20+ Basic Japanese Phrases: An Easy List

Original blog post: https://ling-app.com/ja/basic-japanese-phrases/

Japan has always been one of the top Asian countries that foreigners want to visit at least once in their lifetime. If you are planning a trip to this country, be sure to arm yourself with some of the basic Japanese phrases and words to connect with the locals easily. Contrary to common belief, not everyone can speak English, so you must make it a point to remember these phrases that we will teach you today. If you are ready for that, then let’s start learning.

Japanese is a systematic language with a stable foundation. It is better to start learning the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets so that you will be able to understand essential Japanese words. If you speak English, you may find it a bit challenging in terms of spelling and sentence structure. But practice makes perfect, right? The best way to master it is to talk to a native Japanese speaker. Usually, there are four different writing systems in the Japanese language:

  • Hiragana is used for words that have Japanese roots, grammatical elements, and suffixes.
  • Katakana is used for foreign words transmitted to Japanese from a different language.
  • Kanji can mean a word or idea on its own and its origin is Chinese.
  • Romaji is a Roman alphabet to show the pronunciation of Japanese words.

Hiragana Alphabet

あ-A か-Ka さ-Sa た-Ta な-Na は-Ha ま-Ma や-Ya ら-Ra わ-Wa

い-I き-Ki し-Shi ち-Chi に-Ni ひ-Hi み-Mi り-Ri

う-U く-Ku す-Su つ-Tsu ぬ-Nu ふ-Fu む-Mu ゆ-Yu る-Ru

え-E け-Ke せ-Se て-Te ね-Ne へ-He め-Me れ-Re

お-O こ-Ko そ-So と-To の-No ほ-Ho も-Mo よ-Yo ろ-Ro を-Wo

Katakana Alphabet

ア-A カ-Ka サ-Sa タ-Ta ナ-Na ハ-Ha マ-Ma ヤ-Ya ラ-Ra ワ-Wa

イ-I キ-Ki シ-Shi チ-Chi ニ-Ni ヒ-Hi ミ-Mi リ-Ri

ウ-U ク-Ku ス-Su ツ-Tsu ヌ-Nu フ-Fu ム-Mu ユ-Yu ル-Ru

エ-E ケ-Ke セ-Se テ-Te ネ-Ne ヘ-He メ-Me レ-Re

オ-O コ-Ko ソ-So ト-To ノ-No ホ-Ho モ-Mo ヨ-Yo ロ-Ro

For the case of this blog post, I will be using Hiragana and Romaji for basic Japanese words so that you can read and understand the examples easily.

Basic Japanese Phrases

はい (Hai) — Yes

You can use this when you agree on something or accept something. It is applicable for both formal and informal situations.

いいえ (Iie) — No

When you don’t agree on something or refuse something, it is also applicable for formal and informal situations.

ありがとう (Arigatou) — Thanks

You can also say ありがとうございます (Arigatou gozaimasu) to be more polite and informal.

どういたしまして (Douitashimashite) — You’re Welcome

You can use this as an answer to ありがとう (Arigatou).

おねがいします (O-negai shimasu) — Please

You can use this phrase at the end of sentences. It adds politeness to the request you make.

すみません (Sumimasen) — Excuse Me

You can use this phrase before asking a stranger a question. It is formal.

ごめんなさい (Gomennasai) — I’m Sorry

You can use this phrase to apologize to someone.

Basic Japanese Phrases For Greeting

こんにちは (Konnichiwa) — Hi

You can use this Japanese word to greet someone by saying ‘’hi,’’ applicable for formal and informal situations.

さようなら (Sayounara) — Goodbye

This is a formal way of saying ‘’bye’’ when you leave somewhere. It is informal. You can also say また ね (mata ne) — see you to friends and family.

おはようございます (Ohayou Gozaimasu) — Good Morning

This expression can be used when you enter a crowd in the early hours of the day. If you want to sound informal and casual, you can just say おはよう(ohayou).

こんばんは (Konbanwa) — Good Evening

This expression can be used when you greet or say hi to someone in the evening. It is a formal expression, so it is not preferred with close ones.

おやすみなさい (O-yasumi Nasai) — Good Night

This expression can be used at night time, before going to bed. To make it informal and casual, you can just say おやすみ (oyasumi).

いらっしゃいませ (Irasshaimase) — Welcome

You can hear this phrase when you enter a store in Japan. They say it with a bit of a bow to greet you. It would help if you did the same by bowing slightly.

Basic Japanese Phrases For Meeting

おげんきですか (O-genki Desu Ka) — How Are You?

If you want to make an interrogative sentence in the Japanese language, you basically put か(ka) at the end of the sentence, and that’s all. You don’t need to change anything else.

げんきです (Genki Desu) — I’m Fine

You can use this phrase to give a polite and straightforward answer to the previous question. It is applicable for both formal and informal conversations.

おなまえはなんですか (O-namae Wa Nan Desu Ka) — What’s Your Name?

Fun fact: Did you know that formal Japanese doesn’t have a question mark for interrogative sentences? They use a full stop (。) instead. However, the question mark is commonly used in informal language.

わたしのなまえは…です (Watashi No Namae Wa … Desu) — My Name Is …

は (wa) does the same job as am/is/are in English. You can put your own name after this particle.

はじめまして (Hajimemashite) — Nice To Meet You

This expression is used when you meet with someone for the first time. It is polite and formal. After you give each other your names, you can add はじめまして (Hajimemashite).

Basic Japanese Phrases For Conversations

えいごをはなせますか (Eigo Wo Hanasemasu Ka) — Do You Speak English?

It is always a good idea to have someone who knows English when you visit Japan; otherwise, it can be a bit overwhelming with kanji everywhere.

わたしは にほんごがすこししか はなせません (Watashi Wa Nihongo Ga Sukoshi Shika Hanasemasen) — I Only Speak A Little Japanese.

Japanese people should know that you can’t understand most of what they are saying in order to maintain effective communication.

わかりません (Wakarimasen) — I Don’t Understand.

You can use this phrase to let you can’t comprehend what they have just said. This way, they can repeat the sentence slower or say it differently for you to understand.

もっと ゆっくりはなしてください (Motto Yukkuri Hanashite Kudasai) — Can You Speak More Slowly?

I am sure you will use this sentence many times when you talk to a Japanese person since they tend to speak fast. Don’t hesitate to ask them to slow down.

だいじょうぶです (Dai Jōbu Desu) — That’s All Right!

I hear this phrase in almost every anime I watch. It is a valuable phrase that can be used in many situations.

Wrapping Up

As we reach this part of the post, we hope you can learn more about the Japanese language and the easy phrases you can use anytime. Suppose this is your first time learning about this Asian language. In that case, we do understand that the alphabet, pronunciation, and even grammar patterns can be confusing. Still, please remember that nothing can stop you from learning if you truly are motivated to learn. If you enjoyed this post and figured that you would love to know more, please check out our previous posts like how to politely say Yes and No, and the best 5 ways to learn Japanese right away.

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