The many ways to “wear” and “take off” something in Japanese

In English we can use the verb “to wear” for pretty much anything. We wear shirts, we wear paints, we wear glasses and hats and we wear gloves, neckties, and makeup. Likewise we can “take off” our shoes, “take off” our makeup” and “take off” our glasses. However, it isn’t quite so simple in Japanese. Depending on what you’re wearing or taking off, the verb you have to use will be quite different.

Verbs For “To Wear”


Our first verb is 着る(きる), a る・一段動 verb which is used for wearing things that go on your torso. Shirts (long or short sleeved), undershirts, jackets, dresses, etc all use 着る. 着る is also the verb from which we get the word 着物(きもの・kimono) , the famous traditional Japanese garment, whose name literally just means “thing to wear”. 

あの赤いTシャツを来ている女の子は誰ですか。(Who is that girl wearing a red T-shirt?)

出かけると上着を着るのを心がけてね。(Make sure to put on a jacket when you go out).


羽織る(はおる)is similar to 着る in that it is used for articles of clothing that go on your upper body, but is used for things that you drape over your shoulders, for example, a shawl. Any kind of loose flowing garment that you can wrap around your upper body can use the word 羽織る.

Some items of clothing can use both 着る and 羽織る, but your choice of verb will change the nuance of how you’re wearing if. For example if you’re wearing a sweater normally, you would just say 着る , but if you drape the sweater over your shoulders (picture a WASPy person at a country club), you’d be better of using 羽織る instead.

 あの男性はカーディガンを羽織るのが好きです。(That guy likes to wear cardigans)


Our next verb is 履く(はく)which is pretty straightforward; you use 履く for anything that you put on below your waste. This includes pants, shorts, skirts, underwear, socks, shoes, slippers, etc.  Since the kanji is a bit complicated, you’ll often see はく written just in hiragana.

At this point some of you may be thinking, “well what would happen if I just used 着る to refer to wearing pants, etc?” That’s a good question, and the answer is that it would give the listener the impression that you are trying to pull your pants over your head like a shirt. There certainly can be a time and place to say that, for instance if you’re trying to describe some wacky shenanigans that your friend was getting up to, but if that’s not the message you’re trying to convey, then stick to はく.

左右で違った靴を履いてしまいました。(I accidentally put on mismatching shoes.)


Next we have, 被る(かぶる)which is used for things you wear on your head. This includes hats, caps, helmets, crowns, etc.

帽子をかぶるのが好きじゃない。(I don’t like wearing hats).

学校で帽子を被ってはいけません。(You’re not allowed to wear hats in school).

There also exists a useful saying 「猫を被る」which literally means “to wear a cat on your head” and figuratively refers to a person who pretends to be kind but isn’t.


This is a verb that has many, many different usages, but when it comes to clothing, it can be used specifically for wearing glasses and contact lenses. For example:

私は子供の時メガネをかけていました。(When I was a child, I wore glasses).

メガネをかけるより、コンタクトをかけた方が好きです。(I prefer wearing contacts to glasses).


This verb is useful for accessories, including gloves, seatbelts, rings, necklaces, collars (e.g. for dogs) .

車に乗るときは必ずシートベルトをつけてください。(Make sure to fasten your seatbelt when riding in a car).


しめる, means “to fasten”, and can be used for things that need “fastening” like neckties and seatbelts. Notice that there is some overlap between this verb and つける above, for example with “wearing seatbelts”. When it comes to the smaller accessory items, some items can be “worn” with multiple different verbs, the choice of which can come down to the speaker’s preference.

現代はネクタイの締め方が分からない人がだんだん増えてきている。 (Nowadays the number of people who don’t know how to fasten a tie have been growing).


This verb, which literally means “to coil” or “to wrap” is useful for talking about wearing scarves, since they wrap around your neck!

マフラーを巻くだけで、風邪を引くリスクが下がるそうです。(I heard that you can reduce your risk of catching a cold just by wearing a scarf).


This verb, meaning “to paint” or “to plaster” can be used for wearing makeup. Makes sense, right? It can also be used for other things that you “wear” by rubbing them into or applying them to your skin, like creams, sunscreen, etc. 

日焼け止めを塗るのを忘れて日焼けしちゃった。(I forgot to put on sunscreen and got burned).

マスカラの塗り方が分からない。(I don’t know how to put on mascara).


する、the verb for “to do”, can also be used as a general verb for “to wear” for many of the small miscellaneous items that we previously covered with the verbs つける、まく、締める and 塗る. It is a general “catchall” for accessories that can come in handy if you forget any of the more specific words. So you can say  ピアスをつける or ピアスをする for “to wear earrings” and likewise you can say 化粧を塗る or 化粧をする for “to wear makeup”. However, するcan’t replace the verbs for “to wear” that refer to big items, hats or glasses. So you can’t replace 着る、羽織る、履く、かける、or 被る with する。

私はピアスしている。 (I’m wearing earrings.)

 仕事のために無理矢理に化粧させられている女性が多い (There are many women are forced to wear makeup for work).

Verbs For “To Take Off”

Now that we’ve covered numerous ways to say to wear something, you might be wondering how you’d talk about taking things off. Luckily, there are only 3 verbs here you need to memorize.

1) 脱ぐ

The first and most common verb for “to take off” is 脱ぐ(ぬぐ)which can be used for most clothing including shirts, pants, hats, shoes, jackets, etc. Basically 脱ぐ can be used with any article of clothing that you put on with the following verbs: 着る、履く、被る、and 羽織る。

日本では家に入る前に靴を脱ぐのはマナーですね (It’s good manners in Japan to take off your shoes before entering a home).

2) 外す

The second verb for “to take off” is 外す(はずす)which covers all of the little accessories like glasses, earrings, scarves, gloves, etc. 外す is therefore the counterpart for the verbs かける、つける、しめる、巻く、and する

そのメガネを外して、目を見せて (Take off those glasses and show me your eyes).

3) 落とす

落とす(おとす)which literally means “to drop” can be used as the verb for “removing” makeup and other creams. So you’d use it to say you’re removing sunscreen, or mascara, or lotions and is the counterpart to the verb 塗る in this context.

顔や体に残った日焼け止めをキレイに落とす方法は何ですか (What’s a good method of fully removing sunscreen that’s still left on your face and body?)

Wrapping Up

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! This is a lot of information to take in, and even then there are many more real world examples that I just couldn’t fit all into a single article. To really get a feel for all these verbs and how they’re used in a wide variety of contexts you’ll have to continue exposing yourself to as much native Japanese as possible. 頑張って!

Style Tip: 〜いただければと思います

Learners of Japanese are often taught that you can drop the topic or subject of a sentence if it is obvious from context. This is of course true. What is not often explicitly mentioned is that many other parts of sentences can also be dropped if they are obvious from context. This can include objects, adjectives, and verbs alike.

In this article, I’ll be going over how Japanese speakers omit the second half of a 〜ば conditional when expressing their desires.

For example, let’s take a look at the following sentence:


This (overly literally) translates to “I think it would be good if I could humbly receive the favor of you looking at this”. It is essentially a very indirect and respectful way to ask your interlocutor to take a look at something for you.

The sentence as it stands is grammatically correct, but to the Japanese ear it’s a bit redundant. Particularly, since this is a request, the fact that “it would be good” if you could receive the favor is obvious from context. You wouldn’t be asking in the first place if you didn’t perceive the desired outcome as being good. And so, that part of the sentence, いい, is dropped altogether:


This construct, いただければと思います, literally means “I think […] if I could receive the favor” where […] could be anything from “it would be good” to “I’d be glad” to “I’d be honored”. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t need to be stated outright, since the speakers intentions are obvious, and so we’re left with what appears to a native English speaker as a rather awkwardly incomplete sentence fragment but to Japanese speakers sounds much more natural.

This pattern of omitting the second half of a 〜ば conditional is not limited to the verb いただく. You can see it also with the standard receiving verb もらう:

それに対して意見を言ってもらえばと思う (I think […] if I could receive the favor of (you) stating (your) opinion regarding that).

and with pretty much any other verb where the desires of the speaker, should the conditional come true, are obvious. For example, take the following sentence:


Literally this translates to “I went to the party thinking that [….] if I could meet someone nice. What goes into that […]? It’s obvious that the speaker would consider such an encounter with “somebody nice” to be a favorable thing, something they are looking forward to doing. Explicitly stating that […] with an いいな or うれしいな might not fully convey the exact feelings the speaker has, and so, it is left out and left to the listener to intuit how the speaker feels.

With this really simple stylistic change to your speech, you can really impress your Japanese friends, acquaintances and colleagues by speaking in a much more authentically Japanese way.


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!



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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Is Japanese the Fastest Spoken Language?

When learning a foreign language, there are four main skill categories: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Of these 4 skills, listening is often considered to be the hardest skill to acquire. This is because it’s the only skill where the learner doesn’t have full control of speed. You can read, write and speak however fast or slowly you are comfortable with. But when it comes to listening, you are subject to the whims of the person you are listening to.

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Kanji and Homophones Part V – Are Homophones Even A Real Problem?

Over the course of this five part series, I’ve been talking at length about homophones in Japanese, how they came to be so numerous and strategies to avoid them. But all of these points have skirted the most important and fundamental question of all, which is, does it even really matter?

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Fun Japanese Words To Know

One of the best parts of learning any foreign language is coming across unique words and phrases that just don’t exist in your native language. This is one of the things that make studying Japanese so interesting, as it is full of these kinds of words. As a result, learning them can really enrich your vocabulary and bring you one step closer to sounding like a native speaker.

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