In Japan, your social status means a lot. And how you talk to people depends on where you stand in this social class. If you are talking to someone in a higher social class than you, you would use a more polite form of the phrase.
If you are talking to someone at the same or lower social level than you, you would use a more simple or casual phrase.
It can also change based on when you gave thanks. If you are giving thanks for something that happened in the past, then how you would say thank you also changes!
It can get complicated, but we have some great examples and sample audio to help you through this.
A Simple Thanks
This form is the one you hear in all the TV shows and movies. Arigatou (ありがとう) is a fast and easy way to say Thank you in Japanese. You should only use this when speaking to one of your peers and it’s somewhat casual.
For example, if one of your friends lends you a pencil, then you could say Arigatou (ありがとう) .
A Little Bit More Formal “Thank You Very Much”
If you need to emphasize your thanks, then you can use the phrase, “Doumo Arigatou” (どうもありがとう). This phrase is more formal than before. You could use this if someone did something that helped you a lot and it might have been an inconvenience for them.
If one of your friends woke up early in the morning to take you to the airport, that would deserve a “Doumo Arigatou” ( どうもありがとう).
Saying “Thank You” to your Superiors
What if your teacher came by and showed you how to solve a difficult math rpboelm? You would not want to use one of the phrases above. They are too casual for such a situation. “Arigatou Gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます) is the right phrase to use in such a situation.
This is the first form of thank you when speaking to someone in a higher social class than you in Japan. Other people that would fall under this category would be your boss or a policeman.
Saying “Thank you very much” to your Superiors
Your boss walks by your desk and gives you a promotion! She’s taking a big chance on you but knows you’ll succeed. Remember how adding “Doumo” to “Arigatou” emphasizes a thank you? You can do the same with “Doumo Arigatou Gozaimasu” (どうもありがとうございます)!
Sometimes even saying “Arigatou” is too much. Who has time to deal with four syllables? When you are in a rush or don’t want to put in the effort, a simple “Doumo” (どうも) will do the trick.
Be warned! Don’t use this phrase if you are talking to someone higher up than you! They could become offended that you didn’t take the time to thank them in the correct way. You can use this phrase with people lower than you as well, such as your younger sibling.
A slang form of “Thank you”
Slang language is words and phrases you would use in a very casual environment. In English, you wouldn’t use the word, “Yo” to your teacher. In Japan, there is a slang word for “Thank you” that you can use in very casual settings. A simple “Azasu” (あざす) will do the trick.
Saying “Thank you” for what happened in the past
Sometimes you forget to say “Thank you” or did not have the chance. If you need to say thanks for an event that happened in the past, you can use the phrase, “Arigatou Gozaimashita” (ありがとうございました). This is past tense version of the similar phrase you learned earlier. You can learn all about past tense usage in our Japanese lessons!
Did your friend throw an amazing party last week? Now is the time to say “Arigatou Gozaimashita” (ありがとうございました).
Thanking someone for fixing your mistake
People make mistakes. And then there are people kind enough to help fix those mistakes. If you find yourself in a situation where you failed and there is someone to help, you can say “Sumimasen” (すみません).
“Sumimasen” ( すみません) can mean “sorry” and “excuse me”. It can also mean “Thank you” when you are thanking someone for helping you pick yourself up off the ground.
An awe inspiring Thank You
When someone has done an act that amazes you, you need a phrase that captures your gratitude. “Osoreirimasu” (おそれいります) is a phrase you don’t want to use often. This phrase used for special occasions and for very formal situations.
Saying Thank You with Japanese text messaging
We all shorten our sentences when we’re texting, and Japanese is no different. Often you will see these different forms of the expressions above:
あざす or あーと or ありー are used as short forms of “Arigatou Gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます).
In English you can even type AZS which is short for azasu!
Sometimes, the rules don’t apply
Like any language, you sometimes need to bend the rules to fit the situation. The phrases you’ve learned are good to learn and the way to use them are straight forward. But the time will come where you may feel you need to use a certain phrase in a situation that isn’t described. That’s okay! Try it out!