O Genki Desu Ka – What does it mean in Japanese?

O genki desu ka is a phrase in Japanese that means “How are you?”
If you have been learning Japanese for any amount of time – you have likely heard this phrase.
In many Japanese learning textbooks – お元気ですか is one of the first phrases that you will learn. This is true for our Japanese lessons as well.
It is so common a phrase for beginner learners that there is even a Japanese learning textbook called “Genki” (We use this textbook series in our intensive courses as well.)
In this blog we will teach you all about the phrase O genki desu ka and show you how you can use it when speaking Japanese.

What does O genki desu ka mean in Japanese

The word genki is written in Japanese kanji as 元気
This is a combination of two Kanji that are nouns – and the word genki itself is a na adjective.

  •  (げん, gen) — beginning, origin, foundation, the source of something
  •  (き, ki) — energy, spirit, mind, air, breath, atmosphere, mood

When you put the words together – the word genki is taken to mean, “lively, full of spirit, energetic, vidorous, vital, healthy, well, fit, in good health”
Often you will hear younger people describing their elders as “Genki” – this means that even though someone is advanced in years – they are still in good spirits and young at heart.
So there are several ways that you can use Genki as both a greeting and an adjective in spoken Japanese.

O genki desu ka – how to answer

In Japanese you will often be asked by your teachers and friends the following question – “O genki desu ka” , so what is the correct response for this greeting?

  • お元気ですか?
    O genki desu ka
    How are you?
  • 元気です
    genki desu.
    I am well

When someone asks you if you are genki – you can simply say – “genki desu.” – In English, the equivalent would be something like.
“How are you?” – “I’m Good.”
If you would like to answer this question in the negative – you can also do that with the following sentences:

  • 元気ではありません。
    Genki de wa arimasen
    I am not well. (formal way of saying it)
  • 元気じゃないです。
    Genki jya nai desu
    I am not well. (another formal way of saying it)

This is the way that it appears in most textbooks – but between friends – using the desu would seem unnatural.
So when speaking with friends – to sound natural you would say things slightly differently.

Using Genki Naturally with Friends

The above example is more than fine for situations where you are asking a colleague you don’t know well or an acquaintance, but for friends you would state it more casually.
In order to make it more casual and natural sounding between friends – you may just simply say “Genki” – with an upward voice inflection.

  • Your Friend:
    “Sam-San, Genki?”
    ”サムさん、元気?” <—With an upward question tone of voice
  • You:

This is a more natural way to call and respond with this phrase as it signifies that you are close to the person.
If you want to tell someone that you aren’t well you can use the following pattern:

  • 元気じゃない。
    genki jya nai
    I’m not well. (casual)

These are the basic constructions that you can use when using the term genki in Japanese.
If you are a total beginner in Japanese – connect with us for a free level check and interview – we offer private, part-time, and intensive Japanese lessons

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