Japanese Essentials: Ask for Something in a Store

Asking for something in a store while 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。Kasa, arimasu ka(Do you have umbrellas?)
あります (arimasuis the polite form of the verb ある (arumeaning “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 (iru). To form a question, end your sentence with the particle か (kaand raise your pitch. Once again, the particle は (ha) which is the topic marker, can be omitted.
Kumar: すみません、かさ(は)ありますか。Sumimasen, kasa arimasu ka?
店員: はい、あります。こちらです。Hai, arimasu. Kochiradesu.
Kumar: ありがとうございます。Arigatou gozaimasu.
Kumar: Excuse me, do you have umbrellas?
Clerk: Yes, we do. They’re right here.
Kumar: Thank you very much.
こちら (kochiratranslates “here” and is the polite version of ここ (koko).
Kumar: すみません。英語えいご新聞しんぶん、ありますか。-Sumimasen. Eigo no shinbun, arimasu ka?
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。Mōshiwake arimasen. Eigo no shinbun wa, nai ndesu.
Kumar: かりました。Wakarimashita.
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 (Mōshiwake arimasen) 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(mousu) which means “to say”, しわけ (wake), the word for “excuse” and the formal negative form of the verb ある(aru).
ない (nai) is the informal negative form of the verb ある (aru), “there isn’t”. んです (ndesu) is the contraction of the polite のです(nodesu), a structure used to emphasize the previous statement and more precise explanations of a cause, reason etc.  んです (ndesucan also be used to soften a negative answer.
かりました (wakarimashitais the past polite form of かる (wakaru), ‘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 (eigo no shinbun)ー English newspaper. We previously saw that the particle の indicates the possessor. Here the function is a little bit different. の explains the relation between two nouns. Here, the word newspaper (新聞) is modified with the noun English Language (英語).
  • 切手きって (kitte)ー stamp
  • はがき (hagaki)ー postcard
  • ボールペン (bo-rupen)ー ball-point pen
  • 地図ちず (chizu)ー map
  • 牛乳ぎゅうにゅう (gyuu nyuu)ー milk
  • しお (shia)ー salt
  • くすり (kusuri)ー medicine

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