Lingual Ninja! - Japanese Lessons Online

This blog is for people studying Japanese! I hope this blog helps you study basic Japanese!


Jul 30, 2018

How to say hello in Japanese

Hello. I am Kosuke!

In the previous article, I explained 'は (wa)' as a post-positional particle.
  ~は (wa) >>

At the end of the previous article, I also mentioned about a greeting,

'こ ん に ち は (ko n ni chi wa)'.

In this article, I would like to explain about some basic greetings of Japanese, especially the greetings used when you meet someone!

The 4 items below will be explained in this article:

1. こんにちは (ko n ni chi wa)

This is a very basic greeting in Japan.

It means 'Hello' in English.

You can use 'こんにちは' whenever you meet someone.
You can use this greeting throughout the whole day.

As I mentioned in the previous article, 'は' makes the sound 'wa' in this case.

Why does it make the sound 'wa'?

To know the reason, we need to think about the origin of 'こんにちは'.

In Japanese, 'こんにち (ko n ni chi)' means 'today' or 'nowadays'.

In the old days when Japanese people met someone, they used to say:
  "Today is a good day, isn't it?"
  "How is today for you?"

In old Japanese, they were like:
   (ko n ni chi wa yo i hi de su ne)
   (ko n ni chi wa i ka ga de su ka)

In these sentence, 'こんにち' is the subject.

In the last article, I explained that if 'は' is right after the subject of the sentence, it makes the sound 'wa' instead of 'ha'.

Because of this, 'は' makes the sound 'wa' in these sentences.

Today, we don't say the whole sentence of 'こんにちはいかがですか'.

It became shorter, and we just say 'こんにちは' now.

That's why 'こんにちは' is not 'こんにちわ' even though its sound is 'ko n ni chi wa'.

Also, 'こんにちは' is not a question anymore.
So you don't need to respond what you are feeling today.

It is OK for you just to say 'こんにちは' as your reply.
It is just like you say "Hello" when someone says "Hello" to you.

2. おはよう (o ha yo u)

'おはよう ' means 'Good morning'.

It is used only in the morning.

'おはよう' comes from the Japanese word, 'はやい (ha ya i)'.

'はやい' means 'early'.

In the old days, in the morning, people said:
  "You arrived here early today!"
  "You woke up early this morning, didn't you?"

Later, 'はやい (early)' changed its form, and they started to use 'おはよう' as a greeting for the morning.

3. こんばんは (ko m ba n wa)

'こんばんは' is a greeting at night.

It is just like 'Good evening' in English.

This sentence is very similar to 'こんにちは' which was discussed in #1 of this article.

As well as 'こんにちは', 'は' makes the sound 'wa'.

'こんばん (ko m ba n)' means 'tonight' in Japanese.
(In Romaji, 'n' becomes 'm' before 'b'.)

Probably, in the old days, people used to say:
  "How is tonight for you?"
  "Tonight is a very good night for you!"

In these sentences, 'こんばん (tonight)' was the subject.
That is the reason why 'は' makes the sound 'wa' in 'こんばんは', too.

4. Greeting without words

In this article, I have already explained three very basic greetings of Japanese.

However, greeting without words is sometimes more important in Japan.

Perhaps, you might think "What is greeting without words!?"

It is called "bow".

If you have ever lived in Japan for a long time, you might feel that Japanese people don't speak so much, and they don't say their opinion so often.

It is because of the Japanese mindset.

Japanese people usually think that silence is beautiful and good.

Recently, maybe the mindset is changing slowly.
However, that mindset is still common in Japan.
(I am not sure whether it is good culture or not.)

"Bow" is a very useful way for Japanese people to communicate without saying anything.

Originally, "bow" is the way to show respect to someone, by the act of lowering your own head.

However, now, "bow" has many meanings, like:

   "Good morning."
   "Good evening."
   "Thank you."
   "You are welcome."
   "I am sorry."
   "Excuse me."
   "Good bye."
   "Nice to meet you."
          and so on...

Do you think it is useful?

Or confusing? hehe

Indeed, saying 'こんにちは' with energy is also very good.
It gives energy to people around you.

However, if you bow to someone while smiling gracefully, instead of saying something, it means that you have already understood Japanese culture deeply!

Do you think it is a strange culture?
I think so too! hehe

In the next article, I will show you greetings used when you say good bye!
   Greetings - How to say goodbye in Japanese >>

I hope this article helps you study Japanese.
Thank you for reading!