Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese
There are several ways of saying “Thank you” in Japanese.
In this post, I am going to explain the most common phrase for “Thank you”.
Arigatou (gozai masu / mashita)
The phrase was derived from “Arigatashi”, which literally means “difficult to be”.
The Kanji in “ari” means “there is” or “be (there)”, and another in “gatashi” is “difficult”.
Altogether, “arigatashi” means “rare” or “(unusual and) precious”.
In the old times, it also meant “unbearable (to be)”.
The phrase “Arigatou” is rather casual to say to somebody you are not very close.
It is better to say “Arigatou gozai masu (or mashita)”.
Its pronunciation is “Ali” and French “gateau”.
Difference between “masu” and “mashita”
My English speaking colleague asked me what differs between “Arigatou gozai masu” and “Arigatou gozai mashita“.
“Mashita” is a past tense of “masu”, and generally “mashita” is used when you thank about something which has been done already (or which you feel it’s done).
If you are not sure which tense you should use to say “Thank you” in Japanese, use “masu” for something which has not been done or just been done.
“Mashita” for something which was done some time ago.
Having said this, I guess that just “Arigatou” or “Thank you” in English (with smile and maybe vow) is fine in the most cases.
Japanese people should be able to see that you are grateful whether you say in English or casual Japanese.
[Examples for “masu” and “mashita”]
When somebody gives you a gift now, you will say “Arigatou gozai masu“, not “mashita”.
If you appreciate something which you were given a few days ago, you will say “Arigatou gozai mashita“.
If you are told on the phone or in mail that your (not-so-close) friend sent a gift for you, and it hasn’t reached you yet, you will answer “Arigatou gozai masu“.
You can’t use “mashita” because you haven’t received it yet, so the action of giving and receiving the gift hasn’t finished.
After you received it, you can say “Arigatou gozai mashita“.
Or, it’s possible to say “Arigatou gozai masu” with other past-tense sentences like “Todoki mashita” (It reached me), to express that you still appreciate about the gift as much as you did when you received it (or heard about it on the phone).
However, if you have already received it when your friend phones you, you will say “Arigatou gozai masu” probably with other sentences like “Todoite imasu.” (“It has arrived”)
It’s more natural to use the present tense, because this case is almost the same as that you receive the gift on the spot from your friend, so the “giving and receiving” has just finished.
Some say “Arigatou” was derived from a Portuguese word “Obrigado” meaning “Thank you”.
It is true that both phrases sound similar, but “Arigatou” was used much before the first visit by Portuguese people to Japan.
So, I’m afraid this theory is completely nonsense.
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
At first, I was going to write about how to say “you” in Japanese, but the most common “you” word is a person’s name usually with suffix like “san”, “kun”, or “chan”. (ex. Hanako-san) This way of calling is used as third person as well. In this post, I’m trying to explain the variants and […]
The final post about numbers in Japanese. Number over quadrillion Numbers over “chou” (trillion to quadrillion) are quite rarely used. You may hear the following unit “kei” sometimes, but numbers over the unit “kei” won’t be seen in usual life. I’ve never seen it myself even in the news and I actually can’t name units […]
After Michizane’s death in 903, people, who were involved with the conspiracy to frame him, died in a mysterious death one after another. Also, there were natural disasters in Kyoto. Victims of vengeance by Sugawara no Michizane Year: Person 906: Fujiwara no Sadakuni (Age: 40) 908: Fujiwara no Sugane (Age: 53) He reported to the […]
The following titles are commonly used casual Japanese honorific titles and very rarely used titles. Never ever use any of these to higher ranking people or your customers unless you are very close to the person. If you are not so sure which title to use to somebody, the person’s family name with “san” is […]
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (3) Mary-san (Ms. Mary) A girl had an old Western doll and called it “Mary”. When her family moved to another place, she disposed it because it was old. One night, a telephone rang at her new home. The girl got it, then heard the voice saying, “Hello, I’m […]
Sugawara no Michizane is the person who is worshipped as god of study at the shrine, “Dazaifu Tenman-guu”. “Sugawara” is the family name and “Michizane” is the first name. He is also well-known as one of the Big Three Onryou (vengeful spirit) in Japan, along with Taira no Masakado and Emperor Sutoku. Life of Sugawara […]
General, but not very often used “I” in Japanese Several first-person singular pronouns for common people, only used by some. Neutral [Jibun] “Jibun” means “oneself”. Can be used by anybody according to circumstances, but I guess few common people use this as a usual pronoun for themselves. Maybe male athletes often use this, especially in […]
One to ten in Japanese 2 In this post, I’m going to write minor version of one to ten in Japanese. I doubt if this is introduced in Japanese textbooks for foreign people. This is still used, but rather rare I guess. Also, it’s less favourable in the formal conversations or texts. Minor ways to […]
“Thank you” in Japanese other than “Arigatou” “Arigatou (gozai masu)” is the common phrase, but there are other phrases for “Thank you” in Japanese. Sumimasen The phrase is also very common and frequently heard in Japan. (Maybe more often used than “Arigatou”). This has several meanings : “I’m sorry.” “Excuse me.” “Thank you (and I’m […]
In Japanese, there are many ways to call yourself. Here, I’m trying to explain the differences of each word, but please note they are my own personal impressions and other Japanese may not feel the same way. The word “I” in Japanese Although we have many words for “I”, it is frequently omitted. If you […]