How to Say 'Thank You' in Japanese by Using the Word 'Arigatou'

Arigatou Gozaimasu

If you are in Japan, you will probably hear the word "arigatou" (ありがとう) being used on a regular basis. It is an informal way of saying "thank you." But it can also be used in conjunction with other words to say "thank you" in Japanese in more formal settings, such as an office or a shop or anywhere where manners matter.

There are two common ways of saying "thank you" formally, "arigatou gozaimasu" and "arigatou gozaimashita." You would use the first phrase in a setting like an office when addressing a social superior.

For example, if your boss brings you a cup of coffee or offers praise for a presentation you gave, you'd thank her by saying, "arigatou gozaimasu." Written out, it looks like this: ありがとうございます. You can also use this phrase in less formal settings as a more general expression of thanks, either for something someone has done or will do for you.  

The second phrase is used to thank someone for a service, transaction or something that someone has done for you. It For example, after a clerk has wrapped and bagged your purchase, you would thank him by saying "arigatou gozaimashita." Written out, it looks like this: ありがとうございました.

Grammatically, the difference between the two phrases is in the tense. In Japanese, the past tense is indicated by adding "mashita" to the end of a verb. For example, "ikimasu" (行きます ) is the present tense of the verb "to go", while "ikimashita" (行きました) is the past tense.