How to properly say Arigato/Arigatou(ありがとう) “Thank You” in Japanese : Hey guys and welcome to another incredible Japanese lesson from Bondlingo. We are so grateful that you are here today, and we would just like to say a massive THANK YOU. Yes, if you hadn’t already guessed from the title, today we are going to be talking about using the word “arigatou”, which means “thank you” in Japanese.

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Using Arigato/Arigatou to express your gratitude in Japanese

Domo arigatou gozaimasu

Yes, as the title states, today’s article is all about expressing gratitude with a focus on doing it the right way with the right people during the right situations. Today’s lesson is geared toward beginners and those with a curiosity about Japanese culture.

ARIGATO/ARIGATOU – For Japanese beginners | Japanese language lesson

This word is very important as you have no idea how many times you would need to ask for help and thank people in a foreign country! As for people who have no plans to travel to Japan, just simply learning this word to express gratitude and respect to a Japanese friend will already speak magnitudes about you as a person.

Arigatou(Arigato)

This word is especially useful for those of you who like to travel. When visiting a country such as Japan, mastering the art of saying thank you goes a long way. People are more willing to go out of their way to help those who consistently express gratitude, and they’re happier afterward for having done so.

Even if you aren’t currently in Japan, saying thank you to your Japanese teachers, friends, or associates for their kind actions is a great way to show respect and strengthen your bond. When these people think of you, they’ll recall what a marvelous person you are.
In order to explore the depths of domo arigato/arigatou gozaimasu, let’s take a look at Japanese culture itself to find its hidden meaning.

Japanese Culture

Arigatou
arigato/Arigatou

As your grandma will tell you, manners cost nothing, and to the Japanese, manners mean the world. The culture is steeped in adherence to good manners, respect, and humbleness. The person who embodies these three traits is a pillar of a human being. This is why it is so important for Japanese learners to understand the appropriate words to use for the right situation.

In Japanese, there are two main levels of speech. There is 口語 (kougo, colloquial speech), and there is 敬語 (keigo, honorific speech). 

Kougo (colloquial speech) is used when talking to people that you have a close and intimate relationship with. This could be family members, friends, classmates, or co-workers—depending on the context. Kougo is a relaxed way of speaking reserved for informal situations such as casual hang outs, parties, just chillin’, etc. In the context of work, it is mainly used with people who are of equal to or lower rank than you. The context of school is the same: it is common to use kougo with people in the same class or underclassmen.

In the context of daily life outside of school and work, kougo is used with people who are the same age or younger than you. That’s why one of the first questions a Japanese person will ask you is, “How old are you?” Your age will affect how they talk to you!   

Keigo (honorific speech) on the other hand, is used when talking to people who have a higher status and those with whom you don’t have a close relationship. This could be your boss, the elderly, strangers on the street, customers at your place of work, people who you are being introduced to for the first time, the Prime Minister, those with more experience in a field than you, etc.

Keigo is a manner of speaking that shows respect for the person to whom you’re speaking, and it is also reserved for formal situations, such as speeches, presentations, meetings, discussions, etc. At work, keigo is used with anyone who has been working there longer than you (e.g. bosses, the person training you, someone with more experience that isn’t your official boss, etc.). At school, you use it with upperclassmen, teachers, faculty, etc. In daily life, you use it with acquaintances, anyone older than you, people with a higher status (e.g. a company CEO, a military official, a famous actor, etc.), etc.    

When speaking Japanese like the natives do, it’s important to be aware whether or not this is a kougo situation or a keigo one. You don’t have to worry so much in the beginning if you don’t accurately assess the situation. Japanese people are usually kind and understanding if a non-native speaker doesn’t use proper honorific speech. As a matter of fact, Japanese people have trouble with keigo as well! It’s no wonder they are so understanding when a non-native speaker makes a mistake! However, once you get a good handle on the language and culture, you will be able to pick up on the social atmosphere more naturally. When speaking keigo, you will have to change your manner of speaking, even when saying thank you!

The origin of “Arigato/Arigatou”

Many Japanese learners are curious about the Chinese characters (kanji) that are prominent in the Japanese syllabary. These people like to look into the makeup of each character to find their deeper meaning. This helps them get a better idea of the origin of both the kanji and the words they appear in. Let’s break down the kanji of “arigato/arigatou” to see if we can gain some better insight.

Here’s what it looks like written in Japanese.

有り難う

The first kanji is made up of three radicals: 一 (ichi), ノ (no), and 月 (getsu). The first radical 一 means “one,” the second ノ is a Japanese katakana symbol, and the last 月 means “moon.” Put them together and you get 有 (yuu), which means “possess; have; exist; happen; occur; approx.” 

The second kanji has four radicals: 艹(sou), 口 (kou), 夫 (fu), and 隹 (sai). 艹 means “grass,” 口 means “mouth,” 夫 means “husband; man,” and 隹 means “old bird.” Together they form 難 (nan), which means “difficult; impossible; trouble; accident; defect.” Therefore, putting 有 and 難 together, we get something like “a difficult thing occurs.” Which makes sense if you think about it. Someone did something difficult for you, and in return you acknowledge that a difficult task was performed. Of course, when Japanese people say “Arigato/Arigatou,” it doesn’t sound like, “A difficult task was performed.” It just means “Thank you.”

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The Different Variations of Arigato/Arigatou 

Remember that song “Mr. Roboto” by the band Styx? Of course you do, it’s a classic! The part that got stuck in everyone’s heads for decades was the memorable line, “Domo arigato/arigatou, Mr. Roboto.” And, just in case the listener doesn’t understand Japanese, they clarify the meaning afterward: “Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto.” 

This is a good starting point for understanding the different variations of arigato/arigatou in Japanese. Below is a rough guide.

Common Ways to Say “Thank You”

EnglishJapanese PronunciationJapanese
Thanksarigato/arigatouありがとう
Thank youarigatou gozaimasuありがとうございます
Thank you very muchdoumo arigatou gozaimasuどうもありがとうございます

As you can see, what it says in the Styx song differs from what you see in the chart.

“Huh? Dennis DeYoung says, ‘Domo Arigatou, Mr. Roboto,’ not ‘Domo Arigatou Gozaimasu, Mr. Roboto!’”

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s very rare that Japanese people say, “Domo arigatou.” Let’s look at how we really use arigatou in the next section.    

The Right Way to Use Arigato/Arigatou in Japanese

Now that we have a better understanding of where “arigatou” comes from and the different phrases associated with it, let’s tie this into what we talked about earlier: expressing thanks to the right people in the right circumstances. 

Colloquial Speech

When using kougo with your friends and close acquaintances, here are the common ways of saying thank you.

Casual Ways of Saying “Thank You”

EnglishJapanese PronunciationJapanese
Thxdoumoどうも
Thanksarigatouありがとう

Doumo, when used by itself, is very casual. It’s mostly used for small favors like borrowing a pen from a friend or someone letting you have one of their french fries. Sometimes, you’ll hear older people say, “Doumo, doumo,” but it’s usually in passing and means more along the lines of “Hello.” It elicits laughter because of how casual it is.

Arigato/Arigatou is used by itself when a friend or close acquaintance gives you a gift or does a favor for you. Remember, this is only for casual situations, such as at a birthday party. 

Honorific Speech

When using keigo with superiors, people you aren’t very well acquainted with, and during speeches, here are the common ways of expressing deep gratitude.  

Formal Ways of Saying “Thank You”

Using “Arigatou” to say thank you
Using “Arigato/Arigatou” to say thank you
EnglishJapanese PronunciationJapanese
Thank youarigato/arigatou gozaimasuありがとうございます
Thank youarigato/arigatou gozaimashitaありがとうございました
Thank you very muchdoumo arigato/arigatou gozaimasuどうもありがとうございます
Thank you very muchdoumo arigato/arigatou gozaimashitaどうもありがとうございました

As you can tell, the more words you use, the deeper the gratitude. 

Arigato/Arigatou gozaimasu and arigato/arigatou gozaimashita mean basically the same thing, except the latter is in past tense, which conveys the nuance of an act being completed. They are used at work when saying thank you for the completion of daily tasks. They’re used with customers when thanking them for doing business with you. They can also be used in any semi-formal setting and when thanking people older than you, superiors, and people you don’t know so well.

Doumo arigatou gozaimasu and doumo arigatou gozaimashita are also basically the same, except, as above, the latter is in past tense. They are used at the end of speeches and when expressing a sincere, heartfelt thank you to someone who has gone above and beyond what you expected. These phrases are reserved for those special times.

Using “Arigato/Arigatou” to say thank youin Japanese

When it all comes down to it, the place and person you are talking to has a very big impact on which phrase you will need to use as good manners should be at the core of all your language learning, especially when it comes to learning Japanese. We will now look at some other ways to say thank you using “Arigato/Arigatou”.

EnglishJapaneseWhen/who to use it with
Thanksどうも ・ありがとうDoumo / ArigatouVery casual- Close friends, close family
Thanks / Thanks a lotどうもありがとう Doumo ArigatouCasual but polite-Friends, family, close colleagues 
Thank youありがとうございます Arigatou GozaimasuSimple and polite-Strangers, older people
Thank you very muchどうもありがとうございますDoumo Arigatou GozaimasuPolite-Colleagues 

Other Ways to Say Thank You in Japanese

As you may have read in other texts, there are more ways of saying “Thank you” in Japanese than just “arigato/arigatou.” Check out the table below for some other ways to express gratitude. 

EnglishJapaneseWhen/who to use it with
Thank you for your troubleすみません
(sumimasen)
Polite (used when someone has helped you); strangers, colleagues 
Thank you for your troubleおそれいれます
(osoreirimasu)
Very polite (used in business); colleagues, superiors, customers
Sorry to bother youおてすうをおかけします
(otesuu wo okake shimasu)
Polite (used when asking for a favor/ thanking someone for doing you a favor); friends, family members, colleagues 
It wouldn’t have been possible without your helpおかげさまで
(okage-sama de)
Polite (used when thanking people who have praised you); teammates, colleagues, superiors

One more thing to add. Expressing your feelings with words is one thing, but actions speak louder than words. This is a belief that the Japanese hold dear to their hearts as well. If someone does something nice for you, returning the favor will show your gratitude much more than the correct combination of doumos and arigatous. Try baking the person a cake! Or maybe  volunteer to help them with something around the house. Any gesture that involves effort for the benefit of someone else will surely strengthen your relationship with them.

We hope you now have a better understanding of “Arigatou” and how to use it in the right situation! If you have any questions, feel free to ask the chat box or post in the comments section.

Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!

Other ways to say Thank you & appreciation in Japanese

JapaneseEnglish
お招きありがとう。Thank you for having me.
ご親切にありがとう。Thank you for your kindness.
手伝ってくれてありがとう。Thank you for your help.
美味しいディナーをありがとう。Thank you for the delicious dinner.
いつもそばにいてくれてありがとう。Thank you for always being there for me.
いつも私に優しくしてくれてありがとう。Thank you for always being nice to me.
感謝しきれないよ。I can’t thank you enough.
心からありがとう。Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
どんなに感謝しているか伝えきれません。I can’t exprss how greatful I am.
あなたが私のためにしてくれたこと、決して忘れません。I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.
本当に優しくしてくれたよね。You’ve been so nice to me.
本当に助かりました。You’ve been a great help.
転職おめでとう!Congratulations on your new caree!
就職おめでとう!Congratulations on getting your first job!
昇進おめでとう!Congratulations on your promotion!
ご退職おめでとうござます!Congratulations on your retirement.
大学入学おめでとうございます!Congratulations on entering university!
息子さんの小学校入学おめでとう!Congratulations on your son starting elementary school!
ご結婚おめでとう!Congratulations on your marriage!
ご出産おめでとう!Congratulations on your baby!
人生の新たな門出、おめでとうございます!Congratulations on your new chapter of your life!
こちらこそ。(It’s) my pleasure.
とんでもない。Don’t mention it.
大したことないよ。It’s no big deal.
これくらい何でもないよ。It’s nothing.
私にできることはこれくらいです。It’s the least I can do.
いつでも言ってね。Anytime.
こちらこそありがとう!Thank YOU!

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