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“Thank You” in Japanese: How to Express Your Gratitude in Japanese

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Arigato! You’ve probably heard that phrase before, and know the domo arigato meaning from “Mr. Roboto”… But do you know all the ways to say “thank you” in Japanese?

Japanese, like English, has different variations of “thank you”, like “thanks” and “thank you so much.”

But there are also different ways to say thank you depending on the situation and the formality needed.

And sometimes, “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” is said instead!

So, let’s learn how to say “thank you” in Japanese so you can properly express your gratitude.

How to Say Thank You in Japanese

So… how do you say thank you in Japanese? Well, the most common and standard way to say it is ありがとう (arigatou).

Yes, romanized, it should actually be arigatou with a u instead of arigato, because in Japanese it has a long “oo” sound at the end.

This is a bit on the casual side, though, one that’s better used with your peers. If you want to be more formal, such as thanking a stranger or clerk at a store, you should use the more formal ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

Also, if what you’re saying “thank you” for has already happened, you can change it to past tense: ありがとうございました (arigatou gozaimashita).

Saying Thanks with Sumimasen instead of Arigatou

In some cases, it’s more common to use the Japanese phrase すみません (sumimasen), which means “I’m sorry” or “excuse me”.

But when we use it in place of arigatou, you’re actually saying “I’m sorry to have troubled you” (whether you asked for the favor or not).

In Japan, it’s super important to acknowledge someone’s effort or inconvenience on someone else’s behalf. That’s why phrases like お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) and お疲れ様でした (otsukaresama deshita) are everyday phrases.

The first in English means “thanks for having me over” but it translates as “I’m sorry for intruding.” And otsukaresama deshita means “thanks for your hard work” in English, but translates as “you must be tired (from all your hard work)”.

Both phrases, when translated to English, mean “thanks”. But in Japanese, they acknowledge someone’s effort or inconvenience on your behalf.

すみません (sumimasen) is the same way. When someone has done something for you that’s taken up their time, effort, money, or energy, then you can reply with すみません (sumimasen). It’s often used when receiving gifts, for example.

Thank You Very Much in Japanese

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Domo arigato (or in proper romanization, doumo arigatou, with long “oo” sounds) means “thank you very much”. どうもありがとう (doumo arigatou) is more formal than arigatou by itself. But it’s still appropriate to say with friends and family, especially if they did a huge favor for you.

It’s more common to use this phrase in its more formal form: どうもありがとうございます (doumo arigatou gozaimasu).

どうも (doumo) translates as “thanks” because that’s the main use for the word, but it’s an emphasizing word like “very”. So you use this to emphasize how thankful you are.

Basically, you can play around with how you use どうも (doumo), ありがとう (arigatou), and ございます/ました (gozaimasu/mashita) to change up your level of thanks and formality.

You could say どうも (doumo).

Or どうもありがとう (doumo arigatou).

Or ありがとう (arigatou).

Or ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

Or どうもありがとうございました (doumo arigatou gozaimashita).

You get the point. There’s plenty of ways to say thank you in Japanese!

There’s one other phrase to mention here: 恐れ入ります (osoreirimasu). This is an extremely formal phrase, and one that’s on the apologetic side like すみません (sumimasen).

You won’t use this phrase often, but you’ll hear it said to you. 恐れ入ります (osoreirimasu) is often used by shop clerks or workers to their customers to thank them.

Thanks in Japanese

“Thanks” in Japanese can be a simple どうも (doumo) or ありがとう (arigatou). Both are casual ways to say “thanks”.

But there are a few slang ways to say it, too. One common way to say “thanks” is サンキュー (sankyuu), which is taken straight from English.

Another slang way to say thanks is あざっす (azassu). Sometimes this is shortened even more in text, where it becomes AZS (yes, in English characters), ありー (ari-) or あーと (a-to). They’re all short forms of the full phrase ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu).

Thank You for the Food in Japanese

There are two cultural phrases in Japanese that have no direct translation in English, but more or less mean “thank you for this food”. They are:

  • いただきます (itadakimasu)
  • ごうちそうさまでした (gouchisousama deshita)

The first, いただきます (itadakimasu) is said before you start eating. It’s like a cross between the French bon appetit and saying grace before you eat: “thank you for this food, amen.”

Itadakimasu lets everyone know it’s time to start eating, while also expressing thanks for having food to eat and those who are sharing it with you.

ごうちそうさまでした (gouchisousama deshita) is said after the meal. It means “thank you for this food” as well. You’ll say to express gratitude not only for the food, but also to everyone who enjoyed it with you, the chef who cooked it, and if someone else paid for it.

Thanking Someone for Doing Something for You in Japanese

There’s actually a specific grammar pattern you use when you want to thank someone specifically for doing something for you.

It’s ~てくれてありがとう (~te kurete arigatou).

First, you’ll need to know how to conjugate into Japanese te-form for this one, so brush up on that if you need to.

You’ll change the verb form to te-form, the Japanese version of English -ing ending. Then you’ll add くれて (kurete) and whatever form of thank you that’s appropriate for the situation as discussed above.

くれる (kureru) is the verb meaning “to receive (from someone else)”. We use this verb when someone else has done us a favor.

Here’s an example:

この本を貸してくれてありがとう!とっても面白かった。 Kono hon wo kashite kurete arigatou! Tottemo omoshirokatta. “Thanks for lending me this book! It was really interesting.”

You’re Welcome in Japanese

“You’re welcome” in Japanese is どういたしまして (dou itashimashite). But this is a formal way to say “you’re welcome.”

There’s actually many ways to say “you’re welcome” in Japanese, too.

For instance, in casual situations, you could say…

  • ううん (uun): “No” (casual)
  • 全然 (zenzen): “Not at all”
  • 問題もない (mondai mo nai): “No problem”
  • いいえいいえ (iie iie): “No” (more formal)
  • 別に (betsu ni): “Nothing” or “No problem”
  • うん、いいよ (un, ii yo): “Yup, it’s fine”
  • 大丈夫 (daijoubu): “It’s alright”
  • いやいやいや (iya iya iya): “No no no…” (casual, used in a denial way)
  • もちろん (mochiron): “Of course”

And these are often used in various combinations, too. Like:

  • ううん、問題もないよ。(uun, mondai mo nai yo): “Nah, it was no problem.”
  • うん、別にいいよ。(un, betsu ni ii yo): “Yeah, it’s nothing (don’t worry about it).”
  • 全然問題もない。(zenzen mondai mo nai): “No problem at all!”
  • いやいやいや、別に。(iya iya iya, betsu ni): “No, no no, it was nothing/no big deal.”
  • うん、もちろん大丈夫ね。(un, mochiron daijoubu ne): “Yeah, of course, it’s fine!”

There are a couple of other formal phrases for “you’re welcome” too that are especially common in the workplace. Such as:

  • こちらこそ (kochirakoso): This means “likewise” but in reply to thank you, it means something like “I should also be thanking you” or “thank you as well”.
  • 遠慮しないでください (enryo shinaide kudasai): “Don’t hesitate (to ask for help)”. You can also shorten this to 遠慮しないで (enryo shinaide) when speaking to a peer.

Other Japanese Words for “Thanks” and “Gratitude”

We’re almost there! There are just a few more handy phrases you need to know to express your gratitude and say “thanks” in Japanese.

The word for “gratitude” in Japanese is 感謝 (kansha), and it can be turned into a verb by attaching する (suru, “to do”). So it becomes 感謝する (kansha suru), meaning “to be grateful” or “to be thankful”.

You’ll use this verb a lot when you want to express your thanks as a verb, like:

美味しい夕食に感謝します。 Oishii yuushoku ni kansha shimasu. “Thank you for a delicious dinner.” or “I’m thankful for the delicious dinner.”

You can also use ありがたい (arigatai) to mean “thankfully” as an adjective.

天気が良かったのでありがたいです。 Tenki ga yokatta node arigatai desu. “I’m thankful for the good weather.”

There's also the phrase お陰様で (okagesama de) which is used quite often in everyday life. It’s a bit formal, but it means “thanks to you.”

This is often said to say thank you for something going well or as a reply to a compliment in which the other person helped you earn.

For example, let’s say your friend helped you prepare for an upcoming exam. Once you took the exam, you did really well and you showed your friend. That exchange might look like:

友達: うわー!試験で本当にうまくいった! Tomodachi: Uwa-! Shiken de hontouni umaku itta! 私: お陰様で! Watashi: Okagesama de!

Friend: “Wow! You did really well on your exam!” Me: “All thanks to you!”

You’ll notice in this example, we used 本当に (hontou ni). This means “really” and it’s often used to express sincere thanks with ありがとう (arigatou), like 本当にありがとうございます (hontou ni arigatou gozaimasu). “Really, thank you so much!”

You can use 誠に (makoto ni, “sincerely”) in the same way, too, although this makes it more formal.

Go Ahead, Thank Mr. Roboto!

Well, the Styx may have warmed you up for this lesson, but there was still so much to learn. But now, you’re a pro at expressing your gratitude.

Don’t forget to learn more 挨拶 (aisatsu, “greetings”) and essential Japanese phrases next. You could also master how to say “I’m sorry” in Japanese, too.

Go start thanking everyone you know in Japanese!

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Caitlin Sacasas

Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months

Caitlin is a copywriter, content strategist, and language learner. Besides languages, her passions are fitness, books, and Star Wars. Connect with her: Twitter | LinkedIn

Speaks: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish

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