Japanese Lesson – Greetings


Here is the second lesson in the serie. This time, after you have introduced yourself, I will indicate how one greet somenone.

The most standard way of greeting someone in Japanese is to use:

こんにちは。 konnichiwa.

こんにちは basically means “hello” and can be used to greet someone either in the morning or in the afternoon.

Regarding the pronouciation, you will have to pay attention to two elements:

  • First make the separation between “kon” and “nichi” where “kon” is pronounced like the “con” in “comics con” for instance. Don’t pronounce it like you would pronounce “connection”!
  • Then also pay attention to the は [ha] at the end of the expression which is here pronounced [wa]. I will give a quick explanation to this later on.

Then, early in the morning (that is to say up to around 11AM) one can use:

おはよう ございます。 ohayou gozaimasu.

or when you are familiar with the people you are greating, simply:

おはよう。 ohayou.

おはよう is the equivalent of “good morning”.

Here also a few notes about the pronouciation:

  • The う at the end of おはよう is used to make a long sounding “o” and shall not be pronounced [u] as you would basically expect.
  • And here again, the す at the end of ございます is pronounced like the “ce” at the end of “since”, and take care to detach the い in the middle of the word which should somehow sound like [go.za.i.mas’]

Then finally, in the evening (generally after 6PM), one can use:

こんばんは。 konbanwa.

which means as you may have guessed “good evening”.

Here again take care to pronounce こん like “con” and the final は [wa] and not [ha].

Let’s see the use of these expressions in some simple situations:

Here is Kevin (Smith) meeting his new Japanese friend, Megumi Sakamoto, in the morning:

ケビン: おはようございます。
恵: スミスさん、おはようございます。

ケビンけびん: おはよう ございます。 ohayou gozaimasu.
めぐみ: スミスすみす・さん、おはよう。 Smith-san, ohayou.

Kevin: Good morning.
Megumi: Good morning Mr Smith.

A bit later in the day this would look like:

ケビン: こんにちは。
恵: スミスさん、こんにちは。

ケビンけびん: おはよう ございます。 konnichiwa.
めぐみ: スミスすみす・さん、おはよう ございます。 Smith-san, konnichiwa.

Kevin: Good morning.
Megumi: Good morning Mr Smith.

Finally in the evening this would be:

ケビン: こんばんは。
恵: スミスさん、こんばんは。

ケビンけびん: こんばんは。 konbanwa.
めぐみ: スミスすみす・さん、こんばんは。 Smith-san, konbanwa.

Kevin: Good evening.
Megumi: Good evening Mr Smith.

These examples are the opportunity to also introduce the manner Japanese people address other persons. The way Kevin addresses Megumi is perfectly correct, but generally Japanese people use the name of the person to which they are speaking if they know it. Then as for using ones last name or first name, this will depend to the level of intimacy existing between you and that person. Here スミスさん is the standard way of addressing someone, showing minimum respect with the use of the interlocutor’s last name followed by さん which can be seen as Mister, Mistress or Miss. There exists many other different forms of suffixes like さん showing different levels of respect or intimacy (さま [sama], くん [kun], ちゃん [chan]…), or this can even be dropped but it can generally be seen as rude. Note also that these suffixes shall never be used when naming yourself, exception made if you want to stress a certain distance between you and your interlocutor. Finally be also aware that being able to use someone’s first name is the indication of good intimacy and using it without being invited to do so can be seen as rude; this is the subject of many anime or drama when one looks to get closer (either by friendship or love) to another person.

Here it is for today.


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