Arigatou and More: How to Say Thank You in Japanese in All Types of Situations

WeXpats
2022/06/03

Did you know that there are many different phrases for "thank you" in Japanese? They vary depending on the formality of the situation and your relationship with the person. Also, it's not always just "arigatou". Want to show your gratitude but not sure which one is the most approriate for your situation? 


Table of Contents

  1. The Most Basic Thank You in Japanese
  2. Thank You in Japanese in Formal Situations
  3. Thank You in Japanese in Casual Japanese including Slang
  4. Thank You in Japanese for Special Situations
    1. "Thank you for the meal"
    2. "Thank you for inviting me." / "Thank you for coming." 
    3. "Thank you for listening"
    4. When someone went out of their way
    5. When someone took care of you
    6. When someone helped you
    7. Writing a thank you card or message in Japanese
  5. So where do you add the person’s name? 
  6. Takeaway and Other Helpful Articles 

The Most Basic Thank You in Japanese

ありがとう (Arigatou) is the most basic form of thank you. You can use it in everyday situations with people close to you - your family and friends. You can use it if someone passes you the sauce at the dinner table, if your friend picks up something you dropped, if someone does something nice for you!

Both

どうもありがとう
(doumo arigatou)

and

本当にありがとう
(hontou ni arigatou)

mean “Thank you very much.”

The phrase どうも (doumo) can be used on its own, or combined with ありがとう to show an extra level of thankfulness. Another phrase you can put before ありがとう is 本当に (hontou ni) which means truly or really. However, 本当に cannot be used on its own in this case. 

When your relationship with the person is close and casual, ありがとう can be used for both present and past tense. There’s no need to change or add anything to it regardless of when the thing you’re thanking them for was done. 

Thank you in Japanese in Formal Situations

There are different phrases for formal situations - for example in business, or towards people considered your superiors (your teacher, your boss). Even with your colleagues, no matter how good of a relationship you have, it is often better or expected to use the more polite form in the office.

In that case, please use

ありがとうございます
(arigatou gozaimasu)

and the past tense

ありがとうございました
(arigatou gozaimashita). 

It’s important to use the polite form - otherwise it may be considered rude or the level of gratitude may not be conveyed properly. 

If you would like to show an extra level of gratitude, you can add the phrase from earlier, どうも (doumo) to say

どうもありがとうございます
(doumo arigatou gozaimasu)

or the past tense

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

This can be used with your boss or when someone congratulates you for something.   

To say thank you very much,  誠に (makoto ni, which means sincerely) ありがとうございます/ありがとうございました is used when thanking a customer or client for something. 

And in very formal situations - in a situation where a customer or client goes out of their way to do something, such as bring you a souvenir or clear their table when they’re done eating, you can use 恐れ入ります (osoreirimasu).

For more examples, especially for thank you messages, check our article:
 How to Write a Thank You Card or Message in Japanese (with Example Phrases!)

Thank you in Japanese in Casual Situations including Slang

To your friends and family members, you can be more casual. As mentioned earlier, ありがとう is the most basic form. But there are other similar terms to show a closeness in the relationship. Caution: These are not to be used at work. 

ありがと (arigato) without drawing out the end is more commonly used among friends. Adding (ne) at the end makes it sound more endearing.

あざっす (azassu), a shortened form of ありがとうございます, is sometimes used usually by young people to say thank you. It is more commonly used by young guys. Because it is the shortened form of the polite form, you may hear it from time to time at work - however, the relationship between colleagues must be very close and friendly so it's best to avoid it in the workplace unless you are positive of the work culture and allowance of its use.

And taken straight from English, some people say サンキュ (sankyu - Japanese pronuncation of “thank you”). The pronunciation is a Sa sound, not Th. Native English speakers may feel a little strange about using this one. 

Thank You in Japanese for Special Situations

There are times other phrases fit better than ありがとう.

"Thank you for the meal"

For example, after a meal, we say

ごちそうさまでした
(gochisousamadeshita - Thank you for the meal).

It shows gratitude to the people who made the meal and the work that was put into making it. You can say this to the chef and to the restaurant staff as you’re leaving, as well as to friends or family who cooked for you! 

"Thank you for inviting me." / "Thank you for coming." 

There are also various ways to thank the host for the invitation or to thank the guests for attending. 

Check out the article here:  How to say “Thank you for coming” and “Thank you for inviting me” in Japanese

"Thank you for listening"

We have a whole article covering "Thank you for Listening" in both conversation and speeches/presentations. Please take a look!

How to Say Thank You for Listening in Japanese - in Conversation and in Speeches or Presentation

When someone went out of their way for you

When you inconvenience someone or they help you, you should say

すみません
(sumimasen)

first as an apology. When all is said and done, saying

ありがとうございました
(arigatou gozaimashita)

at the end works great. You could also use 

わざわざ すみません
or
わざわざ ありがとうございます。
(Wazawaza sumimasen / arigatou gozaimasu).

Wazawaza shows your acknowledgment that they went out of their way for you. 

When someone helped you

助かる / 助かります
(tasukaru; informal) / (tasukarimasu; formal)

means that something someone is doing is helpful to you. You can combine this with ありがとう or すみません at the beginning, depending on the formality of the situation. If someone jumps in to help you when you dropped something or when you’re in a bind, this is a great phrase to use. You can also make it past tense by saying

助かった / 助かりました
(tasukatta; informal) / (tasukarimashita; formal).

When someone took care of you

お世話になりました (osewani narimashita) is saying thank you to someone who took care of you for a while. For example, a teacher at a school, or someone who housed you. 

Writing a Thank you card or message in Japanese

If you want to write a thank you card or message to someone, it’s good to say what it’s for. The following can also be said directly to a person verbally. Please adjust the formality to suit your needs.

When you’re thanking someone when you receive an item, use
(item) + ありがとう/ありがとうございます.

For example:

  • Thank you for the present:
    プレゼント (puresento) ありがとう/ありがとうございます

  • Thank you for the photo(s):
    写真 (shashin) ありがとう/ありがとうございます

When you’re thanking someone for doing something, it follows the patter 
(action) + ありがとう/ありがとうございます.

When you want to say a general thank you to someone close to you for all they’ve done for you, such as on their birthday or Mother’s Day, you can say 

  • いつもありがとう (itsumo arigatou)
    which means “thank you always for everything you do”. 

We cover all of the above and more in our article: 
How to Write a Thank You Card or Message in Japanese (with Example Phrases!)

So where do you add the person’s name? 

When you want to say the name of the person you’re thanking, please say the name first before saying your thank you. 

For example:

  • Mom, thank you for everything.
    - お母さん、いつもありがとう
    (Okaasan, itsumo arigatou)

  • (Name of teacher), thank you for looking after me.
    - ○○先生、 お世話になりました
    (○○-sensei, osewani narimashita) 

When speaking Japanese, even if you don’t say a name, it’s generally clear who the message is directed at if you are making eye contact. But if you really want to be direct and personal, please say their actual name (or title) before you say thank you. 

Takeaway and Other Helpful Articles

We tried to cover as many ways to say thank you as possible! Again, please make sure you consider your relationship with the person before you decide which form of ありがとう to use with them. It is very important to maintain and express 感謝の気持ち (kansha no kimochi - the feeling of gratitude).

These articles may also be helpful!

Thank you so much for reading! ありがとうございました!

Writer

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