Probably one of the most well-known Japanese phrases, many of you might be surprised to know that there are many ways to say thank you in Japanese. The most famous, of course, being Arigatou ありがとう or its full form ありがとうございます Arigatou gozaimasu. However, there are many more ways to show your gratitude!
Here are some variations of the simple ありがとう Arigatou:
Thanks a lot
Thank you (This is more polite version of ありがとう Arigatou.)
Doumo arigatou gozaimasu
Thank you very much
Arigatou gozaimashita This is the past tense version of Arigatou gozaimasu. You say this when something has been done for you e.g. when you receive a gift from someone, to your host when you leave their home after visiting or to
your teacher at the end of the lesson. Basically, you use this after the fact, also when you write a Thank you letter.
Many people think that すみません Sumimasen means “Excuse me” or “I`m sorry”. That is correct but it can also be used to mean Thank you. A bit confusing but many Japanese phrases are like that. The ambiguity helps cover any faux-pas and everyone gets to save face in such a situation.
So, how does Sumimasen mean both “I`m sorry” and “Thank You”? It all boils down to politeness. You use Sumimasen to thank someone when you want to acknowledge the trouble that person has taken for you. Basically, you are apologising to the person for making all that effort for your benefit. It could be someone going out of their way to buy you some special food or visiting another prefecture just to buy some wellknown fruit to give to you try. Whether you asked/wished for it is immaterial. The giver thought you would enjoy it so went out of their way to do it. This is a form of politeness.
Also, you can even stack up expressions. Sumimasen is a very nice, polite expression but you could also say, “どうもすみません、ありがとう ございます Doumo sumimasen, arigatougozaimasu.” Perfectly polite!
Another expression that means Thank you in Japanese is 恐れ入ります Osoreirimasu. However, this is not something casually used every day.
Rather, this is a very polite expression preferred by business people when talking to their customers.
Just like Sumimasen, Osoreirimasu is used to thank someone when you want to acknowledge the trouble that someone has gone to for you. So, Osoreirimasu is just the very polite version of Sumimasen but used more in a business setting.
However, take note! While Sumimasen can also be used to mean Excuse me or I’m sorry, Osoreirimasu is only used to mean Thank you. You cannot use it to apologise or say you`re sorry. Do not use Osoreirimasu to your friends and family members. That would be strange to them. However, if you use it to thank customers, bosses, strangers, they are going to be very impressed with you.