How Do You Respond to “Konnichiwa”? Meaning & Examples


How Do You Respond to Konnichiwa - Meaning & Examples

Konnichiwa” is usually the first Japanese word you are going to learn to say and a basic greeting you will hear nearly every day. So how do you respond to “Konnichiwa”? Is there a best practice? I was wondering about this myself and so I decided to find out.

When someone greets you in Japanese with “Konnichiwa” it is best to respond with the same phrase “Konnichiwa”. Even though it means “Good afternoon” or “Hello” and is usually used around noon or in the afternoon, it is common to reply by repeating the same greeting no matter the time of the day.

Below I have listed a few variations of “Konnichiwa” I sometimes like to use when I’m surprised to see someone or when I have been waiting and looking forward to meeting a friend. Also, did you know that the phrase was originally the beginning of a full sentence? I am going to explain its original meaning in detail before we round off this post with a bunch of example sentences and dialogues.

How Do You Respond to “Konnichiwa”?

Konnichiwa (今日は, こんにちは) is the most common way to say “Hello” or “Good afternoon” in Japanese. The greeting actually consists of two words. Konnichi (今日、こんにち) which means “Today”, “This day” or “These days” and the so-called subject marker or topic particle ha (は). It is written with the Hiragana syllable は (ha) but pronounced “wa”.

This all-purpose greeting can be used in casual situations when greeting your friends and in formal situations when greeting your coworkers or strangers. However, it is usually only used as a greeting during the day from around 11:00 o’clock in the morning until 17:00 o’clock in the afternoon.

So know that we know the basic meaning of the phrase and when it is used. Let’s look at how to respond when somebody greets you with “Konnichiwa”.

  • Konnichiwa
    Hello / Hi / Good afternoon
    こんにちわ
    O! Konnichiwa
    Oh! Hello / Oh! Hi / Oh! Good afternoon
    お!こんにちは
  • Aa! Konnichiwa
    Ah! Hello / Ah! Hi / Ah! Good afternoon
    あっ!こんにちは

Well, usually just by repeating the exact same phrase Konnichiwa (こんにちは). However, if the meeting is unexpected I might start with the interjection “O!” just out of surprise. In a similar way if I was waiting for a friend and he or she finally arrived I might smile and add a joyful “Aa!” meaning “Ah, there you are” or “Finally, you are here, yay”.

Of course, there are a lot of other formal and informal Japanese greetings that could be used in this situation instead of Konnichiwa. However, when you are living in Japan you will notice that most Japanese people just respond with the same phrase.

So even if it is still early morning or already evening and you would usually greet someone with Ohayou (おはよう) or Konbanwa (こんばんは), most Japanese people will just respond with exactly the same phrase you used. I have the feeling that it has something to do with politeness and respect.

For example, when I started working here in Japan I used to greet my coworkers with Konnichiwa (こんにちは). However, at work, it is actually common to greet your coworkers with Ohayou (おはよう) or Ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます) regardless of the time of the day.

In the beginning, all of my coworkers replied to me with Konnichiwa (こんにちは). But once we started to know each other better and became more like friends they started to greet me more and more often with different phrases like for example Ohayou (おはよう).

So my tip for you is that in formal situations and when you want to be polite and respectful just respond with the same phrase. If you have been knowing each other for some time already or if you are close friends it is also okay to choose another Japanese greeting, though.

What Does “Konnichiwa” Actually Mean?

Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is usually written like this just in Hiragana. However, when written in Kanji it looks like this 今日は (Konnichi wa) and it can also be read as “Kyou wa“. 今日 (kyou) means “today” and the topic particle は (wa) marks the beginning of a sentence. So the whole phrase could also be translated as “Today…”.

  • Konnichiwa!
    こんにちは!
    Hello / Hi / Good afternoon
  • Kyou wa…
    今日は…
    Today …

Originally the phrase was the beginning of the sentence “Kyou wa gokigen ikaga desu ka?” (今日はご機嫌いかがですか) which is a polite and formal way to ask “How are you today?”.

  • Kyou wa gokigen ikaga desu ka?
    How are you today?
    今日はご機嫌いかがですか。
    きょう は ごきげん いかが です か。

Over time this formal, slightly stiff, and longish phrase starting with Kyou wa (今日は) changed into today’s official greeting Konnichiwa (こんにちは) and is used to say “Hello”, “Hi”, or “Good afternoon”.

Oh! By the way! If you want to ask your friends “How are you today?“. You should not use “Gokigen ikaga desu ka?” because it sounds way too formal. Just stick with the common Ogenki desu ka? (お元気ですか, おげんきですか) or the even more natural Genki? (元気?, げんき?).

How to Respond to Japanese Greetings

Here are a few examples of how you can continue the conversation after responding to Konnichiwa (こんにちは). I will also show you some other useful and very common Japanese greetings that are frequently used in Japan.

In each dialogue, I will only mention one follow-up question as an example, but each question can be used with any of the greetings, of course. You can also combine them to continue the conversation even further. For example, start by asking “How are you” and continue with “How was yesterday?” or “What did you do yesterday?”.

Konnichiwa

When greeting someone during the day you are not so close with.

  • Greeting: Konnichiwa.
    Good afternoon.
    こんにちは。
  • Response: Konnichiwa.
    Good afternoon.
    こんにちは。
  • Continue: Ogenki desu ka?
    How are you?
    お元気ですか。
    おげんき です か。
  • Response: Hai, genki desu.
    I am fine.
    はい、元気です。
    はい、 げんき です。

When greeting someone during the day you are close with.

  • Greeting: Konnichiwa!
    Hello!
    こんにちは!
  • Response: Konnichiwa!
    Hello!
    こんにちは!
  • Continue: Genki?
    How are you?
    元気?
    げんき?
  • Response: Genki!
    I am fine!
    元気!
    げんき!

Ohayou & Ohayou Gozaimasu

When greeting someone in the morning you are not so close with.

  • Greeting: Ohayou gozaimasu.
    Good morning.
    おはようございます。
  • Response: Ohayou gozaimasu.
    Good morning.
    おはようございます。
  • Continue: Kinou wa dou deshita ka?
    How was yesterday?
    昨日はどうでしたか。
    きのう は どう でした か。
  • Response: Tanoshikatta desu.
    It was fun.
    楽しかったです。
    たのしかった です。

When greeting your friend or classmate in the morning.

  • Greeting: Ohayou!
    Morning!
    おはよう!
  • Response: Ohayou!
    Morning!
    おはよう!
  • Continue: Raibu dou datta?
    How was the concert?
    ライブどうだった?
    ライブ どう だった?
  • Response: Sugee tanoshikatta.
    It was so much fun!
    すげー楽しかった。
    すげー たのしかった。

Konbanwa

When greeting someone in the evening you are not so close with.

  • Greeting: Konbanwa.
    Good evening.
    こんばんは。
  • Response: O! Konbanwa.
    Oh! Good evening.
    お!こんばんは。
  • Continue: Kyou wa nani o shimashita ka?
    What did you do today?
    今日は何をしましたか。
    きょう は なに を しました か。
  • Response: Kyou, kaimono ni ikimashita.
    I went shopping today.
    今日、買い物に行きました。
    きょう、かいもの に いきました。

When greeting your friend or classmate in the evening.

  • Greeting: Konbanwa.
    Hi!
    こんばんは。
  • Response: A, Miki-chan! Konbanwa.
    Ah! Hey Miki-chan!
    あっ、ミキちゃん!こんばんは。
  • Continue: Kyou nani shita no?
    What did you do today?
    今日何したの?
    きょう なに した の?
  • Response: Mite! Kore katta yo. Dou?
    Look! I bought this! What do you think?
    見て!これ買ったよ。どう?
    みて! これ かった よ。 どう?

Wanna know more about the meaning of the Japanese word “konbanwa” (こんばんは)? Check out my other blog post.

Hajimemashite

When meeting someone for the first time.

  • Greeting: Hajimemashite. Watashi no namae wa Arekkusu desu.
    Nice to meet you. My name is Alex.
    はじめまして。私の名前はアレックスです。
    はじめまして。わたし の なまえ は アレックス です。
  • Response: Hajimemashite. Watashi wa _____ desu.
    Nice to meet you. I am _____.
    はじめまして。私は__です。
    はじめまして。わたし は __ です。
  • Continue: Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    It is a pleasure to meet you.
    宜しくお願いします。
    よろしく おねがい します。
  • Response: Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    It is a pleasure to meet you.
    宜しくお願いします。
    よろしく おねがい します。

I hope these examples made it clear how common it is in Japan to reply to greetings with the same phrase. Furthermore, I hope that you learned some useful phrases to start and continue your first basic conversation in Japanese.

In future posts, we will take a more detailed look at Japanese greetings and goodbyes. I want to show you a few more casual phrases so that you can say hello and goodbye in all kinds of situations. Of course, there will also be a detailed post about how to introduce yourself in Japanese.

Good luck with your Japanese!
Alex

Alex (RockinJapanese)

おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you have any questions feel free to contact me anytime! Alex

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