Common Mistakes: Be careful! when you use “ki o tsukete”

December 31st, 2012By Category: Uncategorized


Ki o tsukete!

“Be careful”

Today I would like to introduce a common misunderstanding in Japanese.

A few days ago, an American friend of mine came to see me at my house.
When she was leaving, she said to me:

「気をつけて」(Ki o tsukete; be careful)
This is a common mistaken usage of these words in Japanese.

In Japanese, people leaving on a trip are often told “ki o tsukete,”
as in “O-ki o tsukete, itterasshai”(お気をつけて、いってらっしゃい).

In short, it is a phrase which signifies that one is praying for the safe trip of another.
As such, it is a phrase that only the person watching someone else go is able to use.
The person leaving cannot say it to the person staying behind.

Originally, “ki o tsukeru” (気をつける) means “to be careful.”

For example, mothers say “ki o tsukete ne” to their children when they are using
scissors, and when one is walking on a steep mountain path, someone else might

“you could slip easily, ki o tsukete ne.”

When you use “ki o tsukete,” please remember to “ki o tsukete,” OK?


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Author of this article

Iidabashi Japanese Language School

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School motto is "Be Unique, Have fun Globally!" We teach classes focused on conversation skills to foreigners living in Japan.

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  • leslie nguyen

    Great! I will remember it especially when I am leaving as a guest 🙂

  • This is so interesting! I would love to be able to speak more Japanese.

  • Umaku


  • NiseiShonagon

    This article is so obnoxious and condescending I cannot believe it. Language is something fluid that changes over time. This pointless insistence on what is “right”, “wrong” or “mistaken” is meaningless.

    Perhaps the one who should be careful is the writer of this article.

  • Juan Garcia

    Actually, I have heard “ki wo tsukete” used by a leaving party before. I even heard it in a video game the other day. One character was leaving and before he left he turned to his friend (which wasn’t going anywhere) and said “ki wo tsukete”. I’m pretty sure it was a Final Fantasy game, but I can’t remember which one.

  • Rui

    The person leaving can say it to the one staying. For example the person staying is having a cold or feel sick, I’d say “ki wo tsukete” when leaving the house. Same if we have just watch a horror movie and want to have my friend to feel a little insecure for the fun when leaving I’d say her “ki wo tsukete,… shiran de!”.

  • Independencer

    It changes over time, you are right, but not in this case!
    Something cannot be changed. You are saying as if the sentence “Be careful.” can one day be evolved to be “Goodbye.”.
    Perhaps the word “meaningless” you say might one day means “important”, if you say so. Funny.


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