Use these basic Japanese business phrases confidently

Phrases for the Office

The road to effective Japanese fluency is a long one, and while there are no shortcuts to real mastery, a few targeted phrases can not only help you communicate more smoothly, but also make a good impression on your colleagues and superiors.

One basic principle is that office Japanese tends toward the formal. Obviously, in most interactions you won’t be using the top level of formality, 敬語 keigo, but be sure to use the desu/masu level. In addition, when you are dealing with customers and outside visitors, it’s always best to go as formal as you can. Many of the phrases below use keigo vocabulary and grammar, so you’ll notice differences from how you normally speak.

Study the phrases below and use them well, and you’ll just how much it can help your office life.

  • OOと申します。OO to moushimasu.

Meaning: My name is OO.

How to use: Use it when you are introducing yourself to a client or important visitor. This is also used in business emails.

Example(s): In a first email to a business contact or meeting for the first time.
Kabushikigaisha Company no OO to moushimasu. My name is OO, with Company Incorporated.

  • よろしくお願いします。Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu.
  • 宜しくお願い致します。Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. (Higher level of formality).

Meaning: (I’m not going to give one translation of this phrase, because it fits in a million situations. Basically, it’s a request to someone to think well of you, but don’t worry about it.)

How to use: Whenever you have a request, or want to leave a positive impression, and so on… It’s a lot like please, in that adding it to all kinds of phrases make them go more smoothly. Add it to the end of meetings when you have asked someone to do something, add it to the end of first greetings to leave a good impression, and it makes up a part of formal email closings.

Example(s): On a first meeting
Hajimemashite. OO to moushimasu. Yoroshikuonegaishimasu.
It’s nice to meet you. My name is. I look forward to working with you.

When closing a formal business email.
Kongotomo Yoroshiku onegaiitashimasu.
I look forward to your continued support.

  • OO申し訳ございませんでした。Moushiwake gozaimasendeshita.

Meaning: I am very sorry for OO.

How to use: This is a formal apology phrase for something that has happened. Obviously, apologies will need some kind of explanation or context, but this is the core phrase.

Example(s): You forgot to submit a report, or you have kept someone waiting.

Ripooto wo nouhinsuruno wo wasurete, moushiwake gozaimasendeshita.

I’m so sorry that I forgot to submit the report.

Omataseshite moushiwakegozaimasen

I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.

  • お疲れ様です。otsukaresamadesu.

Meaning: It literally means “You’re a tired person! “but that’s silly.It’s used as an end of work greeting, so really, it means “OK then, I’m leaving!“

How to use: Use it at the end of the day, or when someone has finished a big project.

Example(s): When your coworker is leaving after a long, hard day.

  • 失に礼いたします。Sakinishitsureitashimasu.

Meaning: Pardon me, but I’m off!

How to use: When you’re leaving somewhere (your workplace, a meeting, etc.) before someone else.

Example(s): At the end of the day when you leave, and your coworkers are staying behind.

OO san, otsukaresamadesu. Sakini shitsure itashimasu.
Ms. OO, good work today. Pardon me, I’m leaving now.

  • OOさんが只今席を外しております。OOsan gatadaima seki wo hazushiteorimasu

Meaning: OO is not available at the moment (Literally: OO is away from their seat.)

How to use: This is often used on the phone, or when a visitor comes, and they are asking for someone who is not available.

Example(s): A visitor calls and asks for your boss, Suzuki-san, who is now in a meeting.

Sumimasen desu ga, Suzuki-san ga tadaima seki wo hazushiteorimasu

I’m sorry, but Ms.Suzuki is unavailable right now.

  • 承知いたしました。Shouchiitashimashita

Meaning: Understood.

How to use: When a superior gives you an order, this is the proper acknowledgement.

Example(s): Your boss asks you to complete a report on your research.

Boss: Youくん、その研究結果をリポートにまとめておねがいします。
You kun, sono kenkyuu kekka wo ripooto ni matomete onegaishimasu.
Hey, You, please put your findings in a report.
You: 承知いたしました。Shouchiitashimashita.
Yes, boss!

There are lots more, but smooth use of these phrases is sure to help you work better in Japan!

Jim Rion