Sign up ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In what context and relationship wise to who can I safely say ご苦労様 (gokurousama)?

I often defer to using otsukaresama since I'm not sure if I'm talking down to someone by saying gokurousama. Please provide some example contexts where it would be appropriate. Thanks.

share|improve this question
Please take a look at this question - –  YOU Jun 17 '11 at 15:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

AFAIK, it means more or less the same thing as お疲れ様 (おつかれさま). But the nuance is to whom you say it. お疲れ様 is used for colleagues or superiours ("highers"), ご苦労様 I believe is only used from superiours to subordinates ("highers" to "lowers"). So you'd probably only say it if you have people "working" under you, such as direct subordinates at a job, if you're the leader of some type of group project, etc.

So you're probably safe most of the time to defer to お疲れ様 unless there's a very clear pecking-order of which you're at the top.

share|improve this answer
I've been playing it safe, but I'm preparing for my day in the sun as a venerable oyaji. –  crunchyt Jun 19 '11 at 4:58
Adding some real world examples: The mayor here says ご苦労様 to everyone, where a few old men that seem the same age and chummy with him say ご苦労様 to him. Other than that only people rather high up on the ladder (such as my boss's boss's boss) say it to their subordinates, via my experience. –  Kafka Fuura Dec 10 '13 at 0:16

As istraci points out, ご苦労様です is usually used to someone below you in position.

Here is what an alc article says:




お疲れ様です has two meanings:

  1. To say thanks for someone else finishing some work
  2. To thank someone you worked with on something for their work



ご苦労様です is to thank someone for completed work which directly or indirectly benefited you.



Both are words of thanks, but お疲れ様です is more neutral in regards to social position, while ご苦労様です has a nuance of someone serving you, so tends to be used more from someone in a higher position to someone below them. Especially in companies, ご苦労様です is typically not used to speak to someone above you in the hierarchy.

Although 疲れ and 苦労 are words with similar meanings, お疲れ様 and ご苦労様 are set phrases that have developed with everyday use and so their current use has different nuances from the original words.

share|improve this answer

I think another aspect or nuance of ご苦労様 is to express gratitude for (literal) labor, e.g. in a situation where someone has to physically exert themselves for your benefit - like to thank a carpenter or plumber. I'd think in daily white collar work life お疲れ様 is going to get used a lot more.

share|improve this answer
Not that simple. ご苦労様 is said all the time in the "white collar" world. –  l'électeur Dec 10 '13 at 10:05

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.