Asking someone “How are you?” is a simple greeting that we commonly use in English. We use it frequently as a conversation opener when we want to be polite. In Japanese however, despite being a polite language, we don’t use this phrase not nearly to the same extent as we do in English. It’s more common to greet the person with a simple “hello,” or “good morning” and jump straight into a conversation.
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You’d think that being a language with various forms of language honorifics, not asking someone how they are would be considered rude. Instead, it’s more the level of politeness you use in your greetings that matters the most in Japanese.
In Japanese, it could be considered a little too direct if you were to ask everyone how they are all of the time. For instance, in English, we might ask the store cashier “how are you” while we’re being served. This kind of small talk is mostly absent in Japanese culture, at least, the asking of how someone is doing is.
So what if you genuinely want to ask someone how they are, or how they’ve been in Japanese?
There are plenty of phrases and expressions that you can use to convey a “How are you” in Japanese. There are a few of them actually. Although you won’t be using this phrase anywhere near as much as you do in English, there are situations when you’ll definitely want to ask someone how they are.
In this post, we’re going to explore all of the most appropriate ways on how to say “How are you” in Japanese, and the situations when you can use them.
Author’s Note: The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “How Are You” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!
Table of Contents
How Are You in JapaneseAre You Okay? in JapaneseHow Was Your Day?
How Are You in JapaneseHow are you?元気？genkihttps://mslsec.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/元気.mp3
The best Japanese expression you can use to convey a meaning similar to the English “How are you” is 元気 (genki).
Although a simple greeting would be sufficient enough in Japanese culture, sometimes you’ll want to ask someone how they are, before jumping into a conversation.
When you do, 元気 (genki) is the phrase you’re going to want to use. In Japanese, we use 元気 (genki) frequently, especially when we haven’t seen someone in a while. For instance, We would say to a friend whom we haven’t seen for a while 元気？(genki?) to ask them how they are, or how they’ve been. On the other hand, we probably wouldn’t use it if we had just seen the friend yesterday.
元気 (genki) actually means: lively; full of spirit; energetic; well.
So technically, when you use this phrase you are asking someone “Are you well?” You can use 元気 (genki) as a reply too. If someone asks you “元気?” You can simply reply with “元気だよ” (genki dayo), which means “I am well” in Japanese.
How Are You Formality
Despite a high frequency of asking “how are you” being absent in Japanese culture, Japanese is still a polite language. Depending on who you’re speaking to, you might need to speak politely.
If you were speaking to a manager, an acquaintance, or to someone who is not a close friend or family member, you should avoid simply saying 元気 (genki). Instead, you can select from two polite versions.元気ですか (genki desuka)お元気ですか (ogenki desuka)
Attachingですか (desuka), turns this phase into a polite question. Attaching お (o) makes the phrase even politer. By including the お (o) you essentially beautify the following word, increasing your politeness even more. Which one you use is up to you, and how polite you want to be.
More Ways to say How Are YouHow are you?調子はどう？choushi ha dou?https://mslsec.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/調子はどう.mp3
There are three components of this next expression. Let’s break them down a little.
調子 (choushi) – This is a noun, meaning “condition” or “state of health” in Japanese.
は (ha) – This is a subject marker particle that places emphasis on the preceding word as the main topic of the sentence.
どう (dou) is an adverb that we use to ask questions such as “how” or “how about” in Japanese.
If we combine the three components we can see that the literal meaning of this expression would mean “how is the condition?” or “How is the state of health?”
In Japanese, we often omit pronouns, and in this case too. Here, “You” is already understood by the listener that you’re already talking to them. Efficient right?
Similar to 元気 (genki), (explained above), you might use this expression after you see a friend for the first time in a while. When you see them, at the beginning of the encounter you might say, 調子はどう? (choushi ha dou). In this case, you can interpret it similarly to “What’s up,” or “How are you.”
We don’t really walk up to each other and ask 調子はどう？(choushi ha dou) as it’s not in the Japanese culture to start a conversation with “How are you?”.
You can, however, use this expression when you want to ask someone how they are when you’re with them at the office, before a presentation, or at a theme park having fun with friends. This interpretation would be more like “How are you feeling/doing” in Japanese.
Formality: In business situations, don’t forget to attach ですか to the expression! This makes it 調子はどうですか？ (choushi ha dou desuka).
How Are Things (Recently)
After you’ve asked someone how they feel, you might want to tell them “I hope you feel better soon” in Japanese. When someone is feeling unwell, in Japanese we say お大事に (odaiji ni). For more information on how to say Hope in Japanese, have a glance at this ultimate guide!
It is the closest Japanese expression that means the same as “get well soon” in English.
After someone sneezes, for instance, you might say お大事に (odaiji ni) which means “bless you” in Japanese. Of course, in English, we don’t say “I hope you feel better soon” after someone sneezes, but saying お大事に (odaiji ni) is a kind way of telling someone to take care of themselves.
If someone is ill, or if they tell you they feel unwell, you can also say お大事に (odaiji ni). This tells the person that you are hoping for them to get well soon. The beautiful thing about this expression is that you can use it in both formal and informal circumstances.
How Was Your Day?How was your day?今日はどうだった？kyou ha dou datta?https://mslsec.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/今日はどうだった？.mp3
Sometimes, when we ask someone “How are you?” we’re asking how their day was as a whole.
You can say “How was your day” in Japanese by saying 今日はどうだった？(kyou ha dou datta). It has the exact same functions as the way you ask someone how their day was in English.
You might ask someone how their day was after a day at work for instance, or after a day of classes. Alternatively, you might want to say “Have a good day” to someone before their day begins. There are plenty of ways of wishing someone a good day in Japanese.お帰り！今日はどうだった？okaeri! kyou ha doudatta?Welcome home! How was your day?
For all of the possible ways on how to wish someone having a good day in Japanese, have a look at this ultimate guide on “How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese”.
The first component of this phrase is 今日 (kyou) which means “day” in Japanese. どうだった (doudatta) is a past tense component which translates as “how was” in English. As discussed earlier, we know that Japanese pronouns are often omitted. Hence why there is no “you” in this phrase.
Combining them together, we have a phrase that literally means “How was your day?” in Japanese.
How Was Your Day Politely in Japanese
Remember the いかがですか (ika ga desu ka) we covered earlier? By itself, いかがですか (ika ga desu ka) is a very formal way of saying “How was (something)” Japanese.
Following the same format we discussed earlier (topic+いかがですか), we can take the word for “day” in Japanese: 今日 (kyou) and attach it to the beginning of いかがですか (ika ga desu ka). This makes the phrase:今日はいかがですか？kyou ha ika ga desu ka?How was your day? (Formal)
You can use the above phrase to ask someone “How was your day” politely in Japanese.
How Did It GoHow did it go?どうだった？dou datta?https://mslsec.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/どうだった？.mp3
Imagine you’re accompanying a family member to the doctor for their appointment. You patiently wait outside as they see the doctor. Waiting in anticipation you wonder if they are okay. When they do finally finish, you see them, and you’ll probably ask something along the lines of “How did it go?”.
For situations similar to these, you can use どうだった (dou datta) to ask someone “How did it go?” in Japanese. Another example might be after a friend finishes taking an examination, and you could ask them どうだった (dou datta).
To be more specific in what it is you’re specifically referring to, you can say the: noun+は+どうだった. For instance, the word for examination in Japanese is 試験 (shiken). You would say:試験はどうだった？？shiken ha dou datta?How was the exam?
This means “How was the examination?” or “How did the examination go” in Japanese.
Formality: To ask “How did it go” politely in Japanese, you change だった (datta) to でしたか (deshita ka).
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This makes the phrase どうでしたか？(dou deshita ka) which is a formal way of saying “How did it go” in Japanese.
There you have it! There is a bunch of ways that you can say “How are you” in Japanese. I hope I was able to help you find a suitable expression for any situation when you want to ask someone how they are. Should you have any specific questions regarding the Japanese language or culture, please contact me here or leave a comment below!