What’s the meaning of “Tadaima”(ただいま)?

As we have discussed, the phrase used when you are leaving for other place is “ittekimasu”. In this article, we learn what to say when we come back to the place, which is “tadaima”.

To me, the moment saying “tadaima” to my family can be one of the great moments of a day. It is always a great thing to know that someone is waiting for me coming back from a long day for school or work. What do you think?

In today’s article, we will discuss the meaning, the intonation of “tadaima”, and a few conversations with “tadaima”.

Take a look into “tadaima”

The literal translation of “tadaima” is “just now” or “at this moment”, and you can say “tadaima” when you are back home. Maybe you are getting a little bit confused by now. How come people say “just now” when coming back?

Actually, this phrase is abbreviated from a longer sentence,『ただいま帰りました (tadaima kaerimashita)』, which the literal translation of this sentence can be “I am just back here now”. That makes sense, right?

In daily life, people only say “tadaima” instead of finishing the rest of the sentence. “Tadaima” is emphasized since people want to convey the message that they are “just” coming back to the place.

The Etymology

Let’s break the whole sentence into two segments, “tadaima” and “kaerimashita”, to take a deeper look and have a better understanding of this phrase!

ただいま (tadaima)

While “tadaima” is usually written in hiragana as ただいま, it also can be written in kanji as 只今.

只 (tada) means “only” and “just”.

今 (ima) means “now”.

As mentioned in the first part that the literal meaning of “tadaima” can be “just now” or “at this moment”, below are three examples using “tadaima”.

  • 彼はただいま電話中です。     He is on the phone at the moment.
  • 彼はただいま名古屋に出張中です。 He has gone to Nagoya on business.
  • ただいま仕事中です。       I am just in the middle of work.

In the examples above, we can see that by using “tadaima” we can express “somebody is doing something at the moment”. It is also important for you to know that, most of the time, the expression of “tadaima” is used in formal occasions, such as in a business phone call, when you are talking to your client or customer, and so on.

帰りました (kaerimashita)

帰る (kaeru) is a dictionary form of this segment, meaning “to go back” or “to return somewhere”.

帰りました (kaerimashita) is the formal past tense of “kaeru”. This is also one of the frequently used verbs in everyday life. Here’s the examples in formal form (-masu form).

  • 明日日本へ帰ります。  I will go back to Japan tomorrow.
  • 何時に帰りますか?   What time will you go home?
  • 私は15時に帰ります。 I’m going home at 3pm.

Response to “tadaima”

おかえり Okaeri

The fixed response for “tadaima” is おかえり (okaeri), and it can also be written as お帰り with kanji.

“Okaeri” is a abbreviation derived from the sentence お帰りなさい (okaerinasai). For those who have learned a few fixed expressions of Japanese, you might have learned that most phrases have a formal and informal form. Here is a small tip. Most of the time, the longer version of an expression is the formal form. Next time when you have trouble distinguishing, give it a try!

MeaningFormalInformal
The person who just came back.I’m back.tadaima kerimashitatadaima
The person who is already there.Welcome back.okaeri nasaiokaeri

The magic of ”Tadaima“ with different intonation

Let’s check how to pronounce “tadaima” in a normal tone.

One of the magic of language is that various messages can be delivered by putting emotions into one expression. In daily life, the most frequent occasion that we say “tadaima” is when we go back to home. Imagine you had a long school or working day. On that day, maybe something good happened to you. Or, the day was not your day. When you arrive home, you can let your family know how you feel after the long day outside with “tadaima” in different intonation.

If you are very tired, sad, or you have something to worried, you will sound like this:

On the other side, if you have a great, happy day, and maybe you would like to share those great news with your family, you will sound like this:

Conversation

1. Conversation between Ken and his mother

Ken:ただいま!           I’m home!

Mom:お帰り!今日学校どうだった? Welcome back! How was your day at school?

Ken:楽しかったよ!今日体育の授業でサッカーしたんだけど、俺のチーム優勝したんだ! I had a lot of fun today! In the PE class, our team won in the soccer game.

Mom:え、すごいじゃない!     That’s great!

2. Ken just come back.

Ken:ただいま。腹減った〜今日ごはんなに?     I’m home! I’m starving. What do we have for dinner today?

Mom:お帰り。今日はトムの大好きなハンバーグよ! Welcome back! I made your favorite hamburg steak today!

Ken:やったー!                  Great!

Mom:ご飯食べる前に手洗いなさいよ!       Remember to wash your and before eating.

Ken:はいー。                   OK.

3. Ken had a bad school day.

Ken:ただいま。                  I’m home!

Mom:お帰り。どうしたの?元気ないじゃない。   Welcome back! What happened? You looks depressed.

Ken:何でもない。                Nothing happened.

Mom:何でもないことないでしょう?そんな顔して。 No way. Your face says everything.

Ken:実は、通知表の結果が思ったより悪くて。勉強頑張ったのにな。 Actually, the result of test is worse than I thought, though I studied very hard.

Mom:大丈夫よ、次頑張れば。           It’s alright. Just do your best next time.

4. Jun came back to the office after visiting clients. Yuki is his boss.

Jun:ただいま帰りました。    I’m back!

Yuki:お帰り。ご苦労様。今日のクライアント先どうだった? Welcome back! How was your visit to the client?

Jun:あの提案の反応がとても良くて、絶対交渉成立ですよ! They had great reaction to our proposal. I think they will approve.

Yuki:よくやった!        Nice job!

Summary

If you have watched Japanese drama before, you will find that sometimes when the character come back home where nobody is waiting, the character still says “tadaima” to the air. Do you think people in real life really do so? I have asked my friend, only one or two people do this. If you would like to know, why not try to ask your Japanese friend next time!

  • “Tadaima” is used by the person who is coming back from another place.
  • The phrase can be literally translated into “just now”, while the meaning of the phrase is close to “I’m back”.
  • “Tadaima” is the abbreviation for “tadaima kaerimashita”.
  • On formal occasions, it is much more appropriate to say “tadaima kaerimashita”.
  • “okaeri(nasai)” is the reply to “tadaima”

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ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

Hi! I’m Yujung from Taiwan. Decided to start my career in Kansai area Japan in 2019, I’ve always considered this a right decision ever made in my life. WHY? There are way too many things waiting for me to discover, such as the charming language, spectacular nature, colorful seasons and lovely people!