25 Must-Know Japanese Words for Beginners

Must Know Japanese Words

One can find the Japanese language quite intimidating as a beginner, however, one can be fluent in a quicker and easier way by knowing the core Japanese words. These words may help you in day-to-day conversations when you find yourself in an unfamiliar place or a situation. Therefore, here are a few ‘must-know Japanese words’ if you are a beginner.

If you are visiting Japan, whether for leisure, work, or education, one must be familiar with a few key Japanese words, because they can be useful in asking questions, answering questions or just making statements. A compilation of 25 must-know Japanese words has been provided for a beginner that can make your visit to Japan a hassle free.

Japan is filled with culture and tradition along with emerging technologies, and it should be included in your list of must-visit countries. However, the Japanese language is one of the hardest languages to learn and people find it difficult to learn. Lest one need not worry, as one can achieve fluency by knowing the important words to use. There are certain words which we use in our daily topics of conversation, which, for a beginner knowing these core words can be beneficial.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa

Let us divide these Japanese words into –

  • Japanese words for greeting people
  • How to ask questions using Japanese words
    • How to answer using Japanese words
  • Japanese personal pronouns
  • Japanese nouns

a)           Japanese words for greeting people

Japanese people have a greeting etiquette where they bow to each other and say the respective Japanese word. Deeper and longer bow shows more respect while a small nod is more casual. Bowing is not only used for hello, but also to thank and apologize.

Greetings are expressions of good wishes or giving acknowledgement, and are mostly used to either start a conversation or end one, or they can be used when seeking someone’s attention. Moreover, Japan has a distinctive style of greeting – bowing to the opposite person. People address each other by bowing to one another and then express their greeting. 

Some of the Japanese words used to greet people are as follows-

1. Hello (Konnichiwa) 

Pronunciation: kon-nee-chee-waa

When you meet anyone, we start by either addressing a hello or a hi. One also begins a conversation by saying Hello after dialling someone. There are different ways to say hi or hello in Japanese, and depending on the occasion whether it is formal or casual, one uses the respective Japanese word.

2. Thank you (Arigatou)

Pronunciation: ah-ree-gah-toh

Japanese people are very polite and convey their gratitude on a regular basis and hence, expressing your acknowledgment is an essential part of their culture. Similarly like hello, there is a whole list of saying thank you in Japanese. But, the most commonly used Japanese word for thank you is ‘arigatou’.

3. Excuse me (Sumimasen) 

Pronunciation: Su-mi-ma-sen

The Japanese culture is a deep rooted one, and one of its branches is being polite. When visiting Japan, one must show manners, especially when you want to say sorry or want to bother someone. As usual, saying sorry in Japanese depends on the context of the situation, for example; ‘sumimasen’ is said when you cause inconvenience to someone. It can also be used in scenarios like, for example, in a restaurant when summoning a waitress to order food, you just raise your hand in the air and say “sumimasen”.

b) How to ask questions using Japanese words

Question words or ‘wh-’ words are function words and generally used to ask a question. When learning a new language, question words are not only important to know but also help you to initiate a conversation. Whether you are a traveller or an exchange student visiting Japan, these basic Japanese words can help you in the long run.

1. What (Nani)

Pronunciation: na-ni

‘What’ is one of the first basic ‘wh-’ questions, and likewise, the Japanese word for ‘what’ is ‘Nani’. We use a lot of ‘what’ questions whenever we are in an unfamiliar place or a situation. Hence, as a beginner, this question word can come in handy.

2. When (itsu)

Pronunciation: itsu

This basic question word is also very commonly used in a new place or a situation. It can be used to ask, for example, “When is the next train”, or if you are a student “when is our next class”. However, make sure that this particular Japanese word ‘itsu’ can only be asked in the form of a question as it is a question word.

3. Where (doko)

Pronunciation: doko

People who are Doraemon enthusiasts will be familiar with this Japanese word, ‘doko’, because he has a door called ‘Doko demo doa’ which apparently takes him anywhere! Anyways, jokes apart, this question word will be very helpful in asking simple questions such as “Where do you live?” or “Where is the bathroom?”.

c) How to answer using Japanese words

Grammatically speaking a yes-no question, also called a binary question is a question when asked where the expected answer can either be a yes or a no. This is also one of the important parts of learning a new language. Therefore, if someone asks you a question, the easiest way to answer can be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

1.   Yes (Hai)

Pronunciation: hi

Japanese language has words that have the same pronunciation but an entirely different meaning. So, do not be confused with the Japanese word for yes, as, ‘hai’ can be a lung or drunk or ashes other than a ‘yes’! So, use this ‘hai’ when someone asks you a yes-no question, and they would understand it.

2.    No (Iie)

Pronunciation: ee-eh

The Japanese language as mentioned in the previous text have different words which sound the same, and thus, should be used according to the context. The Japanese word for a ‘no’ in an yes-no question is ‘iie’, but, in Japanese, ‘iie’ can also mean ‘why’, hence one must use ‘iie’ carefully especially when disagreeing.

basic Japanese grammar
All languages adhere to basic grammar, and same goes with Japanese language.

d) Japanese personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are an important aspect of grammar when learning any language, and they can help you in communications. Personal pronouns can literally be defined as words being associated with a person. The Japanese people use pronouns according to the setting, and they consider the gender, age, social status as well as to the person they are addressing while listing out personal pronouns. If the context is known, then they are more likely to not use it. So, here are some important personal pronouns in Japanese that matter when you are a beginner.

Some must-know Japanese pronouns are listed as follows –

English pronounJapanese pronounPronunciation
2My Watashi no
The pronoun ‘my’ in Japanese is ‘Watashi no’, where ‘no’ is added after Watashi.
wa-ta-shi no
3He Kare
Kare is the Japanese word for both, boys and men.
4She Kanojo
Kanojo is the Japanese word for both, girls and women.
5You Anataa-na-ta
A gist of must-know Japanese pronouns that can help you in daily conversations.

e) Japanese nouns

Nouns, similarly like pronouns, are the basics of grammar, and are words that identify people, places, and things. A sentence without nouns is incomplete since, it identifies subjects and objects of a sentence. Moreover, as nouns are important with every language learning; Japanese language also consider nouns as an important feature. However, the Japanese nouns have a broader aspect, and hence, this list will provide you with essential Japanese words for nouns.

Following is a list of must-know Japanese nouns which can be beneficial in day-to-day conversations.

English nounJapanese nounPronunciation
2Friend tomodachito-modachi
3Teacher senseisen-say
5School gakkouga-kk-o
6Name Namaena-ma-e
7Food tabemonota-be-mo-no
8Drink nomimonono-mi-mo-no
10Place bashoba-shoh

Although getting to know the core words is just the first step in learning a language, daily practice and conversing with native speakers can speed up the learning process. Furthermore, if you want to learn more of the diversity of the Japanese language, enlist yourself in Henry Harvin’s Japanese Language course which they offer a course which is as per ‘JF’ standard. The course covers 5 levels as well as 4 writing systems – Kaji, Hiragana, Katakan, and Romaji. It also provides hands-on training and projects as well as internships. With the help of the best trainers, you can make your learning easy and thus, achieve overall Japanese skills.



To conclude, the Japanese vocabulary is vast and diverse, and as a novice, these above Japanese words can be very much be helpful at the beginning of your learning phase. And last but not the least, to know more about the Japanese words join the Henry Harvin‘s Japanese Language Course where you will learn the Japanese language in one go!

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A2. Learning Japanese makes you a competent speaker in Japanese as well as broadens your perspective of Japanese culture. Learning at Henry Harvin’s academy can enhance your reading, writing, and speaking skills.

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