How to Say Thank You in Japanese With 'Arigatou

Two businessmen exchanging business cards and bows

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If you are in Japan, you will probably hear the word arigatou (ありがとう) 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.

Common Ways of Saying "Thank You"

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. 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.

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Abe, Namiko. "How to Say Thank You in Japanese With 'Arigatou." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Abe, Namiko. (2023, April 5). How to Say Thank You in Japanese With 'Arigatou. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "How to Say Thank You in Japanese With 'Arigatou." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).