Japanese/Lessons/Introduction/Konnichiwa/Formal salutations

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In this lesson, we are going to learn how to greet and how to introduce yourself in Japanese:
  • ~は ~です。
  • ~は ~ではありません。
  • ~は ~じゃありません。

Dialogue[edit]

Meeting at the airport[edit]

Mr. Tanaka is making a trip to Okinawa and has arranged to meet with Ms. Hayasaka at the airport. Neither party has met the other before. She is waiting for him with a sign that has his name on it.

Japanese English
田中(たなか): はじめまして。田中(たなか)です。 Tanaka: How do you do. I'm Mr. Tanaka.
早坂(はやさか): ようこそ、田中(たなか)さん。はじめまして。早坂(はやさか)です。 Hayasaka: Welcome, Mr. Tanaka. How do you do. I'm Ms. Hayasaka.
田中: よろしくお(ねが)いします。 Tanaka: It is nice to meet you.
早坂: こちらこそ、よろしくお(ねが)いします。 Hayasaka: The pleasure is mine, it is nice to meet you.

Elevator chat[edit]

Mr. Tanaka sees Ms. Hayasaka on the way into their meeting the next day, and she holds the elevator open for him as he steps on.

{{Japanese conversation|break|She holds the elevator door open and Mr. Tanaka steps on.

Japanese English
田中: 早坂さん、おはようございます。 Tanaka: Good morning, Ms. Hayasaka.
早坂: おはようございます、田中さん。 Hayasaka: Good morning, Mr. Tanaka.
田中: ありがとうございます。 Tanaka: Thank you.
早坂: どういたしまして。 Hayasaka: Don't mention it.

Campus greetings[edit]

Terumi and Kouichi are friends from school. Terumi sees Kouichi walking across campus one morning and calls out to him.

Japanese English
照美(てるみ): おーい、幸一(こういち)(くん) Terumi: Hey, Kouichi.
幸一(こういち): 照美(てるみ)ちゃん、おはよう。元気(げんき) Kouichi: Terumi, good morning. You all right?
照美: うん、元気(げんき)幸一(こういち)(くん)元気(げんき) Terumi: Yeah, I'm fine. You all right, Kouichi?
幸一: まぁまぁ。 Kouichi: Okay, I guess.

Daily greetings[edit]

Japanese English
山田(やまだ)さんは鈴木(すずき)さんに()う。 — Mr Yamada meets Ms Suzuki.
山田(やまだ): 鈴木(すずき)さん、こんにちは。 Yamada: Good day, Mr. Suzuki.
鈴木: こんにちは、山田さん。 Suzuki: Good day, Mr. Yamada.
山田: 元気(げんき)ですか。 Yamada: Are you well?
鈴木: ええ、元気です。 Suzuki: Yes, I'm well.

Personal introduction[edit]

こんにちは、(わたし)は 山田(やまだ)です。 — Hello, I'm Yamada.
私は 日本(にほん)(じん)です。— I'm Japanese.
私は アメリカ人ではありません。 — I'm not an American.
はじめまして。 — Pleased to meet you.

Please note the lack of the "さん" honorific, as Yamada is talking about himself.)

Chit-chat[edit]

Japanese English
たなか: すずきさん、こんにちは。 Tanaka: Good afternoon Ms Suzuki.
すずき: ああ、たなかさん。 こんにちは。 こちら は やまださん です。 Suzuki: Ah, Mr. Tanaka. Good afternoon. This is Mr. Yamada.
やまだ: 初めまして、やまだ です。 Yamada: How do you do, I'm Yamada.
たなか: やまださん ですか。 たなか です。 どうぞ よろしく。 Tanaka: Mr. Yamada? I'm Tanaka. Nice to meet you.
やまだ: よろしく。 Yamada: Nice to meet you.

Inquiring for names[edit]

Aさん: 名前(なまえ)(なん)ですか? A: What's your name?
Bさん: (わたし)は〜です。 B: It's 〜.

The word "私"(わたし) is one of the many ways in which you can express the first person singular (i.e. "I") in Japanese. It can be used in polite and plain language. The formal version is read わたくし.

Inquiring for nationality[edit]

Japanese English
Aさん: (くに)はどちらですか? A: What country are you from?
Bさん: 〜です。 B: I'm from 〜.
Japanese English
Aさん: アメリカ(じん)ですか? A: Are you an American?
Bさん: はい、アメリカ人です。 B: Yes, I am.
Bさん: いいえ、アメリカ人じゃありません。 B: No, I'm not.

In Japanese, nationalities are formed by adding adding the word for person, (じん), to the name of a country.

Greeting and introduction[edit]

Mr Yamada and his friend Mr Tanaka meet Ms Suzuki.

Japanese English
やまだ: すずきさん、こんにちは。 Yamada: Hello Ms. Suzuki.
すずき: こんにちは やまださん。 Suzuki: Hello Mr Yamada.
やまだ: おげんき です か。 Yamada: Are you well?
すずき: ええ、げんき です。 Suzuki: Yes, I am well.
やまだ: こちら は わたし の ともだち です。 たなか です。 Yamada: This person is my friend. He is Tanaka.
すずき: すずき です。はじめまして。 Suzuki: I'm Suzuki. Nice to meet you.
たなか: はじめまして。 Tanaka: Nice to meet you.
やまだ: もう いかなければ なりません。 じゃぁまた。 Yamada: Well, I have to go. See you later.
すずき: じゃぁまた。 Ms. Suzuki: See you later.
たなか: また ね。 Tanaka: Later!

Vocabulary and phrases[edit]

Common Japanese Salutations (Formal)
Greeting Kana
Good morning. おはようございます。
Good afternoon. こんにちは。
Good evening. こんばんは。
How do you do./Pleased to meet you. (lit. we've started) はじめまして。
Welcome. ようこそ。
Nice to meet you (lit. "Please be good (to me)") よろしくおねがいします。
Likewise (lit. "This side for sure (who should say so)") こちらこそ。
Thank you. ありがとうございます。
Thank you very much. どうも ありがとうございます。
You're welcome./Don't mention it./No problem. どういたしまして。
こちらこそ
This expression can be used to return a polite expression such as ありがとうございます or よろしくお(ねが)いします
Formality
Some of the phrases above use polite forms, used when speaking to a superior or an equal with whom one has only loose ties.
Time of day
おはようございます is used in the morning (till about 10am) or when waking up.
こんにちは is used during the day.
こんばんは is used during the evening and at night.
These phrases are only used in greeting, never in parting.
Literal Meaning
おはようございます It is early.
こんにちは Today...
こんばんは This evening...
はじめまして For the first time...
よろしくお(ねが)いします I humbly ask for your favor.
こちらこそ This side for sure (It is I who should be the one to say)...
ありがとうございます I am grateful.
  1. さん: Mr.; Mrs.; Miss; Ms.
    • さん is an appellation added to the end of a name to indicate respect. It is roughly equivalent to Mr., Ms., etc. in English, but can be used on either the family name or the given name. It can also be used on a vocation (e.g. 理容師(りようし)さん "barber", (まわ)りさん "police officer"), or even an animal (e.g. (うさぎ)さん "rabbit"). The latter usage is considered childish.
    • さん is never used on oneself or those in one's in-group, only on others toward whom one should show respect.
    • see also (くん), ちゃん, (さま), ()
  1. 元気(げんき) (na-adj): healthy; cheerful; energetic
    • means foundation and refers to chi, the Chinese metaphysical concept of energy. Thus, saying one's chi is stable means that the individual is healthy, happy, and energetic.
  2. はい (interj): yes
  3. ええ (interj): yes
    • polite and somewhat feminine
  4. うん (interj): yeah
  5. まぁまぁ (na-adj): okay, fair, not bad, so so
Common Japanese Salutations
Greeting Kanji Kana Notes
Formal
Are you well? お元気ですか。 おげんきですか。
I am well. 元気です。 げんきです。
I'm okay. まぁまぁです。
Informal
You all right? 元気? げんき? rising intonation
I'm all right. 元気だ。¹
元気。²
げんきだ。¹
げんき。²
falling intonation
Okay, I guess. まぁまぁ。
  • ¹ Sounds more masculine.
  • ² Relatively gender-neutral.
元気(げんき)ですか。
This is used between people who are acquainted with each other and is roughly equivalent to English "How are you?" or "How have you been?"
When responding, the お at the beginning and the か at the end are dropped, leaving 元気(げんき)です
元気(げんき)
This is the the informal way to ask "How are you?"
The question is asked with a rising intonation.
The affirmative response can be 元気(げんき)だ, which sounds somewhat masculine, or 元気(げんき), which is more gender-neutral.
まぁまぁです。, まぁまぁ。
These are acceptable responses if you are not feeling particularly healthy or cheerful at the moment.
Grammatical construction
お元気ですか。 = お (polite prefix) + 元気(げんき) "healthy; happy" + です (noun predicate ending) + か (question marker)
元気です。 = 元気(げんき) "healthy; happy" + です (noun predicate ending)
Clarifications
Why is the question お元気(げんき) but the answer just 元気(げんき) -- what happened to the お o?
  • The お is an exalted prefix, meaning that the health (元気(げんき) genki) you are referring to is the health of someone you wish to exalt. Japanese honorifics do not allow you to exalt yourself, so you can never use お元気(げんき) o-genki to talk about your own health.
Well, can't I just ask 元気(げんき)ですか without the exalted お?
  • Yes, you may. The お just makes it more polite.
Can I ask お元気(げんき) informally?
  • It sounds strange because normally if you are exalting someone, you would also use the polite ですか ending.
English Japanese Reading Notes
Yamada (a common Japanese family name) 山田 やまだ
Suzuki (a common Japanese family name) 鈴木 すずき
Good day こんにちは こんにちは
healthy 元気 げんき
yes ええ ええ
I, me わたし (or わたくし)
Japanese (person) 日本人 にほんじん (or にっぽんじん)
Nice to meet you. 初めまして はじめまして
American (person) アメリカ人 アメリカじん
An honorific similar to Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Miss ~さん ~さん

Supplementary vocabulary[edit]

English Japanese Reading Notes
he かれ
she, girlfriend 彼女 かのじょ
student 学生
生徒
がくせい
せいと
teacher 先生 せんせい
employee 社員 しゃいん
English Japanese Reading Notes
Good morning おはようございます おはようございます
Good evening こんばんは こんばんは
Good night おやすみなさい おやすみなさい
  • 田中 (たなか) - Japanese family name.
  • 鈴木 (すずき) - Japanese family name.
  • 山田 (やまだ) - Japanese family name.
  • こんにちは - "Good day, good afternoon"
  • か - question particle. This is added at the end of a sentence to change it into a question. It should be noted that using the actual question mark (?) is not necessary, but it is not considered incorrect to have it either.
あいさつ ・ Basic Phrases and Japanese Greetings (aisatsu・あいさつ)
Greeting Hiragana
Good morning. おはようございます。
Good day. こんにちは。
Good evening. こんばんは。
Good night/I'm going to sleep. おやすみなさい。
How do you do./Pleased to meet you. はじめまして。
Welcome. ようこそ。
Nice to meet you よろしくおねがいします。
Likewise (It is I who should say so) こちらこそ。
Thank you. ありがとうございます。
Thank you very much. どうも ありがとうございます。
You're welcome./Don't mention it./No problem. どういたしまして。
Excuse me./I'm sorry to trouble you. すみません。
I am sorry for what I have done. ごめんなさい。

Usage Notes[edit]

  • おはようございます is used in the morning (until about 10am) or when waking up.
  • こんにちは is used during the day.
  • こんばんは is used during the evening and at night.
  • はじめまして should be used if one has not already met the other person.
  • These phrases are only used in greeting, never in parting.
  • おやすみなさい is only used before going to sleep
Some Basic Words in Japanese
Noun Hiragana Kanji
pen ぺん --
pencil えんぴつ えんぴつ
scissors はさみ はさみ
ruler ものさし もの
glue のり のり
note book のうと --
日 ・ 本 ・ 人 ・ 友 ・ 天 ・ 元 ・ 田 ・ 中 ・ 気 ・ 何
Kanji Common Meanings 訓読み (Kunyomi) 音読み (Onyomi) Example Example Meaning
sun, day ひ、か ニチ、ジツ にちよう Sunday
book もと ホン ほん Japanese language
person ひと ジン、ニン 日本人じん Japanese person
friend とも ユウ ともだち friend
sky, heaven あめ、あま テン てん emperor
origin もと ゲン、ガン もともと originally, always
rice field デン なか common Japanese surname
middle なか チュウ ちゅうごく China
power てん weather
what なに、なん なんですか? What time is it?
Kanji Hiragana Formality
わたし polite/casual
わたくし formal
ぼく casual, more often used by males
おれ casually used by men, can be rude
あたし used by women/indicates femininity
あたくし used by women/formal/indicates femininity
わし わし casually used by old people
あなた あなた you1/may sound impolite
名前  なまえ name
  •  Japanese regularly omit the subject from sentences when they are obvious from context. Hence, pronouns are hardly used. Whenever forced to use a pronoun, it is better to refer to someone by their proper name or title. あなた, may give the impression of a news anchor speaking at them or some unfamiliar person.
Kana English
イギリス Britain
アメリカ America
にほん Japan
かんこく2 Korea
ちゅうごく3 China
タイ Thailand
ベトナム Vietnam
ブラジル Brazil
メキシコ Mexico
カナダ Canada
ドイツ Germany
フランス France
  • ほん・にほん・Nihon
  • 2かんこく・かんこく・Kankoku
  • 3ちゅうごく・ちゅうごく・Chuugoku

NOTE: Most countries are written in katakana as they are foreign words. "Nihon" 日本, for example, is not and neither is "Chuugoku" 中国(China).

Culture[edit]

"How are you?" and "Genki?" may translate the same, but the phrases are culturally incompatible. In general, Japanese do not ask each other how the other is every day. "Genki?" is used only when people meet after a long while. For example, when one calls their mother in Japan, the first thing one might ask is "Genki?", however, one would not ask friends whom the see every day, "Genki?"

"Genki" is, culturally, much closer to "How have you been?". Although "How are you?" is common greeting in Western countries, it is culturally more accepted to simply say "Kon-nichi-wa."

Also in English countries, the expected answer to the English "How are you?" is "Fine, thanks." Japanese, however, tend to respond quite literally to the question お元気(げんき)ですか. It is not considered rude in Japan to go into detail about your medical situation. In fact, when a Japanese has a cold or other disease that can be transmitted aerially, it is considered good manners to wear a mask resembling a surgical mask over the mouth and nose to avoid infecting others with whom you come in contact.

So if you're sick and a Japanese friend asks you, お元気(げんき)ですか, feel free to tell them all about your ailment (within reason). The following words might help:

Grammar[edit]

こんにちは
This phrase is equivalent to saying "Good day" in english, and is only said once a day to each person. It is used from 10-11 A.M. to around sunset.
お元気 ですか
Translated as "Are you well?", it is commonly used after a greeting to politely start a conversation.
はじめまして
Meaning "Nice to meet you", it's used mostly as a precursor to an introduction.
~は & ~です
は is a particle; it looks like ha but is pronounced wa.
The particle is used to express one thing's relation or status, much like English speakers say "My name is Clem" or "He is burning!". It states the topic of the sentence (some more uses and contexts will be studied further on).
です is used to affirm a statement.
For example, わたしのなまえはメアリーです means 'my name is Mary'.
This is a particle added to the end of the sentence to make it a question. For example:
  • あなたは 山田さんです。(You are Mr. Yamada.)
  • ⇒ あなたは 山田さんです。(Are you Mr. Yamada?)
~さん
This is a honorific. An honorific is a particle added to the end of a name to show respect. Honorifics are never used when talking about yourself or anything related to yourself (like your siblings, for instance), but when you are talking about someone else. So it's wrong to say:
  • 私は山田さんです。(I am Mr. Yamada, This sounds very strange to japanese ears.)
or
  • あなたは山田ですか。(Are you Yamada? This is incorrect because you don't know Yamada.)
When talking to friends or colleagues you can drop さん or replace it with くん and ちゃん.e.g. Hiroko and Matsumoto, 2 high school friends arrive at school.
  • hiroko: まつもとくん、げんき?
  • matsumoto: ええ、げんき。ひろこちゃんは?

Introducing yourself[edit]

When you meet someone for the first time, you first say,

はじめまして
"Nice to meet you" (more literally, "This is the first time...")

You should not use はじめまして if you have already met the person.

Next, you introduce yourself by saying,

私は__です (わたし は __です).
I am __.

Your family name should be used in place of the blank. If you know how, pronounce your name in Japanese.

  • 私 (わたし) means "I, me, myself".
  • は is the topic-marker particle in this sentence, so it is pronounced "wa".
  • です is a polite ending. Here it means "to be" (the copula), but we will see later that it has other uses.

Finally, you say どうぞ よろしく おねがいします, which means something like "Please favor me with your friendship".

Let's put it all together. If your name were 田中(たなか), you would say.

audio はじめまして、私は田中です。どうぞよろしくおねがいします。

Note: You can omit 私は and just say "〜です" when it is clear that the topic being talked about is yourself.

Introducing others[edit]

When you want to introduce someone to another person, you gesture to the person and say,

こちら は __さん です.
This is Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms __.
  • こちら is a polite way of saying "this (person)"
  • 〜さん is an honorific suffix denoting Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms.
すずき さん
Mr/Ms Suzuki.
audio' こちらはすずきさんです。

Note: When you are addressing or talking about someone, you should add the honorific suffix 〜さん to their name. Never use 〜さん after your own name, since this is inappropriate.

Summary[edit]

Japanese Pronunciation English
初めまして はじめまして "I'm meeting you for the first time." (similar to the English "How do you do?")
わたし I, me, myself
(wa) topic-marker particle
です des(u) copula verb "to be"
どうぞ よろしく douzo yoroshiku "Please favor me with your friendship." (similar to the English "Nice to meet you.")
こちら kochira This person here
さん san honorific suffix added to someone else's name

Practice[edit]

Duration: 5-10 minutes

  1. Drill: What is the proper phrase for each situation?
    • Greeting someone for the first time.
    • Greeting an acquaintance in the daytime.
    • Greeting an acquaintance at night.
    • Greeting an acquaintance in the morning.
    • Expressing gratitude.
    • Expressing best wishes to someone you've just met.
    • Responding to an expression of gratitude.
    • Welcoming a guest into your home.
  2. Drill: What is an appropriate response to each phrase?
    • おはようございます
    • はじめまして
    • ありがとうございます
    • ようこそ
    • よろしくお(ねが)いします
  3. Converse: Have the following conversations with another student. If self-studying, converse with yourself.
    • Introduce yourself and tell each other your names.
    • Meet each other for the second time.
    • One student should do something kind for another, who should respond gratefully.

Click here to see answers.

  1. Ask your neighbor how they are doing in informal Japanese. When asked how you are doing, give an appropriate response.
  2. Repeat the same exercise for your teacher using formal Japanese.
  1. When should はじめまして be used?
  2. What is the meaning of どうぞ よろしく おねがいします?
  3. Is "私は田中さんです" a correct sentence? If not, why?
  4. How would you introduce yourself to someone you are meeting for the first time?
  5. How would you introduce someone to another person?
  • Practice by copying kanji into a notebook, preferably a kanji notebook with small boxes in which to draw them. When using these note books, draw the kanji so that they are contained in the center of the box. Avoid crossing the outside lines and try to preserve uniformity as much as possible. Try to write each kanji correctly at least 10-20 times a day.

Imagine you are in these situations. Write the applicable phrase to each situation.

  1. You accidentally bump into a man on the street?
  2. Your friend introduces you to someone new?
  3. You see a friend when you're out at night?
  4. You greet your co-workers in the morning?
  5. You are about to go to bed?
  6. Someone hands you something you need?
  7. Someone thanks you?

Links[edit]

Misunderstanding about "How are you?" by Keiichiro