Learn the Japanese Phrase 'Ki o Tsukete'

Use They Saying, Meaning "Take Care" or "Be Careful," When Departing

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The Japanese phrase Ki o tsukete means "take care." It is the phrase you would use when saying goodbye to a friend (whom you expect to see again within a few days) or a boss or coworker (whom you expect to see the next day or after a weekend). But the phrase deserves some explanation.

Many in Western cultures believe that the Japanese use sayounara when saying goodbye. Nothing could be further from the truth, notes FluentU, adding that not only is this stereotyping, but the term sayonara also implies a finality, as if you are saying goodbye for good. "Saying sayounara to a boss or loved one may leave them feeling confused or upset," says the language website.

If you plan to study Japanese or visit Japan, it's important that you know how to say goodbye in a socially appropriate way. Read on to learn how to use the phrase Ki o tsukete, including how to pronounce it and in what social context to use it.

Pronouncing "Ki o Ttsukete​"

Click the link to bring up an audio file that will let you listen to the correct way to pronounce the Japanese phrase for "take care." As you listen to the pronunciation for "Ki o tsukete," pause after you listen once or twice and practice saying the phrase.

Japanese Characters: Writing "Ki o Tsukete​"

It can also help to know how to write the phrase for saying goodbye. Before studying how the phrase is written, it's important to understand the three Japanese writing systems: kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

Kanji is symbolic (or logographic). It is the most common means of written communication in the Japanese language. Hiragana is a phonetic syllabary made up of simplified kanji letters, notes Japanese Grammar, a study guide. Hiragana is used primarily to spell words that have Japanese roots or grammatical elements. Katakana is used to spell foreign and technical words ("computer" is one example) or for emphasis. The phrase Ki o tsukete​ is a combination of kanji and katakana, and is spelled as follows:

気をつけて。

The phrase can also be translated as "be careful." The saying implies a concern you want to express for the health and welfare of your listener, in that you are wishing her well until you are able to see her again.

Using "Ki o Tsukete​" Correctly

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School points out yet another issue to be careful of when using the phrase Ki o tsukete. You are, indeed, telling your listener to "take care" or "be careful" when using this phrase. However, the school notes on the website, Gaijin Pot:

"It is a phrase which signifies that one is praying for the safe trip of another. As such, it is a phrase that only the person watching someone else go is able to use. The person leaving cannot say it to the person staying behind."

In other words, only the person staying behind can use the phrase to, essentially, wish a safe journey to the person who is leaving. So, if you are the one leaving work or home, FluentU suggests the following alternative phrases for saying goodbye in Japanese:

  • 行って来ます (いってきます, itte kimasu) > I’m leaving home
  • お先に失礼します (おさきにしつれいします, osaki ni shitsurei shimasu) > Excuse me for leaving first
  • お疲れ様でした (おつかれさまでした, otsukaresama deshita) > Thank you for your hard work

There are also a number of other ways to say goodbye in Japanese, which you will learn as you continue to study the language. So ki o tsukete (be careful or take care) to use the correct phrase when you plan to leave.