How to say “to miss” in Japanese

Ever wondered how to say “to miss” someone or something in Japanese? In English, the verb “to miss” can be used in lots of different contexts. For example, you can say “I miss you” to a wide variety of people. You can “miss” your parents, your friends or your spouse. You can also “miss” objects or locations. A person can “miss” home or “miss school”. They can even “miss” a particular time in their life, such as their childhood.

Unfortunately in Japanese, there is no one singular way to say “to miss” that corresponds to all of the above. Your choice of words depends on whether or not you’re talking about an object or place, or people, and in the latter case also depends on your relationship to the person you’re missing in question.

This article assumes some basic familiarity with Japanese adjectives, verbs and particles, including the “て form”, verb conjugations such as 〜たい、〜ちゃう and suffixes like 〜がる, amongst others, so please brush up before reading further!

Missing things or places

The first thing we’ll learn how to say is how to miss a place or a thing. To do this we can use the adjective 恋しい(こいしい). This is a very common expression that is used all the time in conversation.

Since this word is an adjective and not a verb, it behaves exactly like other adjectives in Japanese, like 好き(な)and 嫌い(な).  For instance, when you want to say “I like Japan” you can say:


Following this same pattern, to say “I miss Japan” you would replace 好き with 恋しい and get :


Another useful sentence using this pattern is「うちが恋しい」to mean “I am homesick” or “I miss home”.  For example, if you’re off at school and calling your parents to tell them you miss them you could say 「うちが恋しい」. This actually sounds a bit more natural then telling your parents you “miss them” directly, since, as we shall see in the following sections, the various ways to say “I miss you” directly to a person come with certain connotations that may be inappropriate to say to your family members.

Keep in mind that since 恋しい is an い adjective, that in informal speech you do not attach だ to the end like you do with 好き.

Speaking about other people missing places or things.

In the event that you want to speak about another person missing a place, you can still use the adjective 恋しい but you have to qualify it by using a suffix such as がる(seems like) or by quoting them. This is because in Japanese, talking about an other person’s emotions or desires directly without a qualifier gives off the impression that you can read their minds or have some other method of knowing with 100% certainty what they are thinking. Since this connotation does not exist in English, learners of Japanese often make the mistake of talking about others emotions directly without a qualifier.

So, if, for example, I wanted to say “My children miss Japan”, there are a few options:



In the first sentence, I attached the suffix がる to 恋しい to create 恋しがる (“seems to miss”) and then conjugated that into the polite present progressive 恋しがっています. Note that since  恋しがる is a verb and not an adjective, the particle we use with 日本 changes from が to を. This is a good expression to use, if, say, your kids haven’t told you directly that they miss Japan, but have given off signs that they do, such as always talking about their friends back home, or talking about how much they dislike their current home.

The second sentence literally translates to “My children have said they miss Japan” which unlike the first example, works well if your children have literally said to you point blank that they miss Japan.

Talking about missing people

恋しい can’t be used when talking about people. So you can’t say 友達が恋しい to mean “I miss my friends”. It would just sound rather weird.

Instead we have a few different options.

Option 1 – 会いたい

The first is to use the phrase 「会いたい」which literally means “want to see/meet” and comes from the verb 会う(to meet/to see someone) conjugated into the 〜たい form to indicate desire.

For example:

田中くんに会いたいね!- I miss you, Tanaka! (Literally: I want to see you, Tanaka!)

To make it sound even stronger, you can add 「今すぐ」, which literally means “right now” to the beginning:

今すぐ田中くんに会いたいね! – I really miss you! (Literally: I want to see you right now!)

会いたい can also be conjugated into the past tense, 「会いたかった」to mean “I missed you”. For example, if you just saw your friend for the first time in a really long time you could say 「会いたかった」since you did miss them before, but now you’re feeling better that you got to see them again.

Be careful with 会いたい though, as it can have the connotation that you are “missing” the person in question because you have romantic feelings for them. If you say this to someone, they might

Option 2 – 会いたくなっちゃった

会いたくなっちゃった comes from the same verb 会う, but has a few more conjugations attached. First we conjugate it into the たい form to get 会いたい, and then add the verb なる, meaning “to become” at the end to get 会いたくなる (remember that なる attaches to い adjectives by changing い to  く) . We then finally add 「ちゃう」conjugated into its past tense ちゃった to なる to give the added nuance of “I can’t help myself” or “I don’t mean to feel this way”. The final meaning of this phrase therefore becomes something like “I became wanting to see you and can’t help it” or “I just really want to see you so badly”.

This is basically the same as 会いたい above, but sounds a bit more coy and feminine, which definitely gives off a much stronger vibe of having romantic feelings for the person you are talking to.

Option 3 – 寂しい(さびしい・さみしい)

Your third option is to use the word 寂しい, an adjective which literally means “lonely” and which grammatically works like 恋しい up above, since they are both い adjectives. The official prescriptivist pronunciation of this word is さびしい but lots of people will also pronounce it さみしい. In informal speech, either is fine, but if you are trying to be 100% “grammatically correct” from a prescriptive point of view, such as when writing an essay or article, stick to さびしい.

さびしい can be a complete sentence on its own, so just saying さびしい will mean “I miss you!”. さびしい can be conjugated to the past tense 「さびしかった」to mean “I missed you” and can attach to the verb なる to become さびしくなる to mean “I’m going to miss you!” when talking about the future. If you want to make a longer sentence, you can combine さびしい with 会う to get something like:

「会えなくて、さびしい」 which literally means “I’m lonely because I can’t see you” with the verb 会う being conjugated into the “te form” of the negative potential form(会う -> 会える -> 会えない -> 会えなくて)to mean “cannot meet”.

Also, like 恋しい, さびしい can be turned into さびしがる when talking about other people besides yourself:

彼は寂しがっています – “He seems lonely”.

さびしい doesn’t carry the same potential for romantic connotations that 会いたい  does so it’s a safer bet to use with friends who you just want to remain platonic with.


As you can see, there are lots of way to say “to miss” in Japanese that depend heavily on what or whom you are talking about. Since these nuances are heavily tied to Japanese culture itself, it is difficult to fully capture all of the possible scenarios a person could encounter in a single article. So the best way to learn how to say “to miss” like a native is to listen to Japanese people speaking in real life, while paying close attention to what or whom they’re speaking about and their relationship to that person or thing. 頑張って!




Lesson 2 – Basic Verbs and Direct Objects: Using the Particle を

In the previous article on basic grammar, I covered how to make simple statements that follow the pattern of “X is Y.” In it, two concepts were covered, the subject marker が and the copula だ.

Here we will be covering the particle を that will allow you to describe an action that the subject of the sentence takes on a direct object with a verb.

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Pronunciation – おう And Morphemic Boundaries

In another article on how to read HiraganaI discussed how to pronounce certain vowel combinations such as おう、えい、and いい. Most often, textbooks and other Japanese language learning resources will tell students that おう and おお are pronounced exactly the same, and the difference is merely due to historical orthography. In most cases, this is true. However, this simplification is not entirely accurate and ignores a crucial distinction that all native Japanese speakers intuitively make.

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The Many Uses of 気

One of the most versatile words in Japanese is the word 気(き・ki)which can roughly be translated to mean “mind”, “soul”, or “mood”, amongst other definitions. It is derived from the Chinese word Qi, which you may be familiar with as the energy that is traditionally considered to flow through all living things.

Over the centuries, 気 has worked itself into dozens of expressions with various meanings, to the point where it can arguably be considered part of the grammar of the language itself. As a result, it is almost impossible to speak Japanese without understanding the word 気. Here is a brief introduction to 5 of its most common uses.

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The JLPT – Pros and Cons

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, also known as the JLPT and in Japanese as 日本語能力試験 is a standardized test of Japanese language proficiency aimed at non-native speakers. It is broken down into 5 levels, with level N5 being the easiest and level N1 the most difficult. Thousands of Japanese language students around the world take the JLPT every year. If you’re a Japanese language student, you might be wondering whether or not it is worth taking. As someone who’s taken multiple levels of the test throughout the years and who has successfully passed level N1, I’ve learned a few things a long the way…

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Basic Greetings

Many Japanese greetings come in two flavors, casual and polite. You’ll use the casual forms with close friends, family and people significantly younger than you, like children. You’ll use the polite forms with coworkers, your boss, acquaintances, teachers, and people who are significantly older than you.

Japanese people place a lot of importance on greetings and they are usually delivered enthusiastically. So really put in the effort of getting these down pat.

These are only a very tiny handful of the phrases that exist in Japanese, many of which don’t have English counterparts. The ones shown here are the ones that map closest onto English concepts and thus will be the easiest to grasp for a complete beginner. The others will be introduced later on. So without further ado….

おはよう ・ おはようございます

This first phrase means Good Morning. The shorter version, おはよう is casual while the second version おはようございます  is polite. Make a little mental note for 「ございます」, in the future you will be seeing it a lot. It’s common to greet someone with this phrase if its your first time seeing them in the day, even if its not technically the morning anymore.


This phrase means Hello or Good afternoon. You can normally start using こんにちは around noon (or earlier in some cases) until the evening time. こんにちは has a few interesting properties. The first is that there is only one form, and there is no casual / polite distinction. This is probably due to the fact that こんにちは already sounds pretty stiff to begin with, so you wouldn’t really use it in casual situations anyway. In casual conversation, a simple 「おい!」to your buddy will suffice, although I’d avoid using such slang for now. Another property to pay attention to is the final は. Here it is pronounced as if it were the kana. So phonetically, the phrase is こんにちわ.


This phrase means Good Evening and just like こんにちは only has one form, because it is a rather formal phrase to begin with and sounds stiff when used with friends and family. Also just like こんにちは is the fact that the final は here is again pronounced as if it were the kana わ. There isn’t much left to say about こんばんは except that since its a phrase for the evening, its best to wait until roughly 7pm or so to start using it.


This phrase means Good Night and comes in casual (おやすみ) and polite (おやすみなさい) forms. Unlike the above phrases, this phrase is used for when you are saying goodbye to someone. Thus it’s not technically a “greeting” in the same sense.  Nevertheless, it is covered here for completeness.


This is a standard phrase for Good Bye. Although included here for completeness, in many instances in Japan, there are much more appropriate phrases to use than this, especially in a business setting. However, among friends and acquaintances in a non-professional settings, a simple goodbye can suffice. The first form じゃまた is casual while the second form ではまた is slightly more formal. Once again, the は here is pronounced as わ. So the more formal version of the phrase is said as if it were でわまた.


You might already be familiar with this phrase as it has been widely adopted into English (Sayonara Suckers!). さようなら means farewell and is usually reserved for when you don’t think you will see the person you are talking to again for a long time. A common mistake for English speakers is to use さようなら as a casual goodbye in day to day life, leaving people confused and thinking to themselves Is he going off to war? So unless you’re about to set sail on your naval vessel for an indeterminate amount of time, you’ll want to stick to the GoodBye from above.


This phrase means Excuse me or Sorry and is extremely versatile. It is probably one of the most widely used Japanese words there is. For example, you can use it when in a restaurant to grab a waiter’s attention or to apologize when bumping into someone on the train. When in doubt, a quick すみません can come quite in handy.


Chances are you’ve heard ありがとう before, but you might not have known that it too comes in casual and polite flavors. Just like with おはよう above, it can be made polite with the extra addition of ございます. You can use ありがとう when someone does you a favor like giving you directions to the train station. Expressing gratitude is very important in Japan, so remembering to say ありがとうございます when someone does something for you is crucial.

As mentioned above, try using these phrases with your Japanese friends and acquaintances. It’s important to start speaking right away not only to get familiar with the sounds of the language in your mouth, but also to gain confidence in speaking. In the next two lessons, we will be learning some basic grammar that will explain why a lot of these words have weird exceptions.

An Introduction To Basic Grammar

Japanese is a unique language. Despite decades of research and investigation, Japanese has not been demonstrably proven beyond a doubt to be related to any other language on Earth, with the sole exception of the minority Ryukyuan languages spoken in Japan. Other than that, the language that comes closest to Japanese grammatically is probably Korean, which some linguists at one point believed might possibly be a distant relative of Japanese, as part of the Altaic Language Family Hypothesis, which has since been discredited. No genetic relationship between the two languages has ever been conclusively proven.

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