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Basic Japanese Phrases


Start using the following short Japanese phrases at home. You may need your family's cooperation, but if you make it a habit, you'll be amazed at how quickly you pick up a bit of Japanese.

  • Domo (dohh-moh; Thank you or Hi!)

  • le (eee-eh; No or Don't mention it.)

  • Hai (hah-ee; Yes)

  • Wakarimasen (wah-kah-ree-mah-sen; I don't understand.)

  • Shiriiriasen (she-ree-mah-sen; I don't know the answer to that question.)

  • Zenzen (zehn-zehn; Not at all or It was nothing.)

  • Ii desu ne (ee-ee deh-soo neh; That's a great idea!)

  • Yatta(yaht-tah; Yahoo! I did it.)

  • Gambatte(gahm-baht-teh; Go for it! or Try your best!)

  • Omedeto (oh-meh-deh-tohh; Congratulations!)

  • Yokoso (yohh-koh-soh; Welcome!)

  • Shinpai shinaide (sheen-pah-ee shee-nah-ee-deh; Don't worry!)

  • Makasete (mah-kahTseh-teh; Count on me!)

  • So, so (sohh, sohh; You're right, you're right!) Used when you agree with someone's statement. This phrase is similar to what you mean when you say "yeah" in the middle of an English conversation just to let the other person know that you're listening.

  • Dame (dah-meh; You're not allowed to do that or That's bad!) Used when you want to stop someone from doing something or when you want to say that something is bad or impermissible. You'd never say this phrase to a superior or to someone older than you. You can say it to children, siblings, or very close friends.

  • Enryo shinaide (Don't be shy)

    Japanese guests often refuse food or drink offers at least once. If you're the host, say enryo shinaide (ehn-ryoh shee-nah-ee-deh).

  • Mottainai (What a Waste/It's too qood)

    Say mottainai (moht-tah-ee-nah-ee) to object to waste. You can also say it if someone lacks a true appreciation for something valuable.

  • Osakini (Pardon me, but I'm ieavinq now)

    When you have to leave a gathering early, say osakini (oh-sah-kee-nee; literally means earlier) to display your thoughtfulness for others.

  • Sasuga (I'm impressed by you, as usual)

    Sasuga (sah-soo-gah) literally means "as might have been expected," but it's commonly used as a compliment. If a friend wins a competition, say pasuga.

  • Gambatte (Try your best!)

    The Japanese believe that the effort is more important than the result. If a friend's going to take an important exam, say gambatte (gahm-baht-teh) to her.

  • Shoganai (There's no choice/There's nothing that can be done)

    When you're in a jam and none of the possible solutions will work well, choose one and say shoganai (shohh-gah-nah-ee), which shows that you've resigned yourself to the situation.

  • Okage-sama de (Luckily/Thanks to you)

    If someone asks ogenki desu ka (oh-gehn-kee deh-soo kah; How are you?), answer with the modest okage-sama de (oh-kah-geh-sah-mah de) rather than genki desu (gehn-kee deh-soo; I'm fine). The original meaning is that your well-being is due to God and others, including the person you're talking to.

  • Gokuro-sama (Thank you for your trouble)

    If you're the boss, say gokur5-sama (goh-koo-rohh-sah-mah) to each of your workers when they say good-bye to you at the end of the day.

  • yoroshiku (Pleased to meet you/1 appreciate your helping me)

    You can say yoroshiku (yoh-roh-shee-koo) when you first meet someone, as in you're pleased to meet him. You can also say it after asking a favor of someone, in which case it means "I appreciate your helping me."

  • Taihen desu ne (That's tough)

    Use this phrase to show sympathy, such as when your friend tells you about her difficulties.



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