Recently I’ve been asked about the spelling of Konnichiwa in Hiragana. Is it こんにちは or こんにちわ? Which is correct and why?
The answer is こんにちは with は (Hiragana HA) at the end instead of わ (Hiragana WA) although the phrase is pronounced “KonnichiWA.”
Why? Because the WA in this particular phrase is a particle (Topic Marker). Yes, it is the same WA that you would see in a sentence like this:
すしはおいしいです。Sushi WA oishii desu.
(As for sushi, it’s delicious. = Sushi is delicious.)
Particle は WA?
“Wait. Why do we need to use the particle WA in this phrase?” Good question! This phrase, in fact, is an incomplete sentence and こんにちは Konnichiwa is only the beginning part of it.
Let me explain step by step.
The word こんにち Konnichi is an old Japanese word meaning “today” so it is same as きょう Kyoo in modern Japanese. Thus, こんにちは Konnichi WA by itself literally means “as for today” and it was the topic of the original phrase.
Traditionally, to greet each other, people used to say things like below after Konnichi WA.
こんにちは よいおてんきですね。Konnichi WA yoi otenki desu ne.
(As for today, it is a beautiful day, isn’t it?)
こんにちは ごくろうさまです。Konnichi WA
(As for today, thank you for your hard work)
こんにちは ごきげんいかがですか。Konnichi WA
(As for today, how are you?)
Gradually, people stopped saying the entire phrases (Sad, I know) and only the beginning part こんにちは has remained as a greeting in modern Japan.
Same goes with Konbanwa こんばんは, by the way. こんばん means tonight or this evening, so こんばんは literally means “As for this evening.” Again, it is the beginning part of a phrase like:
こんばんは よいつきよですね。Konban WA yoi
(As for this evening, it is a lovely moonlit night, isn’t it?)
Even Native Speakers Get Confused
Now you know if you should
However, you may see even Japanese native speakers often spell it こんにちわ or こんばんわ. It is because people became more accustomed to writing as they pronounce rather than paying attention to its meaning or origin.
It may be similar to the mistakes that English speakers make such as spelling “there” for “their” or “night” for “knight.”
Language always changes. People would shorten a lengthy word or drop certain sounds that are hard to pronounce. In the future, everyone may
I hope it won’t be the case for a long time since I so cherish the history and graceful aspects of our language which is disappearing quickly in modern Japan.
Hope this post helped you to clear the confusion you had between こんにちは or こんにちわ. 🙂
Useful Phrases in Japanese
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Happy learning. では、また！Dewa, mata!