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How to speak Japanese

Greetings in Japanese

Learning Japanese can be a bit overwhelming. You need to familiarize yourself with the different alphabets, learn pronunciations, and adhere to all the different grammatical rules. In fact, experts believe that it can take as long as three to six months for someone to reach a beginner level! But don’t let that stop you. Learning Japanese is possible, you just need to have some patience and stay committed. Luckily, if you've been asking yourself, "how do you greet someone in Japanese?" you've come to the right place. For some great conversation starters, we’ve put together some of the most common greetings in Japanese and when to use them.

How to Greet Someone in Japanese

There are several ways to greet someone in Japanese, but many of the greetings depend on your relationship with the person and your situation. You can practice using both informal and formal greetings in Japanese by downloading the Tandem app today! In the meantime, to help you navigate the intricacies of how to greet people in Japanese (without offending anyone), consider some of the most common options below.

1. こんにちは — Konnichiwa — Hello/Good afternoon

One of the most common greetings in Japanese really is Konnichiwa, and it can be used in almost any situation or occasion. It’s even considered one of the formal greetings in Japanese. However, since it means “good afternoon,” it’s best to use it during the day.

2. おはよう ございます — Ohayou gozaimasu — Good morning (formal)

Another one of the formal greetings in Japanese is おはよう ございます, which is used to say “good morning.” This is mainly used when you are greeting someone that you don’t know well, or when addressing one of your superiors in the morning hours.

3. おはよう — Ohayou — Good morning (informal)

If you want to say good morning to one of your friends or someone in your family, you can drop the second part of the greeting above to shorten it to おはよう, pronounced ohayou (kind of like the state, Ohio).

4. こんばんは — Konbanwa — Good evening

The third way to greet someone based on the time of day is こんばんは, pronounced konbanwa. On its own, it’s considered formal and can be used between people in any relationship. However, try to keep this greeting for the late afternoon or anytime in the evening.

5. おやすみなさい — Oyasumi nasai — Good night

If you want to tell someone goodnight, you can say おやすみなさい. Although it’s not technically considered a greeting, it’s a nice way to tell someone that you’re going to sleep. Directly translated, it means “go take a rest.” You can also drop the “nasai” and just say おやすみ for informal usage.

6. やあ! — Ya! — Hi!

If you’re looking for a casual way to say hi to friends, simply say やあ!, pronounced “ya.” Avoid using this in formal situations though, because it’s more of a way to grab someone’s attention. Oftentimes, it’s followed by an exclamation mark.

7. ヤッホ — Ya-ho — Yoohoo

When learning how to greet people in Japanese, don’t forget to learn a few informal options for when you develop close friendships! One of the most common one is ヤッホ! It’s similar to “hi” or “yo” in English and can be used as a greeting and a way to get someone’s attention. It’s a younger greeting and very informal, so don’t use it with your superiors.

8. よぉ! — Yo! — Yo!

You can also get someone's attention by saying よぉ. Although it’s often used by younger men, anyone can say it—as long as they’re talking to someone they know well.

9. おす! — Osu! — Hey!

Another informal way to greet someone in Japanese is to say おす! This translates directly to “hey,” but the word tends to be a bit more masculine, so it’s mostly used amongst men. There are also two other variations that all mean the same おーい! (Ōi!) or おっす! (Ossu!).

10. もしもし — Moshi moshi — Hello?

Whenever you answer the telephone, you can say もしもし, which is pronounced as “moshi moshi.” However, this should only be when you answer the phone from someone that you’re close with, like a friend or family member. If you’re answering a call for business, stick to the formal greeting of はい, pronounced “hai.”

11. お久しぶりですね — O-hisashiburi desune — Long time no see

If you run into someone that you haven’t seen in a while, you can say お久しぶりですね. This translates to “long time no see” and is commonly said to someone after going about a month or longer without seeing them. It can be used as one of the formal greetings in Japanese, but you can also drop the beginning and end to make it a little less formal.

12. いかがお過ごしですか? — Ikaga osugoshi desu ka? — How are you doing?

When you want to ask someone how they’re doing, but are speaking to a person of authority, a superior, or an elderly person that you aren’t familiar with, use the phrase いかがお過ごしですか? You can use it on its own after saying hello or use it as a way to introduce another question. Always use this version if you’re speaking to someone you don’t know and are unsure of their status.

13. お元気ですか? — O genki desu ka? — How are you? (formal)

When learning how to greet someone in Japanese, an option is always to ask how they’re doing. If you want to do that in a formal setting, it’s important to use お元気ですか, which is pronounced as “o genki desu ka?” It’s a great option when meeting someone new, but you can also use it with close friends and family. Directly translated, it means, “Are you healthy?” However, always start your conversation with a formal hello before using this greeting.

14. 元気だった? — Genki datta? — How are you? (informal)

When talking amongst friends or close family members, you can tone it down and use the informal 元気だった? to ask how they’re doing. It’s good amongst friends and can be shortened even further by dropping the second half of the phrase so it reads 元気?

15. どうよ? — Dōyo? — How’s it going?

Finally, if you want to learn how to greet people in Japanese and ask about what’s going on in their life, you can say どうよ? This directly translates to, “how’s life?” and is a casual way to strike up a conversation with someone you know well.

Learning how to greet someone in Japanese can be fun, but if you have no one to practice with, it can get a little mundane. Luckily, there’s an app for that! Tandem offers a unique language learning experience that will help you deepen your understanding and improve your Japanese greetings while learning how and when to use them in everyday life. All you need to do is download the app, sign up, and find a native speaker of your target language. Once you match, you’ll begin communicating through language exchange and one-on-one teaching. To join our worldwide community, sign up for Tandem today!

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