As you’ve been learning Japanese, you’ve problem come across the phrase “Daijoubu desu” (大丈夫です) more than once.

This is one of those phrases that doesn’t really have a direct English translation, so it can be a little tricky to use correctly. Let’s take a look at it in more detail here.

What Does Daijoubu Mean?

Generally, “Daijoubu desu” can be translated as “It’s okay,” or “I’m okay,” or something is okay, based on context. It gives a sense of things being alright, whether you want to refer to a situation, a person, or something else that is “daijoubu.”

“Daijoubu” itself is a -na adjective, and its characters (大丈夫) pretty much don’t help us figure out its meaning at all. In fact, you probably won’t be writing two of them often, except when writing “Daijoubu” (though, they are pretty aesthetically pleasing, I think). 

Even when adding a “desu” at the end, “Daijoubu” is a more casual word. It’s better to use different words in more formal situations, and we’ll talk about those soon.

This all seems straightforward enough, so why is “Daijoubu” tricky to use?

Why It Is Tricky to Use

The hard thing we foreigners run into is that “Daijoubu” can mean both “yes” and “no,” depending on context. This word is all about context.

If you trip on the street, and someone rushes over to help you, they may ask “Daijoubu desu ka?” That would mean, “Are you okay?” To which you could reply, “Daijoubu desu,” or “Yes, I’m alright.” This is one way “Daijoubu” can mean yes.

However, if you are at a friend’s house and they offer you tea, but you already had like a gallon of it before you came over and you really don’t want anymore, you can say “Daijoubu desu,” meaning, “No, I’m alright.” This is how “Daijoubu” can mean no.

You can specify whether you mean “yes” or “no” through your tone and gestures. In a previous article about saying no, I talked about the convenient hand motion for saying “no.” This is the perfect gesture to use when trying to turn something down with “Daijoubu.” All you do is hold your hand perpendicular to your face and wave it side to side. That makes it clear you mean “no.”

It also helps to use the words “hai” or “iie” if you really need to emphasize what you mean when you say “Daijoubu.”

Here are some other phrases that use “Daijoubu,” and are pretty commonly used.

“Daijoubu” combined with variations of “desu”

It’ll be fine. (Informal)Daijoubu darou.大丈夫だろう。
It will be alright. (Formal)Daijoubu deshou.大丈夫でしょう。
It was alright.Daijoubu deshita.大丈夫でした。

“Daijoubu” + da to + _________

I think it will be fine.Daijoubu da to omoimasu大丈夫だと思います。
They said it was alright.Daijoubu da to iimashita.大丈夫だと言いました。
I heard it was okay.Daijoubu da to kiita.大丈夫だと聞いた。

“Daijoubu” + other words

I think it’s okay…Daijoubu kana.大丈夫かな。
Because it’s fine.Daijoubu kara.大丈夫から。
It’s alright, but…Daijoubu da kedo.大丈夫だけど。

This is, of course, not an exclusive list. You can combine “Daijoubu” with pretty much any form of “desu” (yes, even “de gozaru” if you are feeling particularly like a samurai). You can use pretty much any verb after “da to,” as long as it makes sense in context. And there are plenty of other words and phrases to combine with “Daijoubu.” 

This chart is mostly to give you a starting point for the variety of uses “Daijoubu” has. It’s also good to remember that I translated all these as referring to “it,” but “it” can change to whatever you are describing as “Daijoubu.”


Phrases That Are Kinda Similar, but Formal

I mentioned before that “Daijoubu” is generally pretty casual. So what can you say in more formal situations? 

A nice phrase that works pretty similarly is “Ii desu” (いいです). If you want to be more formal than “ii,” you can say “yoi” (良い) or even “yoroshii” (宜しい). “Ii desu” means “it’s alright,” and just like “Daijoubu” can be used to mean yes or no in the same way. It’s just a bit more formal, which means it would be more appropriate in, say, a business setting. You don’t really want to tell your boss everything is “daijoubu.” 

You can also politely refuse things with the phrase “Kekkou desu” (結構です). It means “It’s alright,” but more in the “No, thank you,” sort of way. You can’t use “Kekkou” if you fall and someone asks if you’re alright, but you can use it to turn down newspaper subscriptions. 

Kitto Daijoubu Deshou

Japanese has a lot of really useful, flexible words like “Daijoubu.” Once you get them down, it can really help your speaking and listening skills. This is definitely a word you’re going to hear all the time, and you’ll get its nuances down over time.


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