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Difference between 気をつけて, お大事に and お元気で

I want to say hello to a friend long time no see, and end my message with "take care". All お元気に、お元気で、気をつけて mean "take care", so which one suits my case? How should I say?

And I want to distinguish them clearly.

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We don't say 「お元気に。」. –  Chocolate May 15 '12 at 22:47
    
which one suits my case? What is your case? –  Jesse Good May 16 '12 at 1:27
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@truc. i don't know if this is true 100% of the time but i was told by a japanese person that it would be more correct to end a post like this with よろしくお願いしますrather than どうもありがとうございます. just my two cents –  yadokari May 16 '12 at 3:23
    
@yadokari: Well, I think よろしくお願いしますis for some certain context. It's more about "I look forward to your help", "I count on you", etc rather than "take care". –  Truc Audrey Teruko May 16 '12 at 5:41
    
@Jesse: In my case, I simply want to say "take care of yourself" to a friend I didn't see for a long time and to end my hello to him. –  Truc Audrey Teruko May 16 '12 at 5:42
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marked as duplicate by Flaw, Dave Nov 18 '12 at 12:59

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1 Answer

お元気で could be paraphrased as

これからもずっと元気であるように

お元気で would be used when you won't see someone for a while and you are basically saying "stay healthy".

気をつけて could be paraphrased as

注意をするように

気をつけて is used when seeing someone off, in other words, you know the person is from this point on is going on a trip overseas, or is going to get in their car and drive home. It implies the idea of "be careful on your trip (or when driving home)".

So to distinguish the two, if you are not sure what the person is going to be doing from the point you part ways, お元気で would be more appropriate.

お元気に as Chocolate mentions is not used by itself like that. However, you could see it in phrases like 早くお元気になってください or お元気になさっていますか.

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よく分かりました! 教えてくれて、どうもありがとうございました。 So in this case, I should say "お元気で". –  Truc Audrey Teruko May 16 '12 at 5:50
    
@TrucAudreyTeruko: Yes. –  Jesse Good May 16 '12 at 5:50
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