Today, it’s all about the greetings! Just like in English, there are different ways to say “hello” in Japanese that vary depending on what time of day it is.
It’s good to know these different ways to greet people so that you don’t sound silly by saying “good morning” when it’s actually 3 PM.
In addition to those basic phrases, I’ll also show you how to say “good night” to someone for both family members and co-workers. Spoiler alert! They’re different!
There’s also a special way to say hello when you answer the phone. Is that crazy, or just plain cool?
Read on to learn how to say “good morning, good evening, and good night” in Japanese! With audio examples too!
Good Morning! – お早うございます!
The typical way to say “good morning” to someone in Japanese is with the phrase お早うございます (ohayou gozaimasu).
That first part of the phrase is made up of the kanji 早 which can mean either “to hurry, or early.” So you can clearly see how this is the greeting for the morning time. Although there are a lot of times when it will be written entirely in hiragana: おはようございます.
You will always need add the polite お to it when you are greeting someone. That way they know that you’re saying “good morning” (お早う) and not just telling them to hurry (早う).
You can just say お早う with friends, but when you are talking to people whom you don’t know, or you are in a more formal situation, you will need to add the ございます part to the phrase to maintain politeness.
One final thing about this greeting: you can use お早うございます during the morning until about 11 AM. Then you will need to switch to…
Hello! – こんにちは!
The most common way to translate “hello” from English into Japanese is こんにちは (kon’nichi wa).
This is probably the most commonly known Japanese word of them all!
What’s interesting about it, is that it literally translates as “this day .”
こん = this
にち = day
は = topic particle
This is the phrase that you’ll use from about noon-time until about 6 PM or so. So in addition to translating こんにちは as “hello” you could just as easily interpret it as “good afternoon.”
And finally, you will always see it written in hiragana. That’s because if you write it in kanji, the meaning and pronunciation for it changes to 今日 (kyou). This means “today,” but is not used as way to greet people.
Good evening! – こんばんは!
The Japanese way to say “good evening” is こんばんは (konban wa).
This phrase uses a similar structure as the last one. It is a combination of the words “this + evening + the topic particle.”
And again, you will want see it written completely in hiragana, since the Kanji version of it is more of a statement of time, than an actual greeting. Here’s what I mean:
今晩は (konban wa) = This means “tonight” or can even mean “as for tonight.”
こんばんは (all hiragana) is the phrase that you will use from about 6 PM at night until you finally say to people…
Good night! – お休みなさい!
When you want to say “good night” to people who are your friends and family members you will say to them お休みなさい (o yasumi nasai).
The first part of it お休み combines the polite お with the word for “rest” 休み. You can use just this first part (お休み) when talking to people who are close to you, kind of like when you say “good morning.”
But, when you are talking to people whom you work with, you will actually say to them: お疲れ様でした (o tsukare sama deshita).
This is used as a way to say to everyone “thank you for your hard work” at the end of a long day. But it is basically a way to say “good night” to the people you work with. I’ve also seen it used by classmates to one another after they’ve finished working on something together and they’re all heading home for the day.
Ring! Ring! … Hello?
So what happens when you answer the phone? Is it okay to use any of the greetings that we’ve talked about above? NO WAY!
Actually, when you answer the phone you use a very special way of saying “hello.” You say もしもし (moshi moshi).
You’ll notice that it sounds more like “moshi mosh” with that final “i” dropped.
One more thing about もしもし is that it is also used when you are in one of those creepy situations where you’re not sure if you are alone or not and you ask out loud to see if anyone’s there: “Hello? Anyone there?”
BONUS: How to say “What’s Up in Japanese?
When you’re hanging out with your Japanese friends and you want to sound like one of the Cool Kids, instead of saying こんにちは, you could try saying 調子はどう? (choushi wa dou?).
調子 is the Japanese word for “condition.” And どう is the word for “how?” So if you combine those two together, then you get 調子はどう? which can literaly be translated as “whats your condition?” but would more naturally be interpreted as “what’s up?”
In fact, there are quite a few different ways to ask someone how they are doing in Japanese. If you’d like to learn them, you can find them here.
Whew! That was a lot of information! Time to wrap it up. Let me leave you with two final things:
(1) I wrote a short post a while ago that briefly went over the ways to greet people, introduce yourself, and say goodbye. If you’d like to read that one as well, so that you can end conversations as well as start them, then click here to read it.
(2) If you liked this post, then leave me a comment below and let me know what you think! Thanks! 🙂