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
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 […]
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (1) Summer in Japan is ridiculously hot and humid except in some northern areas. So, people enjoy horror stories especially in summer to feel shivering cold. There are many old and new ghost / horror stories in Japan, and I feel it would be nice to introduce some. (It’s […]
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 […]
Many of Japanese honorific titles in text are the same as ones in speech. However, “sama” or “dono” is much more often used in text, especially for address. Maybe it’s because a writer is in the distance. In a letter, use the same title as one in speech. When I write a letter to my […]
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (2) In this post, there are only two Japanese urban legends. The main topic is a Japanese toilet. Yume (Dream) A high school girl had a nightmare that she was mangled by a psychopath with his knife on the way home from her school. It was so vivid […]
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 […]
Go-chisou sama (deshita) This phrase is said after meal. It expresses appreciation to people who prepared or cooked the meal. “Chisou” literally means “running around”. The Kanji character for “chi” means “run fast” or “travel fast on horseback / by car”. The “sou” character means “run”. People used to run around (or ride around on […]
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 […]
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 […]
General Info : Japanese Alphabetical orders There are two patterns of Japanese Alphabetical orders. One starts with “A”, “I”, “U”. This is now used at school to learn Japanese Alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana. Known as “Gojyuu-on” (lit. “fifty sounds”). The other starts with “I”, “Ro”, “Ha”. Probably this was more commonly used before. Known as […]