How to consent to a request in Japanese

及ばずながら ……
Oyobazunagara …
However poor my efforts may be …

People are subjected to all sorts of requests and demands in the business world, some bigger than others. When you have been asked to take on some particularly important task or a major job, you may need to express your willingness to do so in a formal and self-deprecating manner. The same applies if you’re given an important new assignment or a promotion. On all these occasions, modesty first:

Oyobazunagara, gokitai ni soemasu you jinryoku itashimasu.
However poor my efforts may be, I’ll try to live up to your expectations.


Biryoku nagara oyaku ni tachitai to zonjimasu.
Meager as my talents may be, I’ll be glad to help out.

If you really want to get humble about it, you could trot out one of these:

Itaranai ten mo aru ka to zonjimasu ga, zenryoku o tsukusu shozon desu.
I’m afraid I may not be equal to the job in some respects, but I intend to give my all.


行き届かぬところもあるかと思いますが、私のようなものでよろしければお力に ……
Yukitodokanu tokoro mo aru ka to omoimasu ga, watashi no you na mono de yoroshikereba ochikara ni …
If you’re sure that, with all my shortcomings, I’m the person for the job, then I’ll do my best.

Hokey as they may sound, the examples above are for use in formal situations. Nobody talks that way under normal circumstances. To convey your enthusiastic consent in a more casual situation, you could use any of the following:

私でよければ、喜んで ……
Watashi de yokereba, yorokonde …
If I’m really the one you want, I’ll be glad to.

Oyasui goyou desu yo.
No trouble at all.

So iu koto deshitara, zehi omakase kudasai.
If that’s all it is, by all means, leave it to me.

Itsudemo osshatte kudasai.
Certainly, anytime at all.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases

How to refuse a request in Japanese

Ochikara ni narenakute zannen desu.
I regret that I can’t be of any help.

When you are presented with a request from someone to whom you’re not particularly close, you can use this expression to politely decline, if you wish. A similar alternative expression is:

Oyaku ni tatenakute zannen desu.
I’m afraid that I won’t be able to be of any assistance.

If someone asks you to take charge of a neighborhood project or to accept some other position of responsibility, you may well feel you’re not qualified for the job. In such cases as this, a popular strategy is to plead a lack of ability:

Watashi ni wa ni ga omosugite …
I don’t have what it takes.

Chikara-busoku de, totemo goyoubou ni okotae dekisou ni mo arimasen.
I just don’t have the ability—I couldn’t do a satisfactory job of it.

A similar gambit is to point out the trouble that would likely result from rashly accepting responsibilities that one is ill-equipped to perform:

Sekkaku okoe o kakete itadakimashita ga, nanibun shigoto ga iso-gashiku, ohikiuke shite mo kaette mina-san ni gomeiwaku o okake suru dake desu no de …
I appreciate your asking me, but I’m already so busy with work that if I were to accept I’m afraid I’d only end up causing everyone a lot of trouble.

 Some situations call for more a forceful way to turn down a request. Let’s say that you have shown an interest in or even tentatively agreed to a request, only to find that the favor asked has suddenly grown bigger or more complicated than anything that was originally discussed. Your response is to emphatically opt out, but rather than imply that anyone was trying to take advantage of you, you might simply say:

Kono hanashi wa nakatta koto ni shite kudasai.
Let’s just forget that this subject ever came up.

This expression conveys a strong and unmistakable rejection of the proposal. Since the situation is not what you were led to believe and no further discussion will make it so, you can use these words to put an end to the subject. A sightly different but related expression is:

Oroshite moraimasu.
Deal me out.

When you have previously agreed to a request but later wish to withdraw your consent, you can use this expression, though it won’t in any way shield you from hard feelings on the other side.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases

How to respond politely when you receive a gift

Kore wa goteinei ni, osoreirimasu.
This is very kind of you. I’m honored.

When you receive a gift, you must be mindful of the proper form for showing gratitude—a casual word or two of thanks won’t do. It’s common, for example, to indicate that you are simply overwhelmed, even to the point of apologizing (for the trouble the giver has gone through to select it) and hinting that you really couldn’t possibly accept it.

Konna koto o shite itadaku to moushiwake nakute…
Oh, this is so very kind of you, but I’m afraid, really …

Iwatte kudasaru okimochi dake de juubun desu no ni konna mono made choudai shite …
Your good wishes alone are precious enough, but to receive such a lovely gift as well …

The gift-giver, playing his part in this ritual, will deprecate his gift as a way of urging you to accept it.

Iie, taishita mono de mo arimasen kara …
Oh, hardly. It’s really nothing to make a fuss over.

At this point it would be possible to end the drama by simply saying you’ll park your good manners and take the loot.

Sore de wa enryo naku choudai shimasu.
In that case, I’ll dispense with the formalities and accept it.

You will communicate more of a sense of gratitude, however, if you emphasize your pleasure rather than your capitulation.

Sore de wa yorokonde choudai shimasu.
In that case, I happily accept your gift.

Finally, you are actually ready to say thanks, and you should do so in way that lets the gift-giver know you fully appreciate the feeling behind the gift.

Okokoro no komotta oshina o arigatou gozaimasu.
Thank you for such a thoughtful gift.

 Traditionally, gift-giving and gift-receiving have been linked in a quid pro quo arrangement that is still widely observed, to the extent that even now people often automatically associate the act of accepting a gift with the obligation to give one in return. Owing to this aspect of the transaction, there are actually plenty of people who would just as soon not receive gifts at all. There are also occasions when you are not expected to (and should not) give a return gift: when you are given a present to take home from a reception or banquet; when you receive a farewell gift, a get-well present, a graduation present, or the like from someone older or in a senior position; or when you receive a midsummer gift, a year-end gift, or a present given in thanks for a favor you did from someone younger or in a lower position.
 Some people feel obligated to give gifts in return for get-well gifts or presents given to them to celebrate a family occasion. In the former case, since the fact of one’s recovery is presumably being celebrated by all one’s friends, it’s not necessarily good form to give presents only to people from whom you received them, and in the latter case return presents are simply unnecessary.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases

Japanese Business Phrases at Work

Otsukare-sama deshita.
Good work.

This phrase, one of the most commonly heard in the Japanese business world, conveys appreciative recognition of another person’s labors. It could be used, for example, to greet a colleague returning to the office from an excursion to a client’s factory in an outlying area; a more elaborate translation might be “Your hard work is appreciated.” The figurative intention is to assuage the other person’s fatigue and commend his exertions on the firm’s behalf. A similar expression is:

Gokurou-sama deshita.
Well done.

This one, however, is generally reserved for use by higher-ups addressing the people who serve under them and by older employees addressing their juniors. Strictly speaking, it would be a breach of etiquette for a younger employee or an underling to say gokurou sama deshita to a senior colleague or boss—the one to use is otsukare-sama deshita. In less formal circumstances, the final word is often dropped from these expressions, yielding the abbreviated forms.

Good work.


Well done.

The phrase otsukare-sama deshita is often employed as a form of farewell to a colleague or boss at the end of the work day. The following exchange between fellow employees features an everyday example of this sort of usage:

Osaki ni shitsurei itashimasu.
Pardon me, but I’m off.


Otsukare-sama deshita.
Good work today.

This sort of comradely send-off can help alleviate the stiffness that dominates the atmosphere in some offices.

Grammatically speaking, otsukare-sama deshita is a past-tense phrase. The present-tense form, otsukare-sama desu, is also used, but under different conditions—when the work in question is ongoing. Let’s say a colleague, Mr. Horiguchi, is phoning in from outside the office (he’s about to call on the printing firm Dai-ichi Insatsu) to pick up his messages:

Horiguchi desu. Ima Dai-ichi Insatsu ni mukatte imasu ga, nani ka renraku wa haitte imasu ka.
This is Mr. Horiguchi. I’m on my way over to Dai-ichi Insatsu. Are there any messages for me?

You reply:

Otsukare-sama desu. Shoushou omachi kudasai.
Good work. Just a moment, please. I’ll check.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases

How to say “Long time no see” in Japanese

Gobusata itashimashita.
I’ve let too much time pass since I saw you last.

This is the polite way to greet someone you haven’t seen in a long time, whether you happen to be visiting the person at home or meeting her elsewhere. The literal meaning of the message is that you haven’t been passing along news and information the way you should, but in conventional usage it has the effect of an implicit apology for not staying in closer touch with someone you consider to be a benefactor.

Another expression that appears quite similar in form actually has a very different usage.

Doumo goaisatsu ga okuremashite …
I really should have been in touch sooner.

This phrase is employed when a tentative business transaction has heretofore been sketched out by telephone or fax, and the party initiating the deal has appeared to make his proposal in person. By using this expression, he conveys the sense that, by all that is proper, this formality should have been observed much sooner. By way of comparison, consider two very common expressions that are used in the same sorts of situations as gobusata itashimashita:

Shibaraku deshita.
It’s been a while.

Ohisashiburi desu.
It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

Unlike the first two expressions introduced above, neither phrase carries any sense of apology. These are much more casual forms that—not unlike “Long time, no see”—are perfectly appropriate for greeting people you know well but probably too casual for mere acquaintances and definitely too offhand for your elders or superiors at work.

When you meet an acquaintance you haven’t seen for some time, it’s naturally considered courteous to talk about how things have been. Several standard lines are available for this purpose:

Okawari arimasen ka.
How have you been?
(literally, “Have there been any changes?)

Chitto mo okawari ni narimasen ne.
You haven’t changed a bit.

Okawari nakute kekkou desu ne.
You’re looking well, as ever.

Ogenkisou de nani yori desu.
You look well, and that’s the important thing.

The latter three expressions are, of course, logical choices when the other person actually does look well, but even if that is not the case, these words may still be appropriate. It may be, for example, that the other person has been ill or has suffered some misfortune, which you have heard about from other sources, and you may wish to cheer him up by using expressions such as these.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases

How to express condolence in Japanese

Kono tabi wa goshuushousama de gozaimasu.
Please accept my condolences on this sad occasion.

Often heard at both wakes and funerals, this short expression is the one most commonly used for extending one’s sympathy to the bereaved. Because it is so widely used, some people consider it trite, too formulaic, or simply inadequate to effectively communicate a sense of sincere condolence. Nevertheless, in certain situations—such as when signing in at the reception table at a wake—you may find these words extremely useful.

A word about delivery: while it is generally regarded as polite to speak such formal words distinctly and at a deliberate pace, mourn-ers customarily begin this expression by clearly articulating the words kono tabi (translated here as “on this sad occasion”) and then deliver the rest of the sentence (goshuushousama de gozaimasu, or “please accept my condolences”) in hushed, practically inaudible tones deemed appropriate to the unspeakably painful event being observed.

Depending on the circumstances—when addressing a close relative of the deceased, for example—it may be appropriate to add a word or two, such as:

Sazo ochikara-otoshi no koto to zonjimasu.
I’m sure this has been a terrible blow.

Kokoro kara okuyami moshiagemasu.
Allow me to offer my heartfelt sympathy.

These or similar words having been said, decorum dictates that you face the bereaved directly and execute a deep bow from the waist (about 60 degrees) with arms held straight at your sides and eyes forward—don’t bend your neck! Next, raise your eyes slightly without lifting your head. Then lift your head (but don’t stand up straight) to complete your first bow. Finally, bow deeply a second time.

At a funeral, you are likely to be invited to light an incense stick and place it in an urn in front of a photo of the deceased, which is displayed on an altar. You may be invited to do this with an expression such as:

Goreizen ni osonae kudasai.
Please offer a prayer for the soul of the deceased.

This brief ritual has its own explicit protocol. When your turn comes, take an incense stick and light it with one of the matches provided for the purpose, but don’t blow the match out! Gently wave it back and forth until the flame goes out. Place the incense stick, lighted end up, in the urn and bring your hands together in front of your face, head down, in an attitude of prayer. After a moment, bow deeply, then turn and leave the altar.

Before you leave either a wake or a funeral, a member of the bereaved family will probably make a point of thanking you for coming. You are likely to hear:

Oisogashii naka o, sassoku okuyami o itadakimashite arigatougozaimasu.
Thank you for taking the time, on such short notice, to offer your condolences.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases

Do you know how to say in Japanese when giving a gift




Tsumaranai mono desu ga…
This is a poor thing, but…

This odd-sounding locution is the conventionally approved way to signal that you are offering a gift. Often heard in Japan, where both gift-giving and linguistic self-deprecation are highly ritualized, expressions such as this can sometimes elicit a puzzled response from a non-native speaker. After all, you might reason, if they think it’s a poor gift then why are they giving it to me? In fact, since in addition to “trifling” tsumaranai can also be translated as “boring” or “useless,” a little knowledge can really leave you confused. Needless to say, the phrase does not mean that the speaker actually believes the gift to be boring or worthless (she might think so, but she probably wouldn’t tell you). This is simply a verbal ritual of humility, presumably intended to steer the receiver of a gift away from any sense of obligation or intense gratitude.

Interestingly, even though no native speaker of Japanese could ever mistake the intent behind a phrase like this one, nowadays one often hears people dispensing with such ritualized utterances in favor of more transparent language. Younger people in particular, when giving someone a gift, might actually give it the old hard sell:

Kore, totemo oishii n’ desu yo.
It’s really delicious.

Kitto oniai da to omoimashite…
I thought it would look good on you…

Another humble-sounding phrase for gift-givers is:

Mezurashiku mo gozaimasen ga…
This is nothing special, but…

This is a handy expression when the offering is the sort of practical household item—soap, towels, fruit, coffee, beer, or the like—often given as a midsummer present (ochūgen) or year-end present (oseibo), in which case it is not only properly humble but accurate. This is not to say that such gifts aren’t highly appreciated anyway, incidentally. This and the other phrases below are often followed by the word dōzo (“Please [accept it]”), spoken as the gift is proffered.
When the gift is something you made by hand, you are expected to humbly deprecate your own handiwork.

Ohazukashii no desu keredo…
I’ve done an embarrassingly poor job of it, but…

Umaku dekinakatta n’ desu kedo…
This didn’t turn out very well, but…

Some expressions both downplay the value of a gift and emphasize the spirit in which it is given.

Kokoro bakari no shina desu ga…
This is just a small token of my appreciation…

A phrase like this communicates something more than mere formal courtesy, and is useful when the gift itself is meant to express more than just good manners.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases


Wishing others a Happy New Year in Japanese



Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu.
Best wishes on the beginning of a New Year.

This is the standard expression for greeting people for the first time in the New Year, the celebration of which is the most significant and ceremonially observed holiday period in the Japanese calendar. A complete formal New Year’s greeting begins with these words and continues with an expression of gratitude for the other per- son’s kindness (or patronage) over the course of the previous year:

Kyūnenchū wa osewa ni narimashita.
I appreciate your kindness throughout the past year.

The speaker then expresses the hope that the New Year will see the continuation of good relations, communicating this desire in the form of a request:

Honnen mo aikawarimasezu, yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.
I humbly ask your continued favor in the coming year.

Even such a formal greeting, however, will have the hollow ring of a memorized formula if your delivery is rushed or if the words are tossed off in a monotone. It is essential to deliver your greeting at a measured pace, be attentive to the reply, and bow once respectfully upon concluding the greeting.


Among friends, from whom an extended and formal New Year’s greeting would sound stilted and unnatural, a shorter and less formal alternative is preferred:

Akemashite omedetō. Kotoshi mo dōzo yoroshiku.
Happy New Year! Don’t forget me this year!

While the general trend is toward less formality, this is an excellent opportunity to represent yourself as a solid, serious person to people in your neighborhood, for example, or to higher-ups at the office, by extending a scrupulously proper formal New Year’s greeting, as described above. These few phrases, skillfully executed, could actually help to restore a less than impeccable public image, if need be. After all, New Year’s time is the season for making fresh starts. The key to making a good impression is the delivery: enunciate each word clearly to the very end of the greeting, finishing with a crisp onegai itashimasu. The big finish is a sure crowd-pleaser.

– Source: A handbook of common Japanese phrases