The word “ki” (気) is pretty strong in the Japanese language — it refers to the spirit, mind, nature, air, or all of the above. Regardless of what language we’re speaking in, our inner being, our soul, brings up a lot of opportunities for conversation. 

Expressing our deepest darkest desires can become a difficult task — impossible for some. That’s where “ki” comes to save the day. It’s used to convey difficult thoughts and emotions in the Japanese language. So you don’t need to always pour your heart out every single time you need to express something — just use one of these key “ki” phrases!

Here are the top 9 essential key phrases using “ki” (気)!

The Significance of 気

What exactly is “ki”? It holds many meanings and emotions, so isn’t it best for any Japanese language learner to get acquainted with it? One word, tons of usage. “Ki” can refer to a variety of things: air, atmosphere, mind, spirit, heart, flavour, feelings, humour, intention, mind, will, etc.

In the Japanese culture: the kikessui (気血水) concept, making up of three elements: ki (気), ketsu (血, blood) and sui (水, water). Kikessui translates to life force, and in the Japanese culture, it’s believed that the three elements of kikessui are what our bodies are made up of. 

The word “ki” becomes ten times more powerful when it’s combined with another kanji or word.

They’re in tons of newbie Japanese words like genki (元気, happy or energetic), tenki (天気, weather), kimochi (気持ち, feelings) and byouki (病気, illness). If you noticed, all of these words encompass concepts of inexpressible feelings that the little package of “ki” can do the job of describing for you. 

Let’s now look at the 9 essential key phrases using “ki”!

1. Ki ni iru (気に入る)

The first one is ki ni iru (気に入る). If you literally translate it, this phrase means “to go into one’s ki”. The actual meaning is that you’ve taken a liking to something or you’re showing interest in something. You can compare it to “suki” (好き, like) but the difference is that “suki” implies you’ve already liked it for a while and is an ongoing feeling, whereas “ki ni iru” implies that you’ve grown to like it after hearing about it. 

For example, if you say “kono sētā ha ki ni iru” (このセーターは気に入る), you’re saying that you’ve grown to like this sweater. It also subtly implies that you previously didn’t like it. However, if you say “kono sētā ha ki ni iranai” (このセーターは気に入らない), you’re saying that you’ve grown to not like this sweater, which means you used to like it but not anymore.

2. Ki ni naru (気になる)

The second phrase is ki ni naru (気になる). While it literally means to become someone’s ki, it actually holds the meaning of being bothered by or concerned about something.

A simple example is to say that you’re worried about weight: taijuu no koto ga ki ni natteiru (体重のことが気になっている). In that sentence, you switch it to its te iru form, implying that it’s an ongoing concern. 

You can also use it in its negative form: watashi ha ima taberu no ha ki ni naranai (私は今食べるのは気にならない). This translates to “I don’t feel like eating now.”

3. Ki ni suru (気にする)

The third “ki” phrase is ki ni suru (気にする). You’ll often hear this in its negative form, ki ni shinai (気にしない) to mean “don’t worry”. Ki ni suru literally means that the “ki” has something done to it, but the actual meaning is that you’re deeply troubled by something. Don’t confuse its meaning with the previous one — ki ni suru is more like giving attention or care about something. 

If you’re worried about gossips and rumours, or what other people think of you, then your best friend would say to you, “hito no itteiru koto wo ki ni shinai hou ga ii” (人の言っているのことを気にしない方がいい). 

4. Ki wo tsukeru (気をつける)

The next one is ki wo tsukeru (気をつける). This means that you’re being cautious and careful when doing something.

If you’ve watched anime or J-drama, you would’ve heard some of the characters saying this sentence at some point: “ki wo tsukete ne!” (気をつけてね!) This means, “take care!” If you’re done for the day at work or school and parting ways with your colleagues or schoolmates, you can usually say this phrase while parting.

It could also be used for other situations, like crossing the roads. You can say “ki wo tsukete douro wo wataru” (気をつけて道路を渡る). This translates to mean “be careful crossing the roads.”

5. Ki wo tsukau (気を使う)

Now we’ll look at the fifth one which is ki wo tsukau (気を使う). This phrase means to be considerate to someone’s feelings or to pay attention to someone else’s situation.

The global pandemic is the perfect example. We’re all in this unusual new normal where masks is a mandatory piece of accessory as soon as we step out of the house. Of course, it’s for the safety of others and ourselves — it’s being socially responsible. If you see someone who’s not wearing a mask, you can tell them to be more sensitive by saying “ki wo tsukainasai!” (気を使いなさい!)

On the contrary, if you’re too polite or attentive, someone might tell you to “ki wo tsukawanai de kudasai”(気を使わないでください ). This translates to, “please don’t worry about me so much.” 

6. Ki wo waruku suru (気を悪くする)

Let’s take a look at ki wo waruku suru (気を悪くする). This phrase means that you feel hurt by something. You’re taking offence at something said or something you saw.

If you accidentally said something offensive to someone but didn’t mean it, apologise and then say, “ki wo waruku shinai de” (気を悪くしないで).

7. Ki ga tsuku (気がつく)

Next we have ki ga tsuku (気がつく). The phrase, a pretty common one, means to realise something or notice something. How many times have you realised you forgot something after heading out the door, or noticed something different about a friend you haven’t met in ages? 

If you’ve been playing games for hours on end and lost track of the time, you might say something like, “zutto gēmu wo shiteite ki ga tsuitara juu jikan tatteita. Shimatta!” (ずっとゲームをしていて気がついたら10時間経っていた!しまった!) This sentence means, “I kept playing the game and when I realised, 10 hours have passed, oh no!” Anyone else can relate?

8. Ki ga kawaru (気が変わる)

The next one is ki ga kawaru (気が変わる). Kawaru (変わる) means to change — so this phrase translates to mean to change one’s mind.

I’m a fickle-minded person, so I change my mind more often than I’d like. I would want to take a walk one minute and as soon as I get up from bed, I decided not to. So I can say that as, “sanpo ni ikou to omou kedo ki ga kawatta” (散歩に行こうと思うけど気が変わった).

9. Ki ga suru (気がする)

Our final phrase is ki ga suru (気がする). This is a pretty common everyday ki phrase which literally translates to mean the ki is doing something.The actual meaning of this phrase is to have a feeling, kind of like a gut feeling.

You know when you kind of know that something’s going to happen — like, it’s going to rain today. “ame ga furu ki ga suru” (雨が降る気がする).

So there you have it — 9 essential key “ki” phrases that you can use every day to express your feelings. Why not give one of them a go the next time you practice your nihongo?