Whether you’re settling into your Japanese homestay, trying to fit in better at the office, or just wanting to make some new friends, you’ve probably heard these phrases: ittekimasu, itterasshai, tadaima, and okaerinasai. It’s safe to say that people in Japan use them every day! But what do they mean? Let’s take a look at the definitions of these vital Japanese phrases and the heartfelt hospitality behind each one!
行ってきます！(Ittekimasu!) – I’m Leaving (And I’ll Be Back)!
You might be able to tell from the first kanji in this phrase that ittekimasu has to do with the verb to go. It’s actually two words: 行く（iku）meaning to go, and 来る（kuru）to come. This might seem a bit paradoxical, but remember that in Japanese, there is no future tense.
Ittekimasu doesn’t mean “to go, to come,” but “to go, will come.” You’re announcing, “I’m going now, and I will be back (later).” The more natural-sounded translation is, of course, the one we might use in English: “I’m leaving!” or “See you later!”
The more casual form of itte kimasu involves dropping the polite ます（-masu）ending and using kuru in its dictionary form: 行ってくる（ittekuru）.
However, 行ってきます and 行ってくる are used in conversations. It’s just that 行ってくる is more casual. If you want to know which one you should use, go with the polite 行ってきます. It will fit in more situations and is “safer” to use than itte kuru if you aren’t sure of the social rules in Japan yet.
1. “I’m leaving now!” – いってきます！ (Itte kimasu!)
2. “Heading out in a bit!” – そろそろ行ってくるね！ (Soro soro itte kuru ne!)
行ってらっしゃい！ (Itterasshai!) – See You Later!
Itterasshai is the proper response to ittekimasu. It’s a combination of the words 行く（iku）or to go, and いらっしゃる（irassharu）, an honorific form of to come and to be.
You’ll hear another form of irassharu whenever you walk into a restaurant or store: いらっしゃいませ (irasshaimase)！ When business staff say irasshaimase, they’re inviting you to come in and enjoy your stay—very politely!
In the case of itterasshai, you are being told, “Go out and have a safe trip!”—again, very politely with the honorific addition of irassharu.
The casual form of itterasshai is 行っておいで（itte oide）. Oide means come here. It’s pretty common for people in Japan to just say “おいで！” as a casual way to tell someone they know to come (here).
1. “Have a safe trip!” – 行ってらっしゃい！ (Itterasshai!)
2. “Okay! See you soon!” – は～い！行っておいで！ (Haai! Itt oide!)
When to Use Ittekimasu and Itterasshai
These phrases are commonly used both at home and at work. Of course, you’re among family in your own home, so it would be acceptable to use the casual forms Ittekuru! and Itte oide!
In Japanese culture, your workspace is like a second home; it makes sense to use these phrases when you’re leaving the office for an errand or your lunch break. Some Japanese coworkers might feel a bit upset if you don’t use these important greetings! Just remember to use the more polite forms, Ittekimasu! and Itterasshai!
When to NOT Use Ittekimasu and Itterasshai
Here are a couple of situations where you shouldn’t use ittekimasu and itterasshai.
1. Leaving Someone Else’s Home/Property
Since ittekimasu means to go and come back, it would sound weird to say it at a place that you don’t belong to or own. So if you’re at a coworker or friend’s home and are about to leave, saying ittekimasu wouldn’t be right. It’s like you’re inviting yourself back to their home whenever you feel like it!
Instead, use the phrase お邪魔しました（ojama shimashita）which means “sorry for the intrusion,” and even has a nuance of “Thank you for having me.” You can also say, また会いましょう(mata aimashou) or “Let’s meet again.”
2. A Guest at Your Home/Property
The same goes for a guest who is at your house. When they are leaving, saying “itterasshai” makes it seem like they will come back again (without being invited). In this case, you could also say また会いましょう mentioned above, or 気を付けて帰ってきてください (Ki o tsukete kaette kudasai), which means, “please have a safe trip home.”
ただいま！（Tadaima!）- I’m Back!
Let’s look at greetings used when someone returns home. Tadaima is the go-to phrase people use when returning to their homes…even when they live alone!
Breaking down the phrase in more detail, we can see ただ(tada) the word for just, and 今 (ima) the word for now. Tadaima is a shortened version of the formal phrase ただいま帰りました (Tadaima kaerimashita) or “I have just now returned.”
Even though it’s a shortened (and therefore more casual) version of the original, tadaima can be used in nearly every situation. However, it doesn’t hurt to say tadaima kaerimashita if you’re returning to the office and see your boss (example #2 below).
1. “I’m home!” – ただいま！ (Tadaima!)
2. “I’m back. Sorry for being late.” – ただいま帰りました。遅くなってしまってごめんなさい。(Tadaima kaerimashita. Osoku natte shimatte gomen nasai.)
お帰りなさい！（Okaerinasai!）- Welcome Back!
Okaerinasai is the response to tadaima. It’s technically a polite command to return home. 帰り（kaeri）means return, while なさい (nasai) is the formal style for a command or request. The prefix お(O-) is another element of formal Japanese often used in honorific or polite speech.
The more casual form of this phrase is お帰り(okaeri), dropping the formal suffix for a shorter, more familiar nuance.
1. “Welcome back! How was work?” – お帰り！仕事はどうだった？ (Okaeri! Shigoto wa dou datta?)
2. “Welcome back, boss!” – 社長、お帰りなさい！ (Shachou, okaerinasai!)
When to Use Tadaima and Okaerinasai
Tadaima and okaeri are most commonly said to people who live with you. However, it can be used in your workplace as well. Japanese office culture can even expect employees to say tadaima and okaerinasai even more than they do ittekimasu and itterasshai. Again, remember to think about who you’re speaking to and where they fall in your social circle. It’s sometimes safest to stick with the formal version of any greeting at your workspace.
If you’re a student sharing a dorm or apartment, it’s perfectly normal to use these two phrases with your roommate as well.
Thanks for reading our article on ittekimasu, itterasshai, tadaima, and okaerinasai! Do you have any favorite Japanese greeting phrases? Are you currently in a Japanese homestay position? Let us know in the comment section below!