Japanese

How To Say Thank You in Japanese: The Definitive Guide

I’ve heard it said many times before, but it’s worth repeating here: the two most important words in any language are please and thank you. That’s why today’s lesson is all about how to say thank you in Japanese.

It will probably come as no surprise that there are many ways to say this useful phrase. The differences are based on things such as the formality level of the situation, or just the area of Japan that a person is from.

Check out this list and learn the many different expressions so that you always know the right way to express you gratitude in Japanese!

1. The Common Way To Thank Others

By far the most common way to thank someone in Japanese is with the following phrase.

  • Thank you
    ありがとう
    arigatō

This is probably a word that you have heard many times before, and what I’d like to do now is to go a little more in depth on some of its possible variations.

First of all, the form of the phrase we just saw above is pretty casual. This is something that you would say to a family member or to one of your friends. You might even add on the ending particle ね (ne) to make it sound more colloquial.

  • Thanks, man!
    ありがとうね!
    arigatō ne!

But what about when you need to be a little more polite? Like if you wanted to tell someone you just met thank you, or if you were in the office and a co-worker did something nice for you?

In that case you would add on ございます (gozaimasu) which simply makes the word more formal and polite. You do this exact same thing when making the Japanese phrase “good morning” polite as well.

  • Thank you (polite)
    ありがとうございます。
    arigatō gozaimasu.

And if you wanted to express a lot of thanks, such as the English phrase “Thank you very much” then you would want to add on the word どうも (dōmo) to the front of it.

  • Thank you very much.
    どうもありがとうございます。
    dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.

The Japanese word どうも can have several different meanings depending on how it’s used. In the case of the above example, it functions like the English word “very” but if you were to use it all on its own, it actually works as an informal way to just say thanks.

  • Thanks
    どうも
    dōmo

One final thing I want to cover before we move on to the next section is when the word ございます appears in this phrase, but conjugated into the past tense as ごさいました (gozaimashita).

This is usually used when someone has completed some action to your benefit, and you want to thank them for it.

  • Thank you (for what you did).
    ありがとうございました。
    arigatō gozaimashita.

There’s not too big a difference between using the present tense and the past tense in this phrase, it’s just that one emphasizes something that has already been completed.

2. When “Sorry” Also Means Thank You

In Japanese there is a super useful and common word that every one should know. The word is すみません (sumimasen) and it usually means sorry or excuse me in English.

But it is actually used in Japanese to mean thank you when the other person has done something for you at their own expense. A common situation would be when someone buys you a gift for your birthday.

Since they did something nice for you, and it cost them money (or time if they made it) then you want to thank them in such a way as to acknowledge their sacrifice.

  • Thank you (and sorry for the inconvenience)
    すみません
    sumimasen

You don’t need to be too worried mixing up the different possible meanings for this word since the context of the situation usually lets you know.

3. When Doing Business

The Japanese language is pretty interesting because it takes on a whole new level of formality when doing business. There are different forms of the words you would regularly use, and then there are completely new words as well.

When it comes to saying thank you to a potential client, or a key vendor who supplies your company with essential materials.

The common word used to show humility and gratitude in these situations is 恐れ入る (osore iru). You could use it at the end of a proposal or interview, as a way to thank the potential client or employer for their time.

  • Thank you very much for your consideration.
    恐れ入ります。
    osore irimasu.

And you can also use it as part of a set phrase that is exchanged between two people when they give one another their business cards.

  • Thank you very much. I humbly receive it from you (said while taking business card).
    恐れ入れます、頂戴致します。
    osore irimasu, chōdai itashimasu.

Most people who are learning Japanese won’t have to worry about this high level of formality until after a few years worth of study, but I wanted to include it here for completeness.

4. The Kansai-Ben Way Of Speaking

Most Japanese that foreigners learn is the dialect spoken in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. But there are actually many different regional accents and ways of speaking if you travel around and speak to the locals.

The most famous one, besides the standard Japanese that you’ve probably been learning, is called 関西弁 (Kansai ben) which is the dialect spoken in the Kansai region.

It is used by a considerable proportion of Japan’s population, so chances are pretty high that you’ll run into it soon after consuming native material.

The way that they say thank you in Japanese is slightly different from ありがとう. Here it is now:

  • Thank you (Kansai ben).
    おおきに
    ōkini

Similar to business level Japanese, there’s not a huge need to explicitly study the non-standard dialects of Japanese until you get to a high level with the language.

Unless you’re planning on visiting one of those areas soon. Then it would be a good idea to learn them a little.

5. Thanking Others For Their Hard Work

Alright, we are back in the office now. Or maybe we are at our club/group for this next phrase.

In Japan, there is a huge emphasis on working together, for the betterment of the group or organization. Even so, there is still a need to thank people specifically for the hard work that they did as an individual.

This next phrase is the one that is used after the day’s work is over, and you want to thank them for their effort.

  • Thank you for your hard work!
    お疲れ様でした!
    o tsukare sama deshita!

This form of the word is used between people who are of equal status. But if you are above someone, like if you are their supervisor or boss, then this next phrase is the one you will want to use.

  • Thank you for your hard work (said to subordinates).
    ご苦労様でした。
    go kurō sama deshita.

In both cases, if you are close to the person you’re speaking with, you can drop the でした (deshita) ending completely and make the sentence feel more casual.

6. Thanks To You (Or Someone)

There is a special way to say “thanks to you (or someone)” in Japanese, that you may have run into before. Let me give the word first, along with its literal translation, and then we’ll go into detail on it a little more.

  • Under the gods’ shadow (literal translation)
    お陰様で
    o kage sama de

This is one of those expressions where you really just need to learn how to use it appropriately, and not worry too much about the specific wording of the phrase.

So a common way that it’s used is in response to when someone asks you if you are well:

  • Are you doing well?
    お元気ですか?
    o genki desuka?
  • Yes, I’m fine thank you (thanks to you).
    はい、お陰様で元気です。
    hai, o kage sama de genki desu.

The other way that it is used is when giving credit to someone for something that they have done, or have helped to accomplish.

To do this, you don’t need the whole phrase. You just need おかげで which follows the の particle to indicate who you are thanking.

  • Thanks to Yoshido we won the match.
    吉戸のおかげで試合に勝った。
    yoshido no okage de shiai ni katta.

In this second usage of the word, it is okay to drop the で (de).

  • I was able to gamble, thanks to you (Suzui-san).
    ギャンブルができたのは鈴井さんのおかげです。
    gyamburu ga dekita no wa suzui san no okage desu.

7. Thanks For The Meal

Are you getting tired yet of all the different ways to appreciate others in Japanese? Well, stick with me here, because we are almost done!

Personally I think the fact that there are so many ways to say thanks in Japanese, really helps drive home just how polite the culture and people are.

And when you have finished a great meal, be sure to use this next phrase as a way to thank the cook for it.

  • Thank you (for the meal)!
    ご馳走様でした!
    go chisō sama deshita!

The word 馳走 (chisō) means “feast” and this expression is a way to say to the other person that the food they prepared was so good, that it was in fact, a feast!

This phrase is pretty much always said after a meal, even if the funds are low and all you could eat was chicken and rice.

Related: Learn what to say before eating in Japan.

Like the phrases in section five of this lesson, you may also drop the でした from this particular thanksgiving and instead turn it into the less formal ご馳走様 (go chisō sama) when you’re with friends and family.

8. The English Loan Word

Sometimes in anime you will hear this phrase, which is simply the English phrase for thank you, but as a loan word in Japanese.

Honestly, I feel like there’s a 50/50 chance that any English word you know has been assimilated into Japanese!

  • Thank you!
    サンキュー!
    sankyū!

Keep in mind that since this is a loan word for thank you, it is very informal and should only be used with people close to you.

9. I’m Grateful

Alrighty, this is the final section. I thought we would switch things up a little and instead learn how to say “I’m grateful” in Japanese, rather than another way to say thanks.

The first way is pretty simple.

  • I’m grateful.
    感謝する。
    kansha suru.

The word 感謝 (kansha) means gratitude when the word functions as a noun, but when you add する (suru) to the end of it, you turn it the verb to be grateful.

The other word that you can use to mean “grateful” is 有難い (arigatai) which sounds pretty close to the word we learned way back in section one, but this latest one is still different enough to be considered its own word.

  • I’m grateful for that (the thing we were talking about).
    それは有難い。
    sore wa arigatai.

Thankfully, This Lesson Is Over!

You’ve learned a lot today! Who knew there could be so many ways to say thank you in Japanese, right?

If you enjoy learning Japanese, and you’re looking for a way to take your abilities to the next level, then check out my reviews on the top learning resources available online.

Have you heard any other ways to say thank you in Japanese? Which one of today’s did you like the most?

6 Comments

  • Nancy

    Such a fun lesson!  I had no idea that there were so many variations on one idea…thank you.  I have to agree with you that this is a very polite society.  What a delight to be thanked for the “feast” even if it was a small meal.  However, I was most taken with the idea that bosses thank employees for their work for the day.  

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I would agree with you. I mean, I’ve had bosses tell me that I’ve done good work after a project, but when the day is winding down, they usually just say “good bye” as that is the norm in our society.

      The Japanese culture is a bit different though, and these phrases really reflect that fact since things like お疲れ様 and ご苦労様 and used pretty much every day. 

      I think it’s cool though, because if all our cultures were the same, then there’d be no reason to learn a new one. 

  • Stella

    I really enjoyed reading this article as it really shows the different ways to say a short phrase.  Being English myself, I spent some time trying to pronounce some of the phrases the correct way.

    It would be so useful if you had either a video or podcast demonstrating how to pronounce Please and Thankyou in the many Japanese dialects.  I have been in touch with a church that has Chinese people and am now aware that what you share here can be applied in Chinese also.

    I am looking forward to more articles from you!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I can appreciate seeing it written in Japanese, with a little romaji to help, and not really knowing how to pronounce the words. 

      If you’d like a crash course on Japanese sounds, then check out the free course I created which goes over all of them in detail.

      Learn the Japanese sounds here!

      Once you begin to get into it, it’s actually a little surprising how many sounds are the same in English!

  • Sophia

    Japanese people are very, very polite. I would assume they are the most polite people in the entire world. That is why it is important to respect their culture and most importantly learn the most “grateful” phrase they have in japanese which is “thank you” its also important to learn how to say sorry as well, and I like that they have a sort of phrase for both sorry and thank you. Its a little hard for me to grasp but then again I do remember how japan is a culture based on being respectful, then it makes more sense. 

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, the Japanese language is structured and used quite a bit differently from English, and even after spending a lot of time with the language, there are still times where I’m not sure what’s happening. But as you continue to exposure yourself to more and more, it slowly becomes clearer.

      It’s also pretty interesting to see how the cultures differ from one another, and then to see it reflected in the vocabulary that’s used on a daily basis. 

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