6 Common Japanese Phrases You Should Not Take Literally

There are some Japanese phrases that Japanese people frequently use in everyday conversation because those are very useful. However, some of them are just used as a social courtesy which we shouldn’t take what people said literally. Here is the list of 6 common Japanese phrases. When you hear someone say these phrases, please carefully think about their real intention. Word of warning!

Common Japanese Phrases

Isshou no Onegai! (一生のお願い!)

It means, “This is the last thing I’ll ever ask you!”. Yeah, nobody expects it would be the last time. People who say such things casually will definitely use the same phrases over and over again to make their requests. A typical response to this phrase is: “How many times did you say it would be the last time?”

Ii Imide (いい意味で)

“Ii Imide” means “in a good way”, used at the end of a harsh sentence to soften the meaning. For example, some say, “He is a rude guy, in a good way.”. In that case, the speaker meant for something like, “He is an honest man who disagrees with what he thinks is wrong.”. However, that phrase is often used to correct the honest feeling of making fun of the person when it comes out hastily without enough consideration.

Zenbei ga Naita (全米が泣いた)

We often see this phrase as catchphrases of newly released films. The phrase literally means “All of America cried”. Of course not, and we see this phrase in the advertisement for many films. Possibly, some people might take this literally and think that the Americans really easily moved to tears.

Iketaraiku (いけたらいく)

This is a term often used by people in the Kansai region, especially in Osaka. It means “I will go if I can” and people often use this phrase when they can’t find the right words to turn down invitations. Some people in Tokyo use it when they’re really unsure if they can go as it literally means. But when Osaka people use this phrase, it should be taken as a sign of almost no chance. Having said that, there is someone like me who says, “I’ll go if I can” and then actually shows up and makes others surprised.

Muryou (無料)

I think it’s the same for people overseas, but many Japanese people are also vulnerable to the word “free”, but nowadays, they are used to such a sweet phrase “Muryou (= free)”. People know free of charge is only at the beginning, and they have to pay for it in the end. So, many people are wary of the word “free” these days. There’s even a saying: “There is nothing more expensive than free”.

Mata Nomi ni Ikou (また飲みにいこう)

It’s a phrase we hear far too often when saying goodbye to someone not that close friend. I’ve heard that many times and even I’ve used it on some occasions. It means “Let’s go for a drink someday!” and implicates that I want to continue this relationship. But it’s so easy to use, and we tend to say it to all kinds of people as a natural reflex. So there is no need to set up a Nomikai party sincerely.


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