If you have ever been stuck on the crowded trains of Tokyo, you know the relief of being offered a seat (though it rarely happens!). So when somebody is nice enough to give your aching legs a rest, what would you say to them?
Sure, you could say ありがとう — “thank you,” but that phrase simply will not fit every situation. It may surprise you but saying “thank you” can be said and used in many ways in Japanese, just like saying hello to someone and wishing them goodbye!
How to Say “Thank You” in Japanese
どうもありがとうございます — Thank You Very Much
This is the most common way textbooks teach you how to say thank you in Japanese. As you probably guessed, it is also formal.
But it is not the end-all for saying thank you. If we break this phrase down, we will see that there are other ways to say it nestled inside.
どうも — Thanks or Hello
I have only used this phrase to thank and greet my closest friends. That is right, it is a 挨拶（あいさつ）— “greeting,” too! But if you are meeting for the first time, say 初めまして（はじめまして）— “Nice to meet you” instead.
どうもありがとう — Thank You Very Much
This is a polite and respectful way to thank someone. You can use it in situations where someone has done something nice for you. The next phrase is more commonly used, however.
どうもありがとうございます — Thank You Very Much (Polite)
This is where we get fancy. The ございます at the end shows a form of 尊敬（そんけい）— “respect” or 丁寧（ていねい）— “politeness.”
It is the same as the ございます in お早うございます（おはようございます）— “good morning.” I have included the kanji 早い（はやい）for “fast”early to highlight that this phrase is a polite way to say “it is early.”
What’s more, ありがとうございます is a polite way to express how a hardship you have experienced has made you thankful.
どうもありがとうございました — Thank You Very Much (Polite Past Tense)
Use this phrase when someone has already done something for you. A good rule of thumb is to remember that this phrase is more apt for actions that have been done as far back as yesterday.
It would not be weird to thank someone for something they just did for you with this phrase.
～てくれて＋ありがとう — Thank You for Doing…
You can use this phrase as in the following example:
Thanks for following me on Instagram!
Of course, to make it more polite, we can add the respectful sentence ending ございます.
I know, it seems like a lot to practice, but remember that it just takes time! A great way to put this knowledge to use is by finding language partners and watching lots of Japanese media.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start practicing the many ways to say thank you in Japanese!