Japanese Essentials: Ask for Something in a Store

Posted by on August 9, 2017 – Japanese Study

Shopping in Japan can be a daunting experience for new language learners. Even if you can read basic hiragana or katakana the different font styles and designs can make reading labels confusing.

If you’re looking for something specific, asking a clerk will save you a lot of time and be less stressful so let’s learn the key-sentence to ask for something in a store.

Sample sentence:

かさ、ありますか。(Do you have umbrellas?)

あります is the polite form of the verb ある meaning “to be” “exist” but also “to have”. You can use this verb to refer to inanimate object only. If you’re talking about people, animals, animate being, you use the verb いる. To form a question, end your sentence with the particle か and raise your pitch. Once again, the particle は (topic marker) can be omitted.

Kumar: すみません、かさ(は)ありますか。
店員: はい、あります。こちらです。
Kumar: ありがとうございます。

Kumar: Excuse-me, do you have umbrellas?
Clerk: Yes, we do. They’re right here.
Kumar: Thank you very much.

こちら translates “here” and is the polite version of ここ.

Kumar: すみません。英語えいご新聞しんぶん、ありますか。
店員: もうわけありません。英語えいご新聞しんぶんは、ないんです。
Kumar: かりました。

Kumar: Excuse me. Do you have English newspapers?
Clerk: I’m very sorry, but we don’t have any English newspapers.
Kumar: Okay.

もうわけありません is an extremely polite way to say you’re sorry in Japanese. The literal meaning is “I have no excuse”. It’s built with the verb もうす (to say), しわけ, the word for “excuse” and the formal negative form of the verb ある.

ない is the informal negative form of the verb ある, “there isn’t”. んです is the contraction of the polite のです, a structure used to emphasize the previous statement, and more precisely explanations of cause, reason etc.  んです can also be used to soften a negative answer.

かりました is the past polite form of かる, ‘to understand’, ‘to know’. The phrase is very often used with the nuance “I got it”, “okay”.


  • 英語えいご新聞しんぶん ー English newspaper. We previously saw that the particle の indicates the possessor. Here the function is a little bit different. の explains a relation between two nouns. Here, the word newspaper (新聞) is modified with the noun English Language (英語).
  • 切手きって ー stamp
  • はがき ー postcard
  • ボールペン ー ball-point pen
  • 地図ちず ー map
  • 牛乳ぎゅうにゅう ー milk
  • しお ー salt
  • くすり ー medicine

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