を | Have a good new year
  • よいおとしをおすごしください (Yoi otoshi wo osugoshi kudasai| 良いお年をお過ごし下さい) – Have a good new year
  • あけましておめでとう (Akemashite omedetou | 明けましてお目出度う) –  Happy New Year
  • あけましておめでとうございます (Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu | 明けましてお目出度う御座います) – Happy New Year
  • ことしもよろしく (Kotoshi mo yoroshiku | 今年も宜しく) – Best regards this year
  • ことしもよろしくおねがいします (Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu| 今年も宜しくお願いします) – Best regards this year

Useful Phrase at Shops and Restaurants

Once you enter a shop or in a restaurant in Japan, you must notice that the shop attendant gives you a big smile and yells “Irasshaimase” (いらっしゃいませ). At first, it might feel a little awkward, but you grow accustomed to it quickly.

Japan is famous for its dedicating service. It’s rather polished and devoted than friendly service, but you can appreciate the superb Japanese Omotenashi (おもてなし | hospitality) ideology.

Common Replies from Service People

When you try to book a hotel room or order something in a restaurant, the Japanese service person will probably answer you and ask you questions in a very polite tone. Therefore, getting a grasp of the phrases becomes a big help during your stay in Japan. Some of them are identical in business situations.

Welcomeいらっしゃいませ Irasshaimase
Please wait a moment 少々お待ち下さい しょうしょうおまちください Shoushou omachi kudasai
I understood 畏まりましたかしこまりました Kashikomarimashita
How many people altogether? 何名様ですか?なんめいさまですか? Nanmei sama desuka?
Is there anything else? 他にご注文は御座いますか?ほかにごちゅうもんはございますか?Hokani gochuumon wa gozaimasuka?
Is there something I can do for you? 何かご希望はありますか?なにかごきぼうはありますか? Nani ka gokibou wa arimasuka?
Thank you for waiting お待たせしましたおまたせしました Omatase shimashita
Please, go aheadどうぞ Douzo
Thank you very much どうも有難う御座いましたどうもありがとうございました Doumo arigatou gozaimashita
Please come again また宜しくお願いしますまたよろしくおねがいします Mata yoroshiku onegaishimasu

25 Handy Phrases at Shops and Restaurants

If you’ll be visiting shops or eating at restaurants, the phrases below will be helpful.

  1. Where is the nearest shop?
  • Ichiban chikai omise wa doko desu ka?
  • いちばんちかいおみせはどこですか?
  • 一番近いお店はどこですか?
  1. Is there any restaurant near by?
  • Kono chikaku ni restoran wa arimasu ka?
  • このちかくにれすとらんはありますか?
  • この近くにレストランはありますか?
  1. What kind of food do you serve?
  • Donna Tabemono ga arimasu ka?
  • どんなたべものがありますか?
  • どんな食べ物がありますか?
  1. Do you have an English menu?
  • Eigo no menyuu wa arimasu ka?
  • えいごのめにゅーはありますか?
  • 英語のメニューはありますか?
  1. How much is it?
  • Kore wa ikura desu ka?
  • これはいくらですか?
  • これは幾らですか?
  1. What is this?
  • Kore wa nan desu ka?
  • これはなんですか?
  • これは何ですか?
  1. What is that?
  • Are wa nan desu ka?
  • あれはなんですか?
  • あれは何ですか?
  1. This one, please.
  • Kore wo onegai shimasu.
  • これをおねがいします。
  • これをお願いします。
  1. That one, please.
  • Are wo onegai shimasu.
  • あれをおねがいします。
  • あれをお願いします。
  1. Can I have this?
  • Kore wo kudasai.
  • これをください。
  • これを下さい。
  1. Can I have that?
  • Are wo kudasai.
  • あれをください。
  • あれを下さい。
  1. Is this seat taken?
  • Kono seki wa aite imasu ka?
  • このせきはあいていますか?
  • この席は空いていますか?
  1. Can I order?
  • Chuumon shitemo ii desu ka?
  • ちゅうもんしてもいいですか?
  • 注文してもいいですか?
  1. Can I have refills?
  • Okawari wo moraemasu ka?
  • おかわりをもらえますか?
  • お代わりを貰えますか?
  1. Can I have one more?
  • Mou hitotsu moraemasu ka?
  • もうひとつもらえますか?
  • もう一つ貰えますか?
  1. Please give me some water.
  • Mizu wo kudasai.
  • みずをください。
  • 水を下さい。
  1. Please show me the menu.
  • Menyuu wo misete kudasai.
  • めにゅーをみせてください。
  • メニューを見せて下さい。
  1. May I take these home?
  • Kore wo ie ni mochikaettemo iidesu ka?
  • これをいえにもちかえってもいいですか?
  • これを家に持ち帰ってもいいですか?
  1. Check, please.
  • Okaikei wo onegai shimasu.
  • おかいけいをおねがいします。
  • お会計をお願いします。
  1. Do you accept credit cards?
  • Kurejitto kaado wa tsukaemasu ka?
  • くれじっとかーどはつかえますか?
  • クレジットカードは使えますか?
  1. Do you accept cash?
  • Genkin de haraemasu ka?
  • げんきんではらえますか?
  • 現金で払えますか?
  1. Can I get the change?
  • Otsuri wa demasuka?
  • おつりはでますか?
  • お釣りは出ますか?
  1. What time do you close?
  • Nanji made aite imasu ka?
  • なんじまであいていますか?
  • 何時まで開いていますか?

24.What time do you open?

  • Omise wa nanji kara desu ka?
  • おみせはなんじからですか?
  • お店は何時からですか?

25. Do you take reservations?

  • Yoyaku wa dekimasu ka?
  • よやくはできますか?
  • 予約はできますか?

20 Useful Phrases to Get Around

Here are some useful Japanese phrases to get around. These are especially helpful when you’re exploring the city.

  1. Where is the train station?
  • Densha no eki wa doko desu ka?
  • でんしゃのえきはどこですか?
  • 電車の駅はどこですか?
  1. Which train should I take?
  • Dono densha ni noreba iidesu ka?
  • どのでんしゃにのればいいですか?
  • どの電車に乗ればいいですか?
  1. Where is the toilet?
  • Toire wa doko desu ka?
  • といれはどこですか?
  • トイレは何処ですか?
  1. How long does it take from here?
  • Koko kara dono kurai kakarimasu ka?
  • ここからどのくらいかかりますか?
  • ここからどの位かかりますか?
  1. Can you tell me the direction?
  • Michi wo oshiete kudasai.
  • みちをおしえてください。
  • 道を教えて下さい。
  1. I don’t know.
  • Wakarimasen.
  • わかりません。
  • 分かりません。
  1. I don’t remember.
  • Oboete imasen.
  • おぼえていません。
  • 覚えていません。
  1. Can you speak English?
  • Eigo wo hanasemasu ka?
  • えいごをはなせますか?
  • 英語を話せますか?
  1. Do you understand English?
  • Eigo wa wakarimasu ka?
  • えいごはわかりますか?
  • 英語はわかりますか?
  1. I don’t understand Japanese.
  • Nihongo wa wakarimasen.
  • にほんごはわかりません。
  • 日本語はわかりません。
  1. I can’t speak Japanese.
  • Nihongo ha hanasemasen.
  • にほんごははなせません。
  • 日本語は話せません。
  1. I only speak a little Japanese.
  • Sukoshi shika nihongo wo hanasemasen.
  • すこししかにほんごをはなせません。
  • 少ししか日本語を話せません。
  1. What did you say?
  • Nan to iimashita ka?
  • なんといいましたか?
  • 何と言いましたか?
  1. Can you say it again?
  • Mou ichido itte kuremasu ka?
  • もういちどいってくれますか?
  • もう一度言ってくれますか?
  1. Please say it again.
  • Mou ichido onegai shimasu.
  • もういちどおねがいします。
  • もう一度お願いします。
  1. Please speak more slowly.
  • Yukkuri hanshite kudasai.
  • もっとゆっくりはなしてください。
  • もっとゆっくり話して下さい。
  1. Please slow down.
  • Yukkuri onegai shimasu.
  • ゆっくりおねがいします。
  • ゆっくりお願いします。
  1. How can I say this in Japanese?
  • Kore wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka?
  • これはにほんごでなんといいますか?
  • これは日本語で何と言いますか?
  1. Please help me.
  • Tasukete kudasai.
  • たすけてください。
  • 助けて下さい。
  1. May I use the phone?
  • Denwa wo tsukattemo iidesu ka?
  • でんわをつかってもいいですか?
  • 電話を使ってもいいですか?

Business Phrases

Using Desu-Masu-Style is one of the principal business and formal communication rules, despite using Keigo (けいご | 敬語) correctly in Japan. Here, we show you the most simple Keigo phrases and little advanced Keigo phrases.

The appropriate use of Japanese formal vocabulary and phrases is often challenging even for people whose native language is Japanese. Besides, the fact that the Japanese language has a detailed level of politeness makes it considerably difficult. But don’t worry, not many native speakers use flawless Keigo in reality, and still, people communicate without a problem.

10 Phrases used when asking

If you need to ask questions, here are some phrases that can be useful.

  1. May I come in?
  • Haittemo iidesu ka?
  • はいってもいいですか?
  • 入ってもいいですか?
  1. Excuse me, Sorry for the intrusion, I’m coming in
  • Shitsurei shimasu
  • しつれいします
  • 失礼します
  1. Excuse me
  • Sumimasen
  • すみません
  • 済みません
  1. Can I talk to you now?
  • Ima hanashitemo iidesuka?
  • いまはなしてもいいですか?
  • 今話してもいいですか?
  1. Please wait a moment
  • Sukoshi matte kudasai
  • すこしまってください
  • 少し待って下さい
  1. Please wait a moment
  • Shoushou omachi kudasai
  • しょうしょうおまちください
  • 少々お待ち下さい
  1. Please give me time
  • Jikan wo kudasai
  • じかんをください
  • 時間を下さい
  1. Please give me some time
  • Shibaraku ojikan wo itadakemasuka?
  • しばらくおじかんをいただけますか?
  • 暫くお時間をいただけますか?
  1. Can you help me?/Can you explain?
  • Setsumei shite moraemasuka?
  • せつめいしてもらえますか?
  1. What do you mean?
  • Douiu imi desuka?
  • どういういみですか?
  • どういう意味ですか?

12 Phrases used when answering

Following the phrases on questions, here are some words and phrases that you can use to answer them too.

  1. Yes
  • Hai
  • はい
  1. No
  • Iie
  • いいえ
  1. I see
  • Wakarimshita
  • わかりました
  1. I don’t know
  • Wakarimasen
  • わかりません
  1. I know
  • Shitteimasu
  • しっています | 知っています
  1. I didn’t know
  • Shirimasen deshita
  • しりませんでした
  • 知りませんでした
  1. I understood
  • Shouchi shimashita
  • しょうちしました
  • 承知しました
  1. I understood
  • Kashikomarimashita
  • かしこまりました
  • 畏まりました
  1. I took your request
  • Uketamawari mashita
  • うけたまわりました
  • 承りました | )
  1. I can’t do that
  • Sore wa dekimasen
  • それはできません
  1. I’ll think about it
  • Kangaete okimasu
  • かんがえておきます
  • 考えておきます
  1. It might be difficult
  • Muzukashii kamo shiremasen
  • むずかしいかもしれません
  • 難しいかもしれません

12 Phrases used to greet someone

Greeting people you interact with is important in any country. Here are some of the most common ones:

  1. Thank you for your hard work
  • Otsukaresama desu
  • おつかれさまです
  • お疲れ様です
  1. Long time no see
  • Gobussata shitemasu
  • ごぶさたしています
  • ご無沙汰しています
  1. Thank you, Please take care of our business
  • Osewa ni narimasu
  • (おせわになります
  • お世話になります
  1. Thank you for supporting our business always
  • Itsumo Osewa ni natteimasu
  • いつもおせわになっています
  • 何時もお世話になっています
  1. Nice to meet you, I look forward to working with you
  • Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
  • よろしくおねがいします
  • 宜しくお願いします
  1. I look forward to working with you again this year
  • Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu
  • ことしもよろしくおねがいします
  • 今年も宜しくお願いします
  1. Thank you for your service, Thank you for your hard work
  • Gokurou sama desu
  • ごくろうさまで
  • ご苦労様です
  1. Thank you very much
  • Doumo arigatou gozaimasu
  • どうもありがとうございます
  • どうも有難う御座います
  1. I’ll accept your kind offer
  • Okotoba ni amaete
  • おとこばにあまえて
  • お言葉に甘えて
  1. Thank you for your hard work today
  • Otsukaresama deshita
  • おつかれさまでした
  • お疲れ様でした
  1. I’m leaving now, goodbye
  • Saki ni kaerimasu
  • さきにかえります
  • 先に帰ります
  1. I’m leaving first, goodbye
  • Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu
  • おさきにしつれいします
  • お先に失礼します

How many Japanese Cool Phrases do you know?

We have learned phrases that combine Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji today. But there are also phrases that only contain Hiragana or Kanji in the Japanese language. For example, a Jukugo (じゅくご | 熟語) is made with more than Kanji to form a word or a phrase, and Yoji Jukugo (よじじゅくご | 四字熟語) contains four Kanji. It’s said that there are over 10,000 Yoji Jikugo and over 50,000 idioms in Japan.

In this last chapter, let’s focus on the famous Japanese saying that often appeared in literature and various productions in the past.

idiom, Kanji compound 熟語じゅくご Jukugo
four Kanji idiom 四字熟語 よじじゅくご Yoji Jukugo
idiom 慣用句かんようく Kanyouku
Japanese proverbsことわざ Kotowaza
Quotations 名言めいげん Meigen

一期一会 (Ichigo Ichie | いちごいちえ)

The proverb Ichi go Ichie was created by a tea master called Sen no Rikyuu. It means an encounter only occurs once in a lifetime and never comes again. Over time, it has grown into one of the cultural concepts in Japan.

天下無双 (Tenka musou | てんかむそう)

Tenka Musou refers to the state as being extraordinary level at something, and practically no one else exists at the same level. The following Yoji Jukugo are also people’s all-time favorites. They have been inspiring many genres over generations.

No hesitation even before making a bold decision いっとうりょうだん一刀両断 Ittou Ryoudan
Talented people in various fields appear at once and prosper the world ひゃっかりょうらん百花繚乱 Hyakka Ryouran
immerse oneself in nature and appreciate the art and life かちょうふうげつ花鳥風月 Kachou Fuugetsu

清水の舞台から飛び降りる (Kiyomizu no butai kara tobioriru | きよみずのぶたいからとびおりる)

It means taking the plunge and making a big decision. This phrase was born in Kyoto about 300 years ago. You can probably see why it has become a well-known saying once you witness the dynamic cliff at Kiyomizu-Dera Temple.

なせばなる、なさねばならぬなにごとも (Naseba naru, Nasaneba naranu nanigoto mo | 為せば成る、為さねば成らぬ何事も )

It’s the saying by Uesugi Takayama, the feudal lord in northern Japan during the Edo period. It refers to the verity that you won’t be able to do anything if you don’t act.

Tips to Learn Basic Japanese

We have added different tips below that you can keep in mind as you learn more about Japanese phrases.

Japanese Sentence Structure is Different from English

The Japanese sentence order is different from English. It begins with a subject, and object and verb follow it. Japanese is an SOV structured language, while English is SVO structured language.

For example:

  • I speak English. / I speak English.
  • わたしはえいごをはなします。/ わたしはえいごをはなす
  • 私は英語を話します。/ 私は英語を話す
  • Watashi wa Eigo wo hanashimasu. / Watashi wa Eigo wo hanasu.

Not always, but sometimes adding the Japanese question word to a standard phrase can help to construct concise question phrases. Namely, “desu ka? (ですか?)”, “masu ka? (ますか?)”, and “no (の?)” are the common question words in Japanese questions. Don’t forget to change the subject and use question tones when you use them in a conversation as a question.

For example:

Do you speak English? / Do you speak English?

あなたはえいごをはなしますか? / あなたはえいごをはなすの?

あなたは英語を話しますか? / あなたは英語を話すの?

Anata wa Eigo wo hanashimasu ka? / Anata wa Eigo wo hanasu no?

Japanese Phrases have Polite and Casual Versions

The polite phrases called けいご (Keigo | 敬語) usually finish with です (desu), ます (masu), and sai さい (sai), so it’s often called ですますちょう (Desu-Masu-Chou| ですます調 | Desu-Masu-Style).

They are used widely in diverse situations where people develop official relationships like schools and businesses. For instance, using a desu-masu style when talking to an older person like a teacher, someone you meet for the first time, or on a business-related occasion is a good idea.

On the other hand, the casual forms called ためご (Tamego| ため語) or ためぐち (Tameguchi | タメ口) are the expected forms in personal relationships with family and friends. Mostly, the original Japanese phrases have desu/masu/sai endings. Thus, when you want to sound more intimate, omit the endings and make them tighter and more friendly.

Here are some examples using “good morning” in Japanese:

  • おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu | お早う御座います) – polite “Good morning”
  • おはよう (Ohayou | お早う) – casual “Good morning”

Even “Yes” and “No” can vary with the situation,

  • はい (Hai ) – standard “Yes” for all occasions includes very formal situations
  • いいえ (Iie) – standard “No” for all occasions includes very formal situations
  • うん (Un) – a casual “Yes”
  • ううん (Uun) – a casual “No”

Foreign Words and Phrases use Katakana instead of Kanji

Japanese people use many English or foreign loanwords in everyday life. There are imported words called Gairaigo and modified words that reflect Japanese culture called Wasei Eigo.

As a widely known rule, Wasei Eigo doesn’t make much sense in English, but it works perfectly in Japanese society. With the internet’s aid, younger generations are creating a lot of Wasei Eigo words or Japanglish words.

  • がいらいご  (Gairai go| 外来語) – loanwords
  • わせいえいご ( Wasei Eigo| 和製英語)  Japanese pseudo-loanwords

For example:

Gairaigo 1: Vocabulary

The original word for “Vocabulary” is Goi (ごい | 語彙) in Japanese, but also Bokyaburarii (ボキャブラリー) is well-known for the same meaning.

He has a large vocabulary.

Kare wa bokyaburarii ga houhu desu.



Other Gairaigo:

egoエゴ ego
clusterクラスタ kurasuta
stoicストイック sutoikku
gothic & lolitaゴスロリ gosurori
counter stopカンスト kansuto

Wasei Eigo: Paper Driver

Japanese people call a person who has a driver’s license but lacks experience and confidence in driving a Peepaa Doraibaa (ペーパードライバー).

I have a driver’s license, but I rarely drive.

Watashi wa peepaa doraibaa desu.



Other Wasei Eigo:

my pace/ at one’s own paceマイペース maipeesu
high tension/get excitedハイテンション hai tenshon
one chance / maybeワンチャン wan chan
outdated おわったコンテンツ | 終わったコンテンツオワコン owa kon

Keigo Plays a Big Roll in the Japanese Culture

The Japanese language has five types of polite forms called けいご (Keigo| 敬語), and each of them has its unique and precise rolls.

We skip detailed explanations in this lesson, but this fundamental knowledge will become vital for intermediate and advanced-level Japanese language learners. Although, using each Keigo correctly sometimes gets incoherent, even for a native Japanese speaker.

Concise list of Keigo

respectful language 尊敬語 そんけいご Sonkei go
humble language 謙譲語けんじょうご  Kenjou go
courteous language 丁重語ていちょうご  Teichou go
polite language 丁寧語ていねいご Teinei go
word beautification 美化語びかご Bika go

For example, “What’s your name?” has several ways expressed in Japanese. Here is the list of common variations, starting with a more casual approach to a more formal way.

What’s your name?

Namae wa nani?



Tell me your name.

Namae wo oshiete.



What is your name?

Namae wa nan desu ka?



Please tell me your name.

Namae wo oshiete kudasai.



Can you tell me your name, perhaps?

Onamae wo okikase negae masu ka?


May I ask you for your name?

Onamae wo oukagai shitemo yoroshii desu ka?



These handy Japanese phrases can make your study and visiting Japan fun! You can explore a foreign country by traveling around or getting in touch with local people. However, the people in Japan are well-known for not knowing many foreign languages despite them being warm-hearted.

So to brighten up your stay in Japan and satisfy your curiosity, it makes more sense to learn some Japanese words and phrases.

がんばってください (Ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

    7 replies to "Japanese Phrases – Helpful Sentences & Expressions for Everyday Life"

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