25/05/2022

How to Say You're Welcome in Japanese - Don’t Default to Douitashimashite!

Most people know how to say thank you in Japanese, but do you know how to say “You’re welcome”? And is the phrase most commonly translated as you’re welcome - douitashimashite - the most appropriate to use? Take a look at many different specific phrases to use in casual and formal situations. 


Table of Contents

  1. What’s the meaning of Douitashimashite?
    1. Is douitashimashite rude to use? 
    2. Three ways to respond to “Thank you” in Japanese
  2. Casual ways to say you're welcome in Japanese
  3. Formal ways to say you're welcome in Japanese
  4. Specific situations with set responses for Thank you and You’re Welcome in Japanese
  5. Other related articles

What’s the meaning of Douitashimashite? 

In a polite country like Japan, saying thank you and being thanked is a norm. So, how should you respond when you've been thanked?

(For those curious about how to say thank you, check out our article all about it: Arigatou and more: How to Say Thank You in Japanese in All Types of Situations)

Many people learn that “Douitashimashite” is “You’re welcome” in Japanese. 
It is, in terms of usage. But the literal meaning is different! 

どういたしまして (dou itashimashite), also written どう致しまして in more formal settings, literally means “I didn’t do what you’re thanking me for, so don’t worry about it.”

Thus, we can see that it’s a very humble turning down of the gratitude expressed by the other person, saying that they shouldn’t even mention it, as it was not at all a big deal on our part. 

Note: どういたしまして has the kanji 如何致しまして, but it’s rarely written this way now. 

Is douitashimashite rude to use? 

Yes and no. So why do we say in the title of this article not to default to douitashimashite for “you’re welcome” in Japanese? 
It’s fine to use with close friends, family, and people younger than yourself. 

After all we do use “ありがとう” + “どういたしまして” as a set when you’re close, such as when giving or receiving presents, when someone does something nice for you, etc. 

But although the root of the phrase is very polite, it’s not seen as acceptable to use with those in higher positions or older than you. It can come across as a little haughty and lacking the proper formality in response, kind of like saying “no biggie, not a big deal, don’t worry about it” to someone you respect when they thank you. There are other ways to express those feelings properly.

So what should we use? 

Three Ways to Respond to “Thank you” in Japanese

When someone thanks you, most Japanese tend to respond one of three ways (or mix them together). All are forms of being humble. 

  1. Downplay the act that was thanked

  2. Say that it was their “honor” or “pleasure” to be able to do said act to benefit the other person and offer future help

  3. Show reciprocal feelings / thank them back

Most responses fall into the above three categories, and there are both casual and formal ways to do so. 

Note: Even if you think what you did for the person was a big deal, it’s a cultural thing to say it wasn’t, so it’s the polite thing to say even if you don’t necessarily feel that way. 

Let’s take a look.

Casual Ways to Say "You're Welcome" in Japanese

Downplaying the act you’re being thanked for:

  • いえいえ (ieie) - No, no (no need to thank me).

  • ううん (uunn) - another way to say “No no”

  • 気にしないで (kinishinaide) - Don’t worry about it. Don’t mention it.

  • 大したことない (taishitakotonai)・大したことじゃない (taishitakotojyanai) - It’s not a big deal. よ (yo) or から (kara) is usually added to the end. 

  • 問題ない (mondainai) - No problem.

  • 全然 (zenzen) or 全然大丈夫 (zenzen daijoubu)  - Not at all, it was totally fine.

  • とんでもない (tondemonai) - Not at all. (a little more polite than the above and less used with friends and more so with acquaintances.)

  • いやいやいや (iyaiyaiya) - another way to say “no no no”, especially used when the person tries to give you a present to show their appreciation

  • そんなー (sonna) - That’s not even worth a mention.

  • そんなに気をつかわなくていいよ (sonnani ki wo tsukawanakute iiyo) - literally means “You don’t have to worry so much about it.”; usually said to someone thanking you for something small, or if they try to reciprocate with a present

Saying it was your honor/pleasure to do said act and offering future help:

  • よかった (yokatta) - I’m glad; this is shortened to fit all situations.

  • 喜んでくれて よかった (yorokonnde kurete yokatta) - I’m glad it made you happy.

  • 役にたてて よかった (yaku ni tatete yokatta) - I’m glad I could help (be useful to) you.

  • いつでも 言って (itsudemo itte) / いつでも声かけて (itsudemo koe kakete) - Let me know anytime if you need me.

Showing reciprocal feelings / thanking them back

  • こちらこそ (kochirakoso) - It should be me thanking you. Likewise.

  • こちらこそ (いつも) ありがとう (kochirakoso arigatou) - It should be me thanking you, so thank you (always for everything).

Just for close relationships

But something that comes with more informal relationships such as between close friends and family is that you can also just accept the thanks, as it's a matter of fact to help and do things for each other, as well as tease each other a little bit. 

For example, you could say:

  • うん、いいよー (un, iiyo–) - Yeah, no worries. Note: Just うん by itself seems a little insincere or lacking, so it’s best to pair it with something else. うん acknowledges you did something for them though, so be careful in how / to whom you use it. When it doubt, use ううん (uun) or “no no” instead. 

  • はーい (ha–i) or はいはーい (hai ha–i) - Yeah / Alright. / All good.

  • もちろん! (mochiron) - Of course! You bet!

  • 今度おごってね。(kondo ogotte ne) - Treat me next time.

  • 高いよー (takai yo–) or 高くつくよ (takaku tsukuyo) - This will cost you! 

  • 貸しイチね (kashi ichi ne) - You owe me one (favor in return).

The last three are jokes and should be said in a teasing manner and tone. Otherwise, they might take it seriously and it might rub them the wrong way, and/or you end up with a situation where you have to explain that it was a joke. Gauge whether their mood, the situation and your relationship with them is appropriate to make said jokes. 

Formal Ways to Say "You're welcome" in Japanese

Again, when you are being thanked by someone who is older or a superior, you would never use douitashimashite. Here are phrases you could use instead.

Downplaying the act you’re being thanked for:

  • とんでも ないです (tondemonai desu) - Not at all. Please don’t mention it. (These gradually get more formal, but this is the most standard.)

  • とんでもありません (tondemo arimasen) 

  • とんでもございません (tondemo gozaimasen)

  • とんでもないことです (tondemonai koto desu)

  • とんでもないことでございます (tondemo nai koto de gozaimasu) - the most formal form, used for superiors and important clients. 

  • お気になさらず (okini nasarazu) - Don’t worry about it.

  • (どうぞ) お気になさらないでください。((douzo) okini nasaranai de kudasai) - Please don’t worry about it. (Even more formal than お気になさらず)

Note: Technically, とんでもありません and とんでもございません are not grammatically correct but because so many have been incorrectly using them, they’ve become more acceptable to be used. 

Saying it was your honor/pleasure to do said act (and to receive praise for it) and offering future help:

  • 恐縮です・恐縮でございます (kyoushukudesu / kyoushuku de gozaimasu) - I’m honored to hear that; the latter is more formal and polite. 

  • 恐れ入ります (osore irimasu)

  • いつでも声かけてください (itsudemo koe kaketekudasai) / いつでもお申し付けください (itsudemo omoushitsuke kudasai) - Please let me know anytime if you need my help/support; The latter is more polite. 

I’m glad to be of service/help.
  • お役に立てて 何よりです (oyaku ni tatete naniyori desu)

  • お力になれて 幸いです (ochikara ni narete saiwai desu)

You can interchange 何よりです (naniyori desu) and 幸いです (saiwai desu) at the end of those phrases, or even change it to 光栄です (kouei desu) - it’s my honor/pleasure - to be even more polite.

Showing reciprocal feelings / thank them back

  • こちらこそ勉強させていただきました。(kochira koso benkyou sasete itadakimashita) - I was able to learn through this so it should really be me thanking you. 

  • 私にとっても良い経験になりました。(watashi ni tottemo ii keiken ni narimashita) - It was also a very good experience for me. 

  • こちらこそありがとうございます。(kochira koso arigatou gozaimasu) - It should really be me thanking you so thank you. 

  • 今後もよろしくお願いいたします。(kongo mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu) - I look forward to our continued relationship (or future interactions/business). 

Specific Situations with Set Responses for "Thank you" and "You’re welcome" in Japanese

There are some phrases that could be specifically used when at work, an example of this is:

At Work

お疲れさまです (otsukaresama desu) - “Thank you for your work”.

This phrase is used to thank colleagues for their effort, whether it be during the work day on a daily basis, or a particular project or task. When a co-worker tells you “お疲れさまです (Otsukaresama desu)” at the end of the day or project, you should respond by thanking them back for their hard work by saying:

お疲れさまです (otsukaresama desu) or お疲れさまでした (otsukaresama deshita) 

At Meals

ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita) -  “Thank you for this meal”

This phrase is used to thank someone who prepared a meal for you or treated you to a meal. This phrase should be said after a meal. If you are the one preparing the meal, you would then say:

お粗末さまでした (osomatsusama deshita) - “It really wasn’t much.” 

Other Related Articles

There’s many ways to say thank you, and phrases related to showing appreciation. Here are some articles covering the topics. 

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